Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free)

One of the distributions I almost always get calls for reviews of is Mandriva. Well I’m happy to say that Mandriva Linux 2010 was recently released and I decided to put it at the top of my review list. Mandriva comes in the following editions:

Mandriva Powerpack 2010
Mandriva One 2010
Mandriva Free 2010

For this review I picked the Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) version. This version contains 100% free software and weighs in at a chunky 4.3GB when you download it. Now please understand that I am not a “free software fanatic” type at all. I have no problem using distros that have some proprietary software blended into them but I like to use one that doesn’t have that stuff every once in a while.

And Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) was a good chance to do just that.

What’s New In This Release
This version of Mandriva has some new goodies and here’s a sample of what you’ll find when you install it:

Faster start up
Three themes
Gnome 2.28.1
KDE 4.3.2
Moblin (netbook desktop environment)
Firefox 3.5
Better parental controls
Moovida (new interface for Elisa)
Smaller install size
Ext4 default file system
RPMDrake search & interface improvements
X.org 7.4

I’m happy to see the updates to Gnome and KDE. The beefed up parental controls are also welcome. I don’t have kids but I’m sure there are some folks out there that do that might use Mandriva Linux. I’m also glad to see that Ext4 is the default file system in this release.

There’s quite a bit more in terms of new features so be sure to view the full list via the link above.

The desktop contains icons to join the Mandriva community or upgrade to the Powerpack edition.

The desktop contains icons to join the Mandriva community or upgrade to the Powerpack edition.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of system requirements:

Processor: Any Intel, AMD et VIA processor.

RAM: 512 MB minimum, 1 GB recommended.

Hard disk: 2 GB minimum, 6 GB recommended for a full setup.
Video card

nVidia, ATI, Intel, SiS, Matrox, VIA.

3D desktop support requires a 3D instructions set compatible card.
Sound card

Any Sound Blaster, AC97 or HDA compatible card.
Other

DVD drive required (but for One: CD drive required).

ATA, IDE, SCSI, SAS: most controllers are supported in non-RAID mode, and some are supported in RAID mode.

The Mandriva installer is very attractive and quite easy to deal with for the most part. It’s about on par with Ubuntu.

One thing that I particularly liked about Mandriva was that it gave me the option to choose additional desktops including LXDE, Gnome, KDE and some of the other desktops. Do I need to have all of these? Well no, of course not. But I’m a bit of a desktop environment whore so if I can have them all, I’ll surely take them.

I was also pleased to note that I could pick and choose individual packages within the overall categories I’d picked to install. Not enough distributions allow this these days. Perhaps it’s just my memory but I seem to remember being able to choose individual packages as a more widespread thing years ago. These days it seems like that option is available in fewer and fewer distros.

The install took about 25 minutes or so. I lost track of it for a few minutes though as I was making breakfast while it was happening. So it may have run a bit longer or shorter. And as I noted above, I opted to install a lot more desktops than most people probably would. So your install may run shorter than mine.

Note that if you like games be sure to choose the option to make your machine a gaming station as you’ll get quite a few games included with your install.

At the end of my install I was offered the option to update my packages. I ran the update and had no problems with it.

Install 1

Install 2

Install 3

install4

install5

Desktop & Apps
My system defaulted to a KDE 4.3 desktop. The first thing I noted when booting into my desktop was the Mandriva Galaxy popup menu. This menu provides more information about the various versions of Mandriva and also provides links to support options for Mandriva as well as a link that lets you contribute financially to help Mandriva’s development.

The Mandriva desktop isn’t too cluttered but you will notice that there are icons included encouraging you to join the Mandriva Community and also another one to Upgrade to Powerpack. Also included are a Welcome icon, home and a trash can.

Clicking the star icon on the Task Manager lets you access all of your applications. There are also icons for devices, configuring your desktop, configuring your system, one for Firefox and also smaller icons to access multiple desktops.

Navigating the Mandriva app launcher menus is easy since everything is broken down into the usual categories as I’ve listed below.

Be sure to check out the Mandriva Control Center. The control center lets you manage your software, hardware, network, security, etc. Click the Configure Your Computer icon on the taskmanager bar and the control center will open after you type in your root password. I really like the Mandriva Control Center, it’s probably one of the best desktop control panels I’ve seen. Everything is right there, at your fingertips, so you can easily control your Mandriva Linux system.

