Knowing that ArkLinux is the offspring of Bernhard “Bero” Rosenkraenzer (interview here), a former Red Hat employee and KDE hacker, should make it one of the more interesting and, arguably, credible new Linux distributions to hit the streets in recent seasons. With the rise of Lycoris, Lindows, and Xandros, among others, Ark Linux is certainly a far cry from a surefire success. Let’s take a look.
ArkLinux 1.0-0.alpha6.0 features a new installer akin to Lindows in that it’s only a few clicks to a working system. These “four click installs” are dead easy – just about anyone could understand them. The only catch is that there are no real expert options. For those of us who know what we’re doing, even a little bit, we’re still forced to choose from the few options presented. There was an option to resize a partition, but having already blocked off an area of my hard drive, I was able to choose an option to use all free space. Installation is quick and simple and GRUB detected my XP installation without a problem. The complaint I have is that it labelled my NTFS drives “Windows NT/2000/XP” and placed then in the GRUB boot menu. There doesn’t appear to be an obvious way to edit the GRUB boot menu, so I had to manually su up to root and edit /etc/grub/grub.conf. I am confident that most users could not pull this off, so on my wishlist, I’ll add a GRUB editor. That said, install is a breeze.
On boot you are greeted by KDE 3.1. There is no login. You are a normal user, “arklinux,” with a blank password and the root password is also blank, so a simple “su’ or “sudo” and the comment line brings you to a root prompt. This method could be compared to the LindowOS run-as-root method. I forgive ArkLinux for this easily – by simply adding the arklinux user, they’ve put the burden on you to set things up responsibly, but they’ve encouraged you to run as a user, rather than root, by defaulting to a user. ArkLinux uses a fairly standard KDE install running Keramik and is very “pretty.” I’m personally sick of seeing the KDE dragon, but the normal walkthrough wizard is there. I immediately made a number of changes to my system to make ArkLinux “mine.” I added some icons to the kicker, I added tweaked the colors, added AbiWord using synaptic, and of course, updated the video driver using Mission Control (which I’ll cover in a minute), and assigned passwords to users. One quick about ArkLinux is that you must manually set your network card to DHCP. Most other new distributions automatically set a card for DHCP or ask you when you install. With ArkLinux, it must be “activated,” so to speak.
The next step in configuring ArkLinux is to visit the “Mission Control” box. Mission Control is an HTML front end for the KDE Control Center which runs in a nice and concise Konquerer window. Without question, Mission Control is the essence of ArkLinux and that which separates it from the pack. Mission Control is a attractive and easy to follow. Unlike the classic KDE Control Center, which is available with a single click, by the way, Mission Control is very simple to decipher and uses very plain English to explain your options. Honestly, it resembles Windows XP’s Control Panel, which makes it familiar to most. Within Mission Control, one can mess with the externals of the system pretty effortlessly.
Adusting the resolution for my 17″ monitor within Mission Control meant restarting X. Logging in, you’ll notice that the login screen is not in English (I think it’s German). Luckily, the buttons do a pretty good job of directing you at what to do. Beware of this — it’s a pre-1.0 oversight that will probably be fixed shortly, if it hasn’t been already. On login, I was greeted with KMix, and audio application. KMix would start parallel with X for the remainder of my ArkLinux sessions up to and including this session. Every once in a while, I’d be greeted with another surprise application, most notably 4 tiled Konqueror windows. These are what I call ‘nuisance errors,’ they don’t actually muck with anything, but you wonder why they happen, because they simply shouldn’t. Nonetheless, getting on the internet and getting the video configured was trivial to me, but I sense that my mother would already be lost by this point.
While ArkLinux was great at some things, I never was able to get to my Windows drives. I have 2 NTFS drives, a system and data drive, and I didn’t expect to be able to browse them, and I was right, I couldn’t. I was surprised it didn’t find my FAT32 drive, even after I played with the /etc/fstab. This is essential. In order for a user to transition, they’re going to need to get to their files without using floppy discs. CD-ROMs do automount, but I don’t use discs for quick and simple transitions. This goes high on my wishlist as well. On the other side of things, simply plugging in my Laser Jet 6L and choosing “add printer” was the extent of work need to get my printer working. ArkLinux, along with CUPS, did the rest for me.
