Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Quick Look at Redcore Linux 2101 Beta

Every once in a while I try Gentoo Linux or something based on it. Redcore Linux is one of those few distributions that made it their mission to "bring the power of Gentoo Linux to the masses". To achieve this it provides a repository of pre-built binary packages on a system that updates on a rolling basis. "Redcore Linux is built from Gentoo Linux stage3. We then add a kernel, a bootloader and a few other things like dbus and initramfs generator (Dracut), we configure the init system (OpenRC) and so we have the core of Redcore Linux, a Gentoo Linux stage4 if you will."

A beta build of Redcore 2101 was released only a few days ago that the team apparently feel so confident about that they even think it may be better than some of their earlier stable releases. Given the nature of this distribution one can be sure this is fairly up to date.

Redcore beta is using Linux 5.10.5, GCC 10.2.0, Glibc 2.32, binutils 2.35, LLVM 11.0.1, mesa 20.3.2, libdrm 2.4.103, xorg-server 1.20.10, qt 5.15.2, kde-frameworks 5.77, kde-apps 20.12.1, kde-plasma 5.20.5 and flatpak support. The init in use is OpenRC.

Redcore provides what's called a hardened Linux system to reduce the available attack surface of the OS. The file Redcore.Linux.Hardened.2101.KDE.amd64.BETA.iso is 3.7 GB in size to download. Despite being hardened the system is supposed to work and targets "casual Laptop/Desktop users and, to some extent, Workstation power users".

Testing the Redcore Beta

This being a beta a quick test was done in Virtualbox as there have been instances where whole file system were ruined by prematurely released distributions.

The boot menu has entries for starting a Redcore live session, choosing language and choosing keyboard layout. Both only provide for American English, British English and Romanian. We can also disable ACPI under options if there are issues with power management. Messages during loading are obscured by a red splash showing the distribution logo. The first thing to note is that the VMSVGA driver will not work as it drops us at a shell prompt. A passwordless root login works but startx does not start the desktop.

Grub menu

Switching to VBoxSVGA works and boots straight into a colorful KDE desktop. The image does not dynamically resize but resolution can be changed in the hardware section of the Plasma system settings panel. Unlike with many distributions this time even the native screen resolution of my display of 1920x1080 showed up so that's a good start. One can also change resolution from Virtualbox display settings. I guess this means that guest additions are pre-installed. We can also activate drag and drop. Mouse integration is on, albeit with a rather noisy red cursor.

The Redcore Plasma desktop

It's a standard Plasma desktop with a few twists. First of all Wayland support seems to be built in as we get a menu entry to start Firefox with Wayland. Thunderbird, qBittorrent and the Steam gaming client are present. VLC is there, a full LibreOffice 7.0.4 suite and Okular for reading PDFs. A handful of KDE tools, the Dolphin file manager, Netbootin and Balena Etcher USB writers, and the graphical package manager called Sisyphus complement the picture.

All in all quite a capable suite and looking an attractive package.  The icon theme, Numix Circle Light, gives this upcoming release a contemporary flair. The desktop, even when only allocating one CPU on Virtualbox with 4 GB of RAM, was snappy.

When starting the installer it complained that we're not connected to the internet, blatantly untrue as a quick check with Mozilla Firefox proved.

We are connected!

Interestingly the home page in Firefox is set to Gentoo and not to the distribution's own home page.

Americal English seems to be the default in the installer. After changing language if you must it is possible to just click through the next steps unless you have a more complicated setup or need to choose  aparticular keyboard, choose whether to erase disk or not at the allocation step and whether you want a swap file, swap partition or not, add user accounts and passwords and we're off. At the last screen we can also choose whether we want auto-login enabled.

The whole unpacking and trabsferring the image to disk takes rather long, in common with other systems based on and providing a ready made Gentoo experience. There are systems that will install within a few minutes. Unfortunately Redcore needed two minutes to progress 3% , and about five minutes for 15%. If it goes on like this we'll be here for well over half an hour.

That's the impressions for now. Redcore seems like an interesting system with potential to become  mainstay, but more testing needs to be done once installed.

Oh no, just got this.

Installation failed

Let's hope this is not indicative of how a real hardware install will perform as well.

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