Friday, October 28, 2011

The mistery of Chakra Linux

As many of you probably noticed from recent articles of mine, I very much like what KDE is doing lately. As a result, it's sort of an obvious move for me to gravitate towards great KDE implementations. In that regard, Chakra is a very interesting one, not only because it is solely dedicated to KDE, but also because it is based on Arch Linux.

Unfortunately for me, I cannot even get Chakra to start working. I follow the instructions in their Wiki and think I am doing things right, but no joy. I am pretty certain it's all down to hardware support issues, but perhaps I am missing something, so I decided to post about it, describe what I am doing and see if someone can chime in and offer advice or a fix (plus I want to try a different approach, not the usual Forums/IRC).

Yesterday I went on and downloaded the latest release, Chakra 2011.10.26, from HERE. Since I have an assortment of machines, I usually am conservative and go for the 32bit release, chakra-2011.10.26-Edn-i686.iso in this case. Once downloaded, I successfully tested it under Virtualbox, being able to boot the ISO and navigate the Chakra desktop in my virtual machine. That told me the ISO was good, so it was time to create a LiveUSB. In order to do so, I go as follows:
  1. Enter a USB drive and format it as FAT32.
  2. Unmount it from a terminal:

    sudo umount /dev/sdb2

  3. Copy the ISO to the USB using dd:

    sudo dd if=chakra-2011.10.26-Edn-i686.iso of=/dev/sdb

  4. After a few minutes, the process finishes (apparently) successfully. I then test the newly created LiveUSB drive on my old trusty HP NX7400 and it works just fine, which in this case tells me the creation of the LiveUSB worked out well.
  5. Since I don't want to install Chakra on my 7400 because it is, well, old, I aim for the other more modern machines I use. When I plug the LiveUSB in and start up any of those machines, I get nothing but a frozen BIOS screen while the USB drive seems to keep reading and reading.

    The machines I use include: HP 5320m Elitebook, HP 6930p Elitebook, HP 2730p Elitebook and HP 2740p Elitebook (the former two are notebooks while the latter are tablets). All these four machines are very much Linux friendly and I have never experienced issues loading something as elementary as the boot manager.

Any ideas welcome!


  1. Have you tried format the USB to ext2 or fat16?

  2. Have you tried recreating the boot drive (USB stick) using a different method?

    Perhaps using a program such as unetbootin (Windows, Ubuntu) or liveusb-creator (Fedora Linux)?

  3. Sorry for the double-post; I wish to suggest another possible problem:

    I've had a flash drive fail to boot when the volume was incorrectly named. I had to figure out what the correct name was and then manually name the volume before it would boot.

    I've used the "dd" method to create flash boot drives, but I'm more comfortable using unetbootin or (lately) liveusb-creator.

    You've probably noticed how creating the flash drive takes a long while. On early attempts, I thought my system was stuck. I've learned to wait a long time. I usually leave the room to do something else because I'm so impatient.

    Knowing your blog, I expect you have way more experience installing Linux than I do. My main system is a few years old. I can't even experiment with VMs having just 2GB of installed RAM.

    Because my Linux "kick" was becoming a habit, I bought SD cards to keep several live distros on hand. I get 2GB SD cards because my card reader can't read high-density SD variants. I prefer SDs over thumb drives despite this -- it's a bit less clutter.

  4. Thanks all for your comments!

    I am following the instructions in the Chakra Wiki, where they explicitly specify that the drive has to be formatted as FAT32. They also recommend using imagewriter or dd, not unetbootin.

    The thing that completely puzzles me is that it does work in my old NX7400, so that suggests I am doing it right, but it is very weird that Chakra would not boot in any other machine!

  5. You could try copying the partition(s) where Chakra resides on the old machine, to the other machine. I suggest installing the boot loader onto the root/boot partition before copying.

  6. Have you tried entering BIOS and disabling USB or network devices? You won't have full functionality, but it might help to isolate a hardware incompatibility. If you have complicated USB stuff (maybe hub, scanner, long extensions) disconnect those before booting.

    Wireless adapter is also a likely culprit. Having notebook computers means you cannot easily disconnect troublesome hardware for diagnosing. I wish I had that problem. :)

  7. Not exactly on-topic, but here is another review of Chakra Linux:

  8. Last time I used Chakra I ended up just burning a disc. Couldn't get a USB boot of it to work for the life of me, but the CD fired right up.

    Might be worth the investment. If you are a KDE fan there is nothing better than Chakra out there for you.

