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Review: KaOS 2020.01

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KaOS is a rolling release distribution whose team chooses to focus on one CPU architecture (x86_64), one desktop environment (KDE Plasma) and one application toolkit (Qt). The project publishes regular, monthly snapshots of the distribution. The January snapshot featured a few interesting changes. In particular, the distribution now features signed kernel modules for added security and supports installing non-free NVIDIA video drivers during the install process if an NVIDIA card is detected. KaOS has also replaced the Calligra productivity suite with LibreOffice.

The latest snapshot is a 2.1GB download. Booting from the project's media brings up a menu offering to start a live desktop environment, start the desktop with non-free NVIDIA drivers, or run a hardware detection tool. When the system boots, the KDE Plasma desktop loads and displays a welcome screen. This window provides quick access to the system installer, a list of available packages, and links to the distribution's forum and install guide. The provided documentation seemed clear to me and includes screenshots to guide new users in setting up the distribution. The welcome screen also features a second tab which provides the default usernames and passwords for the live media.

KaOS may be unique in the way it sets up Plasma. The desktop places the panel vertically down the right-hand side of the screen. The application menu is located in the upper-right corner and the system tray at the bottom-right. In the middle are a few quick-launch icons and the task switcher. It makes for a fairly busy panel by default, especially when notifications, the update indicator, and network connection icon are all trying to grab the user's attention.


Early OOM is not a new piece of technology, it has been around for a while, helping users and administrators keep their systems from slowing to a crawl. However, most distributions do not install Early OOM by default, leaving the user to experience the kernel's default behaviour. The reason I'm talking about Early OOM today is I feel many people could benefit from this program, not just Fedora users who will likely have it running by default in the near future.

Apart from monitoring the system's memory consumption and killing off greedy processes, Early OOM has a few handy features. One is that we can set the percentage of RAM and swap that can be consumed before Early OOM begins reaping processes. Maybe we want swap to be nearly full before we kill off processes, hoping they will sort themselves out on their own. Or maybe we want to terminate programs if only 10% of swap is consumed, in order to enjoy maximum performance. Early OOM will let us make these adjustments.

One of the bigger concerns when using a program to kill off applications is the worry that something we really want to keep running will be terminated when we would prefer another, perhaps less heavy, program to be closed instead. Early OOM will help us with this. We can specify programs we would prefer to have killed off and programs we would prefer to have remain in memory. This gives us a layer of protection against having a useful program suddenly disappear.

A final interesting option is the ability to tell us, through a desktop notification, when a process is being terminated to free up memory. This can be useful if we are running background processes and want to know when one of them is being killed. Or if we just want to have a visible notification that Early OOM is working.

These and other features of Early OOM are covered in detail in the project's manual page. I definitely recommend exploring it if you are running a system that occasionally runs low on memory and becomes unresponsive as a result.

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