Dec 14

Yet for another time, I find myself switching distros. I hope am not addicted or something :). If not for anything else, I am enjoying the ride! This time is Chakra, and I must admit, am impressed!

I had heard abοut ArchLinux back from the early days that I started experimenting with GNU/Linux distributions. It caught my attention for two main reasons:

  1. The mentality of Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) and lightweight.
  2. It’s a rolling distro, which means you don’t need to upgrade every now and then to newer versions to keep up to date. Just update your way into everything new out there.

To be honest, I had attempted installing ArchLinux on an old  laptop back then, but I failed miserably in completing the task. Same disappointing results on Virtualbox on my desktop PC. Although Arch has extremely thorough documentation available, I was stuck somewhere between manually setting up the system files and installing and configuring a working desktop environment. As an newbie I couldn’t handle the pressure, so I gave up. But not for long.

To my great pleasure, I recently stumbled upon the Chakra Project. Chakra is as the title suggests, a brand new distribution which  is based on Arch Linux and KDE 4, but it comes extra with its own tweaked package set of KDE called KDEmod and some very handy tools.

I was extremely happy to see that it features a graphical installer, and the fact that it supports automatic hardware configuration made it irresistible. I just had to download and see with my one eyes. It was about time I get rid of that Windows XP dual boot  with Ubuntu after all.

In my joy I forgot to mention that Chakra is currently only at Alpha 4 level, with the Beta release following soon. It was normal to expect some bugs and troubleshoots.

The Pros:

  • ArchLinux: Arch just feels great and runs smoothly. The two reasons I mentioned in the beginning of the post apply here.
  • Pacman: Arch’s Package Manager is a solid application that delivers. A simple yet feature-filled  tool for managing your packages through the Konsole. I am not a terminal fan boy but I easily found my way around to do things.
  • KDE 4.3: In my humble opinion it’s on the right track. I was very frustrated with 4.1 and it was one of the reasons I had switched to Gnome. It’s clear now that with the upcoming KDE SC 4.4, the K Desktop Environment will earn much of it’s old prestige back. In addition, it feels much lighter on resources now compared to where I left it. Although this could very well be  due to Arch and/or the various modifications of the Chakra Project team (if it is, the difference is remarkable), it is possible that all that bug fixing and code shining from KDE developers produced results.
  • KDEmod: Tweaking KDE for Arch optimization. “ArchLinux is a small distribution and the developers are on more important missions to maintain and improve it, so KDEmod was born to provide a fully modular installation of KDE with nearly all the features and bling some bigger distributions provide with it – and partly even more bleeding-edge features”. My first impression of KDEmod is only positive, having in mind it’s still a work in progress.
  • AUR: “The ArchLinux User-community Repository is a community driven repository for Arch users. It contains package descriptions that allow you to compile a package from source and then install it via Pacman.” Compiling made easy with the KISS way.
  • Support: I feel obligated to repeat here the extensive documentation on the ArchLinux site. What’s more, when a problem occurred with Partition Manager, I posted a request in the forums. Not only I got a respond in the same day to my problem, but the package responsible for the solution was already in the repositories for me to upgrade to. Problem’s gone! Great job by the community there!

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The To Dos:

  • GRUB:  Installing bootloader version 0.97 from the Chakra installer, wiped out all my other booting options. Ubuntu wasn’t discovered and I had to manually edit the GRUB menu.lst file to enable booting to it. Furthermore, my partition table got a bit mixed up and I had to undergo a small process through fdisk to repair it. Works still needs to be done here I assume, since automation is desired, users shouldn’t have to get into this  kind of trouble.
  • Shaman: It’s “a complete frontend to libalpm/pacman and ABS written in Qt4”. I tried adding and removing software with it, attempted some updates and applied some settings. Shaman is far from ready. It kind of reminded me of Kpackagekit when it first made it into Kubuntu. It crashed on various occasions. I can read in the forums that this is to the knowledge of the developers at Chakra-Project and are currently working on improving it. A package managing application needs above all to be stable and reliable.

In conclusion:

If you are a new GNU/Linux user,  I wouldn’t for now advice using this Alpha 4 release by no means as your main operating system. But if you know your way around and/or belong to the adventurous type, I believe Chakra worths taking it for a spin.

I quote again from the Chakra webpage:

“If you are not the “pragmatic one” and don’t want to learn and take full control over your computer but rather use a “point and click” system, you may go better by using one of the many other distributions for now, although they will not give you the clarity, power and simplicity of Arch Linux.”

Keep up the very good work done here Chakra Team, I personally appreciate the effort put into this and I will most certainly be here for the 1st official release.

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14 Responses to “ArchLinux + modular KDE 4 + Tools = Chakra (Alpha 4)”

  1. Eruaran says:

    I’ve been aware of Chakra for a month or two now. I haven’t tried it yet but it certainly looks like exciting stuff. I will stay tuned !

  2. Dorel says:

    Thank you for the review of Chakra Alpha 4. I have tried the system for two weeks now on my EEEPC 1000 and I am more than satisfied. Everything works out of the box. I do agree with you that there are some issues that still needs to be address but we have to keep this in mind that this is still an Alpha version, not a final release. I am aware of the Shaman “restriction” but Pacman is working flawless and it is not difficult to understand. I did had the same issues with the grub not recognising my Ubuntu distribution but it did not concern me at all as I did chose to use Chakra as the only OS on my computer, and I never regreted since than; a pure Linux system where I am in control what goes in and out of my computer. I would recommend this distribution even to less experienced Linux user.

