This is guest blogger Prashanth Venkataram, and I write and manage the blog Das U-Blog by Prashanth, where I post reviews of Linux distributions and software as well as my thoughts about the current state of science, technology, and people’s freedoms (especially with regard to technology).
Today I will be reviewing Chakra 0.3.0 â€œAshocâ€.
Many of my regular readers have heard a couple times before that Chakra is an Arch-based KDE distribution. However, since its alpha releases, it has diverged enough from Arch and KDEmod to become to Arch what Ubuntu has become to Debian: while they share package types and many upstream repositories, there will be quite a few incompatibilities. So while they are fundamentally tied together, they are at the same time now essentially separate projects. Though Chakra and KDEmod made each other more popular within the Arch community, now Chakra is splitting from the KDEmod project and creating its own Arch-based implementation of KDE.
This week, the developers have released version 0.3.0 â€œAshocâ€ into the wild; I have previously reviewed version 0.2.0 â€œJazâ€ and came away slightly disappointed by Chakra’s GUI package installer CInstall and the choice of Konqueror over Rekonq, the latter of which was included in the alpha releases. Continue reading to see if any of these issues have been rectified. I wanted to test this through a live USB, but UnetBootin got hung up trying to create the live USB, so I settled for a VirtualBox test with 1 GB of RAM allocated to the guest OS; what this also meant is that I couldn’t test peripherals like my webcam.
When I started the virtual machine, I was greeted by a nice-looking GRUB screen, followed by a bunch of text. This was then followed by an extremely well-done KDE splash screen (unique to Chakra) which segued into the KDE desktop. I really like the combination of the blue wallpaper and dark Plasma theme; it gives the desktop the feeling of being simultaneously slick and soothing. The desktop is otherwise standard KDE, with a Folder View Widget showing some application shortcuts and a Kickoff menu at the bottom-left.
As I mentioned earlier, the Chakra developers dumped Rekonq for Konqueror, probably to build a better impression of stability for a post-alpha release (which would have been marred by the instability of Rekonq at that time). Well, now Rekonq is back, and it’s better than ever before. It now sports an â€œAwesome Barâ€ similar to Mozilla Firefox, and its interface is more compact, with the stop/reload buttons combined into one and the menu being put into a button on the side. Rekonq seemed to render most pages fine, and it never crashed.
The other big highlight is the collection of huge improvements to CInstall, which is now not just usable but also arguably a worthy competitor to programs like PackageKit and Synaptic (though it needs a bit more work to get to Mint Software Manager-levels of refinement). This time I was easily able to install new software, including Adobe Flash (where I was unable to before); not once did CInstall crash or complain.
Otherwise, the suite of software included is essentially the same relative to version 0.2.0. Though Chakra has generally been stable throughout its releases, just to reinforce the point, KDE never crashed once. Even better, Chakra never felt slow at any point in the live session. With confidence, I proceeded to the installer.
The Chakra installer, Tribe, has got to be one of the most beautiful and easy installers I have ever used, and is certainly competitive with Ubiquity and Anaconda. It has a really cool 3D globe that let me pick my city (to set up my time zone, keyboard layout, and language), though there was a bit of confusion in that some locations weren’t clickable cities. The addition of new users is really well done and couldn’t possibly be made simpler. The partition manager, though not quite as simple as the Ubiquity sliding bar, is pretty simple, though there could be a little more explanation included for new users (e.g. what ‘/’ and â€œlinuxswapâ€ are). After proceeding past the proverbial â€œpoint of no returnâ€, I was greeted with a nicely-done slideshow talking about Chakra and the included programs. The installation itself was relatively quick (probably around 10 minutes), and at the end of that, I was even offered to add new programs within the installation program (i.e. without needing to reboot first), which was really nice. I declined, and with that, I was ready to reboot.
Unfortunately, this is where the fun ended. When I rebooted, Chakra seemed to boot properly, but the KDE session seemed to be just the cursor on top of a black screen. Judging from the Chakra forums, it seems like this is a known problem (though not just stemming from installations where the users also opt to install additional packages at the end), but this is pretty darn serious.
So what’s the verdict? I was really pleased with the live session, as it seemed to address my main gripes with the previous version. The installer was also a real treat to use. However, this was all marred by a nonworking installed session, which is essentially a show-stopper. Hopefully this gets fixed either in an update to â€œAshocâ€ or in the next version 0.4.0 â€œCyrusâ€, but I hope that â€œCyrusâ€ doesn’t bring a whole bunch of additional bugs after fixing this one. Chakra is really promising and probably one of the best KDE live CDs around, but it really isn’t installable at the moment.