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Mandriva Linux 2008 October 19, 2007

Posted by rjdohnert in Opinions, Reviews.
25 comments

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 The GNOME version uses the Tango icon set while KDE uses a vastly outdated crystal icon set. Really outdated.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…

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.

Functionality….

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.

System dislikes….

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.

Conclusion…

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.

My Ubuntu finale. What will I take away from it? September 18, 2006

Posted by rjdohnert in Interesting Reads, Opinions, Reviews.
3 comments

Ok its been a month since I tried using Linux as my primary desktop.  It was a nice little ride and Linux definately has made some improvements and while Ubuntu may be the best Linux distribution out there I doubt it will make any serious strides against Windows Vista.  Ubuntu was the closest and possibly has the better chance.  With that said here have been my Ubuntu observations.

Ubuntu and Xubuntu are better than Kubuntu.  I dont know if its because the GNOME and GTK preferences but Kubuntu seems very unpolished, doesnt work correctly and is very tempremental with packages in Adept.  Adept, also for some reason breaks packages very easily.  So Ubuntu or Xubuntu have my votes as to what I will keep using for awhile.  In fact Im going to plug Xubuntu for a sec, if your machine is less than a 1 ghz Processor with less than 256 mb of RAM, Xubuntu is for you.  End plug

One of the problems I have with Ubuntu is its lack of stability in reference to Java apps.  It crashes constantly when running some Java apps and forces a hard reboot when running others.  Hardware support isnt bad especially with removable devices.  Even hardware that SLED 10 didnt pick up Ubuntu did.

The usability of Ubuntu is amazing.  Today my sister in law came over and wanted to use a computer to print out some address labels and check her e-mail.  I told her to go ahead and use it while I was working on a vehicle.  She asked me for the password and I told her, I forgot Linux was booted on the system when I went in to change it she was actualy using the system. I didnt have to instruct her I didnt have to tell her anything.  The layout was simple, Internet, Office, multimedia.  In fact she even commented the only thing missing was the iTunes music store.  This just proves that Linux yes, can be acceptable as a desktop OS since my sister in law is one of the most untechnical users I know.  If something goes wrong, well thats another story.  Also they should include tools like ndiswrapper and ndisgtk in the default install.
In some ways I liked the Synaptic/Adept system for installing packages.  Im not going to need all the packages on my desktop computer that I need on my laptop like wifi radar, Network manager etc.  As a developer though you will be glad to know that GCC and the other build essentials are on the CD just reinsert the install CD during an installed session.

What will I take away from this?  The fact Ubuntu is almost there.  Its a good, reliable system and I look forward to future releases.  Some people like Greg Kroah Hartman of Novell, RMS and others in the Linux comunity will do more damage to the reputation of Linux than any technical deficiency present in the system itself.  Ubuntu does a good job though of staying out of the political side of it, lets hope it stays that way.

Journey into Ubuntu: Part 2 August 24, 2006

Posted by rjdohnert in Reviews.
9 comments

I have been putting Ubuntu through its paces lately to see if it could keep up with my busy, hectic lifestyle where I move from being stationary, at one place, and when I go mobile and access 7 different wireless networks. I also installed another Ubuntu test machine, a Compaq Deskpro, 1 ghz PC with 512 mb of RAM. I found out someone had put the SLED “Slab” packages out and had them available for this distro so I installed it on the Deskpro.


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Its very reminicent of using SLED 10 especially when you use it all the time and while for a stationary desktop its nice to use, on a laptop its a different story. But you get the same functionality in some cases that you get with SLED 10, add the Clearlooks theme and you wouldnt know the difference.

Click Here for Larger Picture

The only problem is that the Ubuntu version, whether you have Beagle installed or not defaults to the standard GNOME search utility which kinda sucks. But as I have gotten Beagle to work on the Compaq and have only gotten Beagle to work half-assed on the IBM ThinkPad its not that bad.

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So back to wireless and working with my busy life. First I needed to find a way to be able to mix and switch from network to network as I access at least 7 unique wireless networks in a day. I had to go and through synaptic get the network manager and GNOME version of Network-manager. Unlike Windows it doesnt come preinstalled. That utility made a hell of a difference. I was able to switch and move between a ll the networks but 1 and even worked with my StarBucks T-Mobile account, since Im doing some freelance consulting work during my transition period only one of my clients networks wouldnt work with the Utility no matter how hard I tried and I had to go in and manually set the network up. Only in cases where I found myself in a Windows only network did I have some hinderances and when I had to use VS 2005 I had to use Windows. If the Mono project manages to get 100% compatibility with the .NET Framework it would be nice if the MonoDevelop IDE could import VS 2005 projects but thats unlikely to happen anytime soon.

