Are you ready for total KaOS?

KaOS       Another relatively unknown distro I recently came across is KaOS. In 2013 KaOS was created as an independent OS. It is based on the Linux kernel, although the makers still look at Opensolaris as an alternative base. KaOS 2014.04 uses pacman as its package manager. This might give you the idea that it is Arch-based, but the website clearly states that it’s completely indepentent. Let’s find out if KaOS is an undiscovered gem or if it leads to chaos….

Before we start the installation, we have to know one important decision the creators have made when they started this distribution: creating an OS is about making choises. They decided to make a few decisions that can make this distro interesting for you, or not. After choosing the Linux kernel they picked KDE as the only available desktop environment and QT as their toolkit. KaOS only has a 64 bit version. It makes sense to make these choices, because it limits the amounts of packages you have to maintain. If you are looking for Gnome, LXDE, Razor QT or one of the other DE’s, you need to look for another distro. The installer supports dozens of languages. It gives you the option to boot into a non-free nvidia environment. Because I have an Intel vidcard, I do not use it and I start the live environment. snapshot1Here we see a big window in the center of the screen that welcomes us to KaOS. There are several options here. We select the one named “Install KaOS” here. Next we see a nice, simple, graphical installer. Do not expect LVM, Raid or automatic partitioning: The installer ‘only’ delivers a user ready system. snapshot2This installation is pretty straightforward. I like the way you select your region and language. It shows a nice globe where you can select your location.snapshot3 After the installation we do a reboot and before we return to the KDE desktop, we see the most ugly grub screen I have ever seen. Come on boys and girls, you can do better than that! KaOS comes with a clean, simple theme. It’s bright, but it looks nice. I like the simplicity of the icons. snapshot4KaOS uses pacman as its package manager and offers a GUI for it called Octopi. It works good and is very fast.snapshot5You can use it to install all the software you need. I have to say KaOS only comes with about 2000 packages. That’s not much! Of course this means nothing if you find all your packages here. Just make sure KaOS delivers all you need before you put it on your system. The website provides you with a list of packages, so it’s easy to do this check.

Experiences running KaOS and conclusions
I have tried KaOS for a few days and I like the way it works. The only issue I ran across was during the installation. After fiddling with the partitions, the installer stopped working. I started the installation again and after that everything went smooth. I must say I like the way my system works. I used a laptop with a C2D processor and 3 Gb internal memory and the system is very responsive. Of course not all the programs that I need were installed, but installing stuff like Clementine and VLC was no problem. Now to the conclusion. I found KaOS a nice distro that works well. The only question that’s been going through my head these few days is “Why KaOS?”. After the installation you end up with a nice installation, but there is nothing here that I have not seen in other distros. I cannot think of any reason why I should advise other people to give KaOS a try, besides the fact that it runs pretty well. I wonder if this is enough for the creators to keep on doing their work. I believe there should be a reason to start a distro. Something you miss in other distros that makes you decide to start a new one. Maybe there is such a reason for the creation of KaOS, but I cannot say I noticed something special.

Posted in Desktop, Linux | 1 Comment

It’s elementary OS, Watson…..

I have picked up a new hobby: Checking out less popular distributions to see what they add to the Linux landscape.

I discovered elementary OS earlier this week and decided to give it a try after seeing the trailer of their newest release, Luna. Being only version 0.2, I guess we should not expect too much, but the trailer gave me the impression that the guys at elementary OS are putting serious effort in creating a professional Linux desktop environment. The focus lies on providing the community with the best possible experience and being both beautiful and usable. Elementary OS uses Ubuntu 12.04 LTS as its base.

So let’s take a peek then! I will not get into the details of the installation. Installers are more or less the same nowadays, so I will not bother you with it. It works well and does the job. You start the live-cd (I used Unetbootin with a USB-stick) and can start the installer by pressing the right icon on the right of the dock at the bottom of the screen.

After the installation and the reboot you get a responsive system. It performs really well on my dual core laptop. Elementary OS focuses on being a lightweight distribution. It features its own desktop environment called Pantheon. It resembles Gnome and borrows parts of Gnome and Xfce, combined with self developed parts. The default desktop looks like this, giving it an Apple-ish look:

Schermafdruk van 2013-08-16 12:07:20

Elementary OS comes with the Ubuntu Software center, which makes it easy to install new software. You will need this, because after the installation elementary OS only has a handful of applications installed. For example: It lacks an office suite. I do not see this as a problem, because I prefer my own set of programs anyway. It may be confusing for user new to Linux, that do not know the Linux counterparts for windows software.

