28 Jul 2011

Kongoni: You have the right to remain silent

I have written about Linux distributions from different parts of the world. Australia, Cambodia, Turkey, Russia, Latvia, and even Brasil.
This time round I'll make a trip to a continent which I have not visited yet: Africa.
Kongoni is Linux distribution developed in South Africa. It has name with roots in Shona language.
Kongoni is based on Slackware. There are not many Slackware-based Live distros (SLAX, Porteus and Nimblex - those I know). That makes each new review in this area very interesting for me.
Also Kongoni claims to contain only Free Software Foundation approved software. Moreover, Kongoni uses Libre kernel, where all the non-open source binaries are removed. Although Kongoni is not listed as FSF-supported. My previous experience with FSF-supported systems was pretty much different. What does Kongoni have to offer?
Latest version (Kongoni 2011) was released recently. Funny enough, it was released twice.
The reason for double-release was inability to run Live USB from iso image. Bug report says that person was successful in creation of Live USB using Unetbootin.
First of all, I downloaded the image (just below 700 Mb) and tried to "burn" it to USB stick. Neither Unetbootin nor dd command helped me in this. My Unetbootin has latest version (549) and I tried it under Mageia, Debian and Windows XP. Same result.
I was in despair. The only way which I saw was to burn CD-RW. Old-fashion way, of course. But it worked.
Do you want to try Kongoni yourself? Why not order a CD via Buy Linux CDs site?
So, my CD-RW is in the drive of my Compaq C300 laptop.
Reboot. Choose to boot from optical drive. Let's go!

How do you do?
Kongoni features KDE 4.6.5, which is latest version of this Desktop Environment. This is the version which has feature to "pin" applications to taskbar (right click in taskbar item, then choose menu "Show launcher on taskbar when it is not running"). Something similar to Windows7. To finish similarity with Win7, Kongoni does not have labels next to taskbar items. Preview with window names appear when you put cursor over the button.
Distribution includes 3 wallpapers. Two of them are just abstract colourful background, third is like a picture. Pretty nice, I should admit.
Default desktop of Kongoni includes Desktop folder, which has links to some applications. That is almost standard for KDE-based distributions.
Desktop effects (some!) switched on by defaults. That's better than having all the effects on. I can't look at wobbly windows or waste time looking how my window disappears as broken glass. Cube is off by default. I tried to switch is on. Luckily enough, it worked.
Just to mention: Kongoni has 4 virtual dekstops and Oxygen theme activated by default. There are about 5-6 other themes to choose from.

Surprise or not surprise? WiFi card of my laptop (Broadcom 4311) was not activated by default. Generally speaking, it was not a surprise since none of FSF-supported distributions managed to get this card activated. But it was still a surprise. Kongoni is very fresh system, and it was developed when OSS firmware for this card was already available. What does it mean for me? That developer for this OS is lazy and restrictive-minded! (yes, I promised to blame developers this way here).
Search in the Google database does not give much help. I tried to download b43-tools from Kongoni mirror site, but was not successful in compiling the driver. There is no documentation about how it should be compiled whatsoever.
Yes, Kongoni, you have the right to remain silent...
I tried to refer to community support. But... there is no forum or whatever similar on official site. Official Wiki looks very empty.
Yes, Kongoni, you have the right to remain silent...
Will it help to gain more users? I am in doubt...

