Chakra Alpha 3 – Review!

Is this the meaning of Chakra the distro creators had in mind? I'll let you decide as you experience Chakra with KDE 4.3.1
Is this the meaning of Chakra the distro creators had in mind? I'll let you decide as you experience Chakra with KDE 4.3.1

Ive never been a fan of KDE.  Maybe its because for me it reminds me too much of Vista and a part of my PC experiences I would rather forget, however I cannot stay with Gnome forever and since many new distro’s don’t come with XFCE it was only time before I gave KDE a run for its money.

I’d heard some good things about Chakra and since it comes packaged with KDE 4.3.1 I regarded it as the best way to test a new distro and give KDE another crack of the whip.  Chakra Alpha 3 is a distro based off Arch which has a legion of fans and is highly regarded as a Linux distro.

The word Chakra has many meanings, you can read them here.  If anyone can tell me which one is meant by the creators of the distro, I’d be very interested.

Its worth noting first of all that Chakra Alpha 3 is still in major development so its an opportunity for users to help contribute to a project whilst using the distro.  For a new user or a user wanting a complete, stable distro, at this time its probably best looking elsewhere.  As good as Chakra is, if you are wanting an out-of-the-box ready to rock and rock KDE experience then I’d suggest Mandriva or similar.


From the LiveCD installation was via a gfx front end accessed from the desktop (pretty par for the course of most distro’s) what struck me immediately was that despite it was easy to use and appealing to look at, there was no option for a default install.  Not a problem for those used to setting up swap partitions et al, but if Chakra is going to be aimed at newer users in future releases, then I’d say a default installation option is a requirement.  Installation seemed to take rather a long time, strange because the Alpha 3 is a particularly minimalist install maybe it was just me but Im sure a “package rich” Ubuntu install took alot less time than this.    I opted for ext4 for this review.


As stated earlier this is a pretty minimalist install.  They say “be careful what you wish for” and since Ive always complained about duplication of software/packages within distro’s, now Ive got my minimalist install, I find it lacking.  IRC is handled by Konversation and I must admit, having given the package a miss for a while in favor of X-Chat, its a very good piece of client software.    Internet browsing is handled by Arora and Konqueror which would not be my choice having now become an advocate of the excellent Chromium.   That being said, its a reasonable browsing experience, so no complaints there.

Smooth and visually appealing, Chakra brings you modern GFX without the need of a modern system.  In my opinion Microsoft could learn alot from the KDE developers.
Smooth and visually appealing, Chakra brings you modern GFX without the need of a modern system. In my opinion Microsoft could learn alot from the KDE developers.

Media is an important feature, which is handled by Kaffeine v1.0-svn2 / Dragon player (within the DE) and as I say the basic install will not flood you with packages so I won’t dwell on any more of its pre-installed software (of which even office software is absent)

This brings me nicely onto hardware detection and Chakra, where Chakra gets kudos. Distro’s like Ubuntu are renowned for easy installation and out of the box compat, however Chakra may just have beaten Ubuntu in the most important feature for me (and thats for any distro) that being my beloved proprietary Nvidia drivers which were automatically detected/downloaded and installed without any input from me.  For most Linux users, we have done our time with fiddling around with Gfx drivers, but its a testament to Chakra and the state of Linux today that now this is more or less a non-issue.  I would add by saying that Chakra was so complete in the identification of my system, that I was left suspiciously uneasy by the fact I had nothing to configure (accept a few user account creations)

Pacman handles package management and since I havent spent alot of time with it in the past I was taken aback by how great it really is.  Simple to use, clear and quick.  I will cover this package further when I review later releases of Chakra.


Ive always prefered the minimalist DE.  XFCE was always a favorite of mine and whilst my hardware is more than modern enough to run the latest DE, Ive always been of the opinion that no matter what your specs, you shouldn’t needlessly throw CPU cycles away on “bling features” that apart from being visually appealing serve little purpose.  Having said that I cannot live in the past forever so “onwards and upwards” with KDE 4.3.1!

I think the problem Ive had with KDE over say Gnome or XFCE is the fact that I feel it provides too much of a “soft and fluffy” buffer between the DE and your systems core, in that I mean its very pretty, very smooth but tries to hide you from the “ugly” side of your OS.  Thats my feeling and may stem from Vista having more than a passing resemblance to KDE.

For the first time in my Linux life, I had a play with some of the KDE widgets and have to ask the question, why?  Theres a lovely analogue clock up on offer for example, but why would this be of any use when its rare that your desktop is empty (and in my case I have a plethora of Windows open usually maximized) and you have a perfectly informative clock ALREADY on your taskbar at the bottom right.  You then have widgets such as RT pictures of the sun.  Why? I would consider my desktop pretty standard and I already have all the packages I need running (browser, mail client, etc) so why on earth would I want a widget to do exactly the same thing, hidden on my desktop behind all the other windows I may have open.  To me these widgets are simply giving away CPU cycles and offer little.  For me this “bling” is a reason why Windows requires pretty high specs to achieve what Linux can already do on old tech and maybe if Microsoft had concentrated more on functionality and less on “bling” they wouldn’t be coming under so much criticism.