While playing with ArkLinux, I purchased an 802.11b PCMCIA card and plunked it into my PCMCIA drive. Unfortunately, Ark didn’t find it and I was unable to get it working. I tried adding a new network interface, but it didn’t detect anything. I used the “Add New Hardware” applet in the Mission Control panel, and that froze my system, causing me to have to restart the X server. I’m not sure whether it even detects my PCMCIA drive at all, but I can say that it does show kernel messages stopping PCMCIA services when I shut down, leading me to believe it’s not the drive that is a problem for ArkLinux. I did not do too much research into this, but suffice it to say, I tried all of the simple things. With the rise of wireless networks and the advent of 802.11g networks, wireless support is becoming mandatory.
I was unimpressed with the fonts in ArkLinux. While it is easy to add new fonts, as seen in the screenshot, the font quality was grainy and jagged for most of the OS. While the fonts are reportedly anti-aliased, they still don’t compare to those that run under Gnome or Windows. It’s hardly fair to blame this on ArkLinux, but with only graphical environment available, they become somewhat responsible for the sole implementation on their OS. While this screenshot from the ArkLinux site shows the fonts, notice the fonts everywhere besides the OpenOffice.org document. They are still subpar.
One drawback I noticed while using ArkLinux was a delay in window redrawing. I was unable to get the screen resolution above 800×600 with the default nv driver, so I changed to the nVidia Quadro 2, the closet thing to my Quadro 4. I cranked the size up to 1280 and had problems. As you can see in the above screenshot, when dragging windows, I found a gray streak left behind. This is almost certainly NOT my system – it’s a dual 1.8 Ghz Xeons with 1.0 GB RAM and a 32 MB graphics card. These gray window shadows appeared with nearly every window drag. Going back to the nv driver, I was able to keep the resolution and the dragging improved, but is still jittery. This may be because AGPgart is not enabled — either way, once again, a new user would be baffled. Though it may be the nature of the nVidia driver and Xfree, a user would likely attribute this to ArkLinux, and, indeed, they should be doing all they can to prevent it.
ArkLinux is attempting to do in a short cycle what took years for many other distributions – to be a complete distribution and solution. They are off to a great start. This version is an Alpha version, they make no bones about that. As an alpha version, you should expect certain things not to work. That said, this is a very nice piece of software for a work in progress, and could probably be used by most people as their main desktop environment. The issues I have are less complaints than just marks of an unfinished product. My guess is that when the polish is applied, ArkLinux will be in the same class as other new school desktop Linuxes.
– Mission Control makes local system administration a breeze
– only real desktop distro to use KDE 3.1 as default environment
– super easy installation
– wireless card didn’t detect or setup
– couldn’t mount Windows drives
– still has issues as alpha development release
in using arclinux instead of one of the major distributions. even for the normal user, installation routine of the major distributions are a manageable task, and are still getting easier to use, as are configuring system settings under rh8.
but at least it’s for free, unlike for example lindows, where basically the whole businessmodell is based on selling innocent and naive users add-ons which you can get for free everywhere else.
just hope that all those windows-wannabe-make-money-in-fooling-people-linuxes will disappear after the real distributions will become (even) more userfriendly.
I thank god ArkLinux is a non-profit thingy or else I would use my rubber stamp “FAILURE” on them :-). Amongst others, they provide no incentive to consumers to use ArkLinux. Yes, it may be easier than other distributions, but that’s besides the point. Consumers don’t care about the OS they run *unless* they get something out of it. In this case, I doubt there are much.
One key area is multimedia. i.e. iLife. However no Linux company is close to any of that, and even if that becomes their goal, it would be at least 2 years before they reach it anyway, by time that, Microsoft and Apple have already come out with newer better stuff.
