Ark Linux can best be described as the Linux distribution I never thought I'd find; one that is very user friendly, and made exclusively for the newbie. Seriously, Ark Linux is so easy to use, and so devoid of anything "Linux-y", it's almost like using Mac OS or, dare I say it, a fairly bug-free version of Windows 95. Of course, it's not perfect. What is? However, given the scope of The Linux Project, to date, Ark Linux is the closest thing I have found to newbie nerd Nirvana since I began work on The Linux Project.
About the only place where Ark Linux deviates from this ideal world of the easiest Linux distribution in the world is at initial install time. At install disk boot time, you have to input the arguments "ide=nodma" and "vga=16". The latter statement is only required if you have monitor that can't handle a really high refresh rate. Mine couldn't, so I had to go there. Considering what everything else you have to do in order to get Ark up and running, it's well worth that one step into real life Linux world. That truly is the only time you are going to have to worry about being even close to ultra-geeky. Once you get past that one small hurdle, you have only to choose your language option, and click on the rather dark, but obvious install button.
From that point on, Ark Linux is an automated ride. Be sure you don't want to keep any data on the hard drive you want to install to, because Ark Linux does automatic partitioning and formatting of said drive. Any data that was there will not be any longer. Once you get to that point, sit back, relax, and watch as the progress bar shows how much longer you have to wait to get to play with your new Ark Linux installation. If you don't have anything else to do for that period of time, Ark Linux is even kind enough to provide you with a game to play while it installs. Oh yes, if you are stuck there with no other diversion, you can play "tetrix", a cheap but festive version of Tetris as your hard drive gets taken over by Ark Linux.
Therefore, for the first criterion, I give Ark Linux all five stars. You might be saying to yourself, "but Pappy, you have gigged other distributions because they force you to type out boot time arguments. Why aren't you gigging Ark for the same reason?"
It's simple. Yes, Ark Linux requires you to input some arguments. That is an annoyance under most circumstances. However, with Ark Linux, it is the only, and I mean ONLY time you have to venture any distance into the world of geek. Everything else from that point is completely automatic, from disk partitioning to package installation. You get a lot of Linux on one little CD, too. Add to that the fact they provide a distraction for you as well, and I left with no choice but to shower Ark Linux with all five stars! Clearly, the folks who set Ark Linux up went to great lengths to make sure it was completely user friendly in every way that one could imagine a non-Microsoft operating system to be. From my experience up this point with The Linux Project, Ark Linux simply shines as THE user-friendly Linux distribution. Once installed, things only get better from that point.
On the second criterion, system operation, once again, Ark Linux gets all five stars. It comes complete with every application type the causal computer user could ever want. It gets right on the Internet, and comes with Mozilla Firefox. You have a full office suite, a few audio programs, lots of games, and pretty much everything you could ask for from a computer. Of course, you get all that, plus the operating system, all for free. Match that, Microsoft.
Now, it bears informing the ultra geek that what Ark Linux lacks in large amounts is developer applications. Simply put, Ark Linux is set up with the assumption that the Ark Linux user has no interest whatsoever in compiling applications. I cannot gig Ark Linux for this since The Linux Project is about the newbie. Any applications one might want to add are available through a fairly powerful package installation tool. There is no need for compilers and their numerous libraries. Of course, if you want them, you can install them, but if you are going there, you need to go BIG! grab every compiler, language, and library you can imagine, and dozens you can't. Even then, don't count on being able to really go hog wild compiling whatever your heart desires. Remember, Ark Linux is strictly for the newbie. If you really, REALLY want to compile things, pick another distribution. It's not even close to a strong suit for Ark Linux.
