22 January 2018

KDE neon - Customization and Installation of Useful Apps for a Daily System

Last year in October Linux Mint announced that Linux Mint 18.3 will be the last KDE Edition. This is somewhat sad, since it is a very nice and stable distribution. Actually, there is no reason for a quick switch - Linux Mint 18.3 KDE will be provided with updates until 2021.

Anyway, with now looking into other distributions there is enough time to give them a try, and it's always interesting to see other solutions in the Linux world. I gave KDE neon a try.

Source Image: Photo: own, Logo: KDE Community License: CC BY-SA
KDE neon is a fast and lean system which ships also a User Edition.

 

According to the developers of KDE neon, it is not a distribution but rather a package archive. However, with a few adjustments it can be turned into a full productive system. In its default state KDE neon is sparsely equipped, and standard programs like a word or image processing program have to be installed by the user.

KDE neon is based on an Ubuntu LTS along with the newest KDE software.

 

Installation as an encrypted LVM in a Multi-Boot System

On my hard disk I often leave free space for installation and testing of other systems. 40-70 gigabytes is already sufficient to install a distribution and leaves some space for the home partition.

Installing KDE neon is quickly made. Who is accustomed to installing Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Linux Mint, will have no difficulties with installing KDE neon.

Some maybe want to install it beside existing Linux systems.

As an encrypted system in a dual- or multi-boot environment KDE neon is installed in exactly the same way as I wrote in the post "Installation of encrypted dual boot system with Linux Mint KDE and LMDE"  (BIOS legacy) - just replace Linux Mint KDE with KDE neon. Look into part 1 and 3.

An Overview beforehand

Firstly an ISO is downloaded from the KDE neon website and installed on an USB stick. You can choose between two User- and two Developer-Editions. I stay conservative and install the User-LTS- Version, which will be supported until Ubuntu 18.04 is released.

Edit: The User LTS Version still exists, but is hidden from the download page. Users are encouraged to install the normal User Edition, as outlined in the KDE neon blog.

Preparation of partitions and LVM

Boot KDE Neon with the USB stick in a live session. In the spare space of the hard drive, prepare two partitions - a small one for the boot partition (unencrypted), and the rest for the system and home partition. These "rest" will be encrypted. In the encrypted part you set up a LVM, and into it "logical volumes" for root (system files) and home (user files).

Running the installer

Manual installation of KDE neon in a multi boot environment; setup of the boot partititon. If KDE neon is not the main system, then the device for the boot loader istalolation is the particular partition (here /dev/sda7)

After the initial preparation, start the installer (upper left button). The disk setup is done manually. In the manual section the system- and user files are assigned to the correct parts on the hard drive. Also the boot partition will be assigned. If KDE neon is not the main system, then the device for the boot loader installation is the partition of the boot partition (e.g. /dev/sda7 instead of /dev/sda). It will later be loaded by the main system.

After the installer finished a few adjustments are made in the terminal.

Adding the boot menu entry

Then close the live session and start the main system. There, register the new system in the file /etc/grub.d/40_custom. Then, at next booting, KDE neon will show up in the boot menu.

You find the entry for the file /etc/grub.d/40_custom in the boot partition of KDE neon, and there in the file  /boot/grub/grub.cfg. (The boot partition of KDE neon can be mounted with the file manager dolphin).

If you later update the kernel, you have to edit the file again, and enter the correct kernel version.

For a detailed how to follow the link above.

Installation of Must-Have Apps and Useful Tools

Most important Apps

LibreOffice

The default KDE neon setup is rather meager. To turn it into an operating system for everyday life there are a few essential applications are needed like a word processing or office program, and other apps for image processing, a mail program and other useful tools. You have to install them yourself. Since KDE neon is based on Ubuntu LTS, you can install any packages of the Ubuntu repositories.

LibreOffice is a key program for a production system. Here the installation with German language packages and dictionaries (replace them with your language).

sudo apt install libreoffice libreoffice-gtk3 libreoffice-style-* libreoffice-help-de libreoffice-l10n-de hunspell-de-de language-pack-kde-de 

KMail and Kontact

KMail is a KDE mail client. It is the mail program of my choice.

Who might like an extensive suite with mail program, address book, calendar, notices, and an rss-reader and other tools, should install the KDE "Personal Information Manager" kontact.

sudo apt-get install kontact kmail kaddressbook korganizer kjots

To whom that is just too much, it is possible to install just necessary parts, e.g. KMail, an address book, and a calendar.

sudo apt install kmail kaddressbook korganizer

Gimp

The image viewer Gwenview is already installed. Gimp is a well known tool for image processing.

sudo apt install gimp gimp-plugin-registry

Amarok

The video player VLC is also already included. The audio program Amarok needs to be installed.

sudo apt install amarok

 

Administrative Tools

Synaptic Package Management

 


The Synaptic package manager gives a good overview of installed apps.

KDE Neon has a software management, which is called Discover. I prefer to work with Synaptic. It gives a good overview of the package status, and lets you edit repositories among other things. Also a partition manager should not be forgotten.

sudo apt install synaptic partitionmanager

KeePassXC

With KeePassXC a password manager is quickly installed. Right now this package is not in the Ubuntu repositories. So you have to add the official KeePassXC repository.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:phoerious/keepassxc
sudo apt update
sudo apt install keepassxc

Bleachbit, Calculator and  und USB Creator

A tool for cleaning the system is of course a must-have.

sudo apt install beachbit

Further tools are a calculator and USB creator.

sudo apt install kcalc usb-creator-kde

Driver Management and further Customization

Driver Management

KDE neon does not ship a graphic user interface for managing drivers. You can fetch it with

sudo apt install kubuntu-driver-manager

You will find the dirver management under System Settings → Hardware. Alternatively you can manage drivers with the command line tool ubuntu-drivers-common (is already installed).

