Pardus 2008: two thumbs up!

Pardus 2008 was released about 10 days ago. It is financed and developed by the Scientific & Technological Research Council of Turkey. Pardus is a KDE-based system, and has its own package management system (PISI), init scripts (MUDUR), and configuration utility (TASMA). Its first release was about three years ago. I had a chance to test the two previous “stable” versions, but to be honest, none of them appealed to me at that time.

But hey! As they say, “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” So I thought I’ll give it a try on my new shiny HP Pavilion (Intel Centrino, core duo, NVIDIA GeForce 8400…) that HP-UK kindly replaced with my old laptop, after some persistent problems regarding its motherboard. After testing it for two days, I decided to wipe out my Fedora partition and open more space for Pardus, which now became my main Linux OS.

What is new in Pardus?

Upon installation you will be greeted by KAPTAN, a friendly tool that will guide you through the initial configuration steps for choosing your desktop settings, KDE theme an so on. A new tool, called the migration utility, will automatically acquire your Windows settings including the details of your MSN accounts, bookmarks created via IE or Firefox, documents under your “Desktop” or “My Documents”, and even your desktop picture, and so on… This is a great idea to attract new Linux users, because they will have the same “convenience” they had while using their Win-boxes without doing much configuration.

I am particularly happy with the wifi capabilities of Pardus. Easy and working wireless networking is what most of the Linux distributions including the major guys Ubuntu, Fedora etc. really lack. My internal wireless card, Intel PRO 4965 AGN, started to work out of the box, after KAPLAN instructed me to set up my wireless connection. I plugged a USB wifi card with a RaLink chipset to test it, and this one also worked with no problem (OK, Fedora recognized my Intel card, and it worked fine, but had some problems in working after waking up from suspend to RAM). From my experience, the Network Manager applet in Gnome is quite problematic, and Pardus is offering a very simple, small network applet that just works!

The multimedia support is great. You can play any DVD, MP3, or OGG file without having to install any extra free or non-free codecs. Kaffeine and Amorak are already installed. Because both Sun Java (JRE 1.6_0p6) and a Flash plug-in are installed, Firefox 3 won’t have any difficulties in displaying Google maps, Java web-start applications, or Youtube videos… You can install Last FM, Compiz (3-D desktop manager), Kooldock (Mac style application dock application) easily from PISI, which is also great!

There is a small applet that I particularly like: KNazar. It protects your computer from evil look! đŸ™‚ Make sure it is set to “protect” and not “released” by right clicking on its icon on the system tray. If you click on “About”, it says “KNazar is a usefull part of the Pardus Linux”, mind you about the spelling mistake there…

Although I am very happy with Pardus, in the rest of the article, I will mention about things that could be improved… But these are really not huge pitfalls, and can be considered as humble suggestions for further releases.

Things to improve

Installation 

Its default installation language is Turkish (which is understandable), but by hitting the F2 key you can change it into many other languages. Even though they all agreed it’s a very nice, user friendly distro, other reviewers usually complained about the slow install (it can take around 30 minutes to finish). But that’s not a big deal if the outcome would be good.

The installation went fine for me. I might be a bit grumpy here, but in the “custom partition selection” screen I would prefer to designate the swap and boot partitions in one step instead of hitting “apply” twice after choosing and creating them individually. This could be fine for some, but then the “apply” button should have been closer to the partition selection area, not on the far right of the page. Not a big issue…

GRUB

I already had a GRUB boot-loader installed on my harddrive’s main boot sector, so I thought Pardus would recognize and modify it if necessary; but the choices I was given were limited to “install GRUB on MBR, install GRUB on the root partition where Pardus is installed, and don’t install it”. Do I have to install a new GRUB whenever I install a new distro? I think, definitely not! Well, it would still be fine if it “saw” all the OSs I had, even if it is replacing the existing GRUB… Pardus added Vista to the list, but failed to recognize my Fedora installation or ask me to add other distros in the menu. I don’t understand why this is so difficult… Just read the GRUB (if it is on MBR, at least) and modify it! This is not just Pardus’ problem. Apart from a couple of distros, they all attempt to install a new boot-loader instead of working on it.

Packages

The installation CD does not come by default with any C compiler or “make” utilities. So if you download and compile a standard Linux program from source, you will have to first install “gcc” and “make” to compile and install that program. This can be readily done using the PISI package manager. Pardus has one core software repository, and an additional community-driven extras repo. The list of packages is growing rapidly but I was surprised not to see Gnuplot in the list, to say the least. Pardus has no LVM support in this release, so if you created some LVM2 structure on your harddisk, you won’t be able to mount and use those partitions.

I also noticed that if you force quit KDE (by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Backspace), you will be greeted with a Turkish log-in menu instead of your default one.

Finally,  Pardus does not have a 64-bit version, but this is perhaps not a big deal either…

So, apart from my fastidious and perhaps unnecessary criticism for a young and promising distro, Pardus has been quite stable on my system, and I congratulate the developers for creating such a nice and robust system, and also for causing me to change my old habit of using Gnome and the other distros. I agree with those who said Pardus deserves a better place in the DistroWatch list, probably in the top 10 and even 5.

Now, I am expecting a DVD version, more packages and better publicity from Pardus! đŸ™‚ Well done! Here are some other reviews with screenshots:

http://celettu.wordpress.com/2008/07/02/pardus-2008/

http://bulletspawn.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/pardus-2008-review/