2012-02-23

Review: KahelOS 020212

I have reviewed Chakra GNU/Linux a number of times here both before and after its split from the Arch base, and I have fairly consistently said that it is an amazing distribution and has a great implementation of KDE. But when it comes to Arch-based distributions, I have never tried the other side of the DE coin — GNOME — until now.

Main Screen + KahelOS Welcome Center
That is where KahelOS comes in. It is an Arch-based distribution that ships with GNOME and aims to make it user-friendly, though like Chakra, it expects that users will be at least somewhat willing to learn and work with the system. It was originally targeted at a primarily Filipino audience, but now it has a more international perspective.

I tested the live session through a live USB made with MultiSystem. I tested the installation in a VirtualBox VM in a Xubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" live USB host with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what this other offspring of Arch is like.

After the boot menu, I was greeted by a scrolling wall of text for the boot splash. This process was relatively fast, and I was soon greeted by the desktop.

The desktop is essentially stock GNOME 3/Shell, so I won't go through that again. The only changes I can see are that the cursors are the rather dated stock X/11 cursors rather than the typical smooth GNOME cursors, which I feel is a bit of a regression, and that there is a duplicate of the GNOME 3/Shell dock on the right-hand side of the screen. Speaking of that dock, there is a small but significant portion of it that is always showing, and hovering over it shows it in full. I have no problem with that autohide feature, but even when it is "hidden", it still manages to cover up most of the width of the scrollbar in Mozilla Firefox, which is annoying. In addition, regarding the desktop, there are some desktop icons that are meant to be present, like the KahelOS installer and the launcher for ClamAV, but they literally overlap with icons for mounted drives. Aren't all of those icons supposed to be separated into a grid? That kind of overlap is pretty bad form.

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
As the desktop loaded, I was immediately greeted by a screen asking if I wanted to install or try the live session of KahelOS. This is very much like what is present in recent versions of Ubuntu, and I think it is a great feature to emulate. When I clicked to try the live session, a window opened showing a slideshow presentation of the features of KahelOS, which I thought was unique and pretty cool.
Unfortunately, at the same time, all the other partitions of my laptop's hard drive and my USB flash drive asked to be opened at the same time. Not only were the notifications unable to be closed without taking a specific action (which were either to open the drive folder or to eject the drive, which aren't very comprehensive options), but while those notifications were open, the vertical space parallel to that taken up by the notifications became unusable until some action was taken. I was essentially forced to open all those folders, only to close them later. This is not the fault of KahelOS in particular; it is the fault of GNOME 3, because those developers believe this to be a feature rather than a bug.
Also, I tried taking screenshots of the desktop, but when I tried saving them in the "Pictures" folder present, I was told that the live user did not have the proper permissions to modify that folder. As it turns out, in the live session, all the folders like "Documents", "Music", "Pictures", and others are only accessible and modifiable by the root user, which is the fault of KahelOS (as far as I can tell) and is a rather poor default setting.
One nice thing was that KahelOS mounted my laptop's hard drive partitions in folders corresponding to their actual partition numbers (e.g. "sda5"); normally, they get mounted under folders that are named with a weird but consistent sequence of hexadecimal numbers (e.g. "b791333f3..."). Unfortunately, the other partitions of the USB flash drive (from which KahelOS ran) were mounted in folders named as hexadecimal numbers.

Mozilla Firefox is the default browser, though Chromium is also present in the live session. Most codecs seemed to be included as well, as YouTube and Hulu worked fine. My laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts were recognized as well, though throughout my experience in the live session, especially if I was using some application that required sound, the volume would increase to the maximum randomly and would require me to decrease the volume manually before my eardrums would blow out.

PackageKit
LibreOffice is the default productivity suite, and it worked well. Also, the ODT files that I was able to create using LibreOffice Writer were properly recognized by GNOME Documents. By the way, this is the first time that I have been able to really try out GNOME Documents, and it seems like it is just a listing of all of the documents (e.g. ODT, PDF, TXT, et cetera) in the home folder (or on a Google Docs account); this seems more useful for a tablet computer than a desktop or a laptop, to be honest.
Other installed applications include Avogadro, Kalzium, Ekiga Softphone, Cheese Webcam Booth, Dropbox, and others. Also, GNOME Tweak Tool is included, which is good. There are quite a large number of applications included, as the ISO file is almost 3 GB, which is huge!

