KahelOS (050110)

I first took a look at KahelOS back in October 2009. There’s a new release out now so it’s time to look at it again.

KahelOS is essentially a remastered version of Arch Linux. Arch Linux has always had a reputation as being somewhat inaccessible to average desktop users, and KahelOS is an attempt to make Arch Linux more accessible to more people.

KahelOS also has a rolling release model, if you want the latest version you simply need to update your packages.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s some of what’s new in this release:

Compiz Fusion is enabled by default
Font cleanup and improvements
Improved hinting and rendering of fonts
Massive cleanup of unnecessary packages, saving disk space.
Massive optimization of PNG/MNG/TIFF/GIF packages.
New boot splash, background and theme.
Out-of-the-box easy file-sharing (just by right clicking the folder you wish to share)
Mabuhay Welcome Center w/ introduction of Kahel OS.
iBus is now the default alternative input bus
Include all possible Wifi Firmware by default

Include OpenJDK6 Java Development Kit by default

New Default Applications Installed:

Pitivi 0.13.4
Simple-Scan 0.9.9
Google Gadgets 0.11.2
Chromium 5.0.
Chromium supports WOFF (http://hacks.mozilla.org/2009/10/woff) and playing HTML5 videos without Flash (http://www.youtube.com/html5).
Gnome 2.30
Gnome Color Manager 2.30
Kernel 2.6.33
OpenOffice 2.3.0
Banshee 1.6.0
Tracker 0.8g
Tomboy notes
Gbrainy
Lights Off

The Mabuhay Welcome Center is a nice touch for those who are totally new to KahelOS. It contains screenshots and text that let new users know about KahelOS and what it has to offer. Topics mentioned include compiz-fusion, iBus, file-sharing, Google Gadgets, internationalization, and Chromium (among others). It’s well worth browsing the Mabuhay Welcome Center if you are new to KahelOS.

Speaking of Google Gadets, the Google Gadgets icon sits on the right side of the panel at the top of the screen. Clicking it gives you access to tons of different Google Gadgets including ones for Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks. The Gadget Browser lets you search for Gadgets or pick from the following categories: News, Sports, Lifestyle, Tools, Finance, Fun and Games, Technology, Communication, Holidays.

KahelOS differs from many other distros in using Chromium as its default browser, rather than Firefox. Firefox is still available via gtkpacman if you want it. But Chromium is an excellent choice for a browser and, if you haven’t used it yet, you should definitely give it a chance before going back to Firefox.

The inclusion of the PiTiVi video editor is interesting since Canonical has also begun bundling it into its distros. It seems that PiTiVi is already becoming a mainstay application for GNOME-based distros. I’m glad to see it included with KahelOS because it definitely fills an important desktop niche for many people.

In my last review I barked about OpenOffice.org not being included by default. That mistake has been fixed and OpenOffice.org is now included with KahelOS. It’s ready to go as soon as you boot into your KahelOS desktop.

Kahel OS is an install-only distro, there is no Live CD functionality.

Hardware Requirements

Here’s what you’ll need to install Kahel OS:

Kahel OS Enterprise Linux (desktop Edition) Installation Media (Download at http://sourceforge.net/projects/kahelos/)
An i686-based or x86-64 computer
At least Intel Pentium Pro, Intel Pentium 3 or AMD Athlon/Duron.
ATI, Nvidia or Intel graphics cards recommended for desktop effects
At least 256 MB RAM
5 GB Free Disk Space

Installation
The install routine for Kahel OS can only be described as tragic. It is the single biggest drawback to this distro and it desperately needs to be fixed. I barked about it in the last review and I feel compelled to do so again, since nothing significant has been done to make the install easier for desktop users.

The part at the end where you are forced into a text editor to finish installing GRUB is absurd, to say the least. It simply should not be necessary to bother with a text editor to finishing installing KahelOS. Any newbie to Linux is probably going to panic at that point and wonder how the heck he or she is supposed to finish the install.

The screenshots below walk you through some of the install but I cut out some of the steps because there were simply too many to bother doing screenshots for. Kahel OS desperately needs a GUI installer along the lines of what Ubuntu has to offer. The install should be simple and intuitive, but it’s not.


Booting & Login

Bootsplash
This releases features a new bootsplash screen, though I have to confess that I can’t remember what the last one looked like. This one looks good though, with the KahelOS theme/mascot on the bootsplash screen.


The bootsplash screen after installing Kahel OS.

Login Screen
The login screen also has the same art as the bootsplash screen, and you can change access preferences by clicking on the blue preferences button.


The Kahel OS login screen.

The Desktop

KahelOS uses GNOME 2.3. The first thing you’ll notice after your desktop loads is the Mabuhay Welcome Center. I covered that earlier so I won’t go into it again but it’s worth scanning if you’re new to KahelOS.

The desktop itself is mostly uncluttered, with just three icons (Computer, Home and Trash) on it. The panel at the top includes the usual Applications, Places and System menus. There are also icons for Chromium and Evolution, a volume control and window switcher. On the far right of the panel you’ll find icons for Google Gadgets, Tracker and your network connection.

Tracker is a great tool to let you find files on your system, it’s very reminiscent of Mac OS X’s Spotlight tool. Right-click it and you can search, change your preferences, pause indexing or get more information about it.

Controls
To change your system’s settings or preferences, just click the System menu on the panel and choose Preferences or Administration.

Themes
The KahelOS desktop defaults to a custom theme. I found the default theme to be so-so, nothing particularly great or bad about it. There are about 12 other themes available and you can easily get more online. I opted to change the theme to Kahel OS Carbon. I guess something about orange and black appealed to me, for some strange reason.

Wallpaper
KahelOS comes with its own…unique…wallpaper. Chances are you’ll either love it or hate it. I actually think it’s cute, though the penguin looks like he could stand to lose a few pounds and his flippers look more like stubs. Not to worry though, there are about 15 different backgrounds included with KahelOS and you can click the Get More Backgrounds Online link to get more.

Icons
If you dislike the default icons, you can change them by customizing your theme. Kahel Tango, Mist, Tango, Crux, and GNOME icons are all available as options (along with some High Contrast icons).


The welcome menu after booting into the Kahel OS desktop.


The Kahel OS desktop.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Solitaire
Chess
Mines
Nibbles
Sudoku

Graphics
F-Spot Photo Manager
OpenOffice.org Draw
Simple Scan

Internet
Chromium
Empathy IM
Google Gadgets
Transmission
Remote Desktop Viewer

Multimedia
Banshee Media Player
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Pitivi Video Editor
Sound Recorder

Office
OpenOffice.org
Evolution Mail and Calendar
Dictionary

Software Management
KahelOS uses the Pacman package manager, specifically the gtkpacman GUI. gtkpacman isn’t going to compete with the Ubuntu Software Center in terms of attractiveness, but it is functional and gets the job done.

You can easily search for packages, and you can upgrade your system by clicking the upgrade button on gtkpacman. I had no problem upgrading my KahelOS system, it took about 15 minutes or so for the upgrade to finish.


Manage your software in Kahel OS.

The terminal screen while installing software.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
I had to install flash to get flash-based YouTube videos to work. Not to worry, it’s available via gtkpacman so it takes just a second or two to install. Restart the browser and you’re good to go for YouTube videos.

I had no problem running HTML5-based YouTube videos. Chromium handles HTML5 video beautifully. Sign up for the beta if you want to try HTML5-based videos on YouTube.

I had no problems with sound in KahelOS.


After installing flash, YouTube video and sound worked perfectly.

The inclusion of the PiTiVi video editor makes multimedia editing on KahelOS much better. PiTiVi is a free and open-source movie editor that should be a huge help to desktop users. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can download the manual here.

Problems & Headaches
As I noted earlier, Firefox is not installed by default. I like having it on my systems for compatibility reasons so I installed it. Unfortunately, it did not appear on the Internet applications menu after being installed. I had to start it from the terminal instead.

Another application that is not installed by default is the GIMP. You’ll need to use gtkpacman if you want it on your system.

