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I've installed Kali Linux, or I'm trying to install it. Why is it so hard? Why doesn't it recognize my hardware? Why do I need to set up so many things manually? Why can't I install the applications I want to use? Why don't tutorials written for other distributions work?

Help! Why won't people help me? Why is Linux so hard?

Before you answer: There is a Meta question that complements this question: What should we do about Kali Linux questions?

migrated from unix.stackexchange.com Jun 7 at 10:38

This question came from our site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems.

  • 59
    @Gilles Everyone talks about Kali Linux as if it is some kind of secret experts club, but it really is not. Nobody uses it for everyday things, not even security experts. It is an extremely stripped down version of Debian with a few security packages pre-installed. The package manager apt is not supposed to work. Unnecessary services are removed. This is a distribution for computer labs, virtual machines, and self contained boot cds/usbs. Start using Ubuntu or something where things are designed to work. – user146970 Oct 22 '17 at 21:28
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    @TimothyPulliam Neither. (This question summarizes the essence of many questions we get on this site: people who are trying to use Kali for something that it was absolutely not designed for, fail, and blame their failure on Linux being hard and Linux experts being unhelpful instead of their bad choice of tool for the job.) – Gilles Oct 22 '17 at 22:47
  • 2
    @Gilles But it does sound like a whine. It would be better if you changed the title to "(...) How do I get help?" or something. Even "(...) Why can't people help" would be better. – Mr Lister Oct 23 '17 at 7:20
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    @MrLister It's supposed to sound like a whine. It's a fabricated question other equally whiny/naive questions can be closed to; its purpose is to contain the reference answer below. – user13757 Oct 23 '17 at 11:55
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    I don't know whether this is intentional, but the name is telling: ubuntu can mean compassion in Xhosa, kali means cruel in Swahili. – Gregor Oct 24 '17 at 14:59
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    Is it appropriate to ignore the site rules in this way? There are many things wrong with it: it asks 7 questions in one (too broad), many would produce opinion based answers or have false premises ("Why is Linux so hard?"), are unanswerable ("Why won't people help me?"), or fail to provide enough information ("Why doesn't it recognize my hardware?"). I understand that all of that is deliberate, but is that sufficient justification? Put another way, if this was posted by someone without a huge rep score, it would probably get downvoted and closed. – JBentley Oct 24 '17 at 17:28
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    @JBentley If you wish to argue about the suitability of this question, please do so on meta. Before you do, please be aware that this is not Stack Overflow. Here, like on a majority of Stack Exchange sites, we tend to focus more on “is this question useful and on-topic?” and less about trying to apply “site rules” to the letter. We think about the objectives of the rules, rather than applying rules for the rules' sake. – Gilles Oct 24 '17 at 19:11
  • 1
    I guess a relevant question would be: with so many easy to use Linux distros out there (Mint, Ubuntu, etc), why would anyone want to use Kali Linux? – lurker Nov 10 '17 at 17:02
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    Probably “Mr. Robot” is to blame. Yeah, Elliot does his hacking with Kali Linux. But for daily basics even he, as the world's greatest hacker, uses Linux Mint. So if you want to use a Linux distro Elliot uses, use Mint and not Kali Linux. – wolf-revo-cats Nov 17 '17 at 17:45
  • 2
    If you're looking for a pentesting distribution, then I suggest checking out Parrot Security OS. It's made for pentesters/hackers AND those wanting a general-purpose, secure operating system without the hassle of many security-oriented flavours of GNU/Linux. There is a Lite and a Standard version, where lite comes with far less pentesting tools. Both can serve easily as general purpose computers. I've tested both the lite and standard versions, and both are phenomenal. For more info, check out Parrot Security OS. – naltun Dec 21 '17 at 15:13
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    I'm closing this question as off-topic because while it was written in good faith, it has been consistently abused by the community and used as a dupe target for anything related to Kali. – terdon Apr 13 at 12:15
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Linux isn't hard, but Kali is!

If you need to ask, then Kali Linux is not the right distribution for you.

