OSNews reader Alien_II sent us in the news about the release of ArkLinux 1.0-Alpha_7.1. You can read the announcement. ArkLinux uses KDE 3.1.1 (from the CVS) and kernel 2.4.21-pre5. Read more for an interview with ArkLinux‘s Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer and two screenshots of the latest release.
1. What are the main strengths of ArkLinux towards its competition?
Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer: That depends on how you define competition. 😉
The key idea behind Ark Linux is making an easy to use desktop operating system that is still technically sound, and fully Open Source/Free Software.
I believe we’ve succeeded at this – a new user will see a friendly operating system that can be installed with 4 mouse clicks.
An experienced user will see a state of the art Linux system working behind the scenes.
2. And speaking of competition, who are your competitors exactly? Every OS out there, the desktop Linux distros, or all Linux distros, or something else? In other words, who are your target audience?
Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer: Our primary target audience is home users.Linux has made great progress on the server and corporate workstation markets already, and we think the time to move to the home user desktop has arrived.
The selection of included packages clearly is – and will remain – focused on this. It’s impossible to build an operating system that is a good home OS, a good corporate workstation and a good server, all at the same time –
because the needs are different and mutually exclusive (for example, on a server and a corporate workstation, tightly locked up local security is a must — on a home system, you will typically want other users to be able
to install software and do other tasks usually requiring root privileges.
If we ever make an Ark Linux for servers, it will be a ‘different’ distribution.
We don’t consider the other Linux distros (or similar OSes, like the various open source BSDs) competitiors (although in a way they are, of course). We wish to work with them, not against them – anything else is useless infighting that just hurts Linux adoption
While we (of course) don’t object to existing Linux users switching to Ark Linux, our main goal is to attract new users to Linux. The only things I’d call competition are Windows and Mac OS.
3. When is the final version of ArkLinux 1.0 is scheduled for release? Any new features included?
Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer: It will be released when it’s ready. Predecided release dates hurt the quality of the product, because they
prevent outstanding bugs from being fixed, and occasionally important updates from getting in.
We haven’t set a particular timeline for 1.0 – instead we have defined a feature set 1.0 must have. When the feature set is implemented and all known important bugs are fixed, we’ll call it 1.0.
Some important features missing for 1.0 are:
– Easy to use internet access config tool supporting all possible connection types (DSL, Modem, ISDN, …)
– Possibility to resize an NTFS filesystem during installation
– Installer bugfixes (repartitioning existing installations does not always work)
– Graphical bootup
– Diskspace monitoring to prevent the situation of X not starting because it’s out of diskspace
– Easier tool for switching between single user and multi user mode, integration of kapabilities in the user manager
– Graphical recovery tool if X fails to start up for some reason (e.g. user tried to switch to a resolution his equipment can’t handle)
– Extend the partitioner to allow parallel installation with other Linuxes Help with those (and other features/bug fixes) is always welcome.
4. Are you plan on differentiate your product/project against the rest of the distros with some “unique” interface or applications not found on other products? If yes, what are your plans?
Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer: Ark Linux includes some applications not commonly found in other distributions – but since we’re all open source, that can easily change. 😉
Everyone is allowed and welcome to copy our changes and additions, as long as he complies with our license (GPL).
Aside from the installer, application choice, theme choice and menu layout, I believe the Ark Linux approach to local security is unique – we have written a new tool, “kapabilities”, that allows to give users special
privileges such as software installation.
The typical scenario we’re thinking of here is that user “littlekid” is allowed to install Software (games…), but not allowed to launch a file
manager or shell in system administration mode.
We’re defaulting to autologin as the special user “arklinux”, which is a normal user with all “kapabilites” privileges – so you aren’t opening yourself to the dangers of running everything as root, but you can still install software without having to bother about remembering/entering
passwords. The autologin can be disabled, of course, and the arklinux user can be
Another thing (so far) unique to Ark Linux is our add-on CD system – applications not needed by the typical home user (such as the development environment) are available through the addon CDs “Ark Development Suite” and “Ark Extra Software” – installing the CDs is as easy as inserting the CD and picking the parts you need.
We use the (not unique, but also not very common) combination of apt-get
and rpm for package management/updating.
5. You once said that your current HTML-based preference wrapper application will be replaced by a “normal” compiled app. Any news on this, screenshots
Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer: Yes, the new application is finished. I’m attaching two screenshort of Ark Linux 1.0 alpha 7 (released today), one of them showing the new Mission Control.
6. How do you see the Linux ‘landscape’ today in comparison of the big-boom time of Linux in 1999? Have you witnessed Linux gaining ground in the desktop with the same pace as it does in the server space?
Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer: Linux is currently gaining ground in the server space much faster than on
the desktop for various reasons. First of all, Linux has established itself as a server OS, so it’s a low
risk option there – it’s widely known that many others have used it successfully before. Also, it has top name ISV and OEM buy-in and support, which many enterprises consider important. Linux on the desktop, especially the non-techie desktop, is sill a fairly new idea, and up until recently, hasn’t had sufficient maturity – there’s
simply no really good distribution for desktop users without any experience (“What the **** is a partition, and why does this Linux installer want to write to it? Is my harddisk not good enough? I guess I’d better go to the computer store and buy a partition then…”). Ark
Linux is all about solving this problem.
