Getting Started with Pardus Linux

Pardus is a Linux distribution created and maintained by Scientific & Technological Research Council of Turkey. There’s certainly no shortage of customized and special-purpose Linux distributions available, but Pardus is unique in several ways. Today, instead of covering the usual aspects of an operating system like installation and included software, I’m going to cover the aspects of Pardus that make it so interesting.

One important note before we get too far – if you decide to install Pardus, make sure you hit F2 at the first bootup screen to set the language, unless you want your system in Turkish.

The version tested here is Pardus 2009 RC2

The first thing you’ll see on a new Pardus installation is Kaptan, a desktop config tool. It allows you to set things like desktop theme, wallpaper, mouse preferences, and menu style. I found this to be a useful tool for getting everything off on the right foot. Like all the custom Pardus applications I’ve seen so far, it’s oddly beautiful for something so maroon.

Initial Kaptan screen

My only complaint about Kaptan was that at one point it brings you to a config screen for Smolt, without ever telling you what Smolt is or what it’s supposed to be doing. Everything else is clear and intuitive.

One of the things that initially got me interested in Pardus was the the developers seem to share my affinity for the Python programming language. The Pardus developers used Python extensively in building the system, most notably in the package manager PiSi.

PiSi (pronounced pee-see) is the custom-built package manager for Pardus. it’s got all the features of a modern package manager, including things like dependency resolution, CLI and GUI interface, search functions and online repositories. The command line interface provides all the usual options, such as

pisi search package_name

to search for a package and

pisi install package_name

to install it.

One thing I particularly like about PiSi is the quality output it provides. If a package fails to install, you get clear output telling you why. When it does install, you get nicely formatted output (with color!) telling you all about the installation. Here, for example, is the output I got when I told PiSi to install my favorite video player, VLC.

An example of PiSi in action

It’s a little verbose, but I think quite useful. Particularly the use of color, which is something I’ve always liked about Gentoo’s emerge. That kind of clear, useful, detailed output is what I wish I could have in all package managers. Kudos to PiSi for that one!

The only downside I’ve encountered so far (and it is a big one) is the comparitively small amount of software available in Pardus’s PiSi repositories. It’s got about 2,000 packages, and many of the things I’ve tried to install have not been available. It’s not a huge project, and relatively new in the world of Linux distros, so a lack of packages is somewhat understandable. Still, having more software available would go a long way toward making Pardus a top-notch distro.

After covering PiSi, there’s not a whole lot to say about Package Manager, which is the graphical front-end to PiSi. It provides a browsable, searchable interface to the software available to PiSi. If you’ve ever used Synaptic, the default package GUI for Ubuntu, you’ll be right at home in Package Manager.

Package Manager

This was one thing that was a bit of a problem for me. After my initial install, I was surprised to see my network wasn’t up. This certainly wasn’t the first Linux ever run on that machine so there should be no driver issues. Even trying to bring it up manually at the command line came up with little success.

Then, I ran the Pardus Network Manager tool, and after creating a “profile” for my NIC, everything was up and running. Perhaps it was just the chipset on that machine (a common Intel chipset), but I hope not everyone would have to manually configure a network interface to get basic connection.

Network Manager

Pardus continues the overall habit of clarity and simplicity with the Firewall utility. It should be familiar to anyone who’s used Windows firewalls like ZoneAlarm.

Firewall configuration

For some reason I have not yet figured out, the Firewall utility does not seem to recognize my keystrokes. All other applications take whatever typing I give them, but none of the text boxes in Firewall Manager seem to realize that I’m typing.

Overall I was surprised and impressed by Pardus. Surprised because it’s not a name you hear very often in news or conversation, and impressed by the clean, clear, clever design. To me, the real gem was PiSi. As a long time APT fan I have high expectations in a package manager, and so far PiSi hasn’t let me down, its even shown me a few things I wish other package managers could do. Pardus is really slick right now, and I’m betting it will only get better.

There’s certainly room for improvement, particularly with the Network and Firewall Managers, but the system itself is beautiful and well designed. I’m not quite ready to use Pardus as my main operating system, but in another release or two I think it could give the giants like Ubuntu a real run for their money.

For anyone who IS curious about the non-original included software, some notable packages are:

  • Kernel 2.6.30.1
  • KDE 4.2.4
  • Firefox 3.5
  • OpenOffice 3.1
  • Gimp 2.6.6
  • Xorg 1.6.2
  • Python 2.6.2