Testing KaOS 2015.08

I saw a Distrowatch announcement of a new release of KaOS, so decided to give it a try.  From there, I followed the link to the release announcement.

My previous experience with KaOS was in April, where it failed to install.  This time, I had a better experience.

KaOS is a rolling KDE based distro.  It is using plasma 5.  The new version came with a beta release of plasma 5, so gives me an early look of what I can soon expect to see in opensuse Tumbleweed.  The downloaded system uses a release-candidate for Plasma 5.4.

Downloading

I check the torrent link, but that seemed to be for an earlier release.  My understanding is that torrent downloads are provided by users, and I probably looked before they had set it up for the new release.

I checked back after around 30 minutes, and the torrent link now had the new version.  I used “ktorrent” to download.  The download went well, at near the full speed of my ISP connection.  I then checked the MD5 sum to verify the download.  I wrote the iso to a USB flash drive, with

# dd_rescue KaOS-2015.08-x86_64.iso /dev/sdd

where “/dev/sdd” is the device name for the USB flash drive.

Booting the live USB

The next step was to boot the live media.  I first tried this in UEFI mode.  I later configured the BIOS for CSM (compatibility support module, or legacy booting) and booted that way.  The live USB booted and ran well either way.

My plan now, was to see if I could install.  In my previous look at KaOS, install had failed.  There was a bug in the installer, causing it to crash if there were an LUKS encrypted partitions.  I did not see this mentioned in the release notes for the new version.  So I thought it possible that this bug had now been fixed.

Installing

I made two attempts at installing.

My first attempt was while I had booted the live USB to legacy boot mode.  I preferred to install that way, because it uses grub2.  So it is easier to add a boot entry to the grub2-efi menu that I normally use for booting.

Alas, that did not work.  There was an error message about a failure to install the boot.  There was not much detail to the error message, but I’m guessing that it was because the bios-grub partition that I provided was smaller than what the release-notes recommend.

For my second attempt, I put the system back into UEFI mode, and booted the live media with UEFI.  Note that I left secure-boot disabled, since the release notes indicate that secure-boot is not supported.

The partitioning section of install gave me four options:

  • install alongside existing system;
  • install in a partition, replacing what is currently there;
  • install on a disk, replacing what is currently on that disk;
  • custom partitioning.

I went with the second option.  I told it to use “/dev/sda6” which previously was used for opensuse-13.2-linux-for-education.

The install was pretty straighforward from there.  I had to give the timezone and keyboard layout.  And I had to give an initial user information and a root password.

I didn’t time the install, but I’m estimating that it was around 15 minutes.  Then I was ready to reboot into the installed system.

Booting

I rebooted the running live system (from which I had installed), and clicked F12 during boot.  That gave me the firmware boot manager.  There was a new entry, “Linux Boot Manager”.  I assumed that was for KaOS, so selected it.  And I was soon running the newly installed system.

For UEFI booting, KaOS is using “systemd-boot”.  This is apparently the new name for what was previously “gummiboot”.

The system EFI partition is mounted as “/boot”.  The kernel and initrd image are both there.  They have generic names, so a future update to a newer kernel will leave the kernel image and initrd image with the same name.  The EFI loader is named “systemd-bootx64.efi”.

I later added an entry to the grub2-efi boot menu (from my Tumbleweed install), to boot using the kernel image, initrd image and a parameter giving the root file system.  I tested that, and it works.  So it has become my preferred way of booting.

My next step was to sign the KaOS kernel with my Machine Owner Key.  I then turned secure-boot back on in the firmware.  And I was able to secure-boot Kaos using my added grub2-efi menu entry.

Crypto

The release note indicate that installing to an encrypted partition is not supported.  So I did not try.  But I later added an entry to “/etc/crypttab” for my encrypted LVM.  On reboot, I was prompted for the key and the LVM volumes became available.  I added an entry to “/etc/fstab” to use the encrypted swap volume for swap.  And I added an entry to mount the encrypted home volume at “/xhome”.  Now, on reboot, swap is added and “/xhome” is mounted.  I have now added some symlinks to my home directory to give easy access to parts of “/xhome”.

First looks

With KaOS running, I looked around.  I’ll not some of the differences between it and the Plasma 5.3 in Tumbleweed.  However, it’s hard to know which of the differences are due to the newer Plasma release, and which are due to the way that the distro provider has customized it.

Crashing

With Tumbleweed, Plasma 5 crashes on logout.  That isn’t happening with KaOS.  However, Plasma 5 has crashed twice at other points.

Kwallet

There’s now a kwallet manager.  So I can tell it to keep kwallet open all the time.  This has been one of the annoyances of Plasma 5.3 and earlier.

Menu

The main menu looks a little better.  But this might be KaOS related rather than a Plasma change.

Other notes

I’ve been using “csh” for years.  It is not present in KaOS, and it does not appear to be installable from the repos.  I’ll manage with “bash” for the present.

After Tumbleweed has updated to Plasma 5.4 (probably within the next 2-3 weeks), I do a more thorough review of Plasma 5.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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  1. KaOS-2017.01 — a review | Thoughts on computing - 2017/01/24

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