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:


F-Spot Photo Manager

Epiphany Browser
Pidgin IM
Ekiga Softphone

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

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