Mandriva Linux 2008 October 19, 2007Posted by rjdohnert in Opinions, Reviews.
Mandriva released their new Mandriva Linux distribution entitled 2008. Touting the new versions of GNOME and KDE as well as XFCE how well does this thing stand up? To do this review I have two Dell PowerEdge 500SC both with 768 mb of RAM, Nvidia GeForce 64mb video cards and both running at 1.2 ghz on Celeron processors. The difference is that one is running the KDE version and the other is running the GNOME version. I used the One version of each system.
Interface likes and dislikes….
Im gonna pound on Mandriva on this one. The GNOME version uses the Tango icon set while KDE uses a vastly outdated crystal icon set. Really outdated. Why they cant update crystal or modify Tango or the new Crystal icons to run on both for the uniformity is beyond me. The only thing thats similar is the Mandriva Control Center and the network control interface. The network center is very intuitive and easy to use and after trying multiple USB and PCI adapters, some using ndiswrapper and some not, the results were the same and all interfaces were easy to use. This ease of use followed Mandriva through both versions. The GNOME version of Mandriva was slower than the KDE version but had a more uniformed look which I liked, you can skin GTK apps with the QT theme with a Kcontrol plugin but its not available by default. Overall, speed and functinality KDE won but for great looks a more attractive iconset GNOME won hands down.
Hardware support was lacking in some areas. My printer I use with PCLinuxOS wouldnt work in Mandriva. My SD card reader/writer could read SD cards but wouldnt transfer data to the card. This device works flawlessly in PCLinuxOS but not in Mandriva ’08. Plugging in thumbdrives and external hard drives worked well, the only complaint I have is in the GNOME version the media appears on the desktop in the KDE version it does not do so by default. 3D acceleration worked out of box as did the cheap sound cards I put into both systems purchased at TigerDirect for $9.99. On the laptop I did install it on, A Dell Inspiron 2500 it was the best distribution for it and I more than likely wont be removing Mandriva from that system. The Sansa e250 I have worked, the Zune didnt and my iPod was DOA so pretty much like all Linux distros flash based players work the best.
After using easy urpmi to download all the goodies such as DVD capabilities and WMV/mp3 support all worked well. The Mplayer plugin and the Totem plugin wouldnt work in Firefox, it would buffer and then stop. I used the MediaPlayerConnectivity extension to take care of that and installed mplayer on the GNOME version specifically for the purpose of linking to it for media playback from the browser. So far this workaround has worked well on all the media I have wanted to see thats not flash based. Sun Java does not come installed by default so to use Java apps you have to go through the installation. If you are a developer, sorry the packages have to be downloaded. I really am learning to dislike Amarok but I started using Rhythmbox which has a neat interface and works great. Updating software on the system was better than it is with Ubuntu and PCLOS. Uninstall the old version of OpenOffice, go get OpenOffice 2.3. I just downloaded the tar.gz with the RPM’s and installed all the packages. Dont forget the Mandriva menu integration package. For PDF reading got the new Reader 8 from Adobes website. Mandriva seems more apt, no pun intended, to allow you to play with the system than Ubuntu is. Playing with the add/remove software package manager revealed a plethora of packages and system enhancements so check there first before you have to go get the source and build anything. This is the first system aside from PCLOS that I havent had to build source packages which for new users is great. If you are looking for a server system, while you can build this system into a server with packages and add-ons I would recommend a more server oriented system like Fedora or OpenSUSE. Mandriva is a desktop system plain and simple and if you want to just put up a few bucks you can buy the server edition for $361.00. Costs less than Windows Vista.
The num lock key is on by default. I hate that and mobile users will likely find it annoying as well. The boot system sucks. I like knowing what my system is doing so the Press Escape jazz just didnt work for me and when I tried to change it in Mandriva it would work for a couple of boots then revert back to the original. PCLOS maintains the user preference and I wish Mandriva would as well. On the GNOME install I had a couple of hard crashes but overall it was a stable system. Of course it just takes one bug to piss me off and the num lockwas it with this one.
If you hate the word Ubuntu and just dont like the system, Mandriva works well and the PowerPack contains everything you need unlike the Ubuntu default install. I personally didnt get why Dell chose Ubuntu outside of purely political and fanboy hype as there are better systems with more out of box and a better out of box experience than Ubuntu. Anyway, for new users who want a package that is supported and you can call and get tech support, I would recommend this. If you are a power user and just want to dive into Linux head first and sink or swim this works too. If you are looking for a distribution for your grandmother to use, we are almost there. For ease of use, package availability and being just a cool system to work and play on you cant go wrong with Mandriva.
Overall Score: 8.5
EDIT: Sun Oct, 21 2007 More Problems arise….
More problems have arisen with Mandriva Linux 2008. I partitioned and formatted a 80 gb Western Digital disk that I was going to use for data storage. Upon format, the disk wouldnt mount. I decided to use a thumbdrive that I had to store the data and now no external removable drives will mount at all on this system. I was going to burn the data to DVD and the DVD writer refuses to recognize the disk and refuses to write. When I put in a CD to read the entire system goes down. To make sure it wasnt a hardware issue I put another drive that contains PCLinuxOS 2007 and put it in as the system disk and everything works fine hardware wise.