Here’s some of what you’ll find in terms of software:

Games
Crack Attack
Frozen Bubble
Kapman
Nibbles
Robots
SuperTux 2

Graphics
digiKam Photo Management
DNGConverter
GIMP
Gwenview Image Editor
Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor
KRuler
KSnapshot
F-Spot Photo Manager

Internet
Firefox
Akregator Feed Reader
Ekiga Softphone
FileZilla FTP
KMail
Kopete IM
KTorrent
Quassel IRC
KNode News Reader
Konqueror
Empathy
Epiphany
Evolution
Transmission

Multimedia
Amarok Audio Player
Codeina
Dragon Video Player
KMix
KsCD
Movie Player
Xine
Kino Video Editor
Cheese
Grip

Office
OpenOffice.org
KPlato Project Management
KThesaurus
Scribus
Okular Document Viewer
Abiword
Gnumeric
Planner Project Management

I have no complaints about the selection of software that comes with Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free). Everything I needed to do my usual stuff was included (with the exception of Flash and some DVD related software, more on that below).

Adding & Removing Software
Adding and removing software is easy. Simply click the star icon in the Task Manager and then choose Install & Remove Software. The Mandriva software management tool reminds me of the Ubuntu Software Center visually. Both are attractive and very easy to navigate.

If the default software included with Mandriva wasn’t enough for you then don’t worry. You’ll find lots more apps that you can download and install onto your Mandriva system. The Software Management tool is broken down into the usual categories so it’s pretty easy to find the software you want.

Software Management

The software management tool has an easy to use interface and provides lots of additional software.

Sound and Multimedia
One of the prices you pay for using this version (Free) is that you don’t get proprietary drivers or software. So flash-based Youtube videos and DVD stuff wouldn’t play. Not a big deal though as I knew what I was getting into when I downloaded it.

But bear it in mind when you pick which version of Mandriva Linux you want to download as other versions have Flash and additional software in them. If you don’t mind adding that stuff yourself then it probably won’t be a big deal but why bother when you can download Mandriva One or purchase Mandriva Powerpack instead?

 

Problems & Headaches
One thing I didn’t like was that Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) did not come with a Live CD version (though there is one available for Mandriva One). When I booted up the CD I got the option to boot from hard disk or to install Mandriva Linux. Now there’s nothing really wrong with that per se but a Live CD option that lets people get a taste of Mandriva Linux might be a good idea for future releases.

Beyond that I didn’t really encounter anything to complain about it. As I’ve noted before, I sort of hate it when that happens. It’s much more fun to run into tons of problems as it gives me a lot to talk about in this section. Oh well.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a Live CD version so you'll have to do a full install to check it out.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a Live CD version so you’ll have to do a full install to check it out.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Mandriva support page, the Mandriva mailing lists and the Mandriva forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) is a great choice for intermediate and advanced users who prefer free software and are in the market for a desktop version of Linux. Beginners should probably go with Mandriva One or Mandriva Powerpack instead since they come with proprietary drivers and software that might make a beginner’s overall experience a bit more enjoyable and easy.

Regardless of which version you pick, the Mandriva Linux developers have done a very good job with this release. It’s well worth a download if you’re in the market for a good desktop distro. If you aren’t sure which version to pick then check out the “Which Version of Mandriva Linux Is Right For You” page. That will help you figure out exactly what you need.

Mandriva Galaxy is a popup menu that appears on your desktop with more information about Mandriva Linux.

Mandriva Galaxy is a popup menu that appears on your desktop with more information about Mandriva Linux.

Summary Table:

Product: Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free)
Web Site: http://www.mandriva.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Easy install, generous selection of software including various desktop environments. Great configuration control panel.
Cons: No Live CD version. This version (Free) also doesn’t come with Flash and certain other useful proprietary software and drivers and that may be a problem for some people.
Suitable For: Beginners might want to go with Mandriva One or the Powerpack edition which include some proprietary drivers and software that could make for an easier and more comfortable experience. Mandriva One also offers users the ability to try it without installing it. Intermediate and advanced users who prefer free software only should consider Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free).
Summary: Mandriva Linux 2010 (Free) is a great desktop distro for certain Linux users who prefer a distro with only “free” software. Other folks should probably opt for Mandriva One or the Powerpack release which come bundled with Flash and other software.
Rating: 4/5

 



Mandriva Linux One 2009.0 (KDE)

I got another review request recently, this time for Mandriva Linux. So I snagged a copy of Mandriva Linux One (a free download) and thought I’d give it a whirl. I picked the KDE version as I wanted to spend more time playing with KDE.

