Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chakra Claire-2012.10 Review

After hopping from an Ubuntu install with a broken permissions system (how is it even possible that root can't read files anymore?) to Sabayon, and promptly remembering why I left Sabayon in the first place, I have hopped to a distribution I haven ever used before: Chakra Linux. For the readers that don't know, Chakra is a Linux distribution with a very stiff, almost dictator-like control on what packages can and can't be installed from their repositories, and the default desktop environments (or the ones that are available). Take a look at why I chose to let the Chakra developers decide what was good for my computing sanity in this week's review.And yes, for my regular readers Operating System reviews are becoming a weekly thing, since I just installed a VM (a whole category of software I have never used) to reduce the impact of trying an Operating System. Now, on to the actual review.

As I said above, Chakra is really nitpicky about certain applications. Utilizing only the Qt toolkit and the KDE suite, it restricts third party applications that require gtk as a dependency from being installed from their repository. The catch here is that through their bundle manager it is possible to install GTK applications that have been pre-bundled, but there are only a handful available. Another way to get gtk applications is to use the CCR (Chakra Community Repository, like the AUR), which is a huge repository where users can upload packages that meet the build specifications. When the CCR doesn't have a package, the AUR (Arch User Repository) and the aur2ccr script will find what you are looking for. Note that using aur2ccr for this purpose is not supported, and it is such a serious problem that the Chakra developers leave a nasty message for all of those that download it.

The repositories are super up-to-date, just like Arch's, and the bundle application makes installing software EASIER than it would be without it (such as the Alpha firefox option).

Release schedule
As a half-rolling-release distribution, Chakra does not freeze any userland applications, but does refine its base system before releasing it on the public to break like an Operating System like Sabayon would. This leave the bug testing for upstream while providing the latest and greatest software with all the stability you would find on say, Ubuntu 12.10.

User Experience
So far the entire Chakra experience has been easy and simple to use. The installer crashed the first time I ran it, but that is something that was entirely my fault. The Chakra developers are in the middle of transitioning from an older installer to the new Tribe installer, so it is supposed to seem a bit unfinished (it didn't). Just like the installer on Sabayon, it goes fullscreen, but has an XMBC-like interface that is gaudy to some but absolutely stunning to others. If you do need to leave the installer and window it, that is entirely an option using the KDE hot corner in the top right.

Once installed, Chakra functions like any KDE ditro with some minor modifications to the default KDE user experience, as well as a first-login greeter like on Fedora and Linux Mint (in a way). Other than some branding and additions to the settings dialog, themes, and improved functionallity on the taskbar, it is essentially a fast, good looking (can't stress the aesthetics enough; especially on pre-kdm and kdm itself), Systemd Kubuntu.

I have never said this in a review. I could not find a single complaint that is related to Chakra or its parent-remains from Arch Linux. There ARE a few bugs that are KDE-related, and one could say it is Chakra's responsibility to freeze and stabilize those packages, but the bugs are extremely minor, so it wouldn't make up for the lost functionality between versions. There is also a lack of Plymouth, but that has been buggy for a while anyway. It DOES effect my usage, but I am stuck in a very niche situation that requires Plymouth to use a tty because of a broken USB port. This will not effect 99% of anybody reading this article.

Chakra is about to get a lot better, too. With a new package maanger and refinements (and additions, whee) to Tribe, it is gearing up to become a serious competitor in the Linux distribution market. 

Currently the 24th most used operating system in the world (distrowatch provided these statistics) I would go on record to say that this is a system that is due to see a grand sum of growth over the coming years, possibly even becoming a competitor where systems like Mandrive and Mageia, KDE distros, are currently king. I can say in honesty that this is my favorite distro I have ever used / reviewed. The underlying Archisms make the system valuable for power-users, the up-to-date software is great for those that like to leech onto upstream and have the mentallity of god-forbid an outdated package becomes installed, and the aesthetics are pleasing enough to rival that of Sabayon. 

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