Mandrake 10: A Long Time User’s Experiences

I have been using Linux since 1993. I installed the first version of Slackware on a 16MB 386sx-25. Since then I have been using it almost exclusively on one or more of my PCs. So I consider myself as a bit of an expert. I have been using computers since 1982 mostly PCs, but also VAX mainframes and SPARC systems. Operating systems (and GUIs) I have been using include CP/M, DOS, Windows from Version 2 to XP, Geos, Beos, SCO Unix, Solaris, OS/2 and quite a few Linux Distros.

Computer Hardware

The review is based on this specification:

AMD Duron 1Ghz
320MB Ram
Primary Drive 40GB
Secondary Drive 6GB
ATI Radeon 7200 64MB
KV7MM Motherboard – Via 8233 Integrated Audio Via Rhine Integrated Ethernet
Avermedia TV Studio
Creative Webcam Go
Concord Eye-Q Digicam
Canon BJC1000 Printer

Installation Type

I did a custom install of Mandrake 10 on the above setup. I installed the root partition as a 15GB partition on the primary drive and /swap as 800MB on the secondary drive. I also installed /home on the remainder of the secondary drive.
/ is formatted as reiserfs
/home is formatted as ext2
The installation took 2.5GB and 16 minutes. The only hardware that was not detected was a Creative Webcam GO

Software Installed

I did a custom install first, installing both KDE and Gnome, Openoffice and Koffice. After the installation had finished, I ran Mandrake Update and picked the nearest repository to me and installed the rest of the software over the net. This included all the multimedia I use, Mplayer, Xine, Xmms, The Gimp and Tv-Time. I could have installed these from the installation disks, but I preferred to use the Internet update just to make sure I got the latest versions.

Daily Use

Mandrake included almost all the software I need on a daily basis. I use Mozilla for surfing, Kontact for E-mail, OpenOffice for writing. There are a few thing missing however. Xosview for example. I use this to keep an eye on the various resources that my machine is using at any time. Gkrellm is included and it does an excellent job of giving a quick idea on how things are running.
Kbiff is also not included. I use this to monitor all my mail boxes. There is also no software included for file sharing. GTK-Gnutella was found on the same repository as Xosview and Kbiff.

A quick browse on the net also found the main repository for Mandrake 10 development. It includes over 2000 packages in RPM format. Installing any of them worked like a treat as they were for Mandrake 10 rather than generic Mandrake. There was no dependency problems at all.

The default KDE theme looks extremely ugly to me, so a quick trip to soon sorted that out. I downloaded the Baghira theme and Window Decorations and now KDE looks very sweet indeed. Sort of Linux, sort of MacOS X cross. Best from both I think.

Mandrake 10 is extremely responsive on this computer. From reboot it is up and running in KDE in 23 seconds. Indexing files is a directory is extremely quick compared to all other versions of Mandrake. Although to be completely honest, I think that has more to do with reiserfs than the system itself. Mozilla and OpenOffice both take a few seconds to boot up, but once they are running, they are lightning fast.
Mandrake 10 is also really stable. I did have the KDE panel crash once when I installed some software and update the menu. It restarted without a problem though without restarting X.

I have installed Mandrake 10 onto a variety of machines since, both desktops and laptops, and none has shown any problems. I installed it onto a friends, (Windows Fanboy) computer. As the only system. I was expecting it to be removed within hours. That was 3 weeks ago, and he is still using it. He did have a few problems. He tried to install Limewire, and the install for this has to be done at the command line. He had not got a clue how to do this, and did not know it is case-sensitive. He picked up the command line very easily once this was pointed out… and also how to use the TAB key in the console πŸ˜‰
He has two other computers running Windows XP. He asked for a copy of my Mandrake disks so he can install it onto the main computer. I do not know if he is a quick learner, or if it is because he knew that if he got stuck he could give me a shout.

Reviewer’s Opinion

What do I think overall of Mandrake 10 ? Hmmm, let me think…
I have installed every version of Mandrake released, and none has stayed on the PC for more than a few days. I never liked the system at all. I would always go back to Debian. Version 10 is different though. It will stay on this computer, and some day when I move all my user files from the Windows partition, it will be the only system there.

One thing that newbies often do when installing a new distro is to fromat the /home partition. If you have your preferred window manager set up the way you like things, then do not format /home. If you have used the standard themes and decorations to set the look, and have your desktop icons and menus set the way you like them, then they will carry over onto any upgrades you make, if you reistall the system.

The software that is included can sometimes be pretty much amazing, for example, Kstars, it is an astronomy program, however, it uses Linux localisations to set the town you are in. Any program on astronomy that I had tried in Windows, always wanted you to enter geographical location in azi and alt. Kstars worked it out for you. I am planning a camping trip in the next few weeks, so I typed in the town I was going to, the days I was going to be there, and printed out a map of the sky over 360 degrees. it had major and minor constellations, any planets that would be visible, and also deep space object.. Lovely!

K3B is also a wonderful program. It is even easier to use than Nero is in Windows. I have heard a few people who said that they would never stop using Windows because it has simple to use apps that are full of wizards, like Nero. I showed the K3B in action and their jaws hit the floor. One asked if he could try it out, so I left him at the PC for a minute, and he said K3B was far easier to use than Nero. My sentiments exactly. I went out for food and he stayed on the PC having a look around the system, when I returned he was playing with Screem and Quanta plus. These are both website designers, he thought they were the best designers he had used on any system, I could not argue or agree as I don’t use them that much, and have never tried them in Linux. He now dual boot between Windows and Linux.

