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[Review] First look at Kororaa Linux 16


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#1 FrogDemon

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:13 PM

Regular readers may recall that toward the end of 2011 I reviewed Fedora 16, the latest release from the Red Hat-sponsored project. Fedora's latest did have some points in its favour -- great hardware support, a smooth transition to systemd and an installer which, while having some issues, is still better than most Linux installers available. But I'm sorry to say that I also found several issues with the release: none of the graphical package managers were useful, Fedora shipped with the notorious plain GNOME Shell as the default desktop environment, the default install comes with a small selection of software and adding non-free repositories is a manual process. All in all the experience had its frustrations and so it was with cautious optimism I approached Kororaa Linux 16. Kororaa is based on Fedora and adds various extras and makes tweaks to the underlying system in much the same way Linux Mint makes adjustments to Ubuntu.

According to the Kororaa Linux website some of the modifications made to vanilla Fedora are the addition of extra repositories, third-party driver support through Jockey, and a full array of useful software is included in the default install. The distribution is available in two flavours, KDE and GNOME, and each edition is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds. When I did the review of Fedora I tried the default GNOME desktop and some readers requested a similar look at the KDE edition. For that reason I opted to download the 32-bit KDE edition of Kororaa Linux 16. The live DVD doubles as installation media and its image file is approximately 1.6 GB in size.

Booting off the live DVD takes us to the KDE desktop. On the desktop are icons for bringing up KDE's help files, launching the installer and opening the project's README file. The README document mostly focuses on how to install non-free drivers and where to find help and additional documentation. At the bottom of the screen we find the application menu, the task switcher and the system tray.

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Kororaa Linux 16 - browsing the web with Firefox
(full image size: 668kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)



I won't go into much detail where the installer is concerned as I didn't find anything to set it apart from Fedora's. It walks us through setting the keyboard layout, creating a hostname, and selecting our time zone. We have several partitioning options, including the manual creation of normal partitions, LVM, RAID and encryption. We can also choose to let the installer work out the layouts for us automatically. The installer's last step is to install a boot loader (GRUB 2) to the location of our choosing. Like the upstream project, Kororaa may require a small BIOS partition to be in place, a feature which hasn't become common in other distributions yet.

The first time we boot Kororaa Linux from the hard drive we're presented with a series of screens. We are asked to confirm the license conditions, set the current time & date and create a regular user account. We also have the option of submitting a Smolt hardware profile upstream. Sending the profile is entirely optional, but I recommend doing so as it gives developers an idea of what hardware needs to be supported in the Linux community. Logging into KDE for the first time my initial impression was that while the desktop is fairly clean and uncluttered it was also a bit sluggish. Disabling desktop indexing brings KDE back to normal performance. I was happy to note that disabling indexing didn't result in the system popping up warnings as I encountered when last reviewing Kubuntu.

Let's take a look at package management next. Kororaa Linux has taken a positive step, in my opinion, by providing Yum Extender as the default package manager front-end. Yum Extender, while a touch on the slow side, has a nice interface and provides the usual collection of filters and features we can expect from a modern package manager. We can search for packages by name, filter items by installation status, view detailed output, manage repositories and perform add, remove and upgrade actions. Once Kororaa had been installed I opened Yum Extender to upgrade all available packages and found there were over 250 items waiting to be installed. Fortunately Yum Extender has a "select all" button and it dutifully slogged through each available update. There is another package manager front-end, called Apper, which is available through the KDE System Settings panel. This interface would start up and stall. After several minutes with no sign of progress or life I'd give up and terminate the Apper application.

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Kororaa Linux 16 - applying updates with Yum Extender
(full image size: 493kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)



Which brings me to another issue I had regarding packages. Sometimes one application (YUM, Yum Extender or Apper) would kick off an action and either fail or get interrupted or would complete and close down and the PackageKit process would remain running in the background, gobbling CPU and refusing to let any further actions to be performed on software packages. Killing the PackageKit process would cause it to respawn, effectively preventing the administrator from managing software on the system. Managing software on Kororaa wasn't all bad. The YUM command line program works quite well and quickly. It's especially good at performing updates, downloading delta RPMs instead of complete packages. This can save the user up to 90% bandwidth in some cases. And, as I mentioned above, I had no serious complaints when using Yum Extender.

