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.
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.
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.
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.
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 doesnÂ´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.