June 17, 2005

My Workstation OS: Kurumin Linux

Author: Iván Viedma

One of the many myths surrounding Linux is the one about it being difficult for beginners used to Windows. One distribution that proves this is not so is Kurumin Linux, a small Brazilian Knoppix-based distro maintained by Carlos Morimoto, who has become a personality in the Brazilian Linux community. Because it is based on Knoppix, Kurumin offers solid hardware detection accuracy and works natively as a live CD, and it's much easier to install on a hard drive than Knoppix thanks to a set of installation scripts that alleviate a lot the pain in the process.

In fact, one of the highlights of this distribution is its extensive use of scripts. Kurumin comes out of the box with more than 400 small scripts –- most of them embedded in Clica-Aki, Kurumin's Control Panel -– aimed at making easier some of the usual configuration tasks such as setting up a server, installing softmodems and wireless adapters, and installing new software. These scripts are generically named Magic Icons, and they are designed to do what they have to do with just a few clicks.

Kurumin runs on the top of an up-to-date 2.6 kernel and, since it is lightweight (about 350MB) and not very resource-intensive, it runs nicely on older hardware. I tried it for the first time on my old homemade 300MHz Celeron desktop with 160MB RAM and a 10GB IDE hard drive, and it behaved wonderfully. As with Knoppix, Kurumin's desktop of choice is KDE, and the general selection of software is along today's standard lines: Firefox with preinstalled Flash plugin, Thunderbird, Kaffeine, K3b, the GIMP, OpenOffice.org, Kpilot, a couple of games, and other programs. Kurumin-emu, Kurumin's own graphical front end for the Windows emulator Qemu, deserves special mention. With Kurumin-emu at hand, you can forget all the tedious tasks of manually editing configuration files before trying to run Windows programs. Even if the performance of Qemu does not compare to that of a real Windows system, it should help the general user make a smoother transition to Linux.

On the development side, you can find Python and some HTML editors, such as Bluefish.

If you are eager to install more software, there are two ways of getting it: via apt-get, or with Kokar, a companion CD for Kurumin that contains additional software specially prepackaged for the OS. With a single click you can install all of Kokar's packages. If the included application's don't suit you, you can customize a Kokar CD with the software you might judge more useful.

Kurumin users in need of support can visit Kurumin's site or Web forums. Unfortunately, here is where Kurumin's only major con shows up: the distro and its support is available only in Brazilian Portuguese.

Kurumin shows all the virtues -- and one flaw -- that a local Linux distribution can have. Considering that Kurumin is basically the work of just one person, the frequency and stability of new releases is simply amazing. For promoting Linux in South American countries, Kurumin is an excellent model to follow. If you find a user-friendly Linux distribution so small that it fits into your pocket interesting, then you might put aside mainstream OSes and move to Linux. That is what happened to me.

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