KDE showdown: Slackware vs. Debian

After not being in love with Debian Etch under KDE, I wanted to boot into Slackware to see if it was just me.

It’s not just me.

Since I never ran Debian with KDE before (nor had I run Slackware 12 in GNOME, with such an install being way beyond my capability at this time), I was surprised to see KDE running so much better in Slackware. I knew that Slack was quicker at just about everything than most distros out there, but I had no idea that it was so much quicker than Debian as well.

At this point, and on this slower-than-average box — the VIA C3 Samuel-based converted Maxspeed Maxterm thin client (256 MB of RAM) — I wouldn’t run KDE on anything but Slackware.

But … Slackware with KDE compares very nicely to Debian with GNOME. Makes me wonder how Slack would run with GNOME …


Debian Etch drama

I know … Debian Etch is old news, but I wasn’t about to let my first Debian KDE install go quietly into the night:

I thought it was time to add KDE to my Debian Etch install. So I went to Debian’s KDE maintainer page and found the easy instructions. What they didn’t tell me was that my root partition was too damn small, so I had about half a KDE install when / filled up. I guess when the Debian installer auto-partitions a 14.4 GB drive, it doesn’t leave enough room for GNOME and KDE in the / partition. Live and learn.

If I didn’t have a separate /home partition, it would’ve fit easily, but since the whole thing was pretty much screwed up, I figured I’d start again. I didn’t have much on this install (it’s the Maxspeed Maxterm thin client, VIA C3 Samuel processor, 256 MB RAM) — it’s one of three IDE drives that I can easily switch in and out.

I used the Etch 4.0r1 network install disc and wanted to start with KDE and use the installer GUI. I passed the following boot parameters:
installgui tasks=”kde-desktop, standard”

The graphical installer is nice, and since my $0 Laptop has trouble with the standard Debian text-based installer (the screen looks like a fuzzy Dali painting for some reason), the GUI installer just might be better. On my converted thin client, the text-based installer works great, but it’s nice to see the graphical installer do its thing. Never mind that it’s counterintuitive to NOT have the GUI installer as a menu choice when starting a Debian install. Having to enter installgui as a boot parameter is kind of NOT what having a GUI installer is all about. At least let those who don’t know about the GUI have the choice of using it.

But I quibble. I’ve always thought that Debian had one of the best installers out there, and it’s no hardship to use the text version. I’ve said it before, and I still believe that Debian’s installer is both better and easier to use than Ubuntu’s. And that’s saying a lot. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I’ve never had a serious problem with a Debian install; not so with Ubuntu and Xubuntu.

The Debian KDE install went as flawlessly as every other time I’ve thrown Debian on a box. When you do a KDE install of Debian, you don’t get KOffice. I thought doing apt-get install kde-extras at a # prompt would get me KOffice, but for some reason it didn’t do much. No problem. I just typed in

# apt-get koffice

And the suite started flowing.

One thing that’s pretty nice about KDE in Debian and Slackware — they stay true to what KDE puts out, so they look pretty much the same. Sure, there are differences, but they’re more alike than different at first glance. I understand why Debian includes OpenOffice by default and Slackware doesn’t, but that’s nothing you can’t fix in either distro. Apt is obviously easier than finding a Slackware package for Koffice, but in either case, it’s easily doable.

Yes, the initial “typographical quote marks” in KWord are STILL facing the wrong way (why did they get it right in the older version of KWord but screw it up in this version?). Fix that, as I’ve said a hundred times, and I’d never need OpenOffice, which takes an age to start in comparison to, say, Abiword (and maybe twice as long as KWord takes to load).

Otherwise, opening the Kedit text editor is a tad slower than Gedit in GNOME. The KWrite editor takes WAY too long to load, with Kate falling somewhere in the middle.

As always, the best part about KDE is Konqueror, which loads in a third of the time that it takes Iceweasel (aka Firefox) to start up. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that Konqueror is an integral part of KDE: Besides being the default Web browser, it’s also the file manager, the interface for configuration … and a pretty great FTP program as well. If only GNOME’s Nautilus were as versatile.

The next day: I tried to use KPackage, and I’m not very impressed at all. I never used it in Slackware — I don’t even know if it works in Slack — because of the great pkgtool utility. In Debian, on this marginal hardware, KPackage is slow and barely works. I was able to add individual packages, but “marking” a bunch at once and then clicking “install marked” didn’t work. I’ll have to look into it. At any rate, it’s not as quick or easy as Synaptic.

And is there an equivalent of GNOME’s Update Manager in the KDE version of Debian? I’m not sure I’ll even be notified when there are updates. This is definitely a situation where apt in a terminal window is more necessary than not. I could be missing something … but.

And I’m getting a lot of warnings that a Java script is slowing down KHTML in Konqueror. Why is that happening? I’ll have to try Iceweasel on this same install and see how it reacts.

Nothing’s different here from my other forays into KDE. Yes, the Debian implementation is mercifully quicker than SimplyMepis’ rendition. Yes, I really like a lot of the KDE apps and tools. And yes, the better system you have, the more you’ll like KDE.

But thus far, I have to give Slackware the nod for best KDE implementation. It’s set up the best, has the quickest response. Most distros work better with their main window manager. That’s true for Ubuntu (GNOME), Slackware (KDE) and Debian (GNOME).

I suspect that if I did a GNOME install of Debian and added KDE later, I’d be in a better position. Especially in Ubuntu and Debian, if you’re thinking of running Xfce or Fluxbox, I’d start with the standard GNOME and then add the subsequent window managers. That way, when you want to configure or tweak something, you’ll have the GNOME tools — slow as they might be in comparison — at your disposal. That’s if you have the room for all of it.

That said, I’m probably going back to a GNOME install of Debian when this is all over. It just works that much better. But before I do it, I’ll give KDE in Slackware a spin for comparison’s sake.