Which brings about yet another foible in the world of Ark Linux. There are no root passwords or user passwords that come default with Ark Linux. As a matter of fact, Ark Linux doesn't force you to set any passwords of any kind from install to use. Ark uses a special security module, which is supposed to make it "safer". I'll not get into that debate except to say I fail to see the logic inherent in that rather strange assumption. However, that being said, lack of passwords is just one more user-friendly thing inherent in Ark Linux. The lack of user passwords or root user access can cause some problems for the power user, such as myself. There was one program I installed (X CD Roast) that wouldn't operate properly because it required root user (administrator, super user) access in order to set up its configuration file. Problematic, yes, but there was another program available (K3B) to do the same thing that didn't require the root user access to operate. Therefore, I skirted that problem with barely a bead of sweat on my forehead.
For the more adventurous, you can, indeed, set up passwords for users. Unfortunately, at this writing, I could find no way to set up a password for the root user. Ark Linux simply won't allow it. There may be a way to make it happen, but given the scope of The Linux Project, such information is superfluous. I looked for the info until I rethought the idea behind what I was doing. If the new user doesn't need this information, I don't need to try to provide it. Therefore, if Ark Linux takes you to a place where you want to take off its training wheels, then you can find information to help you do just that.
On the third criterion, device support, once again, Ark Linux gets all five stars. If this is starting to get redundant, or you get the idea that I think Ark Linux is the newbie's friend you are right. I digress...
Yes, Ark Linux gets all five stars. It found and set up every device attached to the computer. It found CD burners, the sound card, the net card, and even the wheel mouse. Everything worked right from the get go! The thing that amazed me was that it not only found the correct video card type, but unlike the install disk, it set the video and monitor parameters properly so I wasn't forced to switch monitors or do any other video reconfiguration. It even set the desktop up at 1280x1024 resolution (the first Linux distribution to do that). Impressed? Oh yes! Considering my initial trepidation about using such a "basic" system, it seemed that at every turn, Ark Linux was there to offer yet another surprise. Basic, perhaps, but the most powerful and user-friendly "basic" Linux distribution tested to date.
On the fourth criterion, look and feel, Ark Linux once again walked away with all five stars. It comes "out of the box" with the KDE desktop. It has the complete look and feel of Windows. It operates like it as well. It's pretty! It works as you would expect it to work. It is very user-friendly, and makes that truth known from the first click on the "start" button.
On the fifth criterion, overall impression, Ark gets all five stars yet again! Ark is THE Linux distribution for the newbie, bar none. Yes, there are others that claim to be the newbies' friend, but they'd have to go far and wide to compete with the sheer beauty of Ark Linux both in form and function. Other than the initial boot time arguments required by the installation CD, Ark Linux is a cakewalk! It sets up with almost no intervention other than choosing your language. It fills the hard drive with most popular computer applications. It avoids many non-friendly problems that plague many of the Linux distributions tested so far, even my favorite, Slackware. It breaks the unspoken yet known idea that Linux is strictly for the geek! That is simply no longer the case. Ark Linux shines as proof!
Now, you might think this means I am going to switch to Ark Linux from Slackware. You'd be wrong indeed. Ark Linux really isn't made for the super user. While it's pretty and functional, and I might add, has some really cool applets and things I have yet to find in other Linux distributions, I can't personally abide the training wheels parts it contains. I am not a newbie. Therefore, I don't need to have Ark Linux. For me, even though I like some of its amenities, it would be more of hindrance than a plus to the way I use my computer. Besides, if I were to use anything other than Slackware, it would have to be built upon Slackware. I just like the way Slackware works.
But this isn't about Pappy; this is about the newbie. For the newbie, Ark Linux is the shining beacon for the neophyte looking to break the chains of Bill Gates and his operating systems monopoly. It's friendly. It's pretty. It is seemingly fairly bulletproof. I didn't note any crashes as I worked with it. Even Windows 95 can't make that claim.
So, if you really want to try your hand at Linux, Ark is there for you! You may eventually grow tired of its limitations, but just know there are other Linux distributions that exist without the training wheels. It's a good system to learn with, and if you can handle its foibles, some might make the choice to stick with it. If you use your computer to write, draw, and do other basic things, Ark is just fine. You can add to it, and not lose anything in the mix. I recommend it highly!