Elementary Tweaks
When I use a computer, I want to be able to use a double-click to open a program (one click to select it). Unfortunately, I was unable to find this option in the system settings of elementary OS. I decided to use IRC, and went to the distro’s channel on freenode. There someone kindly pointed me to Elementary Tweaks. This plug-in for the system settings allows you to change many elementary setting, including using double-click with my mouse. I also used it to move the window buttons from left to the right, where I prefer them. Elementary tweaks came too late to be added to release 0.2, but I am sure it will be added to future releases.

Day-to-day use
I have been using elementary OS for a few days now on my laptop and I have to say that, although I usually use KDE, I like working with it. I have not experienced problems so far. I have written this article using elementary OS, I have played music, surfed the internet and watched videos without a hassle.

I like working with elementary OS. It is mature, also because of the Ubuntu base, even if it has only reached release 0.2. The desktop looks good and everything works like you would expect. It is user friendly and the people on IRC are nice and helpful. Not being a Gnome-user, I cannot tell you exactly how many differences there are with Gnome, but I find the desktop environment pleasant and intuitive to use. It is difficult to say what makes this distribution different from other Ubuntu-derived distros, but I am curious to see how Pantheon will develop. I will certainly follow the progress elementary OS makes and for now, elementary OS will stay on this laptop. I suggest you give elementary a try. I am sure you will be delighted.

Posted in Desktop, Linux | 6 Comments

A quick look at Manjaro: bringing Archlinux to the people?

manjaroAfter writing a post about Archlinux removing the installer I promised I would take a look at one of the Archlinux derived distributions, to see if they would make Archlinux available for a larger public. A name mentioned often on several websites was Manjaro and when they recently announced a new release, I decided to have a go with it. So I downloaded the latest KDE-version, 0.8.3., and placed the DVD in my laptop.

After booting the DVD I saw a menu where I could choose to boot Manjaro in graphics mode, in graphics mode with nonfree drivers and in text mode.

I was able to select a language too. There are 17 languages available, including, German, French, Spanish, American and Brittish English, Italian, Polish and Ukranian. A funny option is the posibility to set the timezone.

After selecting American English and my own (dutch) timezone, I chose the option to install Manjaro with Non-free drivers.

KDE booted and then I was in for an unpleasant surprise! One of the reasons I chose Manjaro for, was the wonderful screenshot with the black and green wallpaper I had seen on several occaisions. It looks like this:


But the actual screen I got was this one:

manjaro screenshot 1

A rather default, pale KDE desktop. You understand I was a bit disappointed. I checked the available wallpapers, but could not find the nice wallpaper I was hoping to see.

After this, I tried to get wireless working. It worked out of the box.

On the desktop I saw an icon for the Manjaro CLI Installer. So I decided to give it a try! And in fact it is what it says: A commandline installer. You get to choose between a stable installer, or a testing installer with options like btrfs and software raid. I chose the stable installer. It’ s a pretty simple installation. After setting the partitions the software is copied to the hard drive. No package selection is available. After this, I created a user, set my locale and the installation was done. Then is was time for a reboot.

Working with Manjaro
Of course Manjaro is a very up-to-date distro. Archlinux is great in delivering a pretty stable bleeding edge environment. Manjaro does not use the Arch repositories, but has its own, that follow the Arch repos within a few days. This way, they can prevent the system from breaking.
Manjaro does not have too many packages installed by default, but you have a functional desktop at your disposal. Being Arch derived, you will have to use pacman to install, update or remove software. One huge advantage of using Manjaro is the fact that you have a rolling distro. This means that, in theory, you only have to install it once. After that, you continue to have to latest version by just updating the system. And using pacman is not so difficult. Although a nice GUI would be nice. There have been pacman GUIs in the past, but they just did not seem to do the job.

No distribution is perfect. I tried to access a samba share in my network, but Manjaro could not find it. The solution to this problem was found in the Archlinux Wiki. After installing the smbclient package (“pacman -Sy smbclient” using sudo or as root), the problem was solved. I also tried to open an .avi file, but after the dragon player opened, nothing happened. I had to install VLC to play the movie. I suppose you could find more bugs like this in every distribution.

After having played a bit with Manjaro, I have to say they did a nice job of making Archlinux easier to install for the not-so-tech people. At this moment, you cannot compare Manjaro with Ubuntu, Mint, SolusOS and such. Manjaro delivers a functional Archlinux system, but it should be seen as a base install. And being Archlinux based, it continues to be a distro for the advanced Linux user. If you want to change stuff, it will have to be done the Arch way. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!

Posted in Desktop, Linux | 14 Comments

Sozi – a different approach for creating slideshows

Sozi logoWhile I was playing with the new SolusOS 2 alpha release I stumbled across a great extention for Inkscape, called Sozi. You can use it to create fantastic presentations or slideshows, but in a completely different way. With Sozi you have total creative freedom! And did I mention you can use them with every modern browser, without needing Sozi itself to run the slideshow? Yes, you can even add Sozi-slideshows to your website. Forget Powerpoint, forget Impress: Give Sozi a try and you’ll love it!

