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Hikarunix Linux...a Review

Date/Time Permalink: 03/15/06 06:13:34 am
Category: Reviews

Hikarunix screen-shot
I almost thought I wasn't going to post today, because I got so absorbed in the distro whose review I was planning to write. And it is with great pleasure that I review Hikarunix. Hikarunix (now at 0.4) is a Linux live CD which revolves entirely around the game of Go. Now, if you could care less about Go, well, you might as well go away now. You're probably missing a football game on the telly, anyway.

For the rest of you: Go is the Asian board game with black and white stones played on a wooden board with lines on it. Say what you will about chess, checkers, Scrabble, and Othello; Go is the only board game I've ever heard described as "sexy". A Go board is glimpsed in the movie "A Beautiful Mind" and gets a heavy role in the Cannes Film festival feature "Pi", in which the protagonist regularly plays with his mentor while sparring about mathematical theories.

Hikarunix is one of those things that simply wouldn't be possible without Linux. Every Go player from the greenest novice to the seasoned 9th Dan veteran will find this distro to be nothing less than a treasure. If you have a Go player on your Christmas list, this distro will make a great gift. And what else do you *get* a Go player after they already have a board? Board polish?

Hikarunix contains every Open Source item related to Go in one place, on a convenient Fluxbox desktop. There's a souped-up version of GnuGo/CGoban, GoGrinder to crank out board problems for you to solve, the network game clients Jago and Kombilo, various clients for saving and browsing past games, a library of famous tournament games, a *fun* interactive beginner's Go tutorial, documentation on the game including PDF versions of "The Way to Go", "Metaphorical Go", and "the Dinosaur's Hindbrain". And you know what? I have barely scratched the surface. These are just highlights. Bear in mind that this is built on top of Damn Small Linux, the one and only. So nothing was taken away from DSL - it still has Firefox, Beaver (my "guest editor" as I write this. Beaver gets the job done, but it's no Emacs.), and the usual DSL features, including the apt package management system in case you use this system as a base to extend from. A complete operating system ready to go, as are all Linux live Cds.

Back to that ideal...I can see a big future in live Linux Cds for this kind of focused application. Take a fun base with lots of room to build like Damn Small, pick your topic, gather together every application and downloadable book on that topic, customize the whole thing so it has a consistent theme...I've sampled three distros that do this so far (MediainLinux for artists, Linux Live Gaming Project for gamers, and now Hikarunix for Go players) and I'm impressed by what I see. What perfect sense: why make a distro try to be all things to all people? We programmers are *still* waiting for our one-stop developer's toolbox, but as vast as that field is, I could see breaking it up: How about applying this same concept to web developers, or Python programmers (gotta call that one "Snake Linux"), or C developers (finally! ALL the header files and ALL the docs in ONE PLACE! C programmers would pass out from the shock!)? Or run this idea on different hobbies - gardening, scrapbooking, collectors?

As it is, the world is richer for Hikarunix, which runs like a champion without any fuss at all for the three PCs I've dropped it onto, does exactly what it's supposed to do, and does it with grace, style, efficiency, and that certain sense of balance and harmony that goes so well in the game of Go itself!

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