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Ark Linux 1.0 (in alpha stages at this point) is an emerging distribution geared toward the newcomer to Linux. It was originally based on Red Hat 7.3 and Mandrake Linux, but they claim to be "beyond that" now. Always contains bleeding-edge software, especially if using DOCKYARD (like Debian's Sid) so that they can keep up-to-date with hardware support and such.
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: D/L | Rating: 10
Simple, quick install (which is being rewritten currently); easy to upgrade and to install 3rd-party software; great for beginners
currently in alpha stages, may be unstable/unusable for some users
Ark Linux has something for everyone. On the outside, it boasts a powerful and usable KDE desktop that is absolutely beautiful. It uses Keramik as its theme, and that theme is also applied to GTK2 which gives all programs (almost) a uniform look. What about GTK1, you ask? I'm getting to that :)
Ark Linux is, at this point, a bleeding-edge distribution. The latest alpha (1.0-alpha9) uses such bleeding-edge packages as XFree86 4.4.0, the GIMP 1.3, and a prerelease of Kernel 2.4.23. It's also 2.6 ready. At this point, beginners may be wondering, "Huh?" What does any of that mean? Well, it means that instead of trying to stick with "stable" (ie: outdated) software, they've chosen the alternate theory that sticking with the newest stuff will provide better support for newer hardware, and will make sure that the software is always as featured and as up-to-date as possible. This will mean less frustration, especially with laptops (some of which are _notorious_ for being incompatible with kernels that are even just several _months_ old!) Ark Linux is all about the present/future, not so much about the past/present. The mere fact that GTK1 is not even included is a prime indication of that. They're ready to "move on," and they're not ashamed to show it. The latest version (alpha 9) also has a beautiful graphical bootup sequence (something that most modern distributions are starting to contain now)
Are you a Linux enthusiast who like Red Hat 8/9/Fedora Core 1 but just _hate_ what Bluecurve did to KDE? Well, I've got some good news for you all. Ark Linux was originally started by Bernhard "bero" Rosenkränzer. Bero was an employee at Red Hat, and he was one of the people (if not _the_ person) responsible for getting KDE to work with Red Hat. When he found about their plans for Bluecurve for their next major release (8.0 at that point) he didn't want to have anything to do with it, so he quit the company and started the Ark Linux project soon thereafter. But Ark Linux is more than just what Red Hat 8.0 should have been.
Yes, Ark Linux is in the alpha stages. This is a review of alpha 9 and I must say that this is not one of the most stable or functional of the ones I've tried (alpha 7 was my first Ark Linux distribution -- in fact it was my first Linux distribution!) It has many bugs, unfortunately, that were not present in Alpha 7 or 8. However, the current Dockyard at the time of writing has addressed most of these problems (so I'd advise you wait until alpha 10 before running off to download alpha 9.) Many people complained of sound problems (which was due to a faulty kudzu in alpha 9 -- fixed now in Dockyard) and other things. In the past, nVidia was a concern, but as far as I know that has been completely fixed (great news for nVidia card owners!) At this point Samba is also a bit of a mess (but that is currently being addressed and is not much of a big deal.) Other than that, however, most of the issues that are keeping Ark Linux from going gold are due to a lack of graphical configuration in a few spots here and there, combined with the current weaknesses of the programs bundled along with it .
Remember, if you're a beginner, the first thing you should do after installing Ark Linux is RUN MISSION CONTROL! Mission Control is a graphical configuration tool that resembles Windows' Control Panel. Although it is more of a "centre-point" that links to external tools, I feel that that is a very good way of organizing things. There is absolutely no point in "reinventing the wheel" as some distributions such as Mandrake and SuSE currently do.
Ark Linux is more than just a Linux distribution; it is a true project. Many other mini-projects are being worked on, such as an open-source Flash library (!) and an open-source 'distribution' of Wine that will be similar to WineX (!!)