Mandriva Linux comes in a number of different versions:

Mandriva Linux Free 2009
Mandriva Linux One 2009
Mandriva Powerpack
Mandriva Flash

Mandriva Linux Free is the version without any proprietary software or drivers. It’s for those who are truly committed to “free” software at its most…well…free.

Mandriva Linux One is a free download that also contains some proprietary drivers and software. The Mandriva Powerpack is a version that you must pay for and it includes all of the stuff on the free versions as well as additional value-added software. You can get the Powerpack via a one time payment or a subscription.

You can also buy Mandriva in a portable, flash version too.

I downloaded Mandriva Linux One 2009 for this review. I’ve never been an ideologue as far as “free” software goes and the Powerpack is far more than I’d need if I were going to use Mandriva as my main desktop operating system.

I like the idea of the flash version though. If you are a Mandriva user it might be quite handy to have your preferred desktop distribution your pocket with you wherever you go.

Requirements & Installation
In order to install Mandriva Linux One your system will have to meet the following specs:

Any Intel, AMD or VIA processor.

RAM : 256 MB minimum, 1 GB recommended.

Hard disk : 2 GB minimum, 16 GB recommended for a full setup.

nVidia, ATI, Intel, SiS, Matrox, VIA.

3D desktop support requires a 3D instructions set compatible card.

Any Sound Blaster, AC97 or HDA compatible card.

CD drive required.

SATA, IDE, SCSI, SAS : most controllers are supported in non-RAID mode, and some are supported in RAID mode.

Mandrake Linux One comes as a Live CD so you can try it without installing it. As always I attempted to do an install from the Live CD.

I used Sun’s VirtualBox for my main test install (and also played with it in VMWare and Parallels) and it took just a few minutes for my install to complete. The install is no more difficult than installing Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.

Picture 5

Desktop & Apps
Mandriva Linux One uses KDE 4.2.2 (or Gnome 2.26 if you download the Gnome version). It also comes with Xorg Server 1.6.

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll get in terms of applications:

Internet Apps
Akregator Feed Reader
Firefox
Ekiga Softphone
KMail
Knode News Reader
Konqueror
Kontact PIM
Kopete IM
KTorrent BitTorrent Client

Office
OpenOffice.org (Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Database, Drawing and Presentation)

Graphics
GIMP Image Editor
Gwenview Image Viewer
KColorChooser
KolourPaint
KSnapshot Screen Capture

Sound and Video
Amarok Audio Player
Codeina
Dragon Video Player
KMIx
Movie Player
TVtime Television Viewer
KsCD CD Player

You can get plenty more by using the Add/Remove Software tool (rpmdrake) to add sources and then download additional software.

One thing that sets Mandriva Linux One apart from some other distributions is its control center. Everything you need to configure your computer is available by clicking the Configure Your Computer icon on your desktop panel. Here’s a list of configuration categories available via Mandriva’s control center:

Software Management
Install/Remove Software, System Update, Configure Media Sources, Package Stats

Online Administration
Remote Control Linux/Unix, Windows

Hardware
Configure Hardware, Sound Config, Configure 3D Desktop, Set Up X Server, Mouse & Keyboard Config, Printer & Scanner Config

Network & Internet
Set Up Network. Network Center, Share Connection, Configure VPN, Proxy, Network Profiles, Remove Connections

System
Menu Style, Authentication, Manage Fonts, Date and Time, System Services, Manage Users, Import Windows Settings & Docs, Backups

Network Sharing
Configure Windows Shares, Configure NFS Shares, Configure WebDAV Shares

Local Disks
Manage Disk Partitions, Share Disk Partitions, DVD-ROM

Security
Permissions, Firewall, Parental Controls, Security Level and Audit

Boot
Autologin, Boot Setup, Display Manager, Boot Look and Feel

The Mandriva control center is very well designed and is definitely one of the pluses of this distribution. There’s quite a bit of computer configuration control placed right at your fingertips and you should not have trouble being able to do what you need to do in terms of getting your Mandriva system running the way you want it to.

controlpanel

Problems & Headaches
I didn’t see a lot of problems with Mandriva Linux One, just a couple of things and they were pretty minor for the most part.

I found the Mandriva Galaxy popup annoying when booting into my Mandriva desktop though it wasn’t a big deal as it can be turned off.

I also noticed that boot time could have been better. It seems significantly slower than Linