I think the first key point is that I like the Debian underpinnings but without having to deal with constructing a usable system wading through esoterica. At the time I made my switch to Linux, Debian was pretty strong, and I was not well versed in getting a system running “from scratch”.
I also like the 6 month release cycle of Ubuntu. That helps keep new features fresh in the distribution without having to wait an indeterminate amount of time before the next version. However, this is also a shortcoming. It seems that I just about get my system updated when there is a new release — and the answer to just about every problem is “are you running the latest?”. In my opinion, this is a problem with Ubuntu in general and there needs to be a better way to fix problems or answer problems without pushing people through the versions. I have even gotten this answer when using the Long Term Support (LTS) release. To me, that is unacceptable. However, I tolerate it because there is more that I like.
In a similar vein, the Ubuntu community was a huge factor. The Debian and Gentoo communities at the time were practically condescending and even patrnoizing at times. There is a lot of good information out there, but the people were nearly intolerable. Thankfully, it appears things have changed. I was coming over from Red Hat and I didn’t particularly like the community there either. Again, it appears things have changed some and that is a good thing. I also looked at OpenSUSE, Arch Linux, Mint, Sabayon, straight FreeBSD, and a few others. Kubuntu just worked — I liked that.
Looping back to Debian for a moment, I actually, strangely, like the licensing policy. I like that the install is FOSS to start with and there is the ability to install items that are more restrictively licensed. I’d at least like to start with a FOSS system and then pick what restricted license items I’ll use.
Software options are another thing I like. While I know how to compile things, I’d like to use packages so removal is (theoretically) cleaner. It’s at least cleaner than some windows uninstalls I’ve done… I dealt with RPM packages and I dislike them enormously. I have had a better time with DEB packages.
That just about covers the basics of ‘buntu itself. Now on to the K part of Kubuntu.
I like KDE. There. I said it. I actually like the general window manager paradigm it models, and I think KDE4 is a really good leap. My particular like is the familiar model as well as the configuration options of KDE in general. KDE3 was very configurable and KDE4 is catching up.
My software preferences end up playing into it to some extent, but in the end I use a mixed Qt / GTK system. I like OpenOffice and Firefox (GTK), but greatly prefer Dolphin and Amarok (Qt) over the GTK equivalents.
But what keeps me with Kubuntu itself? The general ease of install. I tried Gentoo. I tried Debian. I tried Sabayon. I tried Mint. I tried Arch Linux, and more. In the end, I just liked the clean install of Kubuntu, and how much was so easily available for it as part of the Debian-based family.
Despite my likes, I do have my nits. Do I file bugs with Launchpad (Canonical/Ubuntu) or KDE? If I want to contribute, where do I contribute? When something is fixed in KDE it seems to take a month or more to make it into Kubuntu — and then usually only in the Alpha or Beta of the next version. But my biggest nit is that the Kubuntu mission statement seems to be sorely absent. I don’t know where they are going with this; and I don’t really know where KDE is going. Serendipity seems to keep things moving forwards and I keep hoping that it will continue. And, someday, I hope to have some time to give back… once I figure out how to.