Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

First Impressions: Mandriva Spring 2008

First Impressions: Mandriva Spring 2008
Orignally on Content Only!, 23 april 2008

Maybe I am wrong, but I have seen only raving reviews about the new Mandriva Spring 2008. Positive reviews. Since I always like to draw my own conclusions and Mandriva is one the releases this spring, I decided to give it a spin. I installed it in a virtual machine on my desktop and on a separate partition on my Acer 3681 WXMi laptop.


Editions
Mandriva offers a few variations of Spring 2008: the free Mandriva Linux One 2008 Spring and the real free Mandriva Linux One 2008 Spring that conforms to the definition of free software (meaning without proprietary drivers or codecs). Then there are the commercial editions: Powerpack and Flash (runs of a nice USB key). The Powerpack edition comes with a set of codecs, Picasa, Cedega and three months of e-training and support. I ran a testdrive with the ‘non-free’ free version.

Installation
With today’s Linux distributions it would be a surprise if it wasn’t easy to install them and Mandriva is no exception. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem for novice users to follows the steps and install Mandriva on their boxes. Of course, taking care of the partitions is always a challenge but a skill that can be learned.

Look and feel: Where are the penguins?
The Mandriva logo is a yellow star, but somehow I always associate Mandriva with penguins portrayed in socialist-realist propagande style, looking confidently to the future. Those penguins are gone from the desktop, replaced by a nice looking wallpaper, though not really an eye-catcher. I know, taste is personal.
The KDE desktop is well-organized. I was a bit surprised not to see Dolphin as the default filemanager, but Konquerer instead. Nothing wrong with Konquerer, but other recent distributions came with Dolphin. The default set of applications is a good mixture of K-applications with OpenOffice.org as the office suite.

Turn off: Codeina
You can use Codeina to install codecs that are missing from your system. Maybe I am too used to finding these codecs in other repositories (like Medibuntu for Ubuntu) for free, but it was a turn off to see a price tag (7 euro?) on the download offers for some codecs. This service is provided by Fluendo. There is nothing wrong with it, I guess, but highly unexpected.

Updating the system
One of the first things I always do is to bring the system up to date. The package manager gives you the option to select a repository, there isn’t one preselected for you. The full system update brought up a series of questions whether I would like to select package A or package B. I had the same experience with OpenSuse and SLED recently. Frankly, I wonder whether novice users would have a clue which selection would be best as no information was provided (other than the package names that are slightly different). It is confusing when choices later on bring back earlier questions.

Installing the GNOME desktop was simple. The package manager offers various filters, one of which is meta-packages. Selecting the GNOME meta-package is easy enough to give the proper desktop.

Wifi
So far I had been working with a network cable attached to the laptop, but I wanted the wifi enabled. The Mandriva control center is a remarkably well-designed tool. I like the design and the lay out. In order to setup the wireless connection it is necessary to have the proper Windows-driver available (Broadcom in my case). That was a bit of a problem, because I don’t run Windows on my laptop and don’t have the driver at hand. However, I found it on the internet and the wifi connection lit up. It makes the connection to the wifi network somewhat faster than Ubuntu.

The biggest problem: Instability
Looking deeper into the distribution requires the ability to work with it and that wasn’t really possible with Mandriva Spring 2008. The GNOME desktop froze my laptop everytime I put my finger on the touchpad, necessitating a hard reboot to fix it. The KDE desktop didn’t have that problem, but moving the mouse became something of a hit and miss. Sometimes it would respond, sometimes it wouldn’t. This might be solved through the settings, but overall the desktop was instable. Applications would freeze or simply close down without a warning. Writing this review was impossible under Mandriva as typing was unbearably slow. Considering the avalanche of positive reviews it must be related to my specific hardware, though Mandriva is the first distribution to reveal these issues.