PackageKit is the front-end for the package manager, and it works well. I was even able to successfully install Skype with it, which is great.
As Skype is included in the repositories, installing it was no trouble at all. It recognized my laptop's webcam and mic just fine, and I was able to have an actual video conversation with relatives with it, although that excessive volume problem came up every now and then.
Google Talk is not available in the repositories, but I tried downloading the TXZ file from the Arch User Repository (AUR) and following the instructions for installing that package. There were a few dependency issues; I could resolve most of them with the CLI package manager (Pacman), but one of them was itself a package from AUR, so I needed to install that first using the Arch wiki instructions for AUR packages. After that, installing Google Talk following the instructions on the Arch wiki was a cinch, and it recognized my laptop's webcam and mic just fine. I was able to have a video conversation with a friend as well, which is more than I can say about the performance of Google Talk on Salix OS from last week.
That said, I noticed something very weird about the GNOME Terminal as I installed Google Talk. It seems to randomly duplicate parts of commands and/or delete parts of others, especially if said command spans more than one line. This is rather strange and buggy behavior; I hope that is not a "feature" as well.

KahelOS was very stable, as it never crashed or slowed down on me. It also used about 330 MB of RAM at idle, which isn't bad and may actually be a good bit better than most GNOME 3/Shell distributions.

Installing a Package from AUR
At this point, I began the installation process. The first screen showed user creation and language/locale selection all together. After that came the root user creation, and then came hard drive partitioning. But before that, the installer showed a drop-down menu allowing the user to open any of the connected drives in Nautilus to copy over important files prior to installation. I think this is a very good step and I think other installers would do well to emulate this. After that came the actual partitioning; I elected to let the installer do its work automatically. After that came a final warning screen, allowing the user once again to copy over important files from any drive that can be opened in Nautilus, which is great. At this point, I had to start over because the virtual hard drive was only 10 GB in size, and KahelOS required 9 GB of space (!) for installation, so it complained. I made a new 15 GB virtual hard drive, started over, and got through this. A little after that came the actual installation, which was relatively fast. Following that and the last few things, I restarted the VM and was able to use the installed system much as I was able to use the live system.

That is where my time with KahelOS ended. It is basically as user-friendly as Chakra, and I could do almost everything (and all of the major things) that I could in Chakra in KahelOS, which is great. Of course, I still cannot get used to the small but grating "features" in GNOME 3/Shell, and I would probably use the Arch repositories in KahelOS to install a different DE (probably either Xfce or GNOME 3/Cinnamon, as that is available now too). Plus, the size requirements for both the live medium and the installed system are unusually large. That said, I can definitely recommend this both to relatively new Linux users if they are comfortable with just a couple commands at the terminal as well as to Linux newbies if they have a helping hand configuring things.
You can get it here.

16 comments:

  1. Is KahelOS a rolling release?

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  2. kahelOS is progressing nicely and its a fairly new distro memory is quite high arch with gnome3 and a few extensions running idles at 230mb on my laptop. to install from AUR you need yaourt/packer I find yaourt better uses the same commands as pacman they both find and install dependencies. "I don't understand the statement I would probably use the Arch repositories in KahelOS to install a different DE (probably either Xfce or GNOME 3/Cinnamon". What is the point of installing a OS then mutilating it with bloat to install another DE. if you want open-box use archbang uses 65mb ram. if you want xfce Gnome, KDE, etc. Install arch then add what you want Arch is no harder to install than any other distro you only install what you neednothing more nothing less. Its all in the mind if a 60+ yr old with no education can read and understand the beginners Wiki young people like you should be able to do it.

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  3. @Anonymous: Yes, it is. It's based fairly closely upon Arch and is compatible with all packages from the Arch repositories, so it too gets rolling-release updates.

