My switch from KDE to Unity

Yesterday, I switched from KDE to Unity. KDE has been my DE for over 12 years. That sounds a great relationship, but then what made me change my mind and ditch it? Certainly I was not happy to leave my long loved DE. But there are certain things that have always bugged me and finally made me to try other DE and see if I am happy.

My first introduction to Linux happened during my Master’s on computers that had both GNOME and KDE. I do not remember any particular inclination at that time for one or the other. Later during my doctoral work, my workstation was given KDE as the default and I remained with it. When I bought my first sony vaio laptop, I installed again KDE and was kind of happy. What I do on the computer of course is important in shaping my opinion or my criteria for effectiveness. I am not trying to judge DEs–just trying to find the best optimized environment for my work. So be warned, this opinion only serves you hear another experience.

OK, what do I do? I am a researcher, more specifically a computational mechanics/materials science guy, who does numerical analysis using a variety of commercial and open source programs, does programming in C, C++, FORTRAN, Python, etc., digs into large data sets visualizing in 3D, documents daily work, and publishes now and then in scientific journals.

Yes you have correctly guessed by now! I spend all my time in front of the screen and stare into the details of what I see–for veryyyyyyyy long sometimes. If the design of any DE strains my eyes, it’s not for me. From this point of view, GNOME has always appealed to me better than KDE. The font and other screen renderings in GNOME have always felt more eye-friendly, whereas in KDE the fonts were not as “smooth” even with antialiasing turned on and proprietary graphics drivers in use. I have considered to switch to GNOME several times, a few applications have kept me stick to KDE. Truly speaking, the okular (then the kpdf), kile, k3b, kate, amarok, and to some extent the file manager offered a lot of functionality and customization than their GNOME counterparts. Added to it the new eye-candy desktop effects with desktop cube and those compiz effects in KDE were so pleasing I have started to fell in love with KDE. (Yes, I was young at that time to be attracted by those compiz effects that in noway contributed to the improvement of work efficiency.) But I really hated the rendering of fonts in okular (or kpdf) over how it looks in evince. Nevertheless, my journey with KDE was good until the plasma entered into the regular distros.

The plasma desktop was a big disaster with stability issues and the applications lacked several functionalities that they had in KDE 3.x. Probably it was the time I made my switch. But roughly over the same period of time GNOME was also getting refurbished, though the reports in the community were not disastrous as for KDE. On the other hand, GNOME changed its general work flow concept which I particularly did not like and didn’t have time to adjust to new work flows. The Unity desktop at that time also received tonnes of criticism, and I didn’t want to spend time in experimenting instead of doing my research. I thought I will wait a few months to get the mud settle down for KDE, and probably I will have my previous functionality and stability. That proved to be a dream to be fulfilled in the distant future–perhaps even for today. Yeah, I know you will object! Yes, Plasma 4.3 is quite good and the release afterwards are quite stable and usable. But akonadi and nepumok were still a big disaster. They kept on improving, particularly when baloo was introduced it was a great relief finally. But now the switch to KF5 brings me the pain again, though not as bad.

I have been using Kubuntu over the last several years on my Dell XPS which has a NVIDIA optimus card. I decided to upgrade to Kubuntu 16.04 a couple of months ago from 14.04 for two reasons: it was claimed that plasma 5 is much faster and okular now has the capability to save annotations to the pdf directly, a feature I have been longing for and is very important to me when I read the literature. Upgrade to the latest plasma version from the kubuntu-backports ppa. Then started some irritating screen flickering issues. These seems to be known bugs since early plasma 5.x days. Some report that this is a kernel issue and will be fixed when the 4.8  kernel comes up. But recently the desktop started to freeze for every two mouse clicks, and became highly unusable. I am fed-up with filing bug reports, and decided to check my luck with other DEs. May be I will have a similar overall experience, or may be not! Switched to Ubuntu (i.e. with Unity desktop). No screen flickering issues over the last two days. So what is this claim in the internet relating it with kernel for *buntu? Let’s see and wait a few more days! But so far so good. The graphics, fonts, and animations are very pleasing with much lesser eye-fatigue. May be I am going to stick to it!