The installation has been completely revamped. It looks good and its interface is cleaner with fewer steps required by the user (however, the power is still there if you need it, hidden under some 'advanced' buttons on in the 'Summary' screen). I also liked the little 4-option menu asking you how to proceed with the installation regarding partitions, I found it intuitive, clean and better than the competition's. The only things the user needs to do is pick the language, keyboard, mouse, hard drive/partition and the package family and fire away the package installation. After the packages are installed, the user is asked to add a new user and choose the root password. Before the rebooting there is a summary screen, very similar to the one found in SuSE's installation where the user there can do some more advanced configuration (e.g. configure the ethernet card, printer, sound card and monitor) or leave it as-is (autodetect) and reboot the machine to enjoy Mandrake 9.1. I don't have major complaints about the installation procedure, except maybe a single bug I encountered: the installation would pick the audigy() driver for my first generation SBLive! instead of the emu10k() driver, and it would not turn on ALSA on boot by default. I installed Mandrake 9.1 twice and both times the same problem happened, I had no sound at all, until I turned on ALSA and picked the emu10k() driver manually (older versions of Mandrake didn't have problem with this card).
Using the System
Mandrake's kind of slow to boot as it loads a large number of services by default, but that's configurable via Mandrake's control center. KDE 3.1.0 is the main desktop environment, as always. But this time, we get a Mandrake with a... twist. The default widget theme and window manager theme is now original and applies to both Gnome and KDE (in the same way Red Hat did with BlueCurve). The new theme set is called "Galaxy" and it is indeed very cute, especially its widget set. While I still personally like better the BlueCurve window manager theme for its clearly defined buttons (something that Galaxy lacks and can be a problem to users who need more accessibility), Mandrake's widget-set theme is probably the best found today on any Linux. Detailed, clean, with soft on-mouse-over effects that don't distract. Additionally, new icons made their appearance in this release. I do feel that MandrakeSoft has put a real effort in this release in both the usability and looks of their product.
The "What to Do->" menu is not there anymore, but the annoying "Terminals" menu in the root Kmenu which lists 5-6 different... terminals is still there (that's obsolete and geeky, in my humble opinion). KOffice, OpenOffice 1.02 and Gnumeric are also there, but there is no AbiWord (sometimes I get .doc files that one word processor can read, but the other can't, so I need to have all three installed to check out which one does each time). Mozilla 1.3 and Gaim 0.59.8 come pre-installed along with a large number of other applications, including mySQL, PostgreSQL, Apache, Samba, a large number of 2D/3D games, XFree86 4.3, XMMS, Xine, Quanta, BlueFish 0.9 etc. In the third CD I found "closed" applications included, like Java, Opera, RealPlay 8, AcroRead and more. Java applets work perfectly on Mozilla, but they would load and then not run on the distro's main browser, Konqueror (yes, Java was activated on Konq's prefs). As for Opera 6.12, it would crash on every page that it had java in it.
- "Installation, Using the System"
- "Using the System II, Conclusion"