2012-07-09

Long-Term Review: Chakra 2012.05 "Archimedes"

For those of you who don't know what this is about, this post should clear things up. Essentially, I now have another computer upon which I can do tests of installed distribution sessions for several days at a time. There will be three more posts like this one this summer; I may or may not be able to continue it through the semester. For reference, I used the 64-bit minimal CD for live testing and installation. Follow the jump to read my experiences with Chakra over more than a week of use.

Day 0

I was able to install Mozilla Firefox OK in the live session on my laptop, although it came with the typical ugly theme. After installing the Oxygen GTK2 and GTK3 themes, everything was OK. Installing LibreOffice worked fine as well; that is in the repository. Google Talk installed and worked fine too, which is great. Unfortunately, while Skype installed, it refused to run for more than 5 seconds, and running it from the terminal showed that the issue was the same shared library issue as in SolusOS 1.1 "Eveline". I'm beginning to wonder if this is a persistent issue in Skype 4.0 for any distribution, but then again, it worked fine in the live session of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" MATE. If it's just an issue with Chakra, then unfortunately I will not be able to use it (Chakra) on my personal laptop.

Anyway, after installing certain dependencies from various repositories, I was able to unpack and install the static TAR binary package of Mupen64Plus 1.5. Using the CCR, I was able to install and use Redshift, although the associated Plasma widget failed to install correctly. Desktop effects worked fine, as did things like the KDE Lancelot menu. The only issue was the inability to log out and log back into the live session, as logging out would throw an error about KDM being unable to load. Also, as before, I had to change one of the boot parameters to "xdriver=yes nonfree=no".

Day 1

Trying the live session on the desktop yielded the exact same results as on the laptop, except for Skype and Google Talk which I did not try because the desktop has neither a webcam nor a mic. After that I proceeded onto the installation, which is one that I have covered before. I shrunk the Microsoft Windows 7 partition from 290 GB to 60 GB just in case, and then I used the remaining space to create a 4 GB SWAP partition, a 50 GB EXT4 root partition, and a separate EXT4 home partition taking up the rest of the space available in the extended partition (so about 190 GB for the home partition). The installation went smoothly; that said, although I opted to install Mozilla Firefox on the installed session from within the installer, it was nowhere to be found and I had to click again to install the Mozilla Firefox bundle.

Logging in went fine, though there were a few hiccups for two or three sessions. For instance, desktop effects were not all applied at the same time for some reason. Another time, there was a Plasma crash, but it was recoverable quickly and did not come up again. In addition, after the first time logging in, logging out led to a black screen showing only the cursor but no KDM, so I had to switch to a different TTY to reboot the computer. Some things like Dolphin and the Lancelot menu require an additional logout before any changes in their settings take full effect.

It was only after installation that I realized just how minimal the more minimal live CD was (compared to the fuller live DVD). Even things like Gwenview and Okular were absent. I had to install those along with the Oxygen GTK+ themes to make things work as they should.

After that, though, everything ran smoothly. I have turned on desktop effects like the desktop cube, while I have turned off desktop search/indexing by Nepomuk. I have installed Mozilla Firefox and LibreOffice, and they work fine. KDE is set to tab together windows of the same application, and that works well. Although it uses about 570 MB of RAM at idle, Chakra feels quite smooth, stable, and snappy. I hope it stays that way too. (Oh, and of course, after installing the SSH tools, using SSH in the KDE terminal emulator Konsole worked just fine.)

Day 2

Working with SSH worked fine today. I was also able to run a pretty resource-intensive computation job (outsourced through SSH, of course) without a hitch.

Today was the first day that I had to deal with the font issue in KDE. It's one of the few times I've seen the issue come up anyway. I installed the Droid fonts and used Droid Sans for all the major places where fonts could be configured; unfortunately, despite the use of anti-aliasing and slight subpixel hinting, some things like the letter 'O' still don't look quite right in Chakra, both in the live session on my laptop and in the installed session on that desktop computer. I would appreciate it if someone could suggest some other solution, because searching online and on the Chakra forums hasn't brought up much else. Also, to enable fonts, I had to log out and log back in once or twice, but after that they were enabled just fine.