Kali Linux is a distribution for professional penetration testers who are already very familiar with Linux. It is meant to be used from a USB dongle for penetration testing. It can be installed, but it is not really meant to be. It is not meant for general use (even by professional penetration testers) such as Internet browsing, word processing, gaming, development, etc.

If you aren't already a Linux pro, don't use Kali. Use a distribution for ordinary people, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, elementary OS, Linux Mint, etc.

Even if you want to learn penetration testing, you need to learn the basics first! Do this on a “normal” distribution.

From the official Kali Linux documentation:

Should I Use Kali Linux?

(…) Kali is a Linux distribution specifically geared towards professional penetration testers and security specialists, and given its unique nature, it is NOT a recommended distribution if you’re unfamiliar with Linux or are looking for a general-purpose Linux desktop distribution for development, web design, gaming, etc. (…)

Even for experienced Linux users, Kali can pose some challenges. (…)

While Kali Linux is architected to be highly customizable, don’t expect to be able to add random unrelated packages and repositories that are “out of band” of the regular Kali software sources and have it Just Work. In particular, there is absolutely no support whatsoever for the apt-add-repository command, LaunchPad, or PPAs. Trying to install Steam on your Kali Linux desktop is an experiment that will not end well. Even getting a package as mainstream as NodeJS onto a Kali Linux installation can take a little extra effort and tinkering.

If you are unfamiliar with Linux generally, if you do not have at least a basic level of competence in administering a system, if you are looking for a Linux distribution to use as a learning tool to get to know your way around Linux, or if you want a distro that you can use as a general purpose desktop installation, Kali Linux is probably not what you are looking for. (…)

If you are looking for a Linux distribution to learn the basics of Linux and need a good starting point, Kali Linux is not the ideal distribution for you. You may want to begin with Ubuntu, Mint, or Debian instead. If you’re interested in getting hands-on with the internals of Linux, take a look the “Linux From Scratch” project.

But why won't people help me?!

Since Kali is for experts, if you ask about Kali, people assume that you're an expert.

If you ask a beginner question about Kali, many people will ignore you. Beginners and Kali are not compatible.

What should I use then?

“Which distribution is best for beginners?” is an endless debate.

If you want a distribution that is designed to be easy for beginners and where beginners can find a lot of help, use Ubuntu. You can ask for help on our sister site Ask Ubuntu or on the Ubuntu forums. (Do NOT ask for help on Ask Ubuntu or the Ubuntu forums if you're using a distribution that is based on Ubuntu, but is not one of the official variants of Ubuntu!)

Elementary OS is another Linux distribution designed to be easy to install and to use for people with no Linux experience. It also has a Stack Exchange site.

With any distribution, even distributions targeted for beginners, you can learn by looking under the hood. The difference is that with easy-to-use distributions, you can install first, and then explore to learn.

