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Trying out Chakra GNU/Linux

If this is your first time here, I suggest you first read my general post about distrohopping. :)

This is not a systematic review, it is just some impressions. I use Debian as my main distro, but I sometimes try out different ones on my second harddrive.

I recently read about Chakra, and there were mainly two things that made me curious: it claimed to clearly separate free from non-free, so there is a choice as how much non-free one wants to use, and secondly, it is dedicated to KDE. I tried KDE a few times on different distros, and I never really was comfortable with it, even if it looks really nice. Part is probably due to me been using Gnome and XFCE mostly, so configuration and behavior can be puzzling. I really want to try out KDE once again. Chakra also aim to have a half-rolling release model, keeping the base system more stable, and updating apps more frequently.

Furthermore, Chakra is a fork of Arch, which also was interesting for me, since I never used Arch. I can’t judge how much of Arch it is in Chakra, but it is a fork, so Arch repositories are not used. I am not a big distrohopper, I tried maybe 6-7 ones. So please take this amateur view for what it is :)

It installed very fast, the installer (Tribe) is nice and easy to understand. The harddrive partitioning/formating tool was easy to use, but I have yet to see a really newbie friendly partition/formatting section of an installer, in the sense it really explains what the user is about to do. On the Chakra site, the install instructions are extensive and clear. A bootloader, BURG is suggested. I already had GRUB2 installed, and did not want to change that.

The installer gave me a choice to install proprietary nvidia drivers or not. I went for the nvidia ones, since I often try wine on my distro testing. I actually had to sign a kind of EULA for the nvidia one. I hate EULA’s and always get a bit suspicious when I see one in Linux. I only saw one before, when installing SimplyMEPIS. I have used nvidia’s proprietary drivers in Debian (from non-free repositories), and I never signed anything. There is usually a “we do not garantuee anything, and use at your own risk” warning on free software, but EULAs on commercial software usually say basically the same thing, and have the customer to sign the crap too.

Installation went smoothly, but once booted from HD, I couldn’t do any upgrades. I haven’t used pacman before, so I tried the included AppSet-Qt (a really nice app, and I say that as a Synaptic fan). I kind of wound up in circles, erasing files that it suggested I should erase, killing process and restarting etc. I then found a post on the nice helpful forum that fixed it. I installed Chakra yesterday, but downloaded it maybe a week ago, so maybe the bug (if it is a bug) is fixed in a newer iso-version.

Just out of curiosity, I also went for Swedish system, though I always use English otherwise. Chakra is a small and quite new distro, so the support for smaller languages might not be top notch, but most applications are probably translated anyway. I see some odd translation, but maybe that is in KDE, rather than in Chakra. For some reason the keyboard was not set to Swedish (I might have missed something during installation), but it was easily fixed.

I have not used KDE in a while, so I am not sure to what extent Chakra’s choice of software for the basic installment is the common one for KDE. Where I expected Konqueror, there was rekonq; no Amarok, but Clementine, which I heard of but never tried. The repositories have more of course. I switched to classical start menu style. That could have a nicer background color, but maybe there is an option for that somewhere.

KDE is a full blown desktop environment, and not considered light weight at all (compared to e.g. XFCE or Enlightenment), but it ran very smoothly (I don’t know if it would be different with free graphic card drivers). Chakra appears a lot more stable than “alpha” sounds, and may not be a newbie ready distro, but it looks really promising imho. Downside is it is KDE only, but since most people stick to one desktop environment/window manager, that is not a problem for a user who likes KDE. Chakra aims to keep Chakra GTK-free, but some GTK based applications, e.g. The Gimp, are available as bundles, running like apps without installing gtk-files and libraries. Interesting implementation.

Final words: I am not sure Chakra is ready yet for being a main installation, but it is well worth a try :) . I used it now a few hours so far and it is a really nice experience. I might keep it a while and see how things goes.

Update 28 november: Still using Chakra a lot. This is the first time I actually enjoy using KDE. It has even made me consider KDE as an alternative for my main desktop environment. So far the only bundle I use is Firefox, which works nicely.

Today I discovered that LinuxBSDos.com recently listed what they think are the top six KDE Linux distros in 2011 (well worth reading). Chakra is in that list, but seems not the best in the security field, maybe that’s why they call it “alpha”. I will keep Chakra a few more days.

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