What is in the box?
Let's drop the attempt to activate my WiFi network card... Let's look what is inside of the Kongoni box.
What are the applications included in Kongoni 2011?
Marble desktop globe is included as educational tool.
There are not many games in Kongoni - only one Desktop Toy.
Graphical applications are represented mostly by viewers and photo management tools. KolourPaint is the only available editor out of the box.
Icecat is default browser. To be precise, program name is GNU Icecat. It is slightly reworked Firefox (in this case - version 5.0). I have not noticed any difference from first sight, other than Aurora (not Firefox) logo on About window. I am not sure if this is a sign of Firefox Alpha branch (called Aurora) been used as base for GNU Icecat, or this is normal logo for Firefox 5.0. I don't use Firefox much.
Another browser is Konqueror, as you can expect from KDE-based system. Although, there is no Rekonq.
Kongoni brings lots of other KDE-standard network tools, including Choqok (microblogging client) and Blogilo (blogging client).
Multimedia tools are widely represented in Kongoni. There are several multimedia players, including Amarok, Juk and Dragon Player. K3B CD burner is here if you need it.
There are no office applications, except for KDE-standard Kate, KOrganizer, Kontact. Probably there are some in repositories, but I could not check because my network was not up.
System utilities include both KDE-standard some Kongoni-specific aplications. From latter category most interesting is PIG package manager. I tried to use it for few moments when got connected to wired Internet. But the time I had was not enough to discover all the opportunities it brings to the system. I did not try to install any application from PIG. Honestly, I was more interested in the way to get my WiFi card working, and PIG was one of the places I checked for driver. As you can understand from above, PIG was not helpful either.
On the funny note, back up tool in Kongoni is named "Back in time". Did developers try to imitate "Back to the future"?
Last thing which I'd like to mention about Kongoni armor is file manager. And it is... Yes, you're right. Usual KDE manager - Dolphin. No wonders here.

You have the right to remain silent. Because we can only read English.
I tried to check my local partitions in Dolphin. Dolphin mounted NTFS partition with incorrect Russian characters. I did not find a way to fix this, even with manual mount command. My attempts to navigate into  folders with Russian names crashed Dolphin. It even crashed sometimes when my mouse was over those folder iconss. Probably Dolphin tried to get some preview and crashed when processing the file and foler names.
...If you cannot afford an attorney, the state appoints one for you free of charge if you wish.
Image by Eddie van 3000
These crashes stopped me from any multimedia tests.
None of Ext3 and Ext4 partitions could be mounted from Dolphin at all. Because of some security reasons... Kongoni did not like the username I was working under. That happens with some distros actually that they do not allow local partitions to be mounted. From my perspective, this restricts usefulness off Live distro significantly. What's the point to run Live system if I can't check how system works with files I already have?
Of course, I would like to check whether there is any community help about this but...
Yes, Kongoni, you have the right to remain silent...

But we can talk any language
Let me finish this review on the positive note. You can imagine, Kongoni has no issues with multiple keyboard layouts. Yes, there are issues with displaying of Russian names in folders. But you can still type in Russian. Because there is very good standard KDE configuration tool. You can find it in usual place: System settings - Hardware - Input devices.

What is my opinion about Kongoni?
I think this system lacks support and documentation. Yes, it can have brilliant features (hidden window names on taskbar) and latest software components (KDE 4.6.5 is the example). But without tutorials and "howtos"...
Kongoni, you have the right to remain silent!

Useful links:
Review of Kongoni 2011 by Prashanth
About Kongoni
Kongoni on Wikipedia.


  1. Hi DarkDuck! Quite an interesting review you have written!

    well basically I also keep trying different distros from time to time and wanted to do a similar review on one of the distros and submit on Distrowatch.

    Can u tell me how did u submit your entry at the Distrowatch? Did u just sent them your article via mail with link of the blog in the subject?

  2. Kongoni as South African distro is dead long time ago (with Kongoni Nietzsche); the present one coming from a boy (East Europe ?) trying to keep it alive, but he is alone....
    Kongoni will go to dead for ever, I suppose.

  3. @RavS:
    I do not write for Distrowatch.
    I am not sure, but either Distrowatch editors or (most likely) distro authors maintain list of reviews they want to publish.
    Kongoni is number 4 after Porteus, Mageia and dyne:bolic.

  4. @Silvio:
    There is always something wrong in a death... But Linux distros tend to me more like Phoenix birds. They can revive sometimes.