  • 56
    What should I use then: Maybe it can be useful to point to DistroWatch website, and in particular their list of Linux distributions tagged Beginners. – WhiteWinterWolf Oct 22 '17 at 8:20
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    Is it any good mentioning the relative instability of kali compared to other distros, being it a rolling distro? – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 22 '17 at 10:55
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    I work on Fedora, so take this with that in mind, but note that Fedora has the Fedora Security Spin, which provides many security / forensic tools in combination with the general ease of use of Fedora. – mattdm Oct 22 '17 at 15:02
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    I find it to be a good answer because it is strict and discouraging. We don't want to give the wrong impression. Kali can be your first dive into Linux, but I find that your first impression is the lasting one. Your first endeavor into Linux ought to be on a solid foundation with resources to help you improve. – GuitarPicker Oct 23 '17 at 14:41
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    Kali isn’t hard, it’s a dump of tools into a debian distro. Some few driver patches. It’s the userbase that’s the problem. Is it somehow forbidden to point to the simplest explanation? The users are unprepared. Debian has a gigantic whopper of a book, for frig’s sake... – user2497 Oct 24 '17 at 0:02
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    You have a lot of repetition in your answer, rehashing the same thing 3 times or so. Maybe have a TL:DR at the top with a 1 liner and then go into your points? – YetAnotherRandomUser Oct 24 '17 at 21:46
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    Do students in computer security classes use something else? What about hobbyists learning about reverse engineering? Is there some rule that you need to be professional? – user146970 Oct 24 '17 at 23:53
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    The speciality of use likely adds to the unwillingness to help; if someone is using a tool in a way it isn't intended, even the best expert isn't going to be in a good place to help much because they aren't experts in using it that way. – Jon Hanna Oct 28 '17 at 12:46
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    @Hi-Angel: I don't know the exact criterion taken into account for DistroWatch to tag a distribution as Beginners friendly, but I suppose that the ability to read multimedia files out-of-the-box may be part of them (I guess). MP3 support in Fedora is very new (May 2017) and DVD are still not supported. Fedora however is well placed as a Desktop, where such feature do not enter into account. The same thing affect OpenSUSE for instance, which spends a bunch of money on user experience but are not tagged as for "beginners". – WhiteWinterWolf Nov 2 '17 at 12:39
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    @jdwolf See the section “What should I use then?”. You don't need Kali to learn about network security. – Gilles Nov 22 '17 at 7:49
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    @jdwolf Yes, we should. You can't learn network security if you're still struggling to install a video driver. – Gilles Nov 22 '17 at 7:53
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    @jdwolf This question is about distributions, not about what software to use to learn about network security. Kali wouldn't be a good platform to learn about detecting and exploiting network security, anyway: for that you should install a vulnerable distribution (i.e. a system with deliberate vulnerabilities), and of course you shouldn't use that as your main system either. – Gilles Nov 22 '17 at 8:01
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    @Gilles It's meant to be a reference question. Which means it wouldn't apply if the asker says "I want to do this thing related to network security but it doesn't work (with kali)" because the asker wasn't asking about distributions. If they are trying to install kali as a general purpose distro and they can't get their net working this answer makes perfect sense. If they actually want to get such and such tool to work "Use ubuntu" doesn't answer their question. – jdwolf Nov 22 '17 at 8:06
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    @jdwolf This question is not meant to cover “I want to do this thing related to network security but it doesn't work”. It's meant to cover attempts to use Kali as a main OS. – Gilles Nov 22 '17 at 8:09
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    Good answer. I think that fights effectively the huge general misunderstanding about the learning curve in computer stuff. There's a bunch of people eager to h4ck the w0rld with Kali while lacking the most basic skills and knowledge. I've seen some "penetration testing cheat sheets" which were in fact a list of common Bash shell commands... – dr01 Apr 27 '18 at 10:11
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Kali Linux is not meant as a general purpose OS. It's meant to be a standardised platform for deploying specific scripts to do various tasks.

It's one of these:

screw propelled vehicle, Russian

Very good at what it does. Just not what you need when you want to go grocery shopping.

Kali Linux has a few quirks – being designed as a platform for launching tools, it's not really set up to be a general purpose OS, or as well-tested as other OSes. It sets you up with a root account (which most mainstream distributions discourage).

Kali is a fairly focused distro designed for penetration testing. It does have a few unique packages, but it's also set up in a somewhat strange way.

Using Kali does not make you a hacker! Too many people think so and are completely out of their depth, being unable to do basic tasks in some cases. If you wish to learn the fundamentals the right way, forget about Kali at first. Kali's a Debian fork, and a modern version of Ubuntu or Debian has better hardware support. You might also be able to find repositories with the same tools Kali does for these distros. That's for later though. Work through something like Linux the hard way or LFS101. Understand the basics. Learn Linux before you get yourself delusions of grandeur. You make yourself a hacker, not the distro.

Kali is a somewhat overrated distro that's specialised, attracts skiddies, and doesn't have anything special to offer to the newbie Linux user. You'll find that with a certain degree of hacking skill, you'd probably end up customizing your own environment anyway. Kali's really designed for the middle ground where one has basic-good skills but needs a standard, fairly substantial set of tools available. It is certainly a terrible distro for someone who isn't used to bash or the Linux environment.

In short, if you're a new user, getting used to Linux, people discourage you because it's the wrong choice, and do not wish to help you load your gun and shoot yourself in the foot.