For someone moving over from Windows, Mandrake 10 would be an ideal system out of the box. There are a few distros aimed specifically at these people, Linspire being the best of these with its “Click N Run” facility. However, it is a pretty limited distro once the initial learning curve has been passed. It is a bit too awkward to expect someone who just got used to CNR to move to apt-get.
Mandrake solves this with its Package Management menu, it has gui driven programs for finding, installing and removing software. Simple in execution, but very powerful in use.

Konqueror has carried on the “point and click” attitude, and double clicking on any files will open up the associated program. This is pretty weird on a Linux system, as the UNIX legacy declares that filenames do not have to have an extension. For Example, I could have an MP3 song called mysong and if I opened XMMS and loaded mysong, it would play. If I double clicked, it would not play. Putting .mp3 on the end enables the song to play by double clicking in Konqueror. It is a NOT the way it has always been done, but it is a simple improvement to make things easier for the people who will be migrating from Windows.

A strange thing also is that if you associate mp3 files with XMMS and use GTK-Gnutella to download an MP3. When the download is complete, GTK-Gnuttella amends .OK on to the end of the filename. If you then double click the file, it will not open in XMMS, but instead of throwing out an error, the way Windows does, it plays the file in Mplayer instead. Cool. I will of course be testing this with other file types.

Mandrake has never been taken seriously by the business world before, they prefer RedHat or Suse. I do not know if this is because it includes loads of games, or loads of multimedia programs, but Mandrake 10 is rock solid and of course includes all the stuff that RedHat has, and more.

I was experimenting a bit with it on a spare machine. It is a Fujitsu Lifebook Laptop. 800Mhz and 128MB RAM 20GB Hard disk, which I formatted to XFS filesystem. There was no problems there, Mandrake installed and ran perfectly on the laptop and detected all the hardware, I decided to try the webcam here using Hotplug… I started it as a service and tried plugging in the webcam. Like I said, it was not detected during the install on the main PC. Hotplug also did not detect it on the laptop. I suppose I expected that anyway I then reset the computer, it froze when it tried to shut down the Hotplug process. The next time I booted the laptop, it asked for a filesystem check. I let it do that and it carried on… until the Hotplug service. At this point the system froze again. I have read that if you leave kernel version 2.6 running for about 5 minutes after a crash, that it will recover. I left it 10 minutes and it did carry on to start KDE. I checked all the system logs to see at what point exactly the freeze occurred. It was indeed Hotplug trying to activate the webcam. It had found a device on the usb port, but did not load any driver for it as it, as it could not fully detect what was plugged in. I opened up the process manager and removed the Hotplug service. Hotplug had been disabled during install on both machines by default, now I know why. BUT, this can also help to displace some myths.. I had a problem, and was able to deal with it using the GUI only. I did not have to drop to the command line and enter some obscure commands.

An update on the webcam… I downloaded a driver for it, and installed it as a module. Simple in the end πŸ™‚

Using the digicam is a dream. It sets itself up as an icon on the desktop, double click the icon (providing of course, that you set KDE up to open things with a double click), will open the camera as if it is another hard drive partition. Then the pictures on the camera can be viewed, moved to hard disk, edited, whatever… As usual, Mandrake 10 comes with a plethora of programs for editing/viewing pictures, like The Gimp, the ubiquitous open source Photoshop equivalent. Version 1.2 is included, which might seem a little old, but it is totally stable. I would rather have that when I would be dealing with the pictures I taken on holiday. FlPhoto is also a wonderful program with dealing with your own pictures, it will create albums and let you view them as slideshows. Mandrake 10 uses the GPhoto 2 camera database for cameras that are not using automatically added like a drive. I found this strange, as the database for all the camera drives appeared to be about 3 megabytes. I would not even dare to guess how big that driver database would be on Windows.

There are loads of games on the installation disks, and whenever anyone mentions Linux games, they always talk about Frozen-Bubble and Tuxracer.. I will not. I will however tell you about three of my favourite games..

Samegame, which is a type of puzzle game where you click on collections of orbs of the same colour, this makes them disappear and the ones above it to drop down to fill the spaces. It is very very addictive, although, I do not know why. Lbreakout 2 is a Linux clone of the old arcade game Arkanoid, including bat power ups and great sound effects. ArmageTron is a Tron bike clone in 3D. It can also be played over the internet. It is hard to play but well worth it once you master it.

I used to play a lot of games on my Windows system. My favourite game of all time was Enemy Territory. There is a Linux version of this, so I downloaded and installed it. Sweet. I have tried comparisons between the Linux and Windows versions, the Linux version loads maps far faster on this machine than the Windows version. This can be critical on some maps were the enemy spawns very close to you. It gives you time to prepare the attack. πŸ™‚

I have tried over and over to fault Mandrake 10, and apart from that one crash in KDE and the missing software I use, I cannot find any faults. I was going to give it a mark out of 10, but instead I will give it a percentage mark. 98%. Very good but still a very slight margin for improvement.

About the author
I live in Belfast Northern Ireland and have studied computer science to masters degree level.


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