posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Oct 2007 22:25 UTC

"Mandriva, page 2/2"
Secondly, there is the graphical consistency issue, something made worse in Mandriva, because when you change themes in Mandriva (like I did, to Plastik) the Gtk+ theme does not switch along (Gtk+ apps still sport the Ia Ora look) - something it is supposed to do. The Gtk+ settings panel in the KDE Control Center (the GTK-Qt theme engine) does not appear to be present in Mandriva - it is not installed by default, for whatever reason. After installing it, everything worked fine. This is really something that ought to be installed by default in a distribution that aims to include both Qt as well as Gtk+ applications.

The graphical inconsistency issue also extends towards the layout of menus and buttons. GNOME and KDE applications have their own layouts, and mixing those is confusing. All in all, I wish that Mandriva would just install Qt applications only when I order it to do a KDE Desktop installation. This would become problematic, since the drakxtools are written in Gtk+.

Speaking of the drakxtools, or Mandriva Control Center, it are still a fine collection of system management tools. Ok, so they are written in Gtk+, but let us forget that for a while. There is another, more pressing problem with these tools: they are mostly 'wizard' based. They guide you step-by-step through configuration screens, only allowing you to edit one type of setting at a time. This is really, really annoying: give me a proper configuration dialog for crying out loud, where I can edit whatever I setting I want. Being more dialog-centered also forces you to keep the amount of options to a minimum. Something for the future, maybe.

On to a proper, annoying bug. As you could see in my rundown of specifications of my laptop, it uses a bcm4318 wireless chip. The 43xx chips in general are a pain in the behind in Linux, but to make matters worse, the 4318 may be the worst of all. Where many of the bcm43xx chips work just fine with the native Linux driver, my 4318 simply does not. It works sometimes for hours on end, and then it will not work for another few hours, dropping connections, being really slow, or simply not connecting at all. This is not a Mandriva issue; it happens in Ubuntu too. Hence, in Ubuntu, I use ndiswrapper, which does work fine.

Sadly, not so in Mandriva 2008.0. The network drakxtool refuses to properly configure ndiswrapper. It will install the driver, but when that is done, and it tries to load ndiswrapper with that driver, it simply refuses to, with a really annoying error message (shown below).

I could not get it fixed. I tried it the die hard way, via the CLI, but no good. And yes, I have thought of the obvious things like blacklisting the native driver (heck, I even removed it), but all to no avail. Quite annoying, as I do not have wireless now under Mandriva.

There are a lot of what I call 'polish bugs' (note how 'polish' is one of the few words in English that change its meaning by merely capitalising the first letter). Mandriva comes with either Compiz or Metisse, and this is easily set up using the Mandrake Control Center. I opted for Compiz Fusion (Metisse is a bit too... Weird for my tastes), and it works just fine. It is just that I use the Expo plugin a lot, which I want to enable via the top left screencorner - but that is a no go. Even though the option is correctly set, the hotcorner does not work. Very annoying. Another minor bug is that the Kerry search tool does not respect the shortcut key combination it uses (alt+space). A minor bug, but annoying still.

There are more of these types of bugs. That KDE bootsplash I talked about earlier, sometimes turns black when loading KDE. My laptop's volume/play/etc keys do not work (they work fine in Ubuntu). X does not seem to respect the set mouse cursor theme very well. And so on.

All those small bugs contribute to my overall impression of Mandriva 2008.0: a good, solid distribution, with an excellent installation routine, decent configuration tools, but with quite a few polish issues that they need to work on. The underpinnings are definitely there, and if you are not a total consistency idiot like me, Mandriva is simply a solid distribution, which offers the best of both GNOME and KDE, and comes packed with a whole boatload of software. In addition, even though I do not particularly like it, it is one of the few (only?) major distributions that facilitates the installation and use of Metisse, the other 3D desktop (that is not a 3D desktop).

Software title: Mandriva Linux 2008
Publisher: Mandriva
Price: depends on version (free-39 EUR)

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