(Significant portions of this answer have been derived from answers posted by this account on Super User – large portions are based off this and this.)

  • What hacking skill is required to customize one’s own environment? – user2497 Oct 24 '17 at 0:03
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    @user2497 Hacking skill is not required to customise one's environment. However people who regularly use hacking tools will probably add them to the environment they use regularly, or customise their environment to make the things they do regularly easy, rather than use an off-the-shelf environment with pre-installed tools like Kali. – James_pic Oct 24 '17 at 14:27
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    I laughed pretty hard at the picture and following sentence. Thanks for writing that :) – Mehrdad Oct 25 '17 at 19:55
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    "Screw-propelled vehicle" reminds me a lot of Hollywood lately... but that's just a little off-topic comment I find funny – Xen2050 Jan 13 '18 at 9:11
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    "Using Kali does not make you a hacker" +100 for this. Exactly like buying a full military gear set won't make you a Navy SEAL. – dr01 Apr 27 '18 at 10:00
  • Hacking is a mentality/lifestyle, pen testers are hackers or at least the good ones. Kali Linux is a tool in the right hands it can do good and thus the opposite. It can also do nothing or create undo chaos in the hands of a unskilled user. Learn as much as you can but to learn the right way you can't be spoon fed, and given scripts to do everything for you. You have to HACK your way to the title. That is the definition and the life of a Hacker. Just keep pecking away at the wall until it falls. Then you have earned the right to plant your flag or take the one that is there for yourself. – Michael Prokopec Dec 18 '18 at 2:11
  • With a normal user though giving them the answer is often what is necessary as the common user lacks the drive/reason to learn the things that power users are willing to fight to learn. – Michael Prokopec Dec 18 '18 at 2:14
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    I upvoted this only reluctantly, because the picture seems to imply that Kali is hardened and is more secure than the average distro (like a tank is to a car), when the opposite is in fact true. Kali is a glass cannon. – forest Mar 23 at 6:13
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Kali Unofficial FAQ:

If you as an OP are trying to deal with Kali, and/or you got a question closed with this thread as a reason:

  1. If you are using Kali to learn/develop/use it as a desktop/notebook environment, select a more stable and user friendly distribution. Please take the time to have a look at the other answers on this thread.

  2. if you are unable to connect to the repositories/install Kali/install a package : Kali is a rolling release, and it gets signature updates frequently;

  3. Please see: Invalid signature for Kali Linux repositories : "The following signatures were invalid: EXPKEYSIG ED444FF07D8D0BF6 Kali Linux Repository"

  4. Kali also has a lot more services stopped by default than other distributions.

  5. These together with it being a rolling release drinking from Debian testing and mixing random packages from Debian unstable means you will get stranger problems than using another distribution when using it as a production system/desktop;

  6. Do not forget that before installing/upgrading packages, in Debian based systems such as Kali, you need to do sudo apt-get update;

  7. Due to the nature/instability of Kali, and being it a rolling release often it may make more sense reinstalling the latest version from scratch than upgrading/investing time into fixing it when you face update problems - and facing problems in updates is more the norm than the exception;

  8. If you are trying to setup an Wifi adapter in a VM, the adapter is in the physical machine and not in the VM machine, and as such has to configured as passthrough/captured by the hypervisor/Virtualbox/VMWare see How to use Wireless Network in Virtualbox? e.g. you can only configure it once, either in the host or in a VM;

  9. If you intend to place a wifi adapter in Monitor mode, you have got to have a primary network/Internet connection, either an ethernet adapter or another Wifi stick for both Internet access and not losing remote control of the VM/raspberry being it remote;

  10. Beware also that not all brand/models of wifi adapters support Monitor mode, and there is even less support for packet injection - see this thread for why you should not buy realtek, and for more general wifi advice Wi-Fi problems using ASUS USB-N13 adapter;

  11. Wifi drivers in source code might be outdated, and often only play well/are for specific versions of the kernel and/or hostapd;

  12. After having a successful setup of firmware/wifi interface, you need to setup it for it to appear in the ifconfig/ip command;

  13. The official package for Firefox is firefox-esr;

  14. If having problems of kernel vs headers - see Install Headers on Kali ;

  15. If installing Kali in an ARM/Raspberry pi, you have to expand/grow the last partition to use up all the SD card. See https://raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/46520/expand-file-system-kali-linux-on-sd-card-of-16gb

  16. If you've read this far and you still need Kali: "Try it first onto a fast USB stick and boot of that".

  17. Lastly, beware of following blindly online tutorials or compiling random things without understanding them. They might be outdated or have errors.