This, along with the inclusion of the PiTiVi video editor, makes me wonder if KahelOS is moving in a similar direction as Ubuntu (which also no longer bundles GIMP and also began including PiTiVi in 10.04). If Ubuntu is going to be a model for KahelOS then the KahelOS developers need to take a long look at Ubuntu’s installer and begin copying it. It’s an ironic paradox that KahelOS retains similarities to Ubuntu but has such an awful installer.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It

KahelOS has much to offer but only for intermediate or advanced users. Beginners should steer clear of it until the install routine is improved significantly. That’s a shame because, once you get past the install, KahelOS can be used quite successfully as a desktop operating system.

Let’s hope that the KahelOS developers are listening, and that they will take steps in the next release to drastically improve this distro’s installer. I have my fingers crossed and I’m hoping for the best. We’ll see…

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.



Kahel OS Linux

Once again another interesting suggestion was recently made on the Request A Review page by a reader so I thought I’d follow up and do a review. This time around it’s Kahel OS. My thanks to reader Molen for the suggestion to review this distro.

Kahel OS is a remastered version of Arch Linux. Arch Linux has a bit of a reputation as not being particularly friendly to average desktop users. Kahel OS is an effort to change that perception and make it easier for people to use Arch Linux.

Kahel OS uses a “rolling release” model which essentially means that you never really have to upgrade it in the traditional sense. You simply update your packages and when you do that you have the latest release automatically. There is no grand jump from one version to the next as there is with other distributions.

Note that there was some controversy in the Arch Linux forums about Kahel OS. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from the thread itself.

What’s New In This Release
Given that Kahel OS operates on the rolling release model, there isn’t a list of “what’s new” along the lines of what you’d find for Ubuntu or one of the other distributions. I poked around the Kahel OS site just in case to see if there was anything useful to include in this section but I didn’t come across anything.

The login screen has the familiar orange coloring of the desktop.

The login screen has the familiar orange coloring of the desktop.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to install Kahel OS:

  • Kahel OS Enterprise Linux (desktop Edition) Installation Media
    An i686-based or x86-64 computer
    At least Intel Pentium Pro, Intel Pentium 3 or AMD Athlon/Duron.

Note that AMD K6, Transmeta Crusoe, CyrixIII, and VIA-C3 are NOT supported.

  • ATI, Nvidia or Intel graphics cards recommended for desktop effects
  • At least 256 MB RAM
  • 5 GB Free Disk Space

The install ran for about 20 minutes or so. Note that the installer is text-based so you won’t have the slickness of Ubuntu or some of the other distros.

Also at one point you have to use the editor nano to review a config file at the end. I absolutely positively dislike that part of the install process. I got through it fine but a total newbie to Linux would not know what the hell to do. That part of the install process needs to be removed entirely or otherwise automated.

You will also need to do a bit of partitioning, installing Grub and some other stuff that might throw off a newbie to Linux.

You'll need to first login at the command prompt to begin your install.

You’ll need to first login at the command prompt to begin your install.

You'll need to partition your hard disk as part of the install process.

You’ll need to partition your hard disk as part of the install process.

You'll need to pick your file system as part of the install process.

You’ll need to pick your file system as part of the install process.

Desktop & Apps
Kahel OS uses Gnome so if you’re a Gnome lover you’ll feel right at home. If KDE or one of the lighter-weight desktops is your preference then you might be a bit disappointed. I like Gnome so I was quite comfortable with the Kahel OS desktop. The wallpaper is bright and colorful. And the desktop itself isn’t cluttered with too many icons.

The selection of software is fair but contains some glaring omissions as I’ll note in the problems section. Here’s a sample of some of what you’ll find:

Games
Chess
Blackjack
Gnometris
Sudoku
Nibbles

Graphics
GIMP
F-Spot Photo Manager

Internet
Epiphany Browser
Pidgin IM
Ekiga Softphone

Multimedia
Banshee Media Player
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Jokosher Audio Editor
Moovia Media Center
Movie Player
Pitivi Video Editor

Office
AbiWord
Evolution Mail and Calendar
Evolution Tasks
Glom Database Designer
Gnumeric Spreadsheet
Project Management
gLabels Label Designer

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing software in Kahel OS should be simpler than it is right now. It uses Pacman and Package Kit as the basis for its software management.

