[ Thursday, 22 February 2007, riklaunim ]
On February 12th a new beta version KateOS Live 3.2 was released. I decided to give it a try and share my experience with this nice and modern Linux distribution. The official announcement states that:
KateOS LIVE 3.2 beta is out! This edition contains a graphical installer allowing a full system install in just a few clicks. We hope it will encourage new and/or inexperienced users to try KateOS, who had been frightened away by too many options in the standard installer. The LIVE version is the easiest possible way to install KateOS, and a cunning method to try it out without touching your hard drives.
Let’s do the test!
I downloaded the ISO image of the LiveCD from the KateOS mirror server, burned it and run off the CD. The first thing I noticed was a nice looking splash screen (fbsplash) that showed up during the booting process. After some 2 minutes I was presented with an also nice looking session manager. I logged in using the default values. The desktop turned out to be a slightly modified latest version of XFCE 4.4 with a lot of additional applications. I noticed that all my devices were detected automatically and worked out of the box. Unfortunately I could not connect to the Internet, even though I have a simple cable connection and DHCP usually configures it without issues. This is a minor problem for me (I didn’t bother to look for a solution since all I wanted to do it to test the OS — the network connection was not a key thing), still it could be a stopper for an inexperienced user.
Except for XFCE 4.4, we have tons of additional software already preinstalled on the LiveCD. There is Firefox, Thunderbird, a few games, graphics processing programs, including the GIMP, multimedia applications including MPlayer and many others. The ISO size is 701 MB, pretty large for a simple distro with XCFE, I guess. One of the reasons for that may be that the Qt library is installed by default (necessary for a few Qt-based apps included). I was also surprised when I saw that Thunderbird was a default e-mail client. Sylpheed-Claws would fit better to a lightweight distro like KateOS in my opinion. The lack of Flash plugin in Firefox is another thing that made me believe that the apps selection in KateOS 3.2 LiveCD was kind of random. I could understand it if the reason for not including Flash was ideological (ignore all non-free software). This is however not the case since lots of non-free (and often patented) multimedia codecs are available in the release by default.
Memory usage in KateOS is acceptable. The default LiveCD desktop “ate” only 70MB RAM. Running Firefox and Thunderbird added 42 MB more. It is still not much comparing to hungry Live-CDs like the ones from Mandriva or Ubuntu.
All the tested applications worked very well and didn’t crash even once. Remember that the apps that require root password can be tested by entering the default password for the LiveCD which is simply “kate”. The only irritating little issue that I found was that the XFCE terminal key shortcuts conflict with the bindings of Midnight Commander – F10 triggers the terminal menu making it impossible to close MC. This is a common issue that I found also in Ubuntu with gnome-terminal, but here in KateOS, mc is installed by default so these kind of incompatibility should not occur. I was also unimpressed with the unavailability of the nano text editor. Instead, a pseudo-random numbers generator, Vi, was included.
KateOS Live 3.2 introduces a completely new graphical installer thus making it dead easy to install KateOS on your hard drive. Easy and very fast, indeed. The installer provides two options: to partition the hard drive using GParted and to run the actual installation. I chose to partition the hard drive first and then run the installer. The installation was an easy task. I chose the root partition (the suggested file system is ReiserFS, but I changed it to ext3 since the current development of ReiserFS is halted, and more and more people abandon it in favor of the more stable and efficient ext3), the partition for SWAP and the location of boot manager GRUB (Master Boot Record by default). After making these choices, the installer starts the process of copying files to the hard drive. When it is finished, we need to enter the root password, and create a standard user account (the one we are going to use for normal work). And that is all. The system is ready to use just after a reboot. During my tests I installed KateOS on my laptop which is Acer Aspire 5002 WLMi. The system booted normally and I didn’t notice any particular errors (except for the network which was still not operating).
In the KateOS repository we can find a lot of packages in TGZex format including the latest GNOME and KDE. However I missed some of the programmer packages that I always install in my Gentoo system (for python development). On the forums, some user packages can be found, but they are not always of good quality. This clumsy situation could be solved with a new public build server which is planned to be introduced soon. Still, the usual desktop user should not have problems with using Kate since most of the common programs are in the repositories.
KateOS is a Polish (and polished!) distribution which is completely community-driven. The effects of the community work are pretty impressive. Kate is original and has its own feeling. Each new release of the system brings a few decent innovations and offers an even better GNU/Linux lightweight multimedia desktop. In my opinion it will soon be able to compete with other popular lightweight Linux-based systems like Xubuntu or Zenwalk. It just needs some more hard work.
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