  3. Jack says:

    You mention performance improvements, and that is certainly true.

    Bugfixes and distro tweeks are only parts of it. Probably more important are the improvements in Qt 4.5 and Qt 4.6 and the strong focus on quality code within the KDE project.

    Arch/Chakra has the benefit of providing just what you need or choose, and that reduces the overhead that’s pestering some other distros.

    No need for distrohopping – never had a issue with the rolling update of kernel and graphicsdriver.

    Some of the Chakra devs are KDEdevs too – they know their way around.

  4. FreeBooteR says:

    Great review. I recently moved to Arch, though i didn’t use chakra. You don’t need to be a guru to use arch, i had no problems installing it by following the beginner guide wiki. Setting up the nvidia driver through pacman was a snap. Pacman for me is as easy as apt-get. The recent big kernel update to 2.6.32 was an easy ‘sudo pacman -Syu’, with no packages being broken.

    Arch is a great distribution, i’m learning so much about the operating system and how to configure it. Much still to learn but having fun along the way.

  5. burt holland says:

    What is your opinion about KahelOs also a derivate of Arch and also simple to install? I am going to install KahelOs in he next period so I am curious how others think about this distribution.

  6. Hi,

    I am an Arch Linux user and my current DE is KDEmod, which I picked from Chakra project. Whenever, I encountered problems, I got excellent support from forums and/or wiki. I ended up with Arch after several turns of distro hopping and I am more than satisfied with this distrolet of Arch.

    But in “The To-Dos” part, I have to append something more. Though I had no problem in installing Arch base and deploying KDEmod in top of it in many a systems, the Chakra 64 bit graphical installer failed multiple times for me. But then, it was on Alpha 2. Now it may have changed a lot. Still, the problem with graphical installation procedure of Chakra is that, those who want to encrypt their partitions over LVMs would find it unsuccessful. To do that, you need to go the manual Arch way. Any how, it is not a bad idea to go the terminal way as there is every time, a new thing to study, a new command to be befriended. I love the Arch way more than leaving it to the distro.

  7. magma says:

    Hi

    For some time i keep reading how great Arch is. I must admit i feel tempted to try it! After reading the manuals i keep ending not to try it and the main reason why is that i keep being afraid of not doing “things” right and install incorrectly the OS. What kind of advice can you give to newbies like me?

  8. tetris4 says:

    To agree with all of you above, if you are in a learning mode, Arch is a magnificent tool/OS to work your way trough conquering your system and GNU/Linux!

    @burt holland
    I never tried KahelOs so I can’t have an opinion. Seems like Gnome+Archlinux and looks good! The discussion over at ArchLinux Forums however gave me some mixed feelings regarding this distro.

    @absolute_void
    Thnx for your additions to the post. Am on a 32 bit system and don’t use encryption so I never came across these problems. Did you post about these issues to the Chakra Developers? I hope the have it in mind for the official release.

    @magma
    I was in your position for a long time! I am no geek myself, more of an average user, and Chakra is a great chance to enter ArchLinux. You can give it a go on a virtual partition or a PC other from your main system and see for yourself. Don’t be afraid of messing everything up, I certainly did quite a few times. :P Just make sure you have nothing to lose and are in the right mood! Installing Chakra is simple enough. If you ever installed smg like Ubuntu, am certain you will have no problem installing Chakra. Try it and if it works for you, use it and support it!
    Chakra opened my way into ArchLinux, I can only hope it does the same for more users too :)

  9. Eric says:

    @magma

    Arch is, in my opinion, not as difficult as it looks, and once you get past the initial learning curve, it is much easier to maintain than something like Ubuntu.

    I first installed Arch after using linux for about a year, primarily Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS. (Mind you no background or education with computers or computer science.)

    It was a challenge the first time, but I just followed along with the Arch Beginners’ Guide and it worked out. The Arch Wiki is also a fantastic resource. Just about everything you need to know is there, just takes a little patience.

    I can now (a year later) install Arch almost as quickly as Ubuntu on a new machine, with most the difference being the time it takes to download Xorg and other packages needed for a GUI.

    Arch has also inspired me to strip away most of the bloat I thought I needed back when I used Ubuntu. GNOME, KDE? Nah. A lean, fast window manager works wonders. I can’t stand the time it takes to open a simple text editor in GNOME. If I can register how long it takes to open an application, I don’t want it.

  10. Shawn says:

    Arch is definitely my favorite distribution. It feels fast & clean like Slackware, yet is the easiest distribution to manage – especially over the course of years. No need to disrupt your entire system with point release upgrades. That’s the beauty of the rolling release model.

    Pacman, the package manager for Arch, is excellent… much nicer than Debian’s apt-get if you ask me.

    Arch is also a base distribution (ie it’s not based on any other distribution).

  11. Egya says:

    @magma
    It depends on the needs you have. If you depend on your machine for work or something and you are prevented from taking risks, than you should not. But if you like adventures, if you think its fun to find solutions, if you find plaisure in learning how various parts of a computersystem can be tweeked and configured to suite your needs, then you should. And once installed, you will have a powerful and up to date system that is able to evolve with your needs at your disposal for years to come.

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  14. cbuhka says:

    everything cool, but no picvtures

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