By comparison, the corporate desktop is a goldmine. And far easier to make a buck …. if you know how to do it.
I agree Rajan R. And this is why Red Hat is going after the corporate desktop (with some help of Sun as the ‘customer provider’) and not for the “common desktop”.
There is no alternative desktop product that can *truly* compete with Mac OS X or XP. The refined, elegant apps and user experience are just not there. And the thing is that MS and Apple are continuing to bring new things to their experience, while the Linux crowd are just following three-four steps (or years) behind. However, Linux does a good server, I admit that.
“The refined, elegant apps and user experience are just not there. And the thing is that MS and Apple are continuing to bring new things to their experience, while the Linux crowd are just following three-four steps (or years) behind. However, Linux does a good server, I admit that.”
i agree that windows and osx are more polished in style as well as the apps, but linux is bridging the gap very quickly imo.
i use both xp and rh8, but to be honest, xp only because there’s no kazaa for linux (afaik).
rh8 simply feels much more stable than xp, and i actually enjoy the lack of too much eyecandy and the focus on what’s really important. i just installed realplayer on xp, and had a hard time to tame it the way i wanted (“uh, it was supposed to be a mediaplayer, but it looks like a browser…?!”)
besides, there’s nothing under windows that can’t be done under linux (admitted, still a little tweaking is necessary, but this will change greatly with “autopackage” or a similar easy-to-use-distribution-independent-graphical installer), at least if you don’t depend on 3rd-party commercial apps (which will also come oney day).
so imo, it’s really not that bad.
looking forward to rh9!
I’m using alpha 7 and like it a lot. I have to agree that fonts and wireless stuff are also on my wish list.
Pop in a blank CD-R, CD Bake Oven automatically starts up with options such as, make data CD, cd from ISO, etc., can’t beat that from a Linux distribution Configure LAN (Samba) printer couldn’t be easier.
Applications under KDE menu are very well organized, IMHO.
Very impressed for a distributions only have a few developers.
To The reviewer:
Alpha 6 didn’t support NTFS (?) but in Alpha 7 it’s supported, i would like to see a rewrite of your review for alpha 7….
just an fyi, nvidia’s 4191 drivers for linux are problematic…they have already admitted as much. “wait till next release” was their statement.
Use the previous version if you have slow 2d problems.
This guys sounds like he has class AND good ideas. In a perfect world this would get anyone success. We don’t live in a perfect world, but I do wish Bero the best of luck with Arck Linux. He is doing a service to people everywhere by putting such attention into a free desktop distro.
Hopefully it will brighten some newbie’s day.
synergy: i agree that windows and osx are more polished in style as well as the apps, but linux is bridging the gap very quickly imo.
Polish in style for the operating system makes little difference. Why? Most Windows users are still using Windows 98 anyway. But yeah, it helps if you can make Linux look more appealing to new users. Having superbig buttons and scrollbars isn’t one of it.
And as for apps – the gap is closing slowly… heck, in some areas, the gap is actually widening. Especially when it comes to digital applications that competes with the likes of iMovie and Windows Movie Maker.
synergy: rh8 simply feels much more stable than xp, and i actually enjoy the lack of too much eyecandy and the focus on what’s really important.
While I agree I prefer the way default Red Hat 8.0 looks over Windows XP, I have experience less bugs using Windows XP default than Red Hat. Of course, there are annoying ones – like IE status bar dissapearing. But we are geeks. Most of us don’t like gee-whiz utterly useless eye candy – end users are attracted by it.
synergy: i just installed realplayer on xp, and had a hard time to tame it the way i wanted (“uh, it was supposed to be a mediaplayer, but it looks like a browser…?!”)
Funny, I’m using RealOne on Windows, and I like the default look. If you want something that acts like something else, why not use that something else? So far, I don’t see anything anti-consumer about RealOne, except its price tag (which is worth it actually, for the content I mean).
The only other annoying thing about RealOne is the annoying Message service thingy crap.
Of course nowadays I’m using Yahoo Launch radios more often..
synergy: besides, there’s nothing under windows that can’t be done under linux (admitted, still a little tweaking is necessary, but this will change greatly with “autopackage” or a similar easy-to-use-distribution-independent-graphical installer)
Easy video editing ala iMovie? Easy photo management ala iPhoto/Windows XP? Easy DVD creation ala iDVD? The ability to watch DVD movies out of the box legally? And that’s only for consumers.
Was Alpha-6 a misprint or are you not reviewing the latest version for a certain reason? Besides that, the review was very helpful and reminded me what to do when I too discovered my network card not working on the first install.
For the gurus taking shots at arguments: for n00bs such as myself, still recoiling from the mess that mdk 9.0 turned out to be (how could you release broken nvidia support AND mess up supermount in a final version??), we/I find that Ark gets more right than it does wrong. While the more I learn about linux, the more I’m drifting away from swiss army distros, I think simple, user-friendly, and attractive packages like this one are what is needed to win new converts. Get those closed source plugins and drivers prepared Bero!!
Just take care tho…your distro has to best Knoppix 3.2 for simplicity and compatibility 😉 Good Luck to the Ark Linux team and keep up the good work!
What kind of wifi card were you trying to get to work? It seems a bit unfair to list it’s incompatibility as a demerit to this distribution without even stating if it is supported by Linux in general. The most commonly available cards which are supported by Linux are ones based on Prisms, but more and more cards seem to be based on other chipsets, and some of the supposed safe cards aren’t even safe anymore (i.e., the D-Link 650, which used to be a Prism was “revised” into a new card using a TI chipset, and TI won’t release any documentation without an NDA and even then to hardware developers only). Other cards, like the 22mbps ones (by D-Link and a few others), also use a closed TI chipset, and I don’t think *any* of the 802.11g cards coming out currently support Linux either (though I haven’t really looked into it), not even with binary-only drivers. So unless you know for a fact that Linux the kernel supports your card, it really doesn’t seem fair to insist that Ark Linux supports it.
If you would have read the linked interview, you would have known that there is no company behind Ark Linux.
Linux problem is it wants to stay a UNIX historian. If I was a company and wanted to use Linux, I would just use KDE and KDE only applications or Gnome and Gnome only applications and make a Linux out of it. Meaning I change the complete directory structre of those programs, but keep the normal file structure hidden, simular to Mac OS X. The only problem I found with Mac OS X, it might consider a problem with there structure, is everything is in one folder, that might become a problem later on.
For example on my Mac OS X my folders are, Applications, Developer, Games, Interent, Library, Multimedia, System, Users, Utilities.
Linux now is based around, if it’s not on the start menu, and you don’t know how to use Linux good luck finding it. Used to it would be impossible to do such a thing but since systems like RedHat, Lycrois, and so on have limited the number of packages down to just, one internet browser, one instant messenger, I feel they could pull this off. There is no reason anyone to have Mozilla in /usr/lib/mozilla and a link for mozilla in /usr/bin when thats the only web browser I’m going to use. The only reason they refuse to change it is not because they can’t because they don’t want to they are to obsessed with tradition. I remind you just like OS X the tradition will be there, just hidden from view of KDE or Gnome, maybe even have a function to turn it on and off like in Windows feature, hide hidden files.
This would allow a normal desktop system with the power of Linux. Thats what made BeOS great, and that is what makes Mac OS X great, the best thing about BeOS even when you had to do some complex thing like add a driver, was you could go through the file system and it made sense to any idiot.
I had the same problem with ArkLinux…
It seems that drivers for wireless cards
are not included with the distro (orinoco.. and allt that).
“Easy video editing ala iMovie? Easy photo management ala iPhoto/Windows XP? Easy DVD creation ala iDVD? The ability to watch DVD movies out of the box legally?”
now you got me…;-)
i don’t have a digital camera or even a camcorder, so i don’t know if there’s something similar for linux like the stuff you mentioned. as for one good and complete mediaplayer, well we all now there are at least 2 and i fully agree that the big distributions should at least incorporate one of them preconfigured.
but hey, let’s get serious-the progress that linux on desktop has made during the last couple of years is truly stunning, considering that most of the work is done by volunteers or by rel. small distributions which are still operating close to break-even. they are competing with multibillion enterprises here.
again, looking at the broader picture, the gap is closing quickly, and this process will even accelerate because for example of the windows-wannabe-distributions which are putting the classic distributions under heavy pressure in terms of usability and focus on the enduser.
i already said that, if you need to work with commercial apps, linux is (still) not the os for you, but which enduser really needs apps like photoshop, macromedia flash etc.?
most of them just need one big application, and that’s an officesuite (and most of those are using just 10% of the features provided).
i guess that with tcpa on the horizon, more and more people will become more sensitive about free (in every sense) software, and might move to linux because they prefer to be independent from big companies.
as for the corporate desktop, the situation looks even better: in germany whole cities, companies etc. are switching to an all-linux-environment.
so all in all, linux on desktop is gaining ground (close to gsin the critical mass), and this process will imo even accelerate.
and i’m very sure, that within a few years, microsoft will going to recognize that on their balance sheet.
i might be too optimistic, but we’ll see…
and they have every right to do so. however we also have the right to not download anything from these morons.
synergy: again, looking at the broader picture, the gap is closing quickly
On the consumer front, IMHO, the gap is actually widening. Windows and Mac OS is getting more and more consumer functionality for their OS, while Linux is still in many ways more backwards. And as for the things Linux *can* do, really it isn’t reason enough for consumers to switch.
And I don’t remember mentioning commercial applications in the first place. Speaking of which, on the corporate desktop, as oppose to average great-grandma, the gap is closing, I admit. Heck, that’s why I say corporate desktop is far more profitable.
linuxgrilla: and they have every right to do so. however we also have the right to not download anything from these morons.
They probably have no right do to so if their developers are divided over the issue – check on the IRC channel. It is like the Palestinian Authority condemning Sept 11 attacks, while some idiots in it are celebrating the fact.
Thanks for the review, Adam! I have to agree there is no real incentive to catch on, although I find it fun to use. As said, they are trying to play catch up and it’s probably too late. When they catch up, where will everyone else be? However, as I said, I find it enjoyable to use simple distros like this with KDE 3.x and pretty much nothing else. I hope some of these outfits survive so people can get their hands dirty in them.
…i use both xp and rh8, but to be honest, xp only because there’s no kazaa for linux (afaik).
Well, there is not a Kazaa for Linux but you can make the Windows version work through WINE. I know it because it works for me, and works great (except for the web browsing thing which relies in Internet Explorer, but does anybody uses that anyway?).
Go to http://appdb.winehq.org/stdquery.php?orderby=appId&searchfor=kazaa&… for details.
There is something wrong about KDE-Look.org and Ark Linux that I can’t deal with… It’s called the Noia icons (that can be seen in the Mission Control window). I can’t understand why people everywhere praise that awful thing. However it is one of the best rated icon set in KDE-Look.org.
Is just me or those icons looks like someone with a really bad taste went crazy in Photoshop and the EyeCandy plug-ins? And some people go even further, blending these with the Keramik theme… ARGH!
The people behind Ark could switch those icons with some of those beautiful icons from Everaldo’s Crystal set. Or HighColor from default KDE or something else. But it would improve a lot the consistence if they use only one icon set for that.
Also, Keramik is butt-ugly. Too much colors, too big widgets and so on. Maybe they could set Mosfet’s High Performance Liquid as default theme for their distro. Liquid is easy on the eyes (regarding colors, widgets, etc.), is beautiful and is entirely coded in C++, which is an advantage in performance when compared to bitmapped themes.
Anyway, that _I_ can do for myself :-)) so I’m going to take a ride with Ark Linux because I liked everything else. Kudos for Bero and fellas.
The installer sucks! For a new install (ie, New PC with nothing on the hard drive) it’s ok, bur for those of use with multiple disks, and/or multiple partitions, the install’s a real “nail biter”!
Rather than offer the user a chance to pick, and/or format a partition, Ark allows one to either designate an entire drive for Ark, Install to any unused space on the drive, which doesn’t provide the ability to choose which drive, or you can choose to install parrelel(SP) to a Windows install.
Unfortunately the parallel install locks up when chosen (at least as of alpha 7), so in order to install, one must delete the partition you want Ark installed on, and then hope that Arks install process catches it. Not a good start to the OS.
The OS itself is unique in that they get around the need for Super Users by making the root account pass-wordless, and assigning rights to each user (arklinux by default). Thus a user with sufficient privileges types “su”, and voila, they’re root! No password needed.
They seem to think that this “workaround” isn’t a security risk since Ark’s not running any servers (and yet Distro watch shows mySQL and apache as being components of Ark -I didn’t check myself to see if they were there). Either way, I don’t like the idea of security compromises, nor do I like the fact that you have to throw away all of your Linux common sense when using Ark.
Their package management was fairly straight forward, and their ISO of “additional apps” installed ok, although both tend to be handled rather poorly (You can’t easily install the apps from the CD with your package manager. Instead you must run an install script off the CD and choose from the resulting menu).
KDE 3.1’s very nice, but it’s available with most distributions now. Nothing special here. Also, it appears that Ark’s carried over at least some of Redhats “tweaks” which means that items such as Mosfets Liquid will not run on Ark without some moving of files (At least for me it wouldn’t compile straight out of the box).
The installed apps are ok, but they don’t make it too clear how to install additional software for the system. Yes, you can compile it (duh!), but they claim that Ark’s built off a Redhat 6/7 base. That would indicate that Redhat 7 RPMs should be acceptable for installing, but they don’t come out and clarify that.
Also, the Ark website leaves a LOT to be desired. It’s very amateurish (not nearly as bad as the Sorcerer Linux site though!). Information’s very sparse, and Support/FAQ page is a joke.
I do like the fact that Ark’s optimized for modern processors, but in general their take on what the public wants out of Linux is definitely not what I want…
Performance wasn’t any better than Mandrake and Redhats latest (both of whom have made changes to the KDE system which breaks many 3rd party apps), and like those two, Ark includes glibc 2.3.2, which breaks many existing apps (Wine being the biggest one for me!).
In short, I see a couple of good ideas with Ark (i686 optimized. woohoo!), but a whole lot of bad ideas and poor implentations. I would also have built my distro off a better implementation of OSS standards. A slackware base ala Vector Linux (Very nice!) or Yoper (Nice distro, but poor management and relations with users!) would be preferable to a pre-bastardized base ala Mandrake/Redhat.
KDE is Ark’s strongest point, but it’s also available for virtually every other platform.
If you don’t mind said customizations, go with Redhat or Mandrake’s latest. You’ll get equal performance, better support, and a wealth of software already optimized for your system.
bob: It just doesn’t make any business sense.
Well, the sad thing is that they aren’t a business :-). But I agree, it is stupid presentation-wise. If Bero and other developers wants people to know he opposes the war – make his own personal site and tell them.
Even Fresco where the developers overwhelmingly oppose the war – you wouldn’t find any anti-war link on http://www.fresco.org – and they aren’t finding for consumers in the first place.
DeadFishMan: How can a peace message do any harm?
Please, I beg you, never enter the field of advertising and PR. Or you would fail miserably.
DeadFishMan: Peace is what the world needs most now.
And I believe in this case war is the way to peace. And nop, I’m not a American. I’m a Malaysian.
Well, just to point out that the Misssion Control panel is extremely similar to that found in Lycoris (at least in the latest betas), so not particularly new to ArkLinux 🙂
Does anyone know where I can get this wallpaper? I can only see part of it in the screen shot, but it looks very nice.
“Littleman supports the liberation of the Iraqi people”
Oh yeah, that’s one of the euphemism coming from the USA. Liberation = bombing. Preventive war = invasion , etc…
Go to hell with your friend Bush, neofascist!