Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kopy Kats

A few days ago, my primary harddisk literally smoked out! I saw white smoke come out from the disk. I was left OSless :( After living on (my favorite) Knoppix for a few days, i decided to install something on the other HDD. This was a nice opportunity to try out something for which i was waiting for eagerly - KDE 4.
KDE is my all time favorite window manager. Fedora 9(Sulphur) which was released recently, had KDE 4. So i downloaded the DVD and installed F9. Could not wait to see KDE4 and i logged in after booting into F9.
After entering the username-password, KDE4 kept me waiting for quite a bit of time. Old KDE was much faster, i thought. Finally, KDE initialized, and i could see the desktop. It reminded me of only one thing - the recent failed OS from Redmond - Windows Vista! The colour scheme, the taskbar, the start button - everything looked pretty similar if not exactly the same. This was certainly not what i'd expected. Poor KDE folks have copied from an OS which itself was a failure(and is said to have copied features from OS X). Still left with some hope, i clicked the KMenu, and even that turned out to be a direct imitation of Vista's start menu. The new menu sucks. With a lot of programs installed, you've to manually scroll the menu. To open a submenu, you've to click on it, mere hovering does not work. To return to the menu at previous level, again a click is necessary! What kind of HCI expert told them to do it this way ?? What helps a bit is the program search at the top in the taskbar (again, a direct rip-off from Vista). If you are, say three levels deep in the menu, there is no way you can directly return to the first level. You'll have to take one step at a time.
The desktop can be loaded with 'widgets' like it can be done in Vista(or OS X). KDE developers seem to have concentrated a lot on eye-candy, which IMHO is useless. Eye-candy takes time - both CPU time(cyles) and the user's time. How many times will you like to see a big 3D cube rotating everytime you press alt-tab, or windows that are consumed by flames when you close them ? Also, graphic effects make the system unstable (at least in KDE4). When i tried to enable some of them on my installation, KDE crashed for ever. I could not login using KDE. It started working only after i `rm -rf`ed the .kde directory.
With all the restructuring of the UI and code, i am not sure whether widgets for older versions of KDE would continue to work. A lot of developers had invested time in writing those.
Overall, K4 proved to be a big disappointment, at least to me. The features touted in release notes look inviting, the screenshots jazzy and the plasmoids powerful. But, does it really work that well ? Not in 4.0 IMO. KDE 4.1 was released a couple of days back, hopefully it is more usable and stable...

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