posted by Matt Brewer on Tue 27th Jul 2004 18:38 UTC
IconI know that a lot of people have posted reviews on Mandrake, SuSE, Fedora, etc. but here is mine. I downloaded the first 3 Mandrake CDs from LinuxISO and then burned them to a CD while in Windows to get to work. I had a Windows XP installation on my 100GB hard drive, but I only have it on 30GB because Windows acts up so much.

Installation
Click for a larger view Just pop in the first cd into your drive and you are ready to get started I read about a whole bunch of extra drivers, etc but I think that any modern BIOS will boot right off of the cd and you'll have no trouble. I have tried Mandrake before, back when it hit 8.0, and Red Hat 9, and just tried Fedora Core 3 a few weeks ago, but they never stayed on my hard drive that long. There was always too much missing in the installation to keep me there. If I was completely broke, I would stay, but when I already have a copy of XP that I can use...I have to give the Mandrake team a thumbs up for the installer. It detected the vast majority of my settings for me, I didnt' have to configure the mouse, keyboard, or time zone. I did choose, however, to use the custom disk partioning. I never have had enough trust in software to let it make such a big decision for me. I was immensly happy with the speed of the installation and the packages to choose from. This distro is a lot faster than Fedora, while even on a 2.1Ghz Athlon took over 30 minutes. The installer even configured both of my network cards correctly.

And would you believe it, for my Radeon 9200, it picked something besides a vesa driver. The credit here might go to the XFree86 team, but I was excited by the name, fglrx, and I'm happy to report that I didnt' have to go through all of the mess of compiling drivers, etc to get accelerated graphics, it just worked! (That's a big deal to me!) Windows doesn't even do that for me, I have to download and install the ATI drivers to get something besides the vesa driver.

Software and Desktop
I chose to install both KDE and Gnome because I wasn't sure which one I would fall in love with. I think that is a good idea for anyone, not just for someone that can't decide (btw Gnome is my one true love now) but I get to use some great packages that are kde-based only, ie, K3B (a wonderful cd and DVD burning app) is a lifesaver and a pleasure to use, along with the handy Kopete messenger and a few other trinkets.

The list of software on Mandrake is very long and if you take the time to go through the individual package selection during installation, I booted to just about everything that I did need and nothing that I didn't. Gnome 2.4 is a very clean desktop and provides an enjoyable computing experience. I do think that I like this over the new spatial mode that I used in Gnome 2.6 on Fedora Core 3. I know you can revert back to browser mode, but I just don't understand the concept of spatial mode. Only thing it had going for it in 2.6 was the "Computer" on the desktop, I really enjoyed using that for those few days.

Room for Improvement
Click for a larger view There were a few things that I think need to be fixed before Linux is great for somone like my dad (doesn't fully understand what the destkop is) I tried Fedora and found huge short comings in the multimedia dept. Mandrake is a major improvement over that, Totem worked out of the box, but in general the distro needs more plugins. I have to say that all of the music/ripping programs worked great.

Also, the gnome photo app is a big improvement over what I have used before in Linux.(It's no iPhoto, but still) Why aren't firefox and thunderbird included? In my opinion those are major applications today. Especially thunderbird. I have no desire to use the included Kmail and Evolution. Native Quicktime and flashplayer support should come with the distro and just work. Finally, printing support. I've had my Lexmark Z45 for atleast two years now and still no driver. Granted that is Lexmark's fault, but come on people. OpenOffice and KWord do me no good if I can't print. But this list is a lot shorter than what I would have said in the past, so I say to the community, keep up the good work!

Overall
After using Mandrake for the week, I have to say I love it a lot. It has by far been the best Linux experience that I've had so far. There are a lot of things that I miss from the Windows world, ie The Sims, iTunes, and printing, but I can generally manage pretty well. If someone told me they wanted to try Linux, I would tell them Mandrake is for them. In fact, I would tell them that it is better than Windows in so many ways if you have a supported printer, don't have a million songs from iTunes or an addiction for a PC Game. (I know about Transgaming's Winex, I haven't tried it because I can go back to Windows to play and I don't want to pay the money to get it, but a newbie isn't going to play around with wine and win).

About the Author
Matt Brewer is a 17 year old high school student who isn't afraid to make mistakes and enjoys "tinkering" with the computer :) He has used Windows since 98SE and has a good level of experience with both Windows and Linux and hopes to major somewhere in the computing field.


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