Another problem with Linux adoption on the desktop is a perceived lack of applications. At least in Europe, people walk into a computer store, see most of the boxes on the shelves are either Windows applications or Linux
distributions, so they think Linux is an operating systems without applications – they don’t know that Linux distributions include most software they’ll need, and mostly everything else can be downloaded on the
net – and our contributors are packaging more and more applications to make them available for easy to use installation via apt. This will take a bit of a publicity campaign to address – but that can’t be started before
a good desktop product is ready.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Alien_II for his help on the mirrors, Bero for the interview and Pifio for his screenshots.
Can’t wait to try it out!!! So far, this has been a great linux distro. Sure it is not as complete as Red Hat or Suse but still great nevertheless.
Doesn’t look like it…didn’t find it on the site. Is Gnome 2 available?
The gtk libraries might be included in order to run Gnome apps, dunno, but KDE is the only desktop included in the distro AFAIK. ArkLinux is a desktop distro and it is in the league of Xandros/Lycoris/Lindows regarding the policy of including a single destkop environment.
I’m just surprised an ex-Red Hatter would ditch Gnome fully….
You don’t know the whole story I guess… 😉
Please don’t use jpeg for X screenshots. The font rendering quality is one of the few things I check in these and it is impossible to assess whether blurry edges are jpg artifacts or poorly done anti-aliasing.
This is one of the few “new” linux distros I have my eyes set on. Im following it with great anticipation. I just hope Im not dissapointed. I can already see that its going to blow all other desktop Distros away, I dont think it will be better than SuSE Linux but if I find enough cause to switch, I just might.
I have explained this a zillion times, here is once more: I will use JPEGs for pictures or shots *except* if the PNGs are producing a *smaller* filesize for the 80% quality setting. If for that 80% setting PNG makes a smaller filesize, it will be chosen, otherwise I will be using jpegs (again on 80% quality setting). We use Gifs only for diagrams and logos and stuff, but for shots or real life pictures, we will be choosing *between* jpeg or png. We _are_ using PNGs the times that makes sense bandwidth-wise! We have to counter-balance it each time!
Sorry, but bandwidth costs money.
How is hardware support. So far the only only distro I’ve gotten to work with my network card and sound card is Knoppix, and that’s not really an option. I could probably get it all to work if my other distros came with someeasy to use device manage so I wouldn’t have to edit configuration files and recompile my kernel manually.
I wil give it a shot when it hits te big 1.0.
A short reply to the moderated-down comment:
I just tried saving as png with _maximum_ compression the jpegs you posted, and they were actually 20% smaller. As for bandwidth… how much of a difference can it make if it is 110KB instead of 89KB?
I mean, you said you have about 90K hits a day, That means MAYBE 10K views per story. So, assuming each one views the image, that is 10K * 20KB = 200MB. THat must be about U$S3 of bandwidth, worse case. Sure, I can wire you that money, if you really need it, but you have to say please, and grovel a little.
Here is a mockup I did for the Ark/Lycoris Control Panel a few weeks ago and sent it over to Ark and Lycoris guys:
It seems that the Ark people changed a few things on their old default ( old default: http://arklinux.org/images/arklinux-2.png – new default: http://img.osnews.com/img/3003/ark1.jpg ).
For a product in alpha stage, this one sure is one to watch. If Mandrake could only get this reliable with a release canidate…….
I reckon instead of having such a general/generic interface for the new “kapabilities” application, instead of having an “all in one” interface with a left or right pane which resembles the KDE control centre, it would be much nicer if they convert it to an icon driven interface just like the control panel in Windows or the Mission Control center, and each section should be launched as a separate module/program. That way it will look more professional and also they will save more screen space. What do you think Eugenia?
Eugenia’s looks better This looks to be one to keep an eye on.
Yeah I agree with you, I love the color of the splitter widget and also the draker blue left pane gives the Mission Centre a very nice look. Also the cell spacing on the blue table containing the icons gives it a very nice look. The new one they’ve created resembles Eugenia’s one but the original one created by Eugenia looks the best.
The screenshot the page gave me (Users and Passwords), I don’t understand the logic behind. Besides cloning some of the bad ideas Windows XP introduced, I don’t understand why most of the options use the same icons – doesn’t that remove any need for the icons in the first place? Meanwhile, why in Mission Control there is a link to KDE Control Panel? I mean, if KDE controls aren’t integrated into Mission Control, they should. And if you want to have extra control options for advance users, bundle KControl like TweakUI for Windows… (Meanwhile I really have to wonder how many new users using Ark Linux knows whats KDE).
And the name of Mission Control itself – this should be something you should brand (giving your own special name). Do a survey and ask people what comes to mind when you give the phrase “Mission Control”… the results would be dissapointing. Try “Preferences” or “Control Panel” or “Settings”.
Whenever you present a modified screenshot of some interface Eugenia, it always seems a vast improvement. I’m glad Ark seem to have adopted some of your points. I hope they adopt the rest too. In fact I’m surprised you aren’t consulted more often for UI issues on OSS projects.