Let’s take a look!
Like I said, Sozi is an extension for Inkscape, an opensource vector graphics editor, available for Linux, Windows and Mac. You use it to create .svg-files. SVG stands for scalable vector graphics.

How does it work? Well, Sozi does not work with dias. You use Inkscape to create a poster. On it, you place all the information you want to share with your public. For example like this:

Screenshot from 2013-01-22 20:55:17Now create a rectangle around the first text and select the rectangle like this:

Screenshot from 2013-01-22 20:56:54Now select the Extensions menu and choose Sozi. Two new windows appear:

Inkscape and Sozi

Now press the little “+” button at the left bottom of the window with the “Sozi” label.

Sozi window
Your rectangle is added to the presentation. We’ll leave the other settings as they are and press “ok”. You’ll notice that the other windows disappears together with the Sozi screen. In fact that screen freezes Inkscape so nothing can be altered while you are using Sozi. Now you can repeat this for the other texts. When you are done, save the inkscape file.

Now open the file in a browser. Your presentation is ready! Because Sozi auto-zooms to make the rectangle fit your screen, there’s room for many slides on one Inkscape page. If you rotate the rectangle, Sozi rotates the entire page so the rectangle is shown straight-up. If you add curved lines to the page, with color if possible, it’ll make your presentation look fresh. Of course you can add images too. In the extensions, below the Sozi option, there is another option called “Sozi extras”. You can use it to add video or audio to your slideshow. I did not test this.

Unfortunately WordPress does not allow me to upload SVG-images, but on the Sozi website, you can find several examples.

How do you install Sozi?
On the installation page at the Sozi website you can see that currently packages are available for Archlinux, Ubuntu, Debian and Fedora. Also instructions for a Windows installation can be found there.

I am glad I discovered Sozi and I have decided to start using it regulary for my daily work. I hope it will make people curious and enthousiastic. I suggest you give it a try too!

Posted in Desktop, Linux, Mac, Windows | 4 Comments

Does Archlinux need a new slogan?

Last week Archlinux released the install media 2012.07.15. In a post on the website they told us that the most noticeable change was the fact they no longer ship their installer, the Arch Installation Framework (AIF), with it. This means, that after downloading the ISO, you will have to perform all the installation steps manually. Or, to put it in their own words, “This means a menu driven installer is no longer available and we rely more on documentation to guide new users.”

Archlinux logo

Now Archlinux never was a distro for Linux Newbies. I consider myself to be an intermediate Linux user and I have used Arch on my main desktop for many years. You will not find a control center in this distribution and the AIF did not give you a fully installed system. But is did give you a solid base to install your packages and desktop environment on, if you wanted to. But without the AIF, installing Arch is a different story, Much more time-consuming and merely impossible for people new to Linux.

Now AIF had to be dropped due to lack of maintenance and contributions, so it says on the website. The sentence doesn’t tell me if they simply cannot find anyone among their devs whom is willing to work on the AIF, or that they have decided to focus on other things to work on. In case of the latter, I wonder if the project team has made the right decision. If they cannot find anyone willing to be the maintainer, I guess they are in pretty big trouble.

With the AIF Archlinux made it pretty easy to set a base. Now that they remove AIF, I am not sure what the project team is trying to say to its users. Are they, when it comes to defining their public, focussing on the Linux experts, that have no problems with performing these tasks? Are they leaving the intermediate and novice Linux users behind? They are obviously building barriers!

So I wonder where Archlinux is going. If I were to have a say in this, I would keep the AIF available. I stopped using Arch on my desktop because I didn’t want to have to configure everything manually and I wanted to use a more user-friendly distro. I do still run Archlinux on my home server. However, if I have to reinstall my server somewhere in the future, I am not sure if I will choose Archlinux again. On the other hand: Archlinux is immensely popular and I am sure many people will continue to use it.

Archlinux’ slogan is “a simple, lightweight distribution”. I believe that it is time to remove the word “simple” from it.

Posted in Linux | Tagged | 22 Comments

Why Linux will never rule on the desktop

A good IRC-friend of mine recently announced he had decided to start using Windows on his desktop again, after being a Linux fan since the early nineties. The reason for this is that Linux does not give him what he needs: Drivers aren’t on par with their Windows equivalents, Linux lacks stability and he simply can’t find the desktop environment he is looking for. He hoped for years it would come, but gave up hope…

This made me think and I realised I recognise a lot of his ‘pain’. I have been looking for a new distribution for my desktop for more than a year now, but somehow I cannot seem to find it. Every time I try something new, I run into bigger or smaller problems that make me decide to continue to search for something better.