One of the things I have been anticipating in KDE is the upcoming inclusion of KLook, which is the KDE equivalent to Gloobus-Preview in essentially every way. Chakra actually already has KLook in its community repository (CCR), so I was able to install that fine. KLook is a little buggy, in that every time it starts up and is terminated (because simply closing the application relegates it to run silently in the background, and it does consume a nontrivial amount of RAM while in the background), an error would pop up saying that KLook has crashed unexpectedly. I'm not too disappointed by that though because the behavior and stability of KLook is otherwise unaffected, KLook should be included in the main repositories with KDE soon enough, and Gloobus-Preview now has similar stability issues.

Finally, I saw a solution to the Skype issue that I had on the live session, so I decided to try out the live session once more to check out Skype, as well as Mupen64Plus and Google Talk just for kicks. Using the Skype package without PulseAudio (which is not used in Chakra by default, which was why the normal Skype package kept crashing) worked fine, and I was able to have a full video conversation with my family without a hitch. Google Talk, installed from the main repository, also worked fine.
Unfortunately, Mupen64Plus had some issues. They were not that serious in that installing the dependencies followed by the static package of Mupen64Plus 1.5 worked fine, but it had trouble pausing, restarting, and stopping an emulation once started. Plus, it had trouble with some game ROM files but not with others. I'll have to check this out at a later date to see if that is a fluke or a persistent issue.

Day 3

Starting the computer in the morning again brought up the issue of the clock being improperly synchronized, and it was again solved by logging out and logging back in. Having installed GIT, I tried reinstalling the CCR packages for KLook, but that only seemed to exacerbate the problem somewhat, because now KLook throws an error every time it is closed instead of just occasionally. Otherwise, there isn't much to report here.

Day 4

Starting the computer in the morning again brought up the issue of the clock being improperly synchronized, and this time it took several tries of logging out and logging in for the clock to be properly synchronized (and even then the synchronization didn't happen until the middle of a session randomly). Also, Mozilla Firefox crashed 3 times on this day, which has never happened before on this particular machine; that is a little disheartening. Otherwise, things worked as expected.

Day 5

After starting the computer, I tried logging in, and while the login was successful, the system got hung up at the KDE splash screen. I switched to a different CLI TTY session using 'CTRL'+'ALT'+'F6', logged in there, and issued the command "sudo shutdown -r now". Although almost all the requisite processes were terminated, the system got hung up at the final process which was to physically restart the computer, so I had to hold the power button until it turned off and then I turned it on again.
After that, I decided to apply a few updates. I realized I would probably be better off doing it through a different non-GUI TTY session, so after doing that, I issued the commands "su" followed by "pacman -Syy" followed by "pacman -Syu". For some reason there was a file present that was locking up Pacman. After removing that using (still in the root session) "rm [whatever that file was]", I tried "pacman -Syu" again, and that worked well. After that, I issued another reboot command because the Linux kernel was among the packages updated, and again I ran into the hanging issue at the end of the reboot process. Doing the same manual reboot allowed me to resume work normally.
Today, Mozilla Firefox crashed once. That's less than yesterday, but still worse than having a crash-free experience. Otherwise, things were fairly normal.

Day 6

After a few slower days, today was the first day that I had to use the capabilities of SSH with X/11 and LibreOffice as much as I did around 2 weeks ago. I was running a recently-created MEEP control file to produce output and was trying to copy that output into LibreOffice Calc. Unfortunately, there were three pretty big issues with this. The first was that quite often, Gedit wouldn't start because of some issue with the display server. I would have to logout and log back in to get it to work, and for some reason today logging in took a few seconds longer than normal, which was annoying.
The second is that when Gedit was open (because that was the only GUI program I needed to use from within the SSH session today), other applications in Chakra outside of the SSH session (e.g. Kate, LibreOffice Calc) would be noticeably slower to start. Plus, existing applications would be slowed down a bit.
The third is that I was not at all able to copy text from Gedit within the SSH session to other applications outside like LibreOffice Calc; that is something I have needed to do frequently, and it has always worked until today. That is really bad if that basic sort of thing doesn't work well.

On an unrelated note, I encountered another issue with Mozilla Firefox. The issue was that when I tried to close a tab but accidentally moved the cursor a little too much to the side of the proper button, the cursor would attempt to drag a tab to a different position but then would cause the entire system to freeze. The only solution to this was to hold the desktop power button until the prompt to log out came up, at which point I was saved by the fact that there is an automatic logout feature with a timer. Thankfully, when I logged back in, KDE tried to recover as many of my previously open windows as possible; it wasn't perfect, but this is the first time that I have seen such a neat feature. Then again, it would be bad if there was some persistent issue with a program that caused the system to freeze and if that program was always being reopened by KDE upon logging back in after a system issue. Unfortunately, I cannot say that this is the first time I have seen this particular issue with Mozilla Firefox on Chakra; I saw it for the first time late last week, and I hoped that it was a chance event, but it looks like that is not the case.

These are some pretty bad bugs. If they persist, I don't think I'll be using Chakra on a regular basis.

Day 7

Many of the bugs that showed up yesterday involving SSH with X/11 appeared today too. The only thing I could do to solve this was to use SCP (copy via SSH) to copy the files from the remote account to the desktop file system and then open them in Kate/copy the data to LibreOffice Calc. It was OK for today, but for the long-term, I definitely want a working ability to open Gedit and other GUI applications through SSH. Otherwise, things were fairly normal.

Also, when I started the computer at the beginning of the day, I decide to apply updates to Chakra, so I did the same thing as a few days ago. The only difference was that after all that, instead of restarting (because the kernel and other vital OS components were unchanged), I simply switched back to the KDM login screen via 'CTRL'+'ALT'+'F7'.

Finally, upon shutting down the computer at the end of the day, I was greeted by an error message similar to the one displayed by all KDE distributions in their respective live sessions upon shutting down. That meant that it required my attention, so I couldn't just turn off the monitor and leave the room. It was the first time I had seen such an error on the installed system; I'll look out for it in the next few days.

Day 8

This was the last day of testing for me, because although I worked for one day on the weekend as usual, I decided to work from my dormitory room instead. Today, though, I once again encountered issues like Gedit refusing to load via SSH more than twice in a row, slow SSH logins, and Gedit via SSH refusing to let me copy text into LibreOffice Calc in the local session. In addition, I tried starting MATLAB via SSH, and it never loaded completely, so the only solution was to simply close the parent terminal window. Also, I applied one last round of updates, and that worked OK. Finally, today while shutting the computer down, I was again greeted by the KDE error message that I saw during my previous day of work at the office.  Otherwise, there were no crashes or other issues.

Conclusion

The good news is that I was able to set up my Chakra desktop exactly as I wanted it, and I was able to become accustomed to KDE quite quickly. Even the bugginess of KLook stopped being an issue when I saw how quickly native KDE applications like Gwenview and Okular loaded.

Customized Chakra Desktop on My UROP Desktop PC
There is quite a bit of bad news, but I'll try to keep it short. Mupen64Plus 1.5 didn't fully work in the live session on my laptop. On my office desktop, SSH with X/11 posed numerous issues, and that's a problem considering that is the main way that I actually get work done for my UROP; I had never experienced these issues when using SecureCRT on Microsoft Windows XP, nor have I ever had to deal with these issues when using SSH with X/11 on my laptop's installation of Linux Mint, so I think I can safely blame these on Chakra. Crashes were a good deal more frequent than I would have liked, and the unpredictability of the crashes made them that much more aggravating.

