KaOS 2016.01 review - The fallen angel

Updated: March 12, 2016

It has been roughly a year since I last reviewed KaOS, a distro that is both independent as well as inspired by Arch and friends. In other words, it's one of those systems that defies logic, exists on nerdology, and still tries to be nice and friendly. A difficult task.

Last year, I thought KaOS was the second best Arch derivative, but things have changed since, and Manjaro has definitely made some really nice progress in this area, trading bugs and geeks for sensible usability. With the G50 laptop and its dreaded UEFI in hand, I set about exploring.

A son of anarchy

I wasn't able to boot from a USB thumb drive, and I had to resort to DVD, plus disabling Secure Boot, as this distro boldly, proudly and clearly states that it does not support this feature yet. All right, but still, this must be fixed.

Then, you may say, wait Dedoimedo, WHAT? Did you not just mention in that G50 second round article that you failed with KaOS before? Yes, but I have since done a nice little trick, which shall remain secret for the time being, and this means now we are finally making progress. Which also means I will be testing Antergos, too, plus other distros, but that's a different story altogether. Hold your breath, all shall be revealed.

Anyhow, the desktop is very pretty. Undeniably so. One of the best Plasma exhibits so far. But this beauty comes at a price of clunky usability. For example, you cannot rearrange panel icons by right-clicking on it and then dragging them into their right spot, which is what KDE folks expect. You do this while the panel is in its normal mode. Better, more logical, but unexpected after half a decade of KDE4.

Live desktop


Pretty but pointless

Then, you cannot add icons to the panel by right-clicking on menu entries. Drag & drop again, but mercifully, without any Plasma crashes. After openSUSE, this is the second only distro not to fail this little test.

Moreover, on the left side, you have this bigass calculator, which serve no purpose except to be bigger than all other icons next to it, so you feel like someone just slapped you in the face with a long, round piece of rubberized silicon. On top of that, there are two tiny, tiny icons just there, one of which will log you out of the session. What. Why isn't it located somewhere logical, like the menu, the far side of the panel, something?

Icons that make no sense


The most bothersome piece of my live experience was the screenshot tool. Not KSnapshot anymore, but something called Spectacle. It is inferior in functionality to the old one. It does not remember filename location in between launches. You have to click and drop the save button to choose a non-default name. It does not always focus correctly on active windows, especially if there are overlaps, or if you're using menus. And it failed to launch once or twice, just to spite me.

Spectacle is annoying

Network connectivity

Wireless was working fine, and I had no network disconnects. Samba sharing is fine, too. On the printer front, you get a massive failure. An unrelated Fedora error, first, what, followed by the fact you cannot browse Samba shares. This is monumentally stupid.

Samba printing failure

Hardware compatibility

Alas, with two USB ports occupied by the external DVD tray, I could not really check smartphone connectivity, although at this point, I was not too sure if that would have worked anyway. Plasma does not seem to like these proprietary phones. This was to be a task for after the installation. Bluetooth, likewise.

Multimedia playback

MPV handled both MP3 and HD video fine. I couldn't fine any safe-for-work content to check whether Flash works, but it's becoming less and less relevant for mainstream media consumption, which is fine. No contextual audio menus, mind.

HD video

Crashes - the way it sucked

For no good reason, Plasma decided to suck again. I left the system running and went out for a little walk in the park. When I returned, kdeinit5 and Dolphin had both crashed. Why the hell would software randomly crash? What the hell happened while I was away? Can I please have an enjoyable afternoon, not having to suffer these stupid, pointless regressions? Why is that Plasma started so majestically, became a beacon of hope approximately a year or so ago, and now it can't even do basic stuff. Why?


Various other little things

I am not happy with the choice of the default browser, or the fact it comes with extensions. I don't find that practical. However, it was stable overall, during the live session, which is more than this little program has ever done for me.


Installation - Dangerous

The installer is pretty. Calamares is the name, methinks. Now, pretty again, but also buggy. Just look at all those disclaimers and known issues. This is not how you release software. If there are cardinal problems in the software, keep it away from public hands.

Installer, welcome step

Another highly baffling piece is the license. You're asked to accept an Nvidia EULA. But my laptop does not have an Nvidia card. Why would I do that. Plus the actual agreement section is centered, which looks utterly ugly in that particular window. Don't want.

Confusing terms of use

When you move to the partitions stage, the issues become even more apparent. You know something is wrong when the developers use a ton of text to cover up for basic, inherent bugs in their tool. For custom partitioning, there seems to be a bug. Then my question is, why release the software? Why not delay the availability of the image by a week or a month until this is resolved? After all, we're talking about the installation wizard, and if you execute it on a production system with important data, you'd better hope it works.

I really cannot understand how anyone can just unleash a half-baked beta-quality installer unto the masses. This is true for Netrunner Rolling, this is true for several other distros, most of them Arch-based. No. Don't do it. Do less.

Installer bugs

I remember reading the release notes earlier and there's mention of XFS and some funny mount options. But when I finally chose the right partition to use for the / filesystem, the wizard offered the standard EXT4 option. Then, there are no labels, and this makes everything trickier. I also remember the /boot/efi exercise from the Manjaro adventure, but this installer only has a limited list of available mount points. It sure does not inspire the least bit of confidence. I would never use something like this on a host with actual, important data.

Mount points

And then it failed. Of course.

Installer failed


You do remember my Mint Rosa resolution, before it recovered majestically? Any distro that fails the basics shall not survive the ordeal or be committed to the disk, as it does not meet the minimum requirements for sane and healthy usage. In this regard, sadly, KaOS 2016.01 failed big time.

I like the way it looks, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are just too many bugs, too many problems, that even if the system had somehow installed nicely and without errors, I would still be probably highly skeptical of its ways. But then, it's a hypothetical discussion that won't be resolved today. I might get around to testing KaOS again, but surely not in the foreseeable future. And this most likely applies to any distro using Calamares or any beta-quality installers. That's a risk I'm not willing to accept. Grades wise, you know the score. This one is not on my recommendation short list. Peace.