It would not be fair to be critical of Chakra on the basis of it being incomplete in terms of default packages, if this is an example of later versions I can see Chakra being VERY popular.  Its fast, functional & compatible.  In regards to KDE I found it smooth, fast and puts Windows 7 to shame  since I was running a very GFX appealing distro on only 512mb of ram and an old rig.

Am I converted to KDE?  If XFCE hadn’t been the DE on my distro of choice then probably yes.  I am not happy with the direction Gnome is taking (this has been covered far too many times before so I won’t dwell on it) as it stands KDE will be having a home on some of my secondary rigs which don’t distro-hop.   I think it will take alot more than KDE 4.3.1 to convince me to give away CPU cycles on aesthetics.

You can visit the Chakra homepage here.



17 thoughts on “Chakra Alpha 3 – Review!

Add yours

  1. CHAKRA comes from ARCH (CH..RA) and Alternative KDE…

    They have done a great job making KDE modular! They have now released a FUZZY release…

    Anyhow… I still run FreeBSD!!

  2. I’ve been messing with Chakra since the 1st alpha and its come a long way. One reason for the long install is setting up Pacman and optimising the mirror list to find the fastest mirror to use for updates. Chakra is the 1st Arch based live distro to be taken seriously by the arch community and yes I’m a Archer. I don’t find the install any harder than Ubuntu, plus its so much more pro looking than most.

  3. One thing about the KDE4 ‘bling’… It is optional. KDE lets you setup a plain, sparse desktop without transparency or widgets if you so desire. It will still retain its stability, pleasing look, speed and control.

    Having said that, I find that some desktop effects like e.g. present windows really enhance my productivity. And widgets for monitoring certain system values (disk space!) or new mail certainly make my life easier as well…..

    1. Which XFCE distro are you using? I am downloading The fuzzy release of Chakra to test. But have also been wanting to try out something with XFCE since it’s the only major DE I haven’t tried yet.

  4. I was very impressed with Chakra in that its the first KDE deployment that I could consider as a replacement on some of my secondary rigs. (thats putting aside Mandriva which is also a great distro)

    Mandog, what you say about Ubuntu is so true, if only Chakra had a default HD install option (I think partitions and swapfile options would scare a new user) then I would say its more beginner friendly.

    Carl, don’t get me wrong about widgets as Im sure they are useful to some, I am not some CLI zealot since I do like a good DE as much as the next person…! I am though a big opposer of system monitoring widgets…spending CPU cycles to monitor cpu cycles seems like a false economy but each to their own (BTW this was issue that I had with #!CBL which was supposed to be aimed at more limited machines)

    Anyway, thanks for the input from everyone. My Microsoft topics tend to sometimes detract the excellent work going on in the Linux world and Chakra is an example of that.


  5. I live chakra. In this latest Alpha, I find Shaman causing some trouble but nothing that pacman cannot be used instead for 🙂

  6. First thx for the review. The install speed is cos of dd. Ubuntu unsquash its image, what we will do with beta1. Here is the roadmap:

    About the word chakra. arch + kde = chra + a + k = chakra:

    I’m glad to see our installer worked for you. We did another release after alpha3 called fuzzy. This time we have also dvd-images available. More fullfeature as you might like it. Beta1 will have both images. What comes on or of you can decide here:

    We are openminded and are always welcome for new developers or contributers to our project.

    Happy hacking

    Phil Miller – 2nd Project-Leader of the

    1. Thanks for visiting!

      Im sorry your comment was marked as spam…problem with WordPress…its should be sorted now.

  7. i’m most fascinated with someone that can actually write the first sentence of this review and stay alive.

    “Ive never been a fan of KDE. Maybe its because for me it reminds me too much of Vista”.



    what kind of criteria is this?

  8. That is called an opinion…If you had read my previous musings (and I expect you have) you should have known that Ive repeatedly said how I was burned by Vista and its associated “wares”

    Who was first? Does it matter? KDE reminds me of Vista (and of course thats only on an visual basis)…end of….I’m sorry if you find that offensive.

    Of course that in itself is no reason for not liking something and I go on to list other reasons why Ive prefered Gnome in the past.

    what kind of criteria is this?

    None and if you take into account KDE on my systems is nowhere near as punchy as Xfce then that is my main reason. Ive stated it enough times (as well as Xfce being a DE less guilty of throwing away CPU cycles on bling)

    If you didn’t make a typo when you said
    “’m most fascinated with someone that can actually write the first sentence of this review and stay alive.”

    Then you will be pleased to know Im alive and well. Simply putting ones opinion on something doesn’t usually result in death when the subject at hand is desktop environments.


  9. Nice Post, btw do you know any good [url=]usenet archives and or mailing list archives[/url] site for unix / linux / bsd

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