You could do with being “consulted” for that kapabilites dialog. It’s currently incomprehensible. I get frustrated easily nowadays when i can’t figure out what a dialog does or how to use it just by looking at it. I know it’s hard to make interfaces easy to use and understand, but I sure wish more development time was given to interfaces.
The problem I see with helping out with interface design on OSS projects is that the main developers feel they should have the final say on the design. So if you make a good suggestion it might not be enacted. On KDE-Usability it seems that only the core make the eventual decisions (even though they often decide well), and few others are willing to actually do something about bad UI to avoid stepping on toes. Quite a few times now I’ve fancied modifying an interface, but have shied away because I have seen others make good modifications but their time has been wasted as nothing comes of it.
I’ve kind of concluded that if I want to an application that has a good interface then I’ll have to start a project afresh. So that’s what I plan to do! I’ll either make something new or rework something old since that’s easier and I’ll be able to see if I can improve it at all.
I’ve typed all this because I want some opinions. Have I interpreted things rightly or wrongly?
Why are you guys using jpegs for the screenshots? They look terrible. This isn’t 1999 guys.
Learn to read. This isn’t the pre-historical period.
I wish Bero a lot of success with ArkLinux. Although I have been using Mandrake 9.1Betas and RCs lately, I will certainly order the Ark Linux CDs whenever 1.0 is released, if only to try this KDE-only distribution.
The desktop certainly looks attractive and relatively uncluttered.
Hardware: Dell Latitude C600
Pros: KDE is surprisingly zippy (uses a fairly recent CVS version), nice network configuration tool, XFree86 4.3.0,
Cons (for me at least): EXT3 filesystem instead of Reiser, surprisingly large number of hardware not detected (as compared to most other ditributions), kind of a long install (but you get to play tetrix while you wait , no users are defined (including root!)
First you have to realize that this distribution is targeted at the desktop, so some of my disapointments stem from the fact that I’m used to a more workstation oriented distribution. At first boot you’re presented (in X) with options to configure keyboard and language, followed by three options for installation depending on you partition requirements. Since this was going to be put on a clean hard drive, I chose the Express. After that I didn’t do much. It partitioned the drive, installed the software and detected (or at least attempted to) hardware and after a reboot I was staring at the KDE setup wizard. No logging in either. Boot manager used is Grub (I wish they would bypass the splash screen and prompt if only one OS selection is available). Open Office is included which seemed to work just fine. My NIC and sound card weren’t detected so I had to manually tweak those.
Things I would like to see:
A custom setup should ask whether I will be using say: a scanner or ISDN, since it would save the time and disk space of installing those components. Also why was Postfix installed? I’m not sure. RPMS seemed to install OK.
Overall, I’d say it has potential, especially for KDE users. Impressive install for only three mouse clicks. I look forward to trying out their point ‘oh release.
It gives me 3 choices upon booting:
1. Let Ark use all the space on my PC (Uh… No!)
2. Let Ark build itself by using all of the unusued space on my PC (Like there is any)
3. Install “parallel” to a Windows/DOS install.
I of course opted for 3, only to have the PC lock up.
This was after I fretted over the potentially misleading choices above. Does using all the space on my computer mean that if I have 3 drives, you’re going to format all for use w/Ark, or does it just mean it’s going to just format the drive I point it too?
The lock up was re-creatable, so it’s something to do w/Arks install.
Between that, and the vague description of what Ark’s going to do to my valuable data, I have to give this a “two-thumbs down” right now.
Which is sad… The screenshots and interview sound promising.
Call me back when your OS & it’s instructions aren’t so “dumbed down” that I wonder at what you’re referring to.
Did anyone else waste the time trying to figure out how to custom install this for use with multiple partitions?
I sure hope they will include AutoPackage (http://autopackage.org/), because it is alpha and omega for a beginner-distro to have an easy to use installer.
I understand that you can’t always supply high quality images, in order to save bandwidth a compromise is required. I think I have a better idea though, feel free to dump it without explaining why.
I’m not asking for high quality screenshots to see how pretty widgets look; IMHO the font quality issue is a real usability issue. I don’t think font quality will be nearly as much variable as now across linux distros in the near future (4-6 months) so the problem will solve itself anyway.
For the time being, can you post a higher quality but truncated screenshot to show quality of font rendering? If you take screenshots yourself, that is. Black text on a white background will compress very well, and we don’t need to see kicker, kword menu or windows borders in that screenshot anyway.
Also I don’t read all comments posted on osnews and I’m sure I’m not a minority in this regard. If so many people pester you about them, why don’t you put your screenshot policy in a faq or something?
I had the same experience as Mr. Banned on both the laptop and my PC. After selecting installation method 3, the computer just locked up and I have to do a hard reboot. On my PC I have multiple distro installed so option 1 or 2 did not make sense (I am sure what would happen if option 1 or 2 is chosen). I experienced no problem installing other distro. So there must be some bugs in the install script.
BTW, the first time I tried to install with the previous alpha, the mouse was not even detected. So this alpha is actually a step better.