ArkLinux 1.0a7 Released; Exclusive Interview with Bero

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.

Click for a larger version

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)
– Documentation
– 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.

Click for a larger version

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.


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