But what is the reason for this? When I analyse my findings, I see a few key-issues. Let’s take a closer look at them!

There are too many distributions
Does anyone here remember the Canterbury distribution? On April fools day 2011 Debian, OpenSUSE, Archlinux, Grml and Gentoo announced they would merge into one new distribution. Although meant as a joke, I honestly believe this would be the only possible way to give Linux a chance to become a serious competitor for Windows ans iOS on the desktop.
At the moment that I write this, there are no less than 322 active distributions mentioned on And let’s face it: That’s ridiculous! All these distros need developers to keep their distro running. Talking about reinventing the wheel! Imagine how much better Linux could be if all these developers would work on, let’s say, 5 distributions! Imagine how much better these distros would become! If you look at the fact that 87 of these 322 distributions are based on Ubuntu, what can possible have been the reason that someone started a new distro when there already were 86 Ubuntu based distributions? Ofcourse the same has happened with, for example, Debian (60 derived distros), Mandriva (8) and Slackware (19).

Last week I spoke to one of the developers of a smaller, independent distro, because I ran into pretty big problems when I installed the stable release on my laptop. He told me the devs were aware of the problems, but a few people had left the project and no-one wanted to take over their work. The average Windows user, wanting to give Linux a try, would never have been able to use this distro. And the release I talk about was mature, soon to be replaced with a new one! Crazy, if you ask me! I do suggest that developers that find their project in this situation, do the only smart thing they can: End the project and join another distribution. Preferably one of the Big Ones. If you run your own distro, you have to focus on the user. Can you deliver him what he needs to be a happy customer? I believe that in many cases that’s not the case.

There are too many Desktop Managers/Environments
Have you ever noticed how many different Desktop Environments there are? I counted 29 of them on Distrowatch! Absurd! For example: who needs Openbox, Hackedbox and Fluxbox when Blackbox is already available?


Most users need a magnifying glass to notice a difference. Joining forces would create a much better result!
I can imagine that next to KDE and Gnome, you need an alternative for older hardware. But there are so many of them now, that we have the same situation that we have with distributions. People are working on exactly the same functionality for different DM/DE’s. What a waste of time! Time to consolidate! How many Desktop Managers do we really need? I cannot tell you, but I am 100% sure we do not need 29 of them!

Drivers, proprietary software and codecs
One of the bigger issues with Linux is the fact that the average PC hardware producer does not really think about Linux when he develops drivers for his hardware. More that once I have run into problems with unsupported hardware. I respect the men and women who have created drivers for Linux without support from the hardware producer. Reverse engineering is a time-consuming way to build drivers. And a never-ending story.

Then there is the discussion on proprietary software. There are quite a few distro’s that ship without codecs, because in a number of countries some codecs are forbidden. I respect that, as long as it is easy to add these codecs after the installation of the distribution. But I remember a time when I tried to setup an mp3 audio stream with MPD under Debian. No average desktop user will ever be able to do that! Is that the product we want to deliver to our clients? No wonder noone uses it!

Then there are these distro’s that want to be completely free. They refuse to supply proprietary drivers and software. Leaving you with a system that’s only partially usable. What are they trying to accomplish or prove? I really have no idea! The only thing I do know is that they deliver a product no normal computer user is waiting for!
These people do not understand why a company like Nvidia doesn’t open source their drivers. I do. They try to make money and do not want the competition to be able to look under the hood of their products.

Of course people will say something like “If you don’t like it, don’t use it!”, but I guess they fail to see what I’m trying to explain here.

And where does this all lead to?
Like my friend wrote in his blog: Too much of a blessing can become a curse. And that’s exactly what has happened with Linux. Being an Open Source project makes it easy for someone to pick up all the code and start a fork. And in some cases that might be a wise thing to do. But whether you agree with the Document Foundation about forking Openoffice or not, you will have to agree with me that having  OpenOffice and LibreOffice next to each other does not necessarily mean we get the best free office suite! Competition is a good thing, but combining the two powers could theoretically lead to a better product.
We haven’t discussed the Human Race yet. When people work together, soon rivalry, politics and power play their role and lead to destruction a less than optimal result. When companies are involved, the effect is even bigger. And so we end up with 322 distributions and 29 Desktop Managers/ Environments.

Windows screenshot

We can decide for ourselves if we want Linux to make it on the desktop. I believe the road we are following is not the right one.

For all those developers out there I have this message: Most of the popular software that is available under Linux is available for Windows too. LibreOffice, The Gimp, VLC, Inkscape, you name them, they’re all there! So in the end no-one really needs Linux. Windows has become pretty stable and guess what? Billions of Windows users use the same Desktop Environment!

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Posted in Desktop, Linux | Tagged , | 51 Comments