Ark Linux uses Debian's Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) along with "apt-get" (command-line frontend) and "synaptic" (easy-to-use graphical frontend) in order to install packages and upgrade the system. Ark Linux has, at this point, a very impressive apt repository with many extra, useful, and up-to-date packages (Afterstep 2.0beta, Fluxbox 0.9.x, Flash plugin, (K)MPlayer, etc.) This will be useful for both end-users and experts alike. For the end-user, this makes installing software easy. He/she just opens Synaptic, searches for the package name (or if s/he doesn't know it, s/he can search the description for whatever s/he may be looking for) and it will be installed 'automagically' (no frustrating dependencies to worry about) -- and Debian users -- did you get frustrated or confused by all those annoying questions Debian would ask you when trying to install packages or upgrade your system ("Would you like to statically link XYZ with ABC or keep it with DEF?") Ark Linux deals with all of that automatically, and just installs the software with sensible defaults. It doesn't have a "menu-system" per se, but using synaptic or apt or even installing their RPMs manually will usually add an entry into your K menu (depending on the nature of the application.) This is, in my opinion, a better way to handle menu entries than in other distributions such as Debian (sorry if I'm frustrating some Debian fans here!) or Mandrake (how's that? :P) because users can then easily use the K menu editor to edit their K menu without seriously breaking their system. Unfortunately, the disadvantage to this system is that it only works with KDE (but if you're like me, I like to customize my menu entries in other window managers anyway.)
One thing that bero (and the other core developers of Ark Linux, all of which can be found at #arklinux on irc.freenode.net) has made clear is that he believes end users also want to have a good time with their operating system, while maintaining a fresh and professional interface. For example, Tux Racer and Chromium (2 popular Linux games) are included in the base system! Platero, a filesharing protocol, is also included _by default_ in the base distribution. Mozilla was included in alpha 7 and below, but it was removed in Alpha 8. Why, you ask? Well, the question is, "why not?" Konqueror is a fully-featured file-manager and web browser that is reminiscent to Internet Explorer (minus the security holes and plus tabbed browsing, of course!) and provides a friendly interface that many Windows-converts will surely appreciate. OpenOffice.org, the most popular office suite in Linux, was also omitted (both OpenOffice.org and Mozilla are available both in Synaptic and on the Extra Software CD, by the way!!) due to the fact that KOffice is better integrated with KDE and is suitable for simple documents. I, personally, would advise that OpenOffice.org is installed right away and that KOffice is removed (with Synaptic) after you install Ark Linux, but it that is just my opinion and it is totally up to you. While OpenOffice.org is more similar to MS Office than is KOffice, KOffice is smaller, faster, and lighter. Think of it as MS Works (hah!) and OpenOffice.org as MS Office if you're a Windows would-be-convert.
The bottom line of this review should be obvious. INSTALL Ark Linux!! Although it is not yet complete, it is a fun, and very exciting distribution. Development is active, and the people are _extremely_ helpful. Remember, IRC is included with Ark Linux for a reason. As soon as you install it or even if you're just thinking about installing it, run IRC right away and log onto freenode.net #arklinux and ask anyone there any questions you may have.
So, I give Ark Linux a perfect score, not because it is perfect now, but because I feel that by the time 1.0 is released, we will have before us the perfect Linux distribution that will be more than just an alternative to Windows; it will be a Windows _replacement_ that many distributions claim to be, but simply are not. It will be (and already is) a distribution that is suitable for anyone who has ever had the slightest bit of an interest in learning or trying Linux.
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 9
I have to agree with Poprocks review. I'm currently using a beta version myself, ON A BLOW COMPUTER!
My primary computer suffered a massive overheat when my friend closed off the windows during a heatwave thinking the cool air from the rest of the house would cool off the room. Unfortunately, the room my office is in, isn't part of the natural air flow pattern of the house. The computer, a very expensive computer I build myself, ran at twice its max temp for over 8 hours.
What's the point of the above? Well, anyone who has suffered a massive overheat knows that, if the computer manages to reboot, its reboots with multiple personalities for each piece of hardware that survived. I had Debian 3.1 installed but after that I wasn't able to install it because the video card was partially blown. I tried Vector Linux SOHO, kubuntu, Centos, Fedora, Mandriva (? spelling), and few others just to see of Ark's ability to install with a blown nvidia card (in addition to other blown hardare) was a fluke, it wasn't.
After giving my best friend a decent burial (jk), I determined I had about $2,000 of repairs ahead of me, so I decided to run "The Hive Mind" to ground using Ark Linux. So long as the card remains stable (which isn't often) Ark runs like a dream. It handles all my usb and firewire (using the Mac file system hfsplus) devices with ease. Software updates (with very very few exceptions) are painless. The software repository, which is comprised mainly of KDE apps, is well stocked with very useful software and kept very up to date. Junk, obsolete and abandoned software doesn't plaque the reps. Dependency problems are also far less than with any other GNU/Linux distros I have tested (somewhere around 84 distros in total, see the "flash back" as why I tested so many).