    @kelvin: It's not that I don't think I'm capable of installing Arch from scratch if I had the time. It's that I don't have the time (trust me), so that's where something like KahelOS comes to the rescue. And I'm saying I would install another DE because I still simply cannot stand GNOME 3/Shell.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  4. It takes less time to install arch than it does to download a full 2,868MB of kahelOS and install it then remove gnome and replace with what ever. the myth that arch is somewhat hard to install is a joke. the same as Ubuntu minimal nothing hard in that you get a core and add what you want takes 20mins to do a netinstall with a working desktop of your choice. All this got to have your hand held then complain when things you like aren't there is beyond me.

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    1. @kelvin: I never said that something I wanted wasn't there. In fact, I said the opposite — Xfce and GNOME 3/Cinnamon are both available in the Arch repositories, so I can easily install one of those if I chose to install KahelOS. Plus, even if it does take longer to download and install KahelOS than it does to install Arch, the problem is that I wouldn't be able to do other things that require a computer in the meantime if I am to install and configure Arch (versus having KahelOS do it for me). And Arch is most definitely more difficult than a minimal installation of Ubuntu; Ubuntu can recognize a lot of hardware out-of-the-box even in minimal form, so unlike Arch, it does not require configuration of things like X/11, ethernet connections, et cetera. In short, I am happy for you that you have enough experience to install Arch with your eyes closed, but I can assure you that it is significantly more difficult for me to do than a minimal Ubuntu installation, and it will suck up a significantly larger proportion of my time and effort. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. so unlike Arch, it does not require configuration of things like X/11, ethernet connections, et cetera

    Nor does arch you just use the default settings eth0 is default for ethernet you know your graphics card choose the number if you don't download all as in ubuntu you talk yourself into believing its hard give it a go its simple you don't spent hrs using terminals its not Gentoo. Its KISS, keep it simple stupid so is the setup

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  6. Nothing against KahelOS , I have used it for long time in past , was never impressive if we are looking for an Arch Linux alternate for newbies but Bridge Linux (http://millertechnologies.net/) is very impressive,stable and user-friendly for new archers.

    regards,

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  7. @kelvin: I suppose when I do have time to do that, I will. That said, I can't help but be a little skeptical given that the Arch wiki has a detailed set of instructions for installing and configuring Arch, and those instructions look like they would take a while to carry out.

    @Dr.Saleem Khan: I appreciate the tip. In fact, I may just review that next.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  8. I installed chakra linux with Gnome3/Cinnamon and KDE4.8 with kahelOS
    its easy if you started from Arch Linux and Linux from Scratch. I just LOVE LINUX its super cool. FROM "Prohacker/Programmer" lets make Linux number one.

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  9. @Anonymous: Thanks for the comment!

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  10. Arch is not difficult to install but it takes some time to configure it to your taste. It took me a couple of hours to install Arch + Openbox and the day after to configure the DE, if you install a more user friendly DE (like xfce) you just need that couple hours.
    I've never been a linux-pro: i admit that i often forget basic linux commands and have to re-search them on internet :D
    Arch linux, though has the best documentation i have ever seen: you find a solution to almost everything and you end up learning a lot on how your system works.
    There is one big problem: the time you get arch working flawlessly you'll probably stick to it and will never want to try other distros at the expense of your blog.

    In short: take yourself a free sunday and install arch!
    I used a mix between these two guides:

    http://willensky.blogspot.com/ (the creator of archbang)

    And of course:

    https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Beginners'_Guide

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    1. @Anonymous: It's not the installation I'm worried about; it's that configuration that takes so much time. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. I agree with this comment %100, I run my own forum and do work on DeviantArt and have little spare time along with my full time job and a family to take care of, I could not see my self installing Arch and having to configure the DE at the cost of a day or two when I can install a preconfigured OS in about 20 minutes and I am done. Ya that would be a no brainer for those who are spare on spare time. :-)

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    3. @Marc: I totally agree. Thanks for the comment!

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  11. KahelOS less time to install and configure, Arch need more time to configure but it's easy to install.

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    1. @Anonymous: That is quite true. Thanks for the comment!

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