  9. Thanks all for your comments.

    One of my issues with the LiveCD is that I can only install Chakra on machines that don't have a CD drive. I am stuck with USB!

  10. I prefer not to use USB because I get so many problems from installing with it. I generally prefer to use a CD or DVD. However when I still have my netbook it did have to use a USB based install.

    I also love KDE I find myself running it a couple of times a year. Though I don't like running it in a virtual machine for obvious reasons with performance.

    You might find many of my posts interesting. I just migrated from and am still setting up, but you might find it interesting.

  11. I was able to run and install Chakra from an USB to a spare PC. I think that he failed when I tried unetbootin but I am not sure... bad memory!
    It tried a solution called “MultiSystem”.
    The website is in French but it is a translation drop down. Please look for the word “Traduction”.
    It is Windows alternative there: (in English)
    This kind of tools got their own startup process having a grub or syslinux screen on startup.

    Chakra is a very promising distribution but still giving issues during the install process. Indeed, Tribe (the installer) still an beta software.
    1) You should create your partitions from another live distribution (Gparted or other). The built-in feature is buggy (for the 2011.09 at least).
    2) It failed when I tried to get any bundle during the install process. That can wait!

    Avoiding, those steps made the install smooth ant then voila!

  12. I used the Image writer

    This is a windows version, but i think there is maybe also a linux version.

    And then booting Chakra works like a charm

  13. Well, after reading all comments and recommendations here (THANK YOU ALL!), I think I have to agree with the Chakra developers in that it is still Alpha software. I think I will give it another year before I give it another try.

  14. @Chema A new version of Chakra Linux is out. Might as well check that. I don't think you are using the dd command correctly . It should be like this "sudo dd if=/home/kamil/Downloads/Softwares/LinuxDistros/systemrescuecd-x86-2.4.0.iso of=/dev/sdb"
    where you will replace the path to the path of your folder in which the ISO is.
    I love making live usb by this method and use it more than Unetbootin as it is the most definite thing that works every time on every distro.

  15. Hi Mohammad and thanks for your comment!

    I may be missing something here, not sure, but I think we run dd in the exact same way, only I climb to the folder where I have the ISO prior to running it?

    As for the new version, I tried it yesterday and I did on a DVD this time, just to check with USB creation was my problem, but Chakra simply does not like me. The LiveDVD barely worked on my desktop computer (also decided not to use laptops anymore just to see if that made a difference). The free drivers boot froze on me, while the proprietary one ended up working (not without errors) partially. The Live session detected most of my hardware, but could not set my monitor resolution correctly!

    I started searching a bit and found that I would have to go in an fix XORG.conf manually to get it right, and I just cannot be bothered.

    The truth of the matter is that Chakra failed to boot correctly on all my machines except for one, and all but one have consistently demonstrated they are very Linux friendly. In that regard, I don´t consider Chakra is ready yet, specially because their target is to become a friendly and easy to use distro.

  16. @Chema Brother I have just tried out Chakra GNU/Linux 2011.11 via the live usb that I made using the dd command. No Problems whatsoever. Well it is indeed a Mystery why Chakra doesn't likes you. As far as user-friendly is concerned it may be said in respect that someone wants to use Arch and uses Chakra/Archbang for that matter just to jump the que of installing Arch from scratch(having said that Chakra is in transition phase right now as it is becoming Independent of Arch). If someone wants to use a truly user-friendly KDE distro then nothing beats Kubuntu 11.10 at the present moment.
    Also just received the updates for KDE 4.7.3 :-)

  17. Hi Mohammad,

    Glad it worked for you at least. I don't know what it is, it really is strange, because the machines I test with are very Linux friendly, some of them were friendly when they came out, about 4 years ago... now? They should be Linux best friends!...

    What's even more puzzling is that Kubuntu, Bodhi, Fuduntu and some others using Kernel 3 series ran perfectly on those machines, not requiring a single piece of proprietary software... Why is Chakra not picking it up when using the same Kernel?...

    Anyways, the bit about it not being user friendly is that all other distros I tried were almost "plug and play", no issues at all, very much smooth sailing. The fact that Chakra is not working on 4 out of 5 machines tells me that there are many chances others will see issues as well. Plus you are right, Chakra is an extremely young project, so it deserves patience to settle down.

    As for Kubuntu 4.7.3 updates, thanks for the heads up, I was waiting!