The "out of the box" functionality of Ark Linux was impressive from the first version I used. I could never get Debian to print properly on the network printer (a brother laser printer running off an iMac) or network to the other computers in the house without a great deal of difficulty. Ark Linux saw and communicated with all the computers (a few IBM compats, an iMac and 2 iBook laptops) and their attached devices with ease. I can only describe it as a synphony of cooperation, everything just worked.
The Hive Mind, my primary computer is (was) a complicated machine. Dual 64B AMD CPUs, 2Gbs of DDR RAM, Asus systemboard, 8 hard drives, 2 dvdrws, 1 cdrws and 1 zip 250, a promise controller card, nvidia vid card, Sound Blaster Audigy2 (with bay addon), USR hardware modem, netgear NIC, and more. Now, she's a psychotic mess. When she speaks (and sometimes she still can) she sounds like Max Headroom. With all this, Ark Linux still managers to run smoothly.
My other Ark test machine Thor (named after the neat little alien in Stargate SG1), is a cross between a junk computer I found in a trash can and a repossessed computer from a delinquent client (pay your bills darn you!). My best friend used it to produce a magazine on when her iMac started to act up. She reported Thor ran faster than her iMac which is rated at almost twice the speed of the test machine. She did graphics work, laid out a 100 page magazine (on OpenOffice.org's Writer), with only a small learning curve. Now she's a nix junky and dreads having to return Thor to me.
My overall experience with Ark Linux has been a joy and a life saver. A series of burnouts/blackouts damaged a hard drive on Thor (sadly I don't have an extra UPS for the test machines). I replaced the drive, reinstalled Ark, and used it to slowly pull the data off the drive over a period of 20 hours. I tried to use Red Hat and Debian machines to get the data off the drive but they weren't able to, I haven't figured out why as of yet. I'm so happy with this distro that I've decided not only to use it as my little company's official distro but I am volunteering to help Ark Linux as well.
Since adopting Ark Linux as my little company's official GNU/Linux distro, I started hanging out in the Ark Linux's IRC help channel. From the off, I was treated in a manner I had never experienced before in a help channel. I was treated like a human being (GASP)! The small group is friendly and helpful, far more helpful than any distro help channel (chat room for you windows users) I have been to before. Not once did I see a comment like "hey you're a girl, what are doing on linux?" nor did I see the mating call of the pugfaced, beerbellied net troll "hey baby, hey baby". Its a very pleasant time.
After the cost of purchasing and supporting Windows and proprietary software (I own and run a small computer shop) became overwhelming, I decided to check out this little known, "poorly written" OS for myself. If Microsoft thought it stank, odds are it was worth looking into, and it was. I have been on Linux for well over 6 years, using it, building computer that run it and more, and I have never looked back. Nor have I ever needed to. Most of my clients are running Linux and now think computers are fun and useful again. My first distros were RedHat and Mandrake, I eventually settled on RedHat 8.0. It ran wonderfully so, when 9.0 came out I jumped on it and began purchasing copies to support the company.
However RH suddenly started playing games I wasn't comfortable with like outsourcing support, borking components and more (not to mention that Bluecurve was buttfugly) so I stayed with 9.0 for several years whilst I searched for a new distro. I tested about 84 distros before I found Ark Linux.
It was the philosophy of the developers that first caught my eye, essentially, no one is left behind. They refer mostly to support of course. Ask any newbie how they are usually treated in an IRC help channel and you will understand why some people who try linux go back to Windows. Newbies are treated with respect in the Ark Linux IRC help channel and they actually get help.
In conclusion (yes finally!), give Ark Linux a shot. We don't have thousands of developers or millions of dollars backing us up, but we have something more distros seem to lack these days. Heart and determination, pride and imagination. Plus we bring order to chaos (hehe). See you onboard...
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 9
The latest release is ArkLinux 2007.1 RC1. had no problems with the install, did have to tell it after the install to install Firefox. Great version of Linux with none of usual how do I solve this problem after the install. It just works and I love it so far.
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 10
super easy installation
wireless card didn't detect or setup
ArkLinux is attempting to do in a short cycle what took years for many other distributions - to be a complete distribution and solution. They are off to a great start. This version is an Alpha version, they make no bones about that. As an alpha version, you should expect certain things not to work. That said, this is a very nice piece of software for a work in progress, and could probably be used by most people as their main desktop environment. The issues I have are less complaints than just marks of an unfinished product. My guess is that when the polish is applied, ArkLinux will be in the same class as other new school desktop Linuxes.