posted by Michael Fraser on Sat 29th Mar 2003 03:21 UTC
IconWhen I first started playing with Linux (RedHat Distribution -- Version 5.2 Deluxe), it was a present from a father's friend in Boston. As I recall that is the only version of RedHat I ever got to work correctly without any major problems (like "Kernel Segmentation Error" or something to that effect).

Note: The author of this article is not a native english speaker. Please excuse the grammar used at times... Also, please note that all opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of osnews.com.

Introduction

I then remember I faded away back into the Windows world (I was pretty young back then so I don't remember much). After a few years (before 2 years or so), I remembered Linux again when someone started saying how cool it was and stuff so I tried to find a distro for me, so I found a distro called Mandrake (version 8.0 back then).

Mandrake has progressed a lot since then and the rest of this "review" will talk about their latest version 9.1.

Part I - Installation and first impressions

Click for a larger view As soon as I finished downloading Mandrake 9.1 (all 3 CDs), I put it into my DVD-ROM drive (I also got a SONY CD-Writer but I didn't want to take any chances because it didn't work with Mandrake 9.0) and then -- because I was on windows at the time -- the autorun came up and i pressed "Install Mandrake Linux", so it rebooted and entered mdk's installation.

I now, like an average user would do started to panic, this is how it was: *starts trying to move mouse* --but the cursor wouldn't move! Mandrake Linux always worked with this mouse... I rebooted, but it did it again. I did not let that to stop me from installing Mandrake so i tried to use tab and to my surprise, it worked! But could the average user do this or just have the patience to just use the keyboard?

After installing it with the keyboard I was wondering if the mouse was going to work when I reboot and I kept on thinking about it because my mouse was PS2, not a USB one which people are saying there are problems sometimes. It booted up into Mandrake and it all worked, so I was so relieved!

I might know a thing or two but when it comes down to manually installing new drivers I am useless and I don't know where to start, but happily it didn't come down to that :)

I started to go around looking at what differences there were from 9.0 and there were a LOT of differences! The MandrakeGalaxy theme (Gnome and KDE) were set up automatically and it gave all my applications the same look. The Mandrake Control Center was layed out differently than 9.0 as well, new icons and colors.

I installed the ISDN drivers with my internal ISDN modem and got online within minutes. The first thing I did was to run MandrakeUpdate and selected the secsup mirror. After the waiting for it to download the small update list, there were about 4 updates available so I selected all four and tried to update, but it couldn't download the files -- so i thought I'll do this later because maybe the mirrors are full at that moment.

I finished looking around and familiarising myself with the changes and decided to actually use it....

Part II - Oh No!!!

I was trying to see if "kopete", a famous multi-IM client for KDE came with Mandrake, but it didn't. I had to go to Kopete's site and download a 3rd party Mandrake 9.0 kopete package which kept crashing in certain stuff. I was very disappointed because of this.

I started to customize KDE the way I wanted it and I found this "Terminals" menu which had about 7 different consoles and I ask everybody, WHY? All anybody would need is Konsole if you are under KDE or whatever the Gnome one is if your in Gnome. Just think, if there wasn't TOO many of the same stuff, maybe mandrakesoft could be less than 3 CDs, or look more polished.

Most people just use what came with their distribution and do not care or know how to install other software, like kopete for example, and then they go around flaming the distributions for having poor Instant Messaging Support. Kopete is good enough to replace ALL IM programs that come with Mandrake, and soon with the 0.7 release, it'll have perfect IRC Support and a new Yahoo! IM Plugin :)

I opened up OpenOffice.org and KWord and I was surprised to see that Mandrake made a good job on the fonts all over the distribution, which was very nice for a change. I decided to install the NVidia drivers, which I optained from Texstar's place. His RPMs automatically edited my /etc/X11/XF86Config-4! The biggest surprise came when the NVidia drivers in 9.1 didn't ruin my fonts as it happened in the past.

Note from author: In order to be able to use OpenGL I had to, as root, chmod 777 /dev/nvidia0 and some other thing in /dev/, which you can find by typing "glxgears", if the opengl gears come up, your ok, if not, chmod the thing it says in the error.

I just wanted to see just how much better Mandrake 9.1 was.... so i launched up K3b, which at last came with Mandrake. Its setup tool at last knew that my Reader was a reader and not a writer and that my writer existed. After the K3b Setup finished, I restarted k3b and went into the Settings, where it did not remember that my burner/reader even existed. I have never managed to burn or even get close to burning in Linux before.

Editor's request: Please do not tell me to use console tools to do this, I don't want to, and neither does the average guy want to :)

Part III - Conclusion

Mandrake Linux is getting there, but there is still a long way to go. I love linux a lot, but something just keeps making me stick to dual booting with windows -- mostly the games.

Once and if Linux in general (addressed to ALL distros) get their act together, fix dependency hells, hardware support etc.. it might be a viable alternative to Windows.

I would also like to take the opportunity to say that the Download edition is not the same as the Standard edition which is on Sale. The Standard edition contains more drivers and a lot more stuff you'd normally have to manually download and install.

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