Although many changes have occurred to the company over the years, and ultimately they’ve lost their crown, Mandriva Linux remains a solid choice in an alternative operating system.
Mandriva is primarily a KDE distro, although they do give GNOME and others almost equal development time. This release features KDE 4.3.2 and GNOME 2.28.1 as well as several lighter choices. Linux 18.104.22.168, Xorg X Server 1.6.5, and GCC 4.4.1 form the foundation underneath. Traditionally, the outstanding features of Mandriva are its installer and system control panel – which are rivaled by few, but this release hopes to offer some amenities to appeal to users of newer trends in technology such as semantic desktop and netbook support.
The Mandriva Linux installer sets the standard in user-friendly Linux installers. They were the first to use a pretty framebuffered graphical interface but perhaps the most useful element was the partitioner. To this day it remains the easiest to use due to the manner of the visual representation of your hard disk layout. Many others have used Mandriva’s installer for inspiration in their designs, but Mandriva’s reigns supreme.
The Mandriva Control Center again was ground breaking at it the time of its unveiling and again, it has few equals to this day. From within the control center a user can perform the whole range of Linux configuration. From hardware to software to kernel to boot to users, it can be found in this handy compact system tool.
The Mandriva Software Management system is capable and easy to use as well. It will install software from a aptly stocked software repository, apply package and system updates, as well as removing unwanted software. Packages are categorized by function and can be sorted by their install status, package classification, or by search results. Information such as release data, changelog, and included files can be reviewed for each package. Checking the tick box and clicking apply is all that’s required to install a package or set of packages.
The software manager also includes a System Tray applet to check for updates and inform the user of any available. When available the applet icon will will alert the user and upon clicking a window will open listing the updates giving the user the choice of applying them or not. At first boot the user will be asked to configure a remote update and software source, which entails just a few mouse clicks.
Mandriva Linux is available in: an installable live CD, a free install DVD, and an all-inclusive commercial PowerPack edition. The installable live CD comes in your choice of KDE or GNOME, your choice of languages, and ships with some convenient proprietary code such as Wi-Fi drivers, 3D graphic drivers, Flash, and some browser plugins. This is the recommended version for most users.
Advanced users may wish to use the free install DVD because it provides more desktop environments, several kernels, support for various hardware architectures, and developmental tools; but lacks proprietary drivers, codecs, and Flash. The commercial version has all sorts of extra goodies and is available at Mandriva Store.
All Mandriva Linux formats come with a nice set of applications. Web browsers, email clients, office programs, multimedia players, chat and messaging clients, photo and image management and manipulation apps, games, and utilities are found in the menu. The online software repositories contain thousands more waiting to be installed. Mandriva is one of the largest and most complete Linux distributions available.
For those familiar with Mandriva this release brings some great improvements. The best two so far have been the increased stability and performance. Mandriva may have had a reputation for being a bit crashy in the past, but it appears those days are gone. In the several days since a fresh install only one application crash has occurred here, and this application is known to be unstable across distributions. This new-found stability comes with even better speed as well. Not only does Mandriva boot quicker, but desktop performance has improved noticeably. Applications open and function faster, including the two heavyweights OpenOffice.org and Firefox. There is virtually no graphic artifacting and redraws are immediate. In addition, the 2010 graphics are just beautiful.
Some new features include a Live Upgrade for current users which allows them to update to 2010 without doing a fresh install. The installer now features a handy graphical initial partition layout screen before starting the actual partitioner, and the partitioner now has a file browser that lets you look at your current partitions’ data before making any decisions. Most of Mandriva’s original tools have seen lots of improvements in usability and efficiency and Ext4 is now the default filesystem. New guest user allows you to let others use your computer without risking your data.
This really is a banner release for Mandriva. It’s been a long time since I could recommend it too much, but it’s moved way up my list with 2010. For new users the complete experience with Mandriva One live CD will convince you better than my words and for loyal users, well, you already know. It might be too soon to say, but it feels like this release will go down as Mandriva’s best ever – and perhaps it just might be the best Linux release of the year.