If you want to try adding or removing software then just click System then Administration then Add/Remove Software in the menu at the top of your desktop.  If you don’t see an app listed that you want be sure to do a search and you’ll probably find it.

However, I ran into some problems as I’ve noted below in the problems section. Suffice to say that the problems I encountered lead me to think that some real work needs to be done on Kahel OS’s package management.

The Kahel OS desktop is bright, colorful and uncluttered.

The Kahel OS desktop is bright, colorful and uncluttered.

Networking, Sound and Multimedia
When I tried to play my Superman cartoon test DVD, I crashed the movie player app. Oops! I got the app opened but just got an error message when it tried to play it. It’s possible that certain codecs need to be installed to get DVDs to play. There was no option that I could find to download and install any additional codecs in the package manager.

YouTube videos played fine and the video looked great but I was not able to get sound. This may have been a virtual machine problem since I ran Kahel OS in VirtualBox. I’ll give it a pass because of that on the sound issue.

I had no problem with networking. When I booted into my Kahel OS desktop I was able to connect to the Internet without a problem.

What I Liked Most
I liked the colorful wallpaper and cuteness of the Kahel OS desktop.

Problems & Headaches
One thing I noticed when I went to download Kahel OS is that it’s easy to accidentally download the server version by mistake. The Kahel OS download page at SourceForge defaults to the server edition not the desktop edition.

In order to download the desktop edition you have to click View All Files then scroll down to the September 2009 then click on the .iso file link. I’ll save you the trouble by giving you the desktop download link right now.

One potential problem for KDE users is that Kahel OS uses Gnome as its desktop environment. I personally don’t mind this at all but there is no option to use KDE and I want to note it here in case some of the KDE users are considering Kahel OS.

Note my comments above about the installation. It really isn’t geared toward complete Linux novices at all so bear that in mind. The install needs to be more automated and it needs to move beyond text based menus.

OpenOffice.org and Firefox both weren’t installed by default. I found OpenOffice.org by searching in the Add/Remove Software tool but was not able to find Firefox. I found some plugins listed for Firefox but the actual app did not seem to be available. This is both perplexing and flat out annoying. Epiphany is what it is and perhaps some like it but I prefer Firefox.

When I tried to install OpenOffice.org, I got a message saying that I couldn’t lock the database. I checked the Kahel OS forum and found this thread about it. Managing apps at the command line is no fun at all and not something I would spend any time doing in any desktop distro.

I was also not able to update my system as I got the same “unable to lock database” error.

I was not able to successfully update my system.

I was not able to successfully update my system.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Kahel OS Wiki or the Kahel OS Forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I like Kahel OS in some ways but it has some serious problems that make it ill-suited for most desktop users with the exception of very experienced Linux users.

I do not recommend it to new users at all because of the installation routine and the software management/system update problems I noted above. Newbies are far better served with one of the Ubuntus than with Kahel OS.

I hope that Kahel OS changes over time and that a more automated, slicker install routine is added and that the software management bugs are all worked out. At that time I’ll be happy to take another look at it but as it is right now I really cannot recommend it to anybody for a regular desktop distro.

Kahel OS does have promise though and I think that with some more work it may eventually become a great way to get Arch Linux on your desktop. I’ll be watching to see how it develops in the future.

Summary Table:

Product: Kahel OS Linux
Web Site: http://www.kahelos.org
Price: Free
Pros: Attractive, colorful wallpaper and Gnome desktop. Reasonable software selection. Clean, uncluttered desktop.
Cons: Potentially difficult install routine for some users. Also has software management bugs. Lacks OpenOffice.org and Firefox in default install.
Suitable For: Very experienced Linux users that simply want to play with it and check it out.
Summary: Kahel OS is a good start on making Arch Linux accessible to regular desktop users. It has some serious drawbacks right now though that make it mostly unsuitable for desktop users who aren’t Linux gurus. Hopefully the developers will fix some of these issues in future releases.
Rating: 2.5/5