posted by Eugenia Loli on Wed 20th Nov 2002 22:20 UTC
IconMandrakeSoft and Pearson Education sent us over a copy of their latest "pro" edition of the popular Linux Mandrake 9.0. We already wrote a review about Linux Mandrake 9.0, so this is going to be a review of the ProSuite deal specifically and what you get for $199 USD RPP (easily found for around $175 USD in the market). Update: Apparently, StarOffice 6.0 is included in its full version with the distribution. Too bad Mandrake does such a poor job and include its RPMs along with some hundreds other demos in the two Commercial CDs, without saying a word about it (or where to find it) in the "Commercial Software Guide" booklet or another really prominent place.

The all blue box includes 8 CDs: 2 with the Mandrake Linux 9 OS, 1 CD with the internationalization and documentation, 2 CDs with commercial applications (demos), 1 supplementary CD with more open source applications, 1 CD with the sources and 1 CD with the IBM DB2 database, an evaluation version that works well on Mandrake Linux. Also, you will find a DVD media which includes everything, for those with DVD drives (I haven't tried the DVD as the machine I installed Mandrake ProSuite doesn't have a DVD drive).

Additionally, you will find a 20-page booklet/pocket guide which is the "Quick Startup Guide". This short booklet answers some very basic questions about Mandrake, its installation and uninstallation, hardware support and in general, it is the "first step" towards installing Mandrake Linux.

Then, you will find the main manual, named "Installation and User Guide" and it is a 190-pages illustrated book. The guide describes the installation in more detail, the KDE environment (e.g. KMenu, browser, email, printing) and then it goes into detail about how to use the Mandrake Tools. The Mandrake tools description take about half of the book. At the end of the book you will find a pretty extensive troubleshooting guide and then then Index. Unfortunately, the index while being alphabetically sorted does not have letter headers to easily identify where a letter starts or stops. Moreover the Index is not as populated as it should have been.

There is also a 32-page booklet which describes the commercial software demos to be found in the two accompanied CDs. There are about 60 commercial demos included in these two CDs (includes for example Opera, Win4Lin, TheKompany demos, jBase, Turboprint, AC3D, Stuffit and more). I don't see the point of having that booklet there other than for promotional purposes. The great majority of these are demos freely found on the web for example.

As for the additional x86 application CD, includes RPMs most easily found on the /contrib folder on the Mandrake FTP or on rpmfind: Abiword, loads of perl scripts, Afterstep, Apache2...

Mandrake Linux ProSuite 9.0

The ProSuite Edition is effectively the Download Edition but with the Server installation CDs, plus a few more CDs with freely available software, a manual, and 90 days of installation web support. It includes phone support for 5 incidents valid 60 days, but again, only for the instrallation part.

And this is where exactly my problem lies. It is just not enough to only support the installation. I mean, it is not 1995 anymore and the Linux installation methods are not as arcane as they used to be. I wrote the exact same thing about our review of Red Hat 8.0 Professional boxset review a month ago. Throwing a zillion packages on some CDs (and some are untested or don't work properly) and only support the installation, it just doesn't cut it. I want more support for an OS that costs two hundred dollars. Driver support for example, and even application support, even if MandrakeSoft or Red Hat or SuSE are not the direct developers of these applications. From the moment they include all that software on their product and sell it, they should be supporting it. Apple, Microsoft and other Unix vendors support all or most of the included software. And the main reason they do not include other third party software is because they don't want to have the headaches of supporting it for people who do not understand the difference of "we are not the developers of this application". Linux has taken the approach for only support the installation procedure (possibly a relic from the '90s taboo for "installing Linux is difficult") and they are throwing as much as (free) software as they can in it and they expect us to pay for it. Sure, if you are a modem user it makes sense to have the CDs with all the software in it, but you won't be realling using all of these packages anyway.

This is the "server" product from Mandrake and includes a kernel with support for 4 GB memory and other server services like DNS, NIS etc. Red Hat Pro includes these packages too and they include even more in their (more pricey) Advanced Server product (with cluster support and other exotic).

The only "interesting" reason why someone should buy the ProSuite edition is because of the MandrakeOnline security update feature which is free for the first computer and 25% off the price for a second installation (normally $55 per year). But still, putting everything together, the ProSuite is 30-40% more expensive than its direct competitors, Red Hat 8 Professional ($125-$150) and SuSE Professional (only $80). And in fact, documentation on the Red Hat 8 PRO is much better than Mandrake's, it includes more booklets explaining things beyond how to click through the preference panels or how to load a web browser... ProSuite includes some more documentation in the CD as PDFs (as Red Hat and SuSE also does), but I can't get it out of my mind that a real booklet would be great (I prefer something that I can touch for something I would pay for). In fact, the same PDFs are included in the Standard and PowerPak edition, so it does not give an edge to the ProSuite at all.

My conclusion would be (as with Red Hat as well) to only buy the Standard Edition if you want to support Mandrake. The only "Pro" product that makes a good purchase deal from all three main Linux distros is the SuSE one. Unless I missed something, I personally do not see the Mandrake ProSuite 9.0 as a good deal for what it gives you for two hundred bucks (when comparing it to other Mandrake products and the competition). You expect from any review to give you an idea if it is worth buying or not, so here is my conclusion: ProSuite 9.0 is expensive in comparison for what it offers. Update: I just found the StarOffice RPMs. They were "lost" in the chaos of the commercial CDs without a single word from manuals or the OS that they include such a prominent piece of software in its full version. Well, under the new findings, the price seems much better now (StarOffice 6 itself sells for $75). The Arconis OS Selector boot manager is also included in its full version (as much I as I can tell after installing it). Thing is... do you need StarOffice when OpenOffice.org can do most of the job well?

Related reading:
Mandrake 9.0 product comparison
SuSE 8.1 product comparison
Red Hat 8.0 product comparison

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