From GNU/Linux to Warhammer & back again!
The first distro I am looking at for the new year is Kahel OS, a distro based on Arch and hailing from the Philipines, it makes some bold statements and made it impossible for me to ignore! Distrowatch seems to list a plethora of Ubuntu based distro’s and whilst much work goes into them, most of the time I ask myself “What does X do that Y doesnt?”
…means faster boot process, faster X server load, seamless graphical 3D effects, faster graphics, and an improved animated boot sequence; faster boot-up – the startup process has been tweaked enormously to speed up the boot process
I thought I would be clever and start this review with a definition of the word “Kahel”. Unfortunately there isn’t one, so I can’t. If you look at the meaning Ubuntu (an African word meaning Humanity to others) the closest definition I can give for Kahel would be “Sahel” (African word meaning to eat abundantly). Since one of the claims of this distro is performance, I think it applies. Is there an abundance of tweaks/speed ups? Read on to find out!
As I say, the countless Ubuntu derived distro’s of varying quality offer users a diverse choice in their OS needs, but since Kahel OS is based on Arch (and has just released a Netbook remix version as well) I thought I would take a closer look at this interesting distro.
I installed and tested Kahel on a particularly temperamental system, which is no stranger to odd bouts of meldrovian  rage. The specs are as follows: Compaq AMD Athlon 64 3000+, 512mb Ram. It should be noted for the purposes of this review that Im running the 32bit version of Kahel.
After burning the ISO and booting you are immediately thrown into a text installer. Whilst the installation procedure is certainly not as user friendly (or pretty) as some of the “big name” distro’s, its certainly very simple to follow, with the script taking you through all the steps from partitioning to installing Grub. This is the where the first issue occurs though as a newcomer to Linux in my opinion would be put off with the options presented. There’s a wealth of file systems to choose from and in this review I opted to go with ext4.
The whole procedure took around 35 minutes to complete and if the installation options had not put off a new user then the echoing of system commands will probably have them hiding under a desk. I couldn’t find an option to hide these and if this distro is intended to be for a Linux newcomer, its certainly an option that needs to be considered (IMO).
And this is where the problem is. Whether you are a user/fan of Ubuntu or not, I don’t think you can argue that Ubuntu is not only the “planet” where many experienced Linux users like to reside, but its also a stepping stone for those new to Linux who will eventually decide to become more adventurous and look at more exotic distros.
First off, Kahel comes as default with the Gnome DE (version 2.28.2) and whilst I do not like the way Gnome seems to be moving to more Mono dependence in its default install, its still hard for me to select my favorite DE between this and Xfce. Of course F-Spot was the first package to be removed, as was anything with Mono dependencies. Kahel is running Linux kernel 2.6.32.
Stepping back to comments I made in the installation section, I am still confused by the default Gnome games. These (IMO) mostly play once titles are something every Linux user of over 6 months have seen/played/deleted and if, Kahel is aimed more at the established Linux user, why on earth would they be included? If anyone has a particular desire to play these games then its not exactly challenging to install them.
Shiretoko 3.5.6 (Firefox derived) is packaged as default and whilst I do like to have Firefox/derivative as a backup browser, I immediately installed Chromium which from the software repositories, which as it stands is currently 22.214.171.124-1. Pacman 2.4 handles the package management of Kahel (and very well I may add), Im rapidly becoming a fan and I do like the “orphans” tab for tracking down those bloat creating rogue packages. This for me is another reason why Kahel may not be the first port of call for a Linux newcomer and I don’t think anyone here will argue that Ubuntu Software Center is far more accessable.
Other default packages include Gnome Terminal 2.28.2, Python 2.6.4, Open Office 3.1.1, Totem 2.28.4 Interestingly Gimp is absent from the default install, could the Canonical idea that Gimp is too complicated be influencing other distro’s? Of course Kahel does include Draw (part of the Open Office suite) and for me is more than adequate for my local image editing needs. A nice little touch is the famous quote you get every time you run Terminal…simple I know, easy to do, I know but its little touches like this which I like about the many distro’s around.
In order to see what performance was like in a real world scenario, I decided to run Quake Live and see if the claims made by Kahel’s creators were supported in the results. Despite my beloved Nvidia drivers being absent, performance was reasonable. It is worth noting though that if 3d performance (and in particular gaming) is your intention, then IMO you are going to want to consider installing the proprietary drivers for your gfx card Dropped frames were kept to a minimum although it did noticeably struggle at times. Performance of the DE and taking into account ext4 was fast, loading times were quick and despite limited ram, the system as a whole ran relatively smoothly, even when a combination of tasks were attempted simultaneously.
Boot up and startup times were good. You may see in Kahel’s description a reference to an animated loading screen. This consists of a dancing Kahel logo instead of a progress bar, IMO not very exciting although if you have Kahel stored on a device with fast load/seek times the little chap will have a fit whilst loading.
Shut down times were good, but not as fast as some of the “big name” distro’s, with Kahel taking around 15 seconds to power down. Not an issue I know, but the description led me to believe I was in for something special.
I liked Kahel, its derived from a solid distro with a large following (Arch). Kahel is not one of the many generic Ubuntu clones that seem to be flavor of the month at the moment and it makes effort with “the little things” in order to try to give you a unique experience. Kahel has a nice selection of original backdrops and the Kahel logo is wacky, but more importantly memorable.
For those of you who think Ubuntu’s default DE theme is garish, just wait until you see Kahel. Bright orange is order of the day for Kahel.
As I said before theres a few packages which need not be present. If we are agreed that Kahel is not intended for the Linux new user then I fail to see why the need to have the games installed.
Since Kahel is attempting to be a little different (and it does that well) it would be nice to see the removal of Mono, theres nothing for me that requires the Mono dependencies, no killer app and for me no reason for its presence. If Kahel is wanting to “stand out” even more from the competition of hundreds of other distro’s, that to me would be a good place to start.
A great distro, that attempts to be original, offering out of the box compat for those which have already dipped their feet into Linux.
Visit the homepage here: http://www.kahelos.org/index.php
Kahel is going into 2010 with offerings of its OS for both 32 and 64bit Netbooks. Kahel have said:
Today on New Year’ Day, Let us introduce to you KahelOS Light Edition 01-01-2010 designed for Netbooks with limited storage capacity. Just like the KahelOS Desktop Edition, the Light Edition has 32- bit and 64-bit version installers.
The “light” version is also presented with Xfce DE, is reported to be more SSD friendly and can be downloaded here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/kahelos/files/
For those of you interested in the desktop edition or to catch up on the latest happenings over in the Kahel world, visit their website here: http://www.kahelos.org/index.php
 Meldrovian is a term derived from a fictional character (Victor Meldrew) prone to grumpy, stubborn and outrageous behaviour with a unquestionable belief in himself being right.
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