Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
The release of KateOS 2.3 was announced a coupla days ago, and Tuxmachines takes a look at what's new since our last excursion. KateOS was amazing at that point and the developer took time out of his busy schedule to give us some inside information. If history repeats itself, no one will be disappointed.
KateOS is a traditionally installed linux system in the incarnation we tested today. Frequently, KateOS is available in livecd format as well, but they aren't released for this version as of yet. This release brings the newest industry releases and upgrades including a modern kernel, availability of Reiser4, and a recent version of KDE. The announcement states, "KateOS 2.3 brings 18.104.22.168 kernel with Reiser4 support, the newest Glibc library, XFCE 22.214.171.124 desktop environment and many other aplications in current versions. We have modified system boot scripts so they present the boot sequence in a clear way. Another new addition in KateOS is a hardware detection tool - "discovery", which detects and configures system hardware."
The installer is a heavily modified slackware installer that brings much more functionality to the end user making it much easier to configure your system and start using it right away rather than reading a bunch of documentation. Rather than strip it down, as some do thinking that makes things easier, KateOS takes the logical approach and adds useful options to an already great installer. If you haven't seen it, it's is very much like Slackware's or Zenwalk's but utilizes a much more tasteful color scheme. The functionality is improved to include such things as asking if it should scan for other partitions and add them to /etc/fstab. The package/group selection seems to include a few extras as well as the start up services config. During installation it prompts for the second cd of packages. I wish it prompted for the KDE extension module cd as well. One of the best things it does is build an initrd image for you and stores it in /boot, installs it in the mbr if you choose to install lilo or on floppy if that's your choice of boot method. What a help! It will probe your video hardware and configure your x server for you. It even asks how many wheels your mouse has. One is given a choice of runlevels before it walks you through configuration of an user and password. These are just some of the amazing user-friendly improvements found.
Once installed one is presented with a very unique desktop indeed. The almost "Quake-like" atmosphere is created using a strange background, unique colors, and novel theme. The wallpaper is the foundation of any theme and KateOS exploits that fact and sets the environment from the get-go. Our first hint that we are in for something extraordinary begins with the X-server/wm progress screen. We are presented with pulsating circulating discs of crackled orange and gray that you will soon see matches the wallpaper. Once the desktop appears the look and feel really begins to unfold. The wallpaper is a close-up of a suspended human heart sustained by industrial tubes and what I imagine to be electric leads or synthetic nerve-endings. The heart appears crusted over in an almost morphing metallic sheath as the artificial life supports mutate a more machine-than-human organ, glowing orange now as embers do when they are as hot as they can get. The background is a rough honed, almost concrete like in it's appearance, impenetrable wall, or perhaps grained steel, highlighted with more 'nerve-endings'. The theme is further accentuated by the bold use of a dark gray color widgets with orange fonts all coming together to formulate a veritable masculine, almost "kick butt and take names later" quality - no penguins in hairbows now buddy. It's difficult to describe, it must be experienced and this alone is worth the download. As you use the system, one is more and more drawn ...addicted to the raw energy this peculiar atmosphere creates. One can almost hear the thump thump of the heart, the hum of machinery and the metallic clanks of engaging mechanisms opening and closing the applications from the flawless precision of well greased menus. All these components come together to add this rock solid feel to already stable system. One knows from the start this isn't going to be another 'same ole same ole'. Kudos the developers for showing innovation and courage in the often times overlooked artistic realm of system development.
Damian Rakowski of KateOS says of the new design, "This special wallpaper, splash screen for Xfce etc. was made by my brother Adam (aka Rakhi), who loves making graphic-art. We spent two days making this default design. My brother and I sat next to the computer, and started to think. We decided that the design should be original, dark, and connected with sci-fi. The mysterious heart seems to be an organic part of the system, which is connected with synthetic pipes, and it works as a complete body. It shows the connection between users and nowadays hi-tech technology. Rakhi made this heart using Free software - Blender and Gimp for post-production. We were worried about how people would react to such a dark design, which is something new in computing, but now we are happy that most of our users enjoy this new design. "
The system foundation is linux 126.96.36.199 and your gui is served up by Xorg 6.8.2. The compiler is gcc 3.3.6 and the default desktop is xfce 188.8.131.52. KDE 3.4.3 is installable and is presented as an extension module iso, unless you download the dvd version. The dvd version comes with KDE included as well as gnome.
KateOS comes with all the usual xfce-ware, but in the menu are many applications not found in your plain jane xfce. We can find all sorts of games, graphic programs, multimedia applications, as well system tools and utilities. It's a horn o'plenty to be sure. This was my first introduction to TuxMath. TuxMath is a real cute little game in which one needs to enter the correct answer to a small mathematical problem to shoot a lazer beam at bombarding fireballs (I assume) before the innocent civilizations are destroyed. Also included is CircusLinux. I didn't realize that game was still being developed. I didn't play CircusLinux today as my last round of clown shooting resulted in the total meltdown of my ps2 port about 5 years ago. I don't play that game anymore, although I'm sure it was a freak occurrence and never happened to another soul or since. But I digress... other games include FreeCiv, Tuxpuck, and ppracer. In the graphics menu we find Gimp, GTKsee, and Inkscape amongst others. Under Multimedia we find xine, gxine and mplayer! They play all my movie files fine. Also are music players and rippers. If interested in communications, we have Dillo as well as Firefox/Thunderbird, gaim, and Xchat. Abiword is the featured word processor and Rox is thrown in for good measure. In addition there are tools for burning cds, file searching, and package management. All applications performed well and no crashes were experienced. It is a nice and complete setup all around, way too much to screenshoot. But if you desired more, KDE and all that implies is available as an extra extention module. I didn't have much luck with the Xpkgtool installing it, mayhaps I was doing something wrong, but mounting the cd and executing the setup script did just fine. Logging out of xfce4 and starting kde was all that was left to do. I was disappointed to see the default KDE after the build up xfce4 gave us, but xfce4 is the default desktop.
KateOS was found to be a very capable and stable system to use and work in. With version 2.3, KateOS is better than ever and features a great and original theme. The included apps are more than adequate and might even be considered plentiful. It was great fun running KateOS and tuxmachines was very happy with the results. The only problem I experienced was the detection of my add-in ethernet card first over my built-in. Had I a cable hooked up to it, I might have never noticed. Kernel sources are included and installed if you chose the d group, so installing nvidia drivers was no problem, not that the vesa drivers left much to be desired. I was quite taken by KateOS 2.3, I liked it a lot. It was catchy and easy to dance to.