    Take care

  18. I had a hard time getting Chakra to work last month and gave up. I had a bit of time this week and tried again, and I was blown away. The issues I had (not booting from USB stick, I ended up using a USB CD drive) especially wireless not working after installing to disk, were all fixed. I really like this distro, it isn't ready for daily use yet, but it is worth the time to play with. I hope you can get it working on your computer!

  19. Hi Chema,

    strange, I am not a very experienced linux user at all, but I had little trouble making a live-USB drive using the dd-method. I was impressed with how everything just seemed to work out of the box on my alienware laptop, I was so impressed that I am thinking of replacing my ubuntu 11.10 with it...

    very strange indeed..


  20. Just tried 2011.12 and same story... well, actually, worse! It won't start on any of my "modern" machines, which I more or less expected, but not even on my good old NX7400? Hmmm... That's six out of six machines that won't boot Chakra, unfortunate record!

  21. @Chema, that is very strange, I have dumped Chakra ISOs on USB disks several times and had no problems, not even when booting them on VirtualBox. Why don't you take some time to stop by the forums? We'd love to get such issues solved.

  22. @Jmc: THANKS!

    I will stop by, most definitely, but the thing is... I wouldn´t know what to ask! I am following the instructions in your Wiki using dd, and it does seem to work because I get to the main load menu on my NX7400 (don´t see a thing on the rest, though, the BIOS load screen is all I get), but then nothing loads, regardless of the option I choose. Free drivers, proprietary drivers, it does not matter, the whole thing freezes right after I choose an option.

    Now, the fact that the USB does work on one of my machines I think means the USB was correctly put together. However, on those machines that won´t get past the BIOS screen, what can I do? I don´t see an error message, I don´t see anything crash, no logs... It´s just not loading anything, and I am not even which drivers could be in use at that point...

    So yeah, I would gladly accept help, but I am not sure I can provide any info to help others identify the root cause of the problem.


  23. Well you could describe the procedure you've followed to prepare the USB stick and post the hardware characteristics of the machines were it works or it doesn't - for example, are the failing machines using UEFI?

    [ot] Dream Theater, Opeth, ... great musical taste! ;) [/ot]

  24. @jmc: OK, will try something like that.

    Thanks, glad you like them too!

  25. More than two years have elapsed since the last posts here, and those misanthropes at Chakra haven't yet managed to build a properly bootable hybrid image. Me too, I've often felt attracted by the idea of Chakra, which I find very interesting as a project; and I've even fought the beast sometimes, when I've felt strong and with plenty of time to waste; but for the past two years, much to my regret, every single time I've tried to install Chakra I've given up. Besides the fact that I don't own any more any machine with a DVD reader-recorder, I absolutely refuse, in 2014, to boot an installation media other than a USB. I understand that the nerds at Chakra totally despise normal humans; they work with laboratories full of desktop computers and have plenty of DVD readers to work with, and they don't care to catter for the normal user. The great thing about Chakra is, at the same time, the lame thing about it: it's not meant to succeed; its developers just don't care. I remember once having a flamed quarrel in a Chakra forum just because those guys refused to acknowledge the fact that Kubuntu booted to desktop in one third of the time Chakra booted to desktop...
    Anyway, I stumbled upon this thread of yours upon googling "chakra descartes usb won't boot", and surprise, surprise! It turns out that there has been no progress whatsoever for two years in that respect. Every other distro I try (even Mint, which also was reluctant to boot from USB's) nowadays can boot no problem from USB, but Chakra? Oh, no! It won't! Chakra devs are beyond good and evil; they have so much more important things to worry about than a few hundred thousand potential users who know nothing about geeking...
    Sorry the rant, man. Delete or unauthorize if you want. I'm just so pissed off at these people...!

    1. I share your feelings very much and I, too, have given up on Chakra as well. The idea of a pure, optimized KDE dedicated distro was very appealing to me, but I think they are missing the point big time. Like you, I have also got into arguments because apparently, Chakra is just perfect. If anything fails, it is the user´s fault, and to be honest, Linux is just too good today to bother with just one distro.

      As you said, Kubuntu is a great alternative, although I personally gravitate towards Fedora myself, but the point is that Chakra got a very warm welcome from the community and became pretty popular overnight, but where is it now? It´s been losing traction consistently and will continue to as long as its developers don´t focus on the fundamentals. Fedora had the same problem for a while, not connecting to a big part of its audience because of an overly technical focus. A couple years ago, they shifted to a different approach and it´s been amazing since.

      The great thing is just that, we are not stuck with Chakra or any other distro, Linux is about freedom!