Overall conclusions
This was a limited test, but that’s the angle for the first impressions articles. The instability didn’t do much to leave a positive feeling, but beyond that Mandriva did provide a complete and fine distribution. It doesn´t really shine or provide it’s own face, a brand that is easily recognizable as for instance Ubuntu, Suse, Fedora or SabayonLinux. In the end, it didn’t leave much of an impression and to capture the hearts and minds of new users that is one of the prerequisites.

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15 thoughts on “First Impressions: Mandriva Spring 2008

  1. 1. <codeina allow also to install missing codecs from PLF or Mandriva repositories. cf http://www.picoodle.com/view.php?img=/4/4/25/abhayks/f_MandrivaPacm_ce55ac4.png&srv=img30

    2. Another user report this instability issue, he was using intel driver. However it’s strange as I don’t have this issue … Did you look at beagle ? maybe beagle is trying to index files ?

    3. You are trying to use the same repositories system than the one in Ubuntu and you are wrong.
    there’s only 1 official mandriva reporitory, and in this repository you have 3 media : main, contrib, non-free. You are supposed to activate the 3.
    http://wiki.mandriva.com/en/Docs/Basic_tasks/Installing_and_removing_software
    http://wiki.mandriva.com/en/Policies/SoftwareMedia

    4. There’s a PLF repository which provided non free codecs. Add PLF, install the needed codecs.
    http://linux-wizard.net/index.php?id_blog=201

  2. Hi Fabrice,

    Thank you for the pointers, especially the PLF repository. I did use the official Mandriva repository. When I started the package manager I could choose from various servers.

    Beagle could be the problem, I actually didn’t think about it. I shall try to disable it and see whether it improves the stability.

    Thanks again

    Jan

  3. Mandriva can’t add PLF in the list of repositories for legal reasons. So there’s no official connections between Mandriva and PLF.

    Just a tip : did you know that when you are using KDE, you can switch from tradionnal menu application to kickoff by just doing a right click on the “menu” icon ?

    don’t hesitate to navigate in the Mandriva Control center.

    If you want to do servers stuff, install the drakwizard package. You will be able to setup easily a DNS, or a proxy, or a DHCP with PXE support.

    Do you know that drakgw whcih allow to share your internet connection will install : a dhcp server, a DNS server with relay to ISP DNS, a transparent SQUID proxy protected by shorewall firewall ?

    Do you know that many Mandriva tools can be launched without X in the CLI ? try drakconnect, drakx11, etc …

  4. I am “the other reporter of 2008.1 instabilities” 🙂

    BTW, if I am not wrong, Acer Aspire 3681 WXMi is also Intel-based when comes to video, either Intel 945 GM or Intel 940 GML, depending on the exact submodel.

  5. Correct, it’s the Intel 940 GML. I have heard some rumours that Ubuntu 8.04 has problems with the chipset as well.

    And, to report back on Fabrice’s suggestion. Beagle wasn’t the problem. I disabled Beagle and after logging off the system froze again, necessitating a hard reboot.

    So, now we have two reports of instability by two reviewers that can’t be blamed for lack of experience 😉

  6. Regression in the Xorg Intel driver.

    Latest Intel driver release is available in the backport media :
    2008.1 main/backports x11-driver-video-intel-2.3.0-1mdv2008.1

    1. Launch drakrpm-edit-media
    2. enable Main backports
    3. install x11-driver-video-intel with urpmi or rpmdrake
    4. disable Main backports

  7. Thanks Fabrice. Brrr.. I hate regressions.

  8. Very nice, Fabrice. Here’s one more information for my case (Acer Tavelmate 5310, Intel 945GM):

    Initially, I installed it from Mandriva One 2008.1 GNOME RC2, I applied some xorg.conf hacks (Option “AccelMethod” “EXA”, Option “ExaNoComposite” “false”, Option “MigrationHeuristic” “greedy”) to have a relatively stable system, then I updated to the latest packages (Spring was released) and… freezes were the rule again.

    But at least I was able to install it from the RC2 One GNOME CD.

    Now, I tried to install it again from the Mandriva 2008.1 One GNOME Release CD: well, I can’t because it freezes soon enough!