I have hauled this laptop everywhere and have used it basically as my only desktop for a week and while yes, i do miss Windows — Alot and I miss BSD — Alot it wasnt painful and yes there are a few weak spots in Ubuntu that keeps me from recommending it for people who are less that very computer savvy. Linux has come a long way since I first started using the system all those years ago and yes progress is good. I still recommend Windows and Mac for the less tech users and if you are a very competent person Ubuntu would be a good choice.

Another downside I found with Ubuntu is one I find with most other Linux distros. The lack of quality in some of the applications like Beagle and F-Spot, these were not Canonicals fault as they arent included by default. Beagle as I stated only works half-way some of the time, F-Spot crashes on a regular basis. I find the Nautilus search fast enough for what I need it but Novell needs to work at making it stable and work flawlessly like WDS and Copernic do on Windows and as Picassa and the new Windows photo manager in Vista. It seems like Novell was in such a hurry to throw em out there to counter Microsofts offerings that they really didnt care how well the tools worked. If you are going to use Ubuntu, stay away from Beagle and F-Spot unless you just feel like getting frustrated.

Overall, a very good distro and worth taking the look at for the extremely tech savvy user or if you just want to learn Linux. Plenty of help resources for Ubuntu are available. It also depends on your line of work as well. If you are in desktop publishing, photography or multimedia you are probably better off with the Mac or Windows. But if you are into administrative tasks and are in a development environment there is no harm in exploring Ubuntu or any other Linux distro for that type of environment.

My journey into Ubuntu and the state of desktop Linux August 21, 2006

Posted by rjdohnert in Opinions, Reviews.
5 comments

With LinuxWorld just passed, and lacking the excitement of PDC, I decided to give Ubuntu a tryout considering it recently had a sign on the highways of California and how everyones touting it as the best and the brightest star in the Linux universe. Well after two days of trying, I finally got it installed. Wireless networking was giving me a fit. So I installed it on my trusty experimental laptop, IBM Thinkpad A20m with a Linksys G wireless card. I had to disable the card even though it was natively supported by Linux because of the driver, apparantly in Ubuntu 6.06 its bad so I used NDISWrapper to get the card running. Overall its performed rather well and I do like the plethora of packages in Synaptic. GNOME is so much slower than KDE and you can tell as PC-BSD has run on this laptop and was much faster. Since Ubuntu is one distribution that takes the “Everything should be free and proprietary software sucks”you basically have to go get the drivers and software that make it really usable such as win 32 codecs, MP3 playback, DVD Playback, Java, CrossOver office, Real Player 10, nvidia drivers etc. I may move over to Kubuntu just basically to get rid of the Medieval looking interface of GNOME, although it does have some cool apps, like Rythmbox, F-Spot, Beagle (when it works) and Gnomebaker.

Now is Linux ready for the desktop? Its usable as a desktop, nothing more, nothing less. Its got a good application base, and with some familiars like Picassa and Google Earth making its way there the base is picking up. But its still for techies ultimately. What that means is I wouldnt suggest it to a non-technical user as with Linux its still stuck in the early 90’s. Configuring things like Wireless and Webcams and it entails you know a lot about the system, and not everyone cares about computers that much, while the desktop may be modern the approach is archaic. Remember having to edit you Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files to get your hardware working in Windows 3.1, well its like that in Linux except the files are spread out and located in every part of the system and not in the root directory. The Linux community still needs to work on creating tools that will make hardware and software configuration as effortless as on a Mac or Windows. They need to stop with the proprietary software is illegal angle, its not illegal and if you want the help of software developers and big software development houses you need to drop the bullying and the RMS, bullshit rhetoric. Its not working, its not helping and ultimately you will find its simply counter-productive and for god sakes guys, STANDARDIZE ON ONE PACKAGE FORMAT!!!!! PLEASE!!!!! Its not rocket science and it makes it easier if everyones ducks were in a row. As for users, stick with Vista if you dont know much about computers and/or the Mac. For the average user Windows or the Mac remain the best choice.

SUSE Enterprise Desktop 10 has World’s Best Desktop Search July 11, 2006

Posted by rjdohnert in Reviews.
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According to APC Magazine: Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 includes the most fully integrated desktop search we’ve seen on any operating system

Link to article

My Take; I get the same instant results as the author claims here through Spotlight, Windows Desktop Search and Copernic Desktop Search.  This “testimonial” sounds like nothing more than a fan of SUSE Linux trying to hype some of its features.  I have downloaded the RC of SLED 10 and had more problems getting it to work properly than I have had suiccesses.

Four alternative operating systems June 16, 2006

Posted by rjdohnert in Reviews, Tech News.
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News forge is running a review of four alternative OS's that compete with Mac OS X, Windows and Linux on the desktop.  Among the 4 are Syllable OS, Haiku, SkyOS, and Viopsys.

Link to article

 My Take; Nice review but surprisingly they left out YellowTab Zeta, PC-BSD .