Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Good bye Kubuntu

I never thought it'd come to this. I was content with what I had. I had been using Kubuntu full time since their 7.04 release. Kubuntu was the realization of my love for the KDE desktop environment as it offered near latest builds of KDE desktop and all of the software that I needed for everyday computing. I was a happy camper.

While I was already familiar with Linux, KDE desktop was what converted me into a fulltime Linux user and Kubuntu was the only distribution that I had found to implement KDE well. So the decision to switch away from Kubuntu to another KDE based desktop was a difficult one. There were three factors that led me to consider an alternate KDE distribution.

Until a few months ago, I used my computer only for regular everyday tasks like for messaging, surfing, e-banking, online shopping, etc. I did some programming, but that was mostly as a hobby. Few months ago I started spending more time doing application development for more than just recreation. I mostly develop using the Mono framework on my Linux machine. Since Mono is integrated with Ubuntu, to ensure stability, Canonical does not offer updates to Mono very often for Ubuntu. Mono packages for Ubuntu lag behind the official Mono releases and recently the gap has only widened. Since, and this is by design, Mono itself lags behind the latest .Net Framework, to be able to utilize the power of the latest release of Mono, I have had to compile it from source on my laptop on number of occasions. I've had to do this after every Ubuntu upgrade every six months since the Ubuntu upgrade would cause some of the dependencies to be overwritten.

Canonical releases Ubuntu on a schedule with one release in April and the other in December. This means that while the system receives regular updates, major features and enhancements are only released with those scheduled releases. These features and enhancements are not only those that Canonical might include in the new releases of Ubuntu, but they might also include enhancements to Desktop Environment and to the Linux Kernel etc. Sometimes, waiting for a full release in order to avail some of these enhancements doesn't seem justifiable.

I would have still continued using Kubuntu, if it weren't for the news that I came across couple days ago. Canonical will be discontinuing funding the development of Kubuntu. Now for some perspective, Canonical had one paid full time developer who is responsible for KDE implementation in Kubuntu who they would no longer fund for the effort and Canonical would continue to provide only infrastructure support to Kubuntu. I am sure that this does not mean the end for Kubuntu. But it might mean that KDE related updates to Kubuntu would become more infrequent over time. Due to the lack of full time developmental resources from Canonical, the effort might even be taken over by the community for KDE related maintenance.

I did some research on different Linux distributions to replace Kubuntu on my laptop. The criteria was set: I needed a distribution that would allow me to easily install and upgrade to the latest versions of software, especially Mono Framework and KDE, along with the latest Linux Kernel updates. After reviewing my choices against the criteria, there was only one clear winner - ArchLinux. I chose Arch over other Linux distributions because of its rolling release and the availability of latest versions of the software that I use almost everyday. I now have KDE 4.8 and Mono 2.10.8 installed under ArchLinux on my laptop. After installing Apper for package management, I've also found myself on familiar grounds again. The transition was as smooth as one could hope for and I am already beginning to enjoy my new distribution.

I will always have fond memories of Kubuntu though, as the distribution through which I first experienced Software Freedom. But it is time to move on.

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