Problems with Conectiva
Working with Conectiva Linux 9 was fairly uneventful for me, although I’m glad I didn’t have to try to reconfigure either X or networking, because this would have been quite difficult without modern configuration tools. That said, however, the language issues were constant and annoying, and some other minor problems did present themselves.
The first thing that I noticed when Conectiva Linux 9 started for the first time was that KDM, the default login manager, had been configured to use Portuguese instead of the language I selected during the installation. While Portuguese speakers probably wouldn’t ever discover this oversight, as the language selection happens to coincide with the hard-coded default, those who speak Spanish or English definitely would notice. Fixing this small quirk is easy using the KDE Control Center, but it’s fairly disconcerting to have to puzzle your way through because you don’t know language. New Linux users who had never seen KDM before would almost certainly be lost if they didn’t happen to speak Portuguese.
Issues with the fact that I didn’t select Portuguese as my language during the installation process continued for quite some time. OpenOffice hadn’t had its English locale files installed during the initial installation, and refused to start until I’d done so myself using Synaptic, while KCLControl, the Conectiva Control Center, refused to display some of its text labels in any language other than Portuguese. In addition, I’m still trying to discover a way of installing all of the missing English help files for a large number of KDE applications without manually going through the package lists and selecting them one by one (which is probably what I will end up doing). At the other extreme, Synaptic, Conectiva’s own software administration tool, doesn’t seem to have been translated into any non-English language, even the Portuguese.
The default package selection was a problem as well, with the installer making some fairly silly choices by default. Not installing the appropriate help and locale files for the selected language is the most obvious oversight, but there are others as well. For example, Conectiva thoughtfully included Sun’s Java Runtime Environment, which is very useful when surfing the Internet, and is requested when you run OpenOffice for the first time; then they forgot to add it to the “Desktop Workstation” package list. They have also failed to take all the advantages they could have from splitting up the large KDE components – many applications with duplicate functionality and dubious value are installed by default. New users wouldn't need them, and experienced users would know that a quick trip into Synaptic will allow them to install their program of choice with just a few clicks.
Conectiva Linux 9 is a modern, stable and user-friendly Linux distribution that achieves a good balance between power and simplicity, but is marred by some silly bugs and a lack of graphical configuration tools. That said, it is still worth evaluating, especially for Portuguese and Spanish users, for whom the distribution is really aimed at. New users will sometimes be confused or intimidated by the quirks left behind by the developers, as well as the lack of some graphical configuration tools, but overall Conectiva is still a reasonable choice to consider, especially considering its beautiful, well thought out default desktop. If only they would make Synaptic more like some of the other software delivery systems out there! For power users, the inclusion of apt and Synaptic raises Conectiva Linux 9 from mediocrity and makes it a distribution worth looking at.
Installation – 7.5/10 (partitioning, package selection, text-mode in the middle of the installation)
Hardware Support – 8/10 (supports a huge range of hardware, but older kernel)
Ease of Use – 7/10 (would be 9/10 with more graphical configuration tools)
Features – 8/10 (apt and Synaptic rock!)
Credibility – 5.5/10 (lots of silly errors and omissions)
Speed – 8/10 (fast boot, responsive KDE)
Overall – 7.5/10
About the author
Jason Prince is studying Computer Science at Australia's Macquarie University. His areas of interest include Linux in small businesses and education, as well as Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
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