I think my biggest mistake in all of this was using the minimal CD image rather than the full DVD image to install Chakra; if I had used the DVD version, I could have probably saved myself a lot of headaches trying to get things like LibreOffice, GTK+ integration, and SSH installed and working, along with even basic KDE utilities like Gwenview, Okular, and KCalc. Oh well, I suppose I learned my lesson there.

Overall, my impression of Chakra is decidedly more mixed than when I simply did live session reviews, now that I have been able to use the installed session in a serious work setting for 8 days. I will certainly be keeping my eye on it, but unless other things happen (i.e. other distributions that I try turn out to be even worse), I probably won't be installing Chakra on my personal laptop.

Finally, this is just a reminder that there will probably be 3 more long-term reviews after this one, and they will each log about 7-10 days of use. The next one, starting tomorrow, will be of CrunchBang ("#!") 11 "Waldorf", so stay tuned for that!

16 comments:

  1. prasanth, liked the review very much and the way it's done over a period of 8 days is very useful.

    please take Stella (a CEntOS remaster) linux for a spin. i found it good, but would like to know about your experience.

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    1. @manmath sahu: It's interesting that you should mention that respin, because I figured that after these main 4 long-term reviews over the summer, I should really install a standard, serious, well-supported distribution like CentOS for my office desktop (and that way anyone else who needs to use the desktop after me can do so with ease and peace of mind). Given that, I will be sure to check that out. Thanks for the tip!

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  2. Chakra being a rolling release, it is an absolute must to always update the system, before installing any package. Seems quite a few packages were installed during this review, which were build on newer deps, but only the new app was installed, not the system properly updated.
    One other thing that is an absolute must on a rolling distro, is for all our users to read the news, when seeing a fairly large update, there is no other way to give sometimes needed instructions to update correctly.
    In this case, using the rm command was very wrong, and in most cases would have killed pacman, the correct way to update was in the news, forums, and all social sites, to make sure all users would be reached.
    http://chakra-linux.org/news/index.php?/archives/68-Manual-intervention-needed-with-next-pacman-Syu.html
    For the rest, really pleased to see you taking the time to put Chakra thtough a serious test, and hopefully we can get some logs, to see why the crashes, since it would be great to try and reproduce, so a fix can be found. Any and all logs you are willing to provide from /var/log would be greatly appreciated.

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  3. Hi Prashanth,
    Good that you got another PC. It has certainly helped to give depth to your reviews.
    I always try real installations on one of 6 ext4 partitions among sdb6 to sdb11. Hence presently I can compare mint 9, LMDE-64-mate-cinnamon, openSUSE 12.1, and kububtu 12.04
    Before a week, I installed kubuntu 12.04 LTS after a long wait for Mint 13 KDE and feel that at last I have found successor of mint9.
    In openSUSE 12.1 the configuration module for Wacom Bamboo CTH-460 is broken and so I can't make the touch 'off' and this is interfering very badly moving the courser due to my finger's touch while using the pen. In Kubuntu 12.04 the configuration tool is working as in Pardus 2011.2.
    The trouble with kubuntu is- by default hibernation is disabled. If 'sudo pm-hibernate' (in konsole) hibernates the system, enable it by referring the forum post
    https://help.ubuntu.com/12.04/ubuntu-help/power-hibernate.html
    Then I added plasma widgets
    plasma-widget-quickaccess
    plasma-widget-lancelot
    and @ 25 applications
    Now i am very satisfied with it and may not install mint13kde.
    If Kubuntu 12.04 is not in your list and this creates interest in you to try Kubuntu 12.04, your review will be very much useful for the Linux community.
    Thanking for the indepth review.

    -Jagdeesh.