With

sudo ubuntu-drivers devices

necessary drivers are listed, with their package name. You can install them with

sudo ubuntu-drivers autoinstall

They will be installed without asking for confirmation. In my system the package intel-microcode was missing. You can of course install them normally with

sudo apt install intel-microcode #Example!

Sorting own Wallpapers, Fonts, and Color Profiles

You may copy your wallpapers to the file /home/USER/.local/share/wallpapers. They will show up under Desktop Settings (right click on the desktop). Accumulated fonts go to /home/USER/.fonts. This is the place where most apps find them. Color profiles should be copied into /home/USER/.color/icc. In a multi user system these files should be copied to /usr/share (without the preceding dot).

Now KDE Neon has become a useful system, and has lost its ascetic character. You can find a few more examples in my post

"Linux Mint 18 KDE - First Things to do for Usability & Security - my Favorites". Since KDE Neon and Linux Mint alike are based on Ubuntu, the most things are just the same.

Adjust GTK-Themes with Apps running as Root

Some Apps (e.g. Synaptic) which run as root, don't take the Breeze Theme, even though it is set in the System Settings (→ Application Style → GNOME Application Style (GTK)).

Just copy the gtk-3.0-folder to /root, and it should work from now on.

sudo cp -R /home/USER/.config/gtk-3.0 /root/.config

Is KDE Neon a distribution or not?

The official KDE neon faq answers the question of a distribution clear with: "Not quite, it's a package archive with the latest KDE software on top of a stable base."

With a distribution one would expect that in development there is an emphasis in usability, reliability, stability and security.

On the other side it doesn't mean that a package archive lacks these characteristics. I anticipated more initial problems, but the installation and setup has been pretty easy. There hadn't been serious problems, but I had to read a few things after installing. A lot of KDE neon will seem familiar to the ones who come from Linux Mint KDE or Ubuntu. One striking difference are the many updates.

Even it is not thought to be a distribution, many will use it as one (for most users there are little other scenarios of what to do with an operating system). The first impression is satisfying and pleasant: KDE neon is lean, fast, and has only the apps one really needs. This makes it attractive.

 


KDE neon ships with the plasma 5 desktop. A password manager and a calculator should be present in a productive system. These apps have to be installed later.

 

I don't think that someone needs to have very deep experience with Linux to use KDE neon. However, you have to search for answers to problems yourself. Some things don't run out of the box. Sometimes you may need some time to find out which package is missing. And of course, with new and fast updated systems there is a higher risk of bugs.

Since KDE neon has a small user basis, there is not much around, not many announcements, messages, or how tos.

But there is a large KDE forum (with a KDE neon threat), and a large Ubuntu wiki/forum. Many fundamentals are already covered there. --

With the KDE neon User Edition there exists a stable release which is - as the name indicates - dedicated to users. The description is "Ideal for everyday users." -

The first Look & Feel was very positive. It is fun to work with KDE neon. I hadn't planned a switchover yet, but now I set up the system to work on some tasks. So I can follow the development more closely.


Tested with KDE neon 5.8

Comments

I started using KDE Neon after my upgrade from Kubuntu 17.04 Zesty Zappus to the Awful Artful Aardvark proved such a disaster.

Kubuntu 17.04 was my first taste of KDE Plasma and I (still) think it is phenomenal. Awful Aardvark was just a terrible blot on both Ubuntu and Plasma's resume. I actually switched to Deepin 15.4 as a result and pretty much wrote Plasma off.

I am glad I didn't. All in all my Kubuntu 17.04 experience turned out to be a fairly isolated event. OpenSUSE, Antergos KDE, Linux Mint KDE, and a few others were very distributions. I even had KDE on a vanilla Debian installation with positive results.

I keep going back to KDE Neon. The Ubuntu base is well suited for use as a workstation and Neon has been very stable. Plus, I like the semi-rolling and rolling distributions. KDE Neon is as close as you can get to having an official KDE distro. So far it has served me well, as has Deepin 15x.

Hi Michael,

thanks for your comment.
For my first Linux Distribution I chose Linux Mint KDE. Since then I didn't want to have any other desktop environment than KDE. Not all experiences were pleasant (I remember some fights with Akonadi), but the fun outweighed the bad. With Plasma and the workspaces it felt not only like a useful desktop but one with more advanced features.

When the Linux Mint servers got hacked in 2016 I switched over to Kubuntu for a while. Kubuntu was ok, but I found it somewhat awkward, slow, and I missed the flowing experience of Linux Mint.
After a while I was back at Linux Mint. When the developers announced to drop the KDE Edition I looked around for another distro and was happy with KDE Neon. I like to have a fast running distro without any overload, but of course there are pros and cons about installing almost all apps by yourself. I might give also Kubuntu another try sometime - but for now KDE Neon is a real distro for me. Even though the developers claim that it's not a distro there are people who use it that way - there is just a need for it.

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