HarmoniKR

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HarmoniKR, sometimes called "Harmonica", is a South Korean Linux operating system used by both the South Korean Army and government from 2019 onward. It comes in several flavors based various versions of Linux Mint. The distribution is customized for local use with Korean language packages and fonts as well as custom educational tools for the Korean school system.

Editions

Harmoni comes in a Media Edition, a Community Edition and a Government Edition. The latter is not publicly available for download. The Media Edition is based on Linux Mint 19's Cinnamon version and the Community Edition is based on Linux Mint 19's MATE version.

The ISO for latest version of the Harmonica Media Edition - HamoniKR-ME 64bit 1.3 - weighs in at 3.1 GB ISO. This is the version we tested.

Installation

The Media Center edition of Harmoni, when started from a USB stick, boots into a very user-friendly and polished Live environment.

HarmoniKR-ME.png

There is a simple keyboard switch applet in the default panel which can be used to easily switch between Korean and English keyboard layout.

Starting the installation process is a simple matter of pressing the coaster-icon labelled HamoniKR ME - 설치.

The installers first question asks what language you would like to use during the installation process. It defaults to Korean. Switching to any other language, and they are all supported, is a simple matter of choosing from a list. Choosing keyboard layout's next and this section's also got options using all languages and keyboard layouts.

Next choice is to decide if you want to "Install third-party software for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware, Flash, MP3 and other media". Honorary doctor Richard Stallman, the father of GNU and free software, would not approve. However, you may want your NVidia graphics functioning properly if you have one. This is a very personal choice.

You can choose to encrypt your disk by clicking a checkbox and there's a checkbox for LLVM volume management for management when you are asked what disk to use as installation target. We recommend clicking the [x] Encrypt option, for, as the installer puts it, "security".

HarmoniKR-ME-encryption-support.png

That's almost the last question. Clicking Install NOW doesn't actually install now, there's more questions about time-zone and your name, your computers name, username and password. There is the option of Encrypt my home folder which can be useful even if you already enabled full disk encryption. Other versions of this distribution are used by the South Korean government and army so security measures like that make sense.

The installation process where files are copied shows a text saying "Welcome to Linux Mint". That is what Harmoni is based on but now what I thought I was installing. Perhaps they just forgot to replace the stock Linux Mint slideshow? The file copying process does not take very long - depending on how fast your USB stick and SSD/HDD is.

Hardware support

Everything, including NVidia GPUs and Wi-Fi cards, will work right out of the box if you choose to install proprietary drivers during the installation step. NVidia GPUs and some older and rare Wi-Fi cards won't work if you choose to not install evil binary blogs. Most hardware and non-NVidia GPUs will work perfectly regardless of what you choose.

Features and usability

First boot into HarmoniKR reveals a very polished desktop accompanied by a chime sound. These welcome-chimes were common a decade ago, today they are quite uncommon. It's refreshing to a distribution which has that small yet very noticeable feature.

HarmoniKR-ME-installed.png

The default desktop has a wide range of software installed but there's nothing extra beyond what most other distributions offer. There's Firefox and Thunderbird for web and e-mail, LibreOffice for office use, GIMP for graphics (no Krita) and something called Hamonia Media Weaver for video conferencing. Hamonia appears to be Korean only. The default selection of software is overall fine and it has everything you need to enjoy k-pop music videos right away.

Additional software can easily be installed using the "Software Manager". It is easy to use and offers a huge abundance of Linux software.

The default installation has absolutely no games available. At all. None. You will have to install SuperTuxKart and Steam yourself. That's no big deal, doing so is very easy.

Under the hood

A close-up inspection of HarmoniKR reveals that it is, at it's core, a themed version of Linux Mint. The software repositories for the "apt" package-manager it uses under the hood are set to Ubuntu Bionic as "Base" with Linux Mint Tara as "Main". The HarmoniKR bits are pulled from two pre-configured custom PPAs.

HarmoniKR does not have any SELinux or other hardening measures, none that are apparent anyway.

Verdict

HarmoniKR is a very nice, smooth, polished and user-friendly distribution. However, it is, at it's core, just Linux Minux with two special PPAs for Koreans on top. It's a fine distribution but there's not much reason to choose it over Linux Mint if you are not a Korean person.

Links

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