    So: how could I switch to x11-driver-video-intel-2.3.0-1mdv2008.1 from backports, when I can’t even install Mandriva 2008.1 spring?!

  9. Let me tell you something : Xorg development model lead to greater instabilities and regressions.

    XFree86 was very conservative, but was trying to ensure no breakage and regressions.

    Xorg at the contrary is adding new functionalities and breakage at high space. Many features are half implemented !
    EXA ? EXA which was suppose to be faster than “old X Acceleration Architecture ( XAA ) is still slower than XAA and even … than software rendering !
    EXA is still not completely implemented in most drivers, and buggy in most drivers. However EXA will eventually becomes faster in the future.
    http://tirdc.livejournal.com/20514.html
    http://tirdc.livejournal.com/21263.html
    http://cworth.org/exa/i965/render_bench/
    http://article.gmane.org/gmane.comp.freedesktop.xorg/17466
    http://cworth.org/exa/i965/eliminating_glyph_fallbacks/

    Most Intel dev are developing new features in Xorg, and so Intel drivers are in fact … development drivers. To compare to Linux kernel, we are running the -mm tree when we are using Xorg …

  10. Use the vesa driver.
    IIRC there’s a noauto option to prevent hardware detection. Check boot options in the boot menu of One. Or else use Free DVD edition.

    I don’t know if there’s a possibility to force the xorg driver use by the One edition.

    You may want to try the following options at boot :
    vga
    freedriver=vesa

  11. Since *when* is xserver-xorg-video-intel (or the old version xserver-xorg-video-i810) considered as NON-FREE?!?!?

    It is as free as xserver-xorg-video-ati (‘atimisc’, ‘r128’ and ‘radeon’) is as compared to the NON-FREE fglrx-driver!!!

    I refuse top consider the Intel video driver as ‘non-free’!

    OTOH, I am happy that I am not the unique au monde who believes that XFree88 was much better. The gazillions of cretins out there consider me an idiot for saying that I was happier with XFree86…

  12. Béranger> Why are you saying than Intel driver is non-free ?

  13. I have not said that, *YOU* said that!

    (1) “Or else use Free DVD edition.” ==> This implies that using the “One” would give me a “non-free” driver for Intel! (What non-free driver?!)

    (2) “freedriver=vesa” ==> why “freedriver” and not “driver” or “xdriver”?

    Everything you recommended implied that Intel would be non-free.

    BTW, I couldn’t persuade it to *NOT* use the Intel driver, so it’s not installable, period.

  14. Béranger tu cherches quelque chose là où il n’y a rien !

    1. J’ai dit d’utiliser DVD Free edition, car on peut sélectionner le pilote à utiliser lors de l’installation au moment du résumé, alors que la One détecte et lance automatiquement le pilote approprié. La Free edition fait l’installation en utilisant vesa. c’est tout ! Arrête d’essayer de deviner les pensées des gens. J’ai dit A, alors arrête de penser que je sous-entend B

    2. concernant freedriver=vesa, comment te dire … je ne connais pas la syntaxe de cette commande. J’ai regardé la liste arguments de l’installation. J’ai vu vga, et j’ai vu freedriver. Je me suis dit que c’était peut être pour forcer l’utilisation d’un pilote libre, et je me suis dit que je pouvais détourner cette option pour qu’il utilise un autre pilote spécifié. C’est tout. maintenant je n’allais pas m’embarquer dans une explication d’une option que je connais pas. Il teste, si cela marche tant mieux, si cela ne marche pas, normalement cela ne devrait pas reformater son disque.

    So Béranger … keep cool

  15. @ Fabrice
    I’m afraid to say that installing the most recent x11-driver-video-intel didn’t solve the problem. KDE remains unstable with the touchpad experiencing mini-freezes and applications closing down just like that. GNOME launches and I am able to move the mouse, but the moment I actually click on something it locks the computer.

    Including the PLF repository worked like a charm though.

    Anyway, I’d better start writing up a bug report for Mandriva. Thanks for the suggestions

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