One more item while I'm on the subject of updates. When I upgraded Kororaa's kernel from 3.1.5 to 3.1.6 my systems refused to boot. Switching back to the previous kernel, which was kept during the upgrade, restored working order. I checked for bug reports of this issue, but it appears no one else hasencountered the same problem, so it may be a quirk with my specific equipment.

The Kororaa distribution comes with a great pile of software. Glancing through the application menu we find the Firefox web browser, KMail, KTorrent and the messenger programs Kopete and Konversation. (You may be noticing a theme involving the letter "K".) The KPPP dialer is included, as are Amarok, the KAudioCreator CD ripper, the K3b disc burner, the Choqok micro-blogger client and Linphone for VoIP. The Handbrake DVD ripper is included, along with the VLC multimedia player, Audacity and the Kdenlive video editor. LibreOffice is available in the menu as are the GIMP, a PDF viewer, an image viewer, Inkscape and the digiKam digital camera utility. A sampling of KDE games is featured, as is the KRename utility for renaming groups of files. The KDE Info Center is in the menu, as is the System Settings control panel for managing the look and feel of the desktop.

For protecting our privacy we're given KGpg and Kleopatra. There's a text-to-speech program, a drop-down virtual terminal (which I very much enjoyed using), an archive manager, text editor and calculator. Kororaa includes the upstream system configuration tools. These programs make it easy to manage user accounts, configure the firewall (which is enabled by default), we can enable/disable services, work with SELinux and change the date & time. In the background we find version 3.1 of the Linux kernel and the GCC. Flash isn't installed by default, but it's easy to grab from the package manager. OpenJDK is installed to provide us with a Java implementation. Looking further we find that Firefox is armed with useful extensions such as AdBlock and DownloadThemAll.

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Kororaa Linux 16 - adjusting system settings
(full image size: 477kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)



I tried running Kororaa Linux on the same computers I used when testing Fedora. One was a generic desktop box (2.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, NVIDIA video card), the other was my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Intel video card). As with its parent, Kororaa properly detected and configured all of my hardware without any problems. My Intel wireless card worked out of the box and found local wireless networks without any input from me. The distribution, while running KDE and associated services, used just under 300 MB of RAM and, after running the system in a virtual environment, I would recommend having more than 512 MB of memory available for the operating system.

Running Kororaa Linux it's easy to see where Chris Smart, the project's founder, has improved upon the upstream distribution. Kororaa comes with a great supply of software and, with the additional repositories configured, it makes adding more packages easy with no need to manually enable third-party repositories. When one factors in the codecs, useful default applications and the Jockey tool for fetching third-party drivers the Fedora test bed becomes more appealing to end-users. I didn't try the GNOME edition, but Mr Smart tells me it comes with GNOME Tweak and extensions (similar to Mint's GNOME Extensions), which should make transitioning from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3 a smooth experience. That being said, some of the issues I had with Fedora remain in Kororaa. Specifically package management is still awkward. Having Yum Extender was an improvement over upstream's front-end, but it's still quite slow. The Apper update app didn't work for me and PackageKit would sometimes lock-up and put a halt to any software transactions. Fortunately one can usually fall back to the YUM command line program to get things done.

Nitpicking aside, Kororaa Linux is definitely a step forward. The software available and the relative ease of getting it is nice, the default applications provided are the ones people are actually likely to use and the extensions for the GNOME edition should make using GNOME Shell a much more pleasant experience. If I may borrow a phrase from Mint's fans, Kororaa is Fedora done right. There is still work to be done, but Kororaa has got a good start on making Fedora into a system appealing to desktop users. When corresponding with Chris Smart he wrote something which I feel nicely sums up my own feelings on Kororaa and I'd like to share it with you: "There's so much more to do, but I'm getting there slowly. I think what I've come up with in a year is pretty decent, but it's still a long way to go. Hopefully people see the potential in Kororaa and over time the community can grow. It's getting there."

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