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  4. @abveritas: Then I should say that coming from an Ubuntu (or, more accurately, Ubuntu-based Linux Mint) background, I'm honestly not used to having to upgrade the system completely before each package installation. I'll certainly keep this in mind if I ever seriously try out another rolling-release distribution or if I try Chakra again in this way. This also explains my "rm" attempt to fix the Pacman issue, because doing a very similar thing to APT in Ubuntu is no big deal. Finally, I unfortunately cannot provide you with any logs because I have already wiped Chakra and replaced it with what will become the subject of the next long-term review.

    @Jagdeesh Deshpande: To be honest, I'm waiting for Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE to come out. That's because I am a fan of the customizations that Linux Mint makes even to KDE, while I'm not a huge fan of some things like the Muon Software Center/Muon Package Manager in Kubuntu. If the upcoming new edition of Linux Mint with KDE does come out soon, that will be the subject of a long-term review this summer, but I may review Kubuntu if some other reviews don't work out.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  5. Then it is clear where the crashes are coming from, no need for any logs.
    While these tests were run some 800 packages, many very core packages were updated and a big move from /lib to /usr/lib had taken place.
    You ended up installing new packages, and created a complete mismatch for deps in your install, and packages you were getting.
    Hard to see a review like this were a distro comes out pretty much unusable, because the utmost fundamental practice for any rolling distro was never taken in consideration.

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  6. PV.
    This is a total newbie thinking on your part Any. system Linux/ unix/ windows should always be updated before installing any software. They all say the same thing.

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  7. @abveritas: On the contrary, Chakra wasn't "pretty much unusable". Yes, I did find some rather annoying bugs in my time using it, but I wouldn't at all go as far as to call it "unusable". Also, I suppose it would have been nice to put out some sort of advisory in Pacman about this rather big transition, right?

    @kelvin: To be honest, this is the first time I've encountered an issue like this. I've never had any trouble with conflicts between newly installed programs and updates in Microsoft Windows or the three versions of Linux Mint that I have used for quite a while. Plus, as far as I can tell, Linux Mint pulls in the required upgrades for existing packages if they are dependencies of newly-downloaded packages, so while I agree that I should have known better for the purposes of this review, I will also say that Chakra would benefit even more from such a system given its rolling-release nature.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  8. Hi Prashant, good review. I myself have used chakra for almost 3 months and found it to be a really fast KDE distro. If you are looking for something long term on your PC I suggest you give Mageia 2 KDE a spin. I found it to be very stable, fast and polished.

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    1. @Kartik: Unfortunately, in my experience, all attempts to create a Mageia live USB system have failed, yet my office desktop computer's optical drive appears to be nonfunctional (ruling out the possibility of using a live CD/DVD). Thanks for the comment!

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  9. Would love to see more "long-term" reviews like this, thanks!

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    1. @Anonymous: I've already published another one of Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin". There are two more in the works of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce and KDE, in that order. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. Hey,

    Interesting review I suppose. Any chance that you could mention the hardware you use? I shifted to Chakra/Mint around Dec 2012. Mint installed fine, but there were font/display issues due to hardware issues. Tried Chakra and there were no issues, sticking to Chakra since then! So I suppose your experience with this distro also depends on your HW config.

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    1. @Prajwal: I think I've summarized the hardware in the introduction to the long-term reviews, so you can check it out there. Thanks for the comment!

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  11. @PV: man I think you reboot your computer too often when you find troubles, if X crashes just 'Ctrl+Alt+F1' (could be F2,3,4,etc) log in from the tty and kill X 'pkill X', you may need root privileges to do that, or if you are in the tty that spawned X just 'Ctrl+C' it and then restart X not the whole computer 'startx' or 'sudo kdm'. Also note that in kde when plasma crahes most of the time its just plasma the one that crashes that doesnt mean kde is dead, if you have your mouse cursor im pretty sure you can 'Alt+F2' to invoke krunner wich means kwin and everithing else are still alive and ok and then log out from it or even simpler just restart plasma.

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    1. @Ismael VC: You're right. I haven't hardcoded into my brain the various ways to end a DE session. In that ways I still haven't quite removed myself from the days of Microsoft Windows. Thanks for the tip!

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