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Kali Linux Gnome Desktop
I am always looking for interesting new developments in security analysis and penetration testing, and have been attending SANS Security conferences for a few years now, which has introduced me to several Linux distributions that I was not otherwise familiar with.
Although I have always installed whatever Linux they were using in the class on my laptop, I never seemed to keep it for very long afterward. Something always came up - either they weren't flexible enough, or updates were too difficult, or they were just based on a Linux distribution which was too old to begin with.
I have also tried to put some of the tools we used in the classes on other Linux distributions, and while that sometimes worked I all too often found that the tools were difficult to install/configure/update, and they generally didn't last either.
So, when I read the Kali 1.0.6 release announcement, there were two things in it which really caught my eye. First, it is now based on Debian 7 (Wheezy), and second, the Kali developers have made standard packages of all the tools included in it. I decided it was time to give it a closer look, in pretty much the same way that I look at any other Linux distribution, rather than waiting until I got to the conference this year.
Kali Linux Gnome Menu
The Kali Linux downloads page has ISO images for standard Intel/AMD 32-bit and 64-bit images, and also for ARM processors. The AMD 64-bit image that I downloaded is just over 3GB, so be prepared for a potentially lengthy download.
The Kali ISO is a Live image - you can burn it to DVD or dd it to a USB stick, and then boot and run it from there without ever installing it to a hard drive. This makes it well suited for use a emergency recovery/intervention media in a toolkit.
However, the ISO also includes the Debian installer, so you can easily install it to a hard drive, which is what I have done. For this purpose it is generally preferred to have a dedicated laptop, so you don't risk any confusion or contamination by booting other operating systems. I dragged out the old Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S2110 for this purpose.
This is the same system that I used for testing when openSuSE 13.1 was released, I just overwrote the entire disk with the Kali installation. Just saying that it is an "old" laptop is probably not strong enough - it's an AMD Turion 64 based system.
One minor drawback that I ran into is that Kali Linux doesn't appear to support UEFI boot or installation yet. For me that is not a problem, because I decided to use such an old system for it. Booting the Live image from DVD on the S2110 (USB boot not possible on this system) came up with no problem, and everything seemed to work, including both wired and wireless networking, display, keyboard, trackpad and USB ports.
That was enough to convince me to go ahead and install it; reboot and select the Kali installer, walk through that just like any other standard Debian installation, and give it plenty of time because 3+ GB of stuff is a lot to unpack and install. By the time it was finished installing, it was using 9.4GB of disk space. Whew. There's a lot of stuff included in this distribution.
This release of Kali Linux has Linux kernel 3.12.6 which is good news for those who need the latest kernel to support some new hardware (certain wifi adapters and graphic controllers, for example).
It uses the Gnome 3.4 'fallback' desktop, shown above, which will please those who are not happy with the latest Gnome 3 desktop. If you're not satisfied with that, there is a useful article in the Kali documentation the describes how to install other desktops (KDE/Xfce/LXDE/MATE etc).