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Kali Linux 2.0 Review

posted on 2015-08-11 by Spencer Bravo

Earlier today, Kali Linux 2.0 was released. For those of you who don't already know, Kali Linux is the GNU/Linux distro built specifically for digital forensics and penetration testing. Kali is based on Debian and version 2.0 comes with GNOME as it's default Desktop Environment. Kali Linux 2.0 also comes with the 4.0 Linux kernel.

When I went to go download Kali 2.0 this morning Kali.org was down. I waited a few minutes, but it continued to be non-responsive. So I went to the Google cache of the downloads page and downloaded the torrent file I needed. Upon downloaded the file I used dd to put the ISO file on a flashdrive and installed it on my Inspiron 5323 laptop. The install was smooth, quick, and simple. The only problem I had(which I have with most Debian based distros on this laptop) is while I am installing the distro, the trackpad does not work but after the install it works fine. You don't need a trackpad or mouse for the install, but I plugged one in just incase I needed to edit partitions manually and didn't want to fool around with the Tab key.

When it finished the install and I rebooted, it didn't work; it went to grub, I made the selection, entered in my encryption passphrase(I opted for full disk encryption), and then it ran through it's basic startup log but then went to a black screen with just a line flashing at the top left of the screen. After several minutes, I tried again, no luck. So I booted into the recovery mode, entered the encryption passphrase, and logged into the root account. Once everything worked fine in the recovery mode, I rebooted and everything started up normally into the user interface

Upon entering the account with the DE(not recovery mode), you are welcomed with a clean cut, simple, and self explanatory layout. The first physical changes I noticed in the layout was the addition of the application bar on the left border and that the workspace navigator in the bottom right corner was gone. I love what they've done with their new tools menu layout. Before it seemed like an endless chain of tiered categories, but now its simple, as well as compact. Another big change is that the workspaces are now stacked vertically rather than horizontally. This took some time to get used to, as I have always used horizontal workspaces. A nice feature of the workspaces is that by default it only adds one workspace ahead of your last window. This keeps things concise and less confusing, as well as being convenient so you never have to worry about adding more workspaces.

Even though it is on is not an extremely powerful laptop, it still ran very smoothly. For the majority of the time I've used this laptop I've used Crunchbang, so Kali 2.0 wasn't nearly as nimble as I was used to on this machine. Though it still was quite snappy. The only experience I had with true lag was when I was compiling several programs(I think vim and tmux) at once and browsing, and this only lasted a second or two. The battery life has been surprisingly quite good. Previously when this laptop was on Crunchbang++, I was only getting 4-5 hours out of the battery. But today I've been using it a lot unplugged and it hasn't had a problem, also its estimated time left at 100% is around 7 hours!

It is also using very little memory and CPU. It almost rivals Crunchbang(and Crunchbang++) in how little resources it uses in idle. With only a terminal with htop open, its averaging around 680MB of ram and close to 1-2% of CPU. Though once you start moving around the DE(switching workspaces, going through menus, etc.) the CPU usage jumps around 15%, but the memory stays constant. All together its only using 8.4GB of disk space after customizing it and adding several applications.

The settings are easy to change and the menu for network, Bluetooth, battery, etc. is very simple and intuitive. They also added a desktop recording software which is extremely straightforward to use. Another nice feature is the search they included, it will search your computer for applications, files, settings, and more; offering good feel of organization. Many of the tools have remarkably good response times, much quicker than in earlier versions of Kali Linux. There used to be some where you would have to wait around for something to start, but most open almost instantaneously now.

Overall, I really like Kali Linux 2.0. It offers a great balance between performance, design, usability. It's almost good enough(in my mind) to use it as an everyday desktop distro, but crunchbang++ still has the upper-hand. That being said, I will keep it on my laptop and I'm sure it will be enjoyable to use for months, or maybe even years to come.