Chakra Linux review – KDE and Arch make for a winning combination

A KDE-based distro powered by Arch Linux? Sounds like a perfect combo. We put Chakra through its paces to find out whether it would bring us closer to Linux computing nirvana…

Chakra logo

Pros: Fast and sleek distro with several innovative tools and features backed up by excellent documentation
Cons: The lack of persistent storage capability in the Live CD mode
Chakra Homepage

After having been feeding our test machines with countless Ubuntu spinoffs for quite some time, we  were ready for a diet change. So when the Chakra project released milestone 1 of the namesake distro, we jumped at the opportunity to give it a try.

Chakra Linux may not ring any bells with many Linux users, but judging by the Distrowatch ranking, it’s the 13th most popular distro out there. Chakra Linux describes itself as an “extremely powerful Live CD and/or Linux distribution specially made for the award winning KDE Software Compilation and the beautiful Plasma desktop.” “Extremely powerful” is a relative term, but we can’t argue with the fact that Chakra Linux provides an excellent KDE experience, offers solid hardware support, and sports several interesting tools and features.

It’s also one of the fastest KDE-based distros we’ve ever tried. Even on our lowly ASUS Eee PC 1005HA Chakra Linux flied -something we are not accustomed to see on a netbook. This can be partly attributed to Chakra Linux’s pedigree: the distro started its life as an Arch Linux spinoff which is known for being one of the snappiest distros out there. While Chakra Linux started its life as an Arch Linux spinoff, the paths of these distros diverged a long time ago. So even though Chakra Linux uses the same pacman package management software, it can’t use software from Arch repositories.

Chakra Linux is a sleek and fast KDE-based distro

Being a Live CD distro, Chakra Linux will happily run from a CD-ROM or a USB key. And a sleek desktop with a well-rounded software bundle would have made Chakra Linux a good choice for a portable computing system. Alas, the distro doesn’t seem to support the persistent storage feature, which means that none of your settings and customizations survive a reboot.

Things got positively more interesting when we decided to do a full-blown hard disk install. Chakra Linux comes with its own installer called Tribe. This sleek and user-friendly tool made a light work of installing Chakra Linux on our machine. Tribe also offered us the choice of installing proprietary drivers and software or skipping them altogether — a nice touch which will likely please both open source purists and less picky users.

Striving to design the best and cleanest KDE-based distro, the Chakra Linux developers are reluctant to dilute the distro with Gtk-based packages. To give Chakra Linux users the ability to install and run Gtk applications, the developers have devised the concept of bundles, or “an ISO-like image with all the files needed to run your app.” A custom tool called CInstall transparently handles bundles, installing any needed dependencies, creating the needed entries in Kickoff, and launching bundles. In addition to CInstall, the distro sports the Chakra Gtk Config module for tweaking the appearance of bundles.

The distro sports its own Tribe installer

Besides bundles, Chakra Linux supports CCR (Chakra Community Repo), a repository of user-contributed packages. You can search and install CCR packages using a web-based interface or the CCR section in the AppSet graphical package manager tool.

Another thing that sets Chakra Linux apart is the fact that the distro is based on a so-called half-rolling release model which is described as “a rolling release with a stable core.” The idea is to offer the advantages of a rolling distro without compromising the overall stability of the system. Without running the distro for a prolonged time, it’s difficult to see how this approach works in practice. But the idea of installing Chakra Linux only once and then continually upgrading it has a lot of appeal.

Finally, we were really impressed by the quantity and quality of the available documentation. The Chakra project sports an excellent wiki that contains vast amounts of useful documentation, from a getting started guide and a hardware compatibility database to developer-related content and FAQs.

Verdict: 5/5
Simply put, Chakra Linux is a corker. This sleek and fast distro makes a perfect showcase for the KDE desktop environment. More importantly, it offers several innovative features and tools, such as the Tribe installer and the CInstall bundle manager.

Fig1. png Chakra Linux is a sleek and fast KDE-based distro.
Fig2.png The distro sports its own Tribe installer.