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.

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.