"Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth", said Archimedes. Can Chakra Linux move the Linux World? At the very least, it is a clear example of how a young project can grow and improve fast, becoming more interesting release after release. Let´s have a look at its latest release, Chakra 2012.02 "Archimedes"MEETING ARCHIMEDESThis last Chakra release is one of the first distros to incorporate KDE SC 4.8. This already is a plus and a good reason to try Archimedes, for KDE SC 4.8 is awesome, but there is a lot more to this release than that. Here's a brief list of features:- KDE SC 4.8.0- Linux 3.2.2 (188.8.131.52 optional)- Qt 4.8- DVD image, including all locales and a nice selections of apps- minimal CD image you can build your desktop on- tomoyo-tools 2.5 added to a default install, for more security options- wqy-microhei became the new default font for Chinese/Japanese/Korean- QtWebkit 2.2.1- Boost 1.48, switch to GRUB2Click on image to enlargeThis release is the first to incorporate a minimal CD image, and that is the one I have installed and will be reviewing. Note that this minimal image is not meant for beginners, but I would still recommend it to anyone interested in building a taylor-made KDE desktop. It's also good for anyone interested in learning more about KDE, the packages that comprise its modules, etc.Aside from the features I have already listed above, this release of Chakra comes with new artwork, which includes everything from the splash and login screens to the wallpaper and plasma theme. This new artwork has been dubbed "Ronak". It looks interesting, certainly setting Chakra appart from other KDE distros out there. Personally, I love the fact that the Chakra developers have made an effort to provide something different and stylish, but I am no fan of dark desktops. I love the splash and login screens, but the wallpaper and plasma themes are a bit too dark and intense for my taste.Click on image to enlargeMORE ABOUT CHAKRALeaving the features specific to this release aside, Chakra is quite an experience from the get go. The installation is handled by Tribe, Chakra's very own install wizard. The project developers clearly state Tribe is still under development, lacking some important features, but it is surely one of the best looking installers in Linux, one with its own personality, plus it already works well. One thing I have noticed, though, is that Tribe doesn´t seem to handle installation of locale and language settings very well. In my case, during the installation I chose Madrid as the city I live in, but specified I wanted the installation language to be US English. Every distro I have tried so far always managed this successfully, but in the case of Chakra, I get some quirky results when installing applications or managing system tools... For they appear in Spanish! (see pacman output below)Click on image to enlargeSome applications like KTorrent, VLC and some others (not all) were installed in Spanish, so I had to force them to start in English. If you have a similar problem, you can enforce a certain language using the following syntax in your launcher (or typing from the CLI):
KDE_LANG=en_US ktorrent (or any other KDE app you want to do this for)Other things unique to Chakra include the splash screen, which is a departure from what other distros are doing. It uses a nice animation around the Chakra logo that looks simply beautiful. Just like the splash screen, the login screen makes the most of Ronak, and it looks just as good.Click on image to enlargeChakra comes with its own firewall application (screenshot above), which allows for easy firewall configuration. Another bit that sort of defines Chakra is its commitment to KDE and, more specifically, to avoiding any GTK libraries in the installation. This results in a curious approach to installation of GTK apps (such as Firefox, GIMP, Google Chrome, Chromium or Inkscape, to name about a few), which is handled via Chakra´s very own Bundle Manager.Click on image to enlargeThis approach is interesting and works well and upgrades are automatically detected when they become available (see above). However, it has some definite issues, for the complete lack of GTK libraries sometimes leads to unfortunate dead ends. For instance, installing Kfilebox will download the Dropbox daemon, but due to the lack of any GTK library, the dropbox setup has to be done through the command line interface. Similarly, if you are into bash scripting and rely on zenity or any of its forks... well, forget about it, Zenity is nowhere to be found... Looking for an excuse to migrate your scripts to kdialog? On top of that, while the Chakra developers have done a good job putting together a list of GTK most popular apps in the Bundle Manager, it is clear that the list is far from complete. What if the end user wants to install one of the many apps that are not included? Chakra users have limited freedom in this regard, which may end up being frustrating.On the bright side of things, Chakra guarantees a "pure" KDE environment, free of any GTK "polution", which should be appreciated by some. Personally, after using Fedora KDE, PCLinux KDE or Kubuntu quite regularly (which do include GTK libraries when required), I cannot really see much of an advantage in such approach, but I am sure some people will.A BIZARRE KISSChakra follows the KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) principles, so the expectation is to find a desktop that is easy to use right off the bat. Rightly so, even in the minimal CD image, Chakra comes with a whole bunch of codecs and plugins installed, such as Flash, which will allow users to be able to play about any kind of multimedia content in existence. Default applications include Rekonq, Bangarang, Kate and just a few others, which is aligned with the spirit of a minimal installation. The bundle manager which allows the installation of GTK apps is also included, but there is no GUI software manager. It is surprising that certain basic apps like Ksnapshot or Kwallet are not included, and even the gtk-integration package is missing (which will make GTK apps look TERRIBLE).Like I was saying, this is a minimal installation, so the gates are open for the end user to decide about anything, which is cool, but there is always a question around what are the basics that absolutely must make it into such minimal image. Personally, I would have included a few more things that I consider absolutely basic. Like it or not (if not, the extended DVD live image is the answer), Chakra will allow you to build your KDE desktop from the ground up, which is an enlightening experience, but once again, not recommended for beginners.Living the minimal image discussion aside, there are some things that I find strange about Chakra. For example, it deviates from pretty much any other KDE distro out there and assigns the
ctrl+alt+del key combination to a quirky symbol (see below on the krunner plasma dialog), as opposed to the good old shutdown dialog that we are all accustomed to. Similarly, the
Author: Chema Martín
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