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Saturday, April 9, 2011

CTKArch an ArchLinux-based lightweight desktop system.

CTKArch is a minimalistic Arch Linux setup that comes with a set of carefully selected applications and provides maximum hardware support, exclusively using free open-source software.

It aims at providing the indispensable base applications for a desktop installation, while saving time on the installation process by autoconfiguring the system, in the same way you would have done by hand.

The included applications are chosen among the lighter available, yet keeping the interface user-friendly and the benefits of a rolling-release distribution: CTKArch has become the running proof that this is possible!

Its base principle is to leave the users the choice, when there is one: applications are only included if their usefulness mustn't be questionable.

CTKArch includes a powerful add-on system, and support for a partition of persistent data, that allow to easily add customized applications to the live system, leaving the base ISO free of software some people may not appreciate.

Updates: (via Distrowatch)
 CTKArch CTKArch is a minimalist, Arch-based Linux live CD (with a hard disk installation option) using the Openbox window manager. A new update of the distribution, version 0.7, was released yesterday: "CTKArch 0.7 released. It took some time because I've implemented something quite interesting: the possibility of turning your live CD into a 'nomad installation', by saving all system changes to the persistent data partition. The script for add-on creation and the installer have required quite big changes to support this and the add-ons without conflicts. Read the documentation, it's full of interesting info! If you have already installed 0.7 with the RC1 ISO image, don't even think of reinstalling - it will give the same result on your hard disk. However, you will certainly want to update the live image on your Flash memory stick or CD/DVD-RW."

Here is the release announcement in English and French.

Download (SHA256): ctkarchlive-0.7-i686.iso (560MB, torrent), ctkarchlive-0.7-x64.iso (582MB, torrent).

Recent releases:

• 2011-04-08: Distribution Release: CTKArch 0.7

The CTKArch live CD/USB is installable, for instance on your hard disk or memory card.

Once installed, it becomes a classical Arch Linux installation, with applications for web browsing, e-mail, chat, FTP, file-management & archiving, office, image, audio and video viewing & edition, and CD burning: just as if you had spent your day choosing them.

The project started in june 2009, when, out of curiosity, I tried to make a LiveCD.

I have to say that I was dreaming of it since 2003, when I discovered GNU/Linux with Knoppix in the “Linux Pratique” magazine.

I started the project as soon as the X configuration problem disappeared: Xorg just started using HAL to detect the mouse and keyboard! No more static configuration!

At first, I was using it to quickly test Arch with Xorg on a PC, before starting the installation: it would have been a waste of time to install just to eventually find out that some things weren't working properly (or not at all)…
The initial result wasn't very good, but the CD did boot on Xorg, which was the goal.

I had also included a small graphical environment, and some applications just in case — I had just forsaken KDE3.5, and KDE4 did not suit me, so I configured a small desktop using Openbox + a panel I was quite happy about.

Everything started there. I uploaded the 0.1 ISO, and some people on the #archlinux-fr channel on Freenode were interested. The environment wasn't very eye-candy, so version 0.2 followed, with a nicer theme — and quite a lot of new applications.

I posted a message on the forums (link in French).

Then people started asking me how they could install it on their hard disk: there was no installer.

It was true that when I was installing Arch Linux for friends, I did the same thing every time! After all, why wouldn't I automate the installation of a base system with X (and some apps), in order to save time?
Version 0.3 was issued, with an installer.

At that time, the KMS (Kernel Mode Setting) was appearing. I absolutely had to do something with that! Release 0.4 was a (failed) attempt to support KMS on Intel/ATI/nVidia video cards.

Nevertheless, there were interesting novelties: the iso was hybrid, allowing to copy it on a CD as well as on a storage medium (on USB for instance); there was support for a persistent documents partition, that could be in the remaining space on the storage peripheral where the iso was “dd-ed”; and the live system could be (hot-)copied to RAM. And of course, the bootloader was nicer.

Then, I released an i586 version, compiling a part of the Arch Linux repositories for that architecture.
For 0.5 version, I decided to do things well: I included the git release of Nouveau' DRI — that supports 3D acceleration on nVidia video cards.

Another problem appeared: more and more people were asking me for incompatible changes, and inclusion of packages I didn't like (proprietary, …).

So I had a simple idea: why couldn't these packages and other stuff be put in the persistent home partition?
Add-ons were born. With them, the base live system could remain minimal; and everybody could be satisfied, for it had become very easy to add whatever you want to the Live.

Nine months passed, the time of gestation as Gyo said. Even though the fifth release was growing old, I was waiting for HAL to stop being required.

I promised it: each version would be lighter than the previous one! (and cleaner, but that isn't as visible)
I eventually took two weeks to finish version 0.6. Since I received a lot of e-mail from English-speaking people about it, I decided I had to do something: so I translated it to English!

Some guys wanted to modify the Live; it has become easy, as addons can now be put directly on the CD.
This led me to think of making an online iso assembler, but this is postponed to next version. The idea of making “base” iso images to customize them with addons, is appealing as well.


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