posted by Jeremy LaCroix on Mon 14th Jun 2004 17:37 UTC
IconThere already exists a good deal of reviews of Mandrake 10 already. Instead of doing the typical review, I'm going to do things a bit differently. You see, there are a few things my OS needs to do perfectly, to warrant it a chance to stay on my PC longer than an hour or so. If any one of these necesseties fail, I may end up not liking the OS altogether. My OS needs to support good hardware acceleration, it must be able to play MP3's, I absolutely need Zsnes, and it has to be fast and stable.

Seems simple enough, right? Nope. I've went through Suse 9.1, Linspire and Fedora Core 2, and none of those three worked good enough for me. I was hesitant at giving Mandrake 10 a chance, seeing as how horrible 9.2 was for me, and MandrakeMove didn't impress me at all.

This is going to be very short. In my opinion, the entire point of an operating system is to allow you to do what you need it to do. In the end, that's all that matters. Length of installation, nor snazzy boot screens matter at all to the end result, which is usability and what you can get out of the system.

System:
500mhz Pentium III
768MB RAM
Geforce 2MX 64MB

80GB Western Digital
20GB Western Digital
CDRW
DVD

Hardware Acceleration:
The first thing I did when I installed MDK10, was downloading and installing the latest NVIDIA driver for my Geforce 2MX video card. Then, all hell broke loose. My system would only last ten minutes before locking up so bad, the only salvation was the reset button. This happened at least ten times, due to something along the lines of "badness in PCI subsys" in the kernel messages. My next course of action was disabling the nvidia driver and going back to the stock "NV" driver. Much to my dismay, it didn't crash at all, then it dawned on me: Nvidia's drivers caused the instability problem, not Mandrake. And I was right, I searched google for the "leaked" Nvidia driver 5341, and my system is now stable WITH hardware acceleration!

ZSNES:
Next mission: Will I be able to play my Super Nintendo games on Mandrake? The answer was a definite yes! This may seem like no big deal to most, however, it is; neither Suse or Fedora 2 could do this correctly, and with Linspire I had to PAY to install this freeware program. (Can you believe that?!) Mind you, ZSNES worked on Fedora Core 2, but it was VERY slow and choppy, and the sound didn't match the action. Mandrake 10 runs ZSNES (for me, anyway) extremely fast, and flawless. Playing Super Metroid in all it's OGL glory really made my day.

MP3 and Audio:
Congrats to Mandrake: This is the first 2.6 kernel Linux OS I have used that didn't suffer from the "hissy sound" problem. With both Suse and Fedora 2, the sound "hisses" on my left speaker, and the only way to stop it was to turn off the surround on my speakers. With Mandrake, I can have the surround without the static, which is very cool.

On the downside, for some reason, XMMS was only stable when running in Konsole. If I initiate it from the Kmenu, as soon as I tried to play a song, it crashed. Upgrading to XMMS 1.2.10 fixed the problem, though.

Problems with Menudrake:
I really don't like the Menu layout Mandrake chose for me. For example, K3B is called something like "Burn CD's" and not "K3B" like it should be. Alot of programs are like that, named after what they do, rather than their actual title. I understand it's good for beginners, but I don't like it, I wish there was a way to turn it off.

There is, in essence, Menudrake which "should" allow me to change the names of my programs. However, there seems to be some sort of protection against renaming items in the Kmenu. For example, there is a program group called "Administer your system" and I wanted it to be simply "Administration", so I renamed it accordingly. What did Menudrake do? It made a copy of "Administer your system" and then added "Administration" so now I have two program groups for the same programs. In fact, if I rename anything, it copies it. It won't allow me to remove the copy in Menudrake, either. I've been fighting with it for over an hour, and I can't figure out how to "hack" it so that I can get it to work right, but I shouldn't have to do that. (If anyone knows what I am doing wrong, you may email me).

In any case, as sad as it is to say, that was something I did like in Windows. The start menu was nothing more than shortcuts in folders. I could drag all the program group icons to my desktop, reorganize them, and copy them back. That was easy, and I should be able to do this manually in Linux, if I so choose.

Speed and Usability:
One of the problems I had with Suse was that everything was huge, no matter what resolution you set the desktop to. I remember trying to find a way to get the Kmenu to NOT take up the entire left side of my screen (very large icons on the Kmenu) and I gave up. Window borders, icons, fonts, everything in Suse, seemed to be set as if I had it set to 800*600. One of the things that I like about Mandrake is that if you have it set to 1024*768, it actually looks like it is. In fact, Mandrake 10.0 gives you the feeling of "simple and to the point" everywhere you go. I actually like that, and it makes for a very fast system. In fact, MDK10 is faster than Fedora 2, Linspire and Suse hands down. This is easilly the fastest Linux distro I ever used. The downside to the KDE desktop configuration (I chose not to install Gnome, btw) is that it didn't get alot of attention, all Mandrake really did was add their logo to the Kmenu and a few Mandrake bookmarks here and there, and that's it. But in a sense it goes into the "simple and to the point" style of this release which I like very much. I wonder though, does a full featured, custom desktop really slow down the system, or were other distro's I've used just slow to begin with?

Conclusion:

While I still can't get my system to play WMV files, nor DVD's, I have to say that this is the best Mandrake version I've used yet, and has become my favorite Linux distro at the moment. Few distro's stay on my hard drive longer than an hour, and it's been almost two weeks with this one. I haven't touched my Windows partition in so long, I forgot what it looks like.

I feel that MDK10 more than makes up for 9.2, and it's definitely an apology well accepted!

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