If you absolutely insist in using Kali: Kali also has a forum with several groups for their users at https://forums.kali.org

See also Free PDF Book - Kali Linux Revealed

Adenda:

Taken from official kali documentation:

Many new Kali users are tempted to add additional repositories to their sources.list, but doing so runs a very serious risk of breaking your Kali Linux installation.

....

Kali is a Linux distribution specifically geared towards professional penetration testers and security specialists, and given its unique nature, it is NOT a recommended distribution if you’re unfamiliar with Linux or are looking for a general-purpose Linux desktop distribution for development, web design, gaming, etc.

Even for experienced Linux users, Kali can pose some challenges. (...) Adding repositories to your software sources which have not been tested by the Kali Linux development team is a good way to cause problems on your system.

While Kali Linux is architected to be highly customizable, don’t expect to be able to add random unrelated packages and repositories that are “out of band” of the regular Kali software sources and have it Just Work. In particular, there is absolutely no support whatsoever for the apt-add-repository command, LaunchPad, or PPAs. Trying to install Steam on your Kali Linux desktop is an experiment that will not end well. Even getting a package as mainstream as NodeJS onto a Kali Linux installation can take a little extra effort and tinkering.

If you are unfamiliar with Linux generally, if you do not have at least a basic level of competence in administering a system, if you are looking for a Linux distribution to use as a learning tool to get to know your way around Linux, or if you want a distro that you can use as a general purpose desktop installation, Kali Linux is probably not what you are looking for.

If you are looking for a Linux distribution to learn the basics of Linux and need a good starting point, Kali Linux is not the ideal distribution for you. You may want to begin with Ubuntu, Mint, or Debian instead.

33

Like the other posts have stated, Kali is a distribution with a very specific use case. It a toolbox with lots of tool that you will probably never use.

If you want to learn it, learn it in a virtual machine like VirtualBox, VMware, or use some KVM front end like gnomeboxes or libvert manager. Your hardware will not be an issue with a virtual machine. It will have diminished power when compared to installing it on your hard disk drive, but with snap shots you can restore it to the last known working configuration in about 2 seconds when you screw up... You will screw up. Look at the relatively new documentation from Offensive Security, the new book Kali Linux Revealed. It is a decent resource to get started with.

  • 26
    @Wildcard Actually, it does: if you want to learn Kali Linux, run it in a VM. That is in fact a good recommendation for someone who wants to learn Kali Linux (as opposed to someone who wants to learn Linux). – Gilles Oct 24 '17 at 21:47
  • 1
    What do you mean by "new documentation from opsec, the new book Kali revealed"? For instance: Is "opsec" an organisation, a website, a book publisher, or something else? What is the actual title of the book (if it is) - "Kali Revealed"? – Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '17 at 0:14
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    It's called Kali revealed. It's a how to get the basics of Kali. It's available to buy or download a PDF for free. You can read it online to. It doesn't cover hacking tools but really covers more of Linux and packaging for Kali. – Blake Oct 26 '17 at 0:16
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    Not "Kali Linux Revealed"? Book titles are not normally in sentence case. – Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '17 at 0:17
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    In any case (no pun intended), do you have a reference for the book? – Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '17 at 0:21
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    @PeterMortensen I think this is a reference for the book: Kali Linux Revealed: Mastering the Penetration Testing Distribution. It's by the organization/company Offensive Security, the makers of Kali Linux. (Suggested edits to the answer.) – ShreevatsaR Oct 26 '17 at 23:15
12

Kali and BackTrack are each more of a utility distro, like the GPARTED .iso, or Rescatux. You need to have a need to be using these. I'm not saying you are up to no good, but maybe later or with a mentor perhaps.

If you are an absolute beginner, and you have had some experience with Windows, then I suggest you try a number of distributions. It is very likely you will be installing any number of them any number of times. Indeed this is the upgrade path for many of them. The ones that may be easiest to cope with may not be the coolest. Zorin OS is friendly to Windows users, but it is Ubuntu underneath. Mint also has Ubuntu under the hood and also tries to have everything work out of the box, but can be quirky when it doesn't. CentOS is "Enterprise Strength" but may lag behind the bleeding edge, a plus is the Gnome desktop. And then there is Ubuntu/Kubuntu, lots of support but Unity desktop and Plasma respectively. Debian is a good choice, and relatively cool due to being upstream for the .deb distros and because people see Etch Raspbian.

All of these have some issues, and generally for installation it boils down to the package maintainer's lack of care. If you don't stray from the path too much you should be OK. Hardened professionals can spend a whole day wrestling with MariaDB and PHP7 say because the dependencies never seem to be quite right.

But Kali, keep it on a stick and get back to it. Assume you've been penetrated anyway or will be eventually.

  • 22
    This is a good try at an answer addressed to those migrating from Windows, but when you implicitly suggest that Gnome is unarguably better and Unity unarguably worse without the slightest explanation of the tradeoffs between them (nor of the fact that this is a "holy war" in itself), you do a disservice to the absolute beginners you're trying to address. – Wildcard Oct 24 '17 at 3:10
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    Adding to the above, I wouldn't consider Debian a good distribution for someone just getting started with Linux. When Debian works, it works wonderfully, and typically just keeps on working forever as long as you stay on the same major version; however, it's not really set up to be easy from the get-go. Nonfree firmware isn't in the base distribution, for example; this is a biggie with many wireless network adapters. Generally, it sort of expects you to already know your way around at least somewhat. Less so than perhaps Slackware, but more so than Ubuntu. To each their own. – a CVn Oct 24 '17 at 14:05
  • ...And move on to a system augmented by a distro-independent, source based package manager if you want a challenge - eg, setup portage or pkgsrc on top of an existing system ... a lot to learn that way. – rackandboneman Oct 26 '17 at 23:11
  • I was really driving at "whatever you do" you will be doing it over a few times, so don't be discouraged when the upgrades fail or the alternate desktops clobber each other or the drivers are suddenly broken. The best install script by far was for Mepis, but that is water under the bridge now. – mckenzm Oct 31 '17 at 4:22
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    The most important question - Why can't I h4ck the world with Kali like MR.Robot does?! – fugitive Jan 25 '18 at 2:24
6

"Why won't people help me?"

Because it's boring.

Speaking as someone who has responded to a fair few questions on setting up or using kali I have given up responding because the answers to most questions can be found somewhere already. A little web research will resolve most issues and questions like this one indicate to me that the poster has perhaps been a bit lazy in that respect.

I assume that others answer questions on forums like this for the same reason I do, not just to show off, but because of the intellectual challenge involved. Figuring out the answer to good/awkward and above all new questions is fun and you usually end up learning something yourself. On the other hand, doing the same old web searches and pointing people to the same old links is just plain boring.

So, root cause analysis? No fun for an answerer = no answer

Lastly, Mr Robot isn't cool because he uses kali, he is just cool. Period. He would be equally cool hacking the world from an Ubuntu or debian install with the same tools installed. If this single piece of advice was taken by posters then everyone would be having much more fun.

For OP interest almost all of the tools in kali are easily available in archlinux. Simply add the blackarch repository.

  • Mr Robot is fictional and I gave up seeing the 2nd series ;) +1 for the answer, while blunt I can easily identify with it as a fellow volunteer. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 7 at 14:06
  • Blunt or honest? :-D Mr Robot = brain candy. Not serious, requires no thought, just sit back and enjoy. Not to everyone's taste, it's true but then what is? – bu5hman Jun 7 at 14:13
  • I'm pretty sure Elliot (in Mr. Robot) mostly uses Mint as his daily driver, which I've generally heard is even easier than Ubuntu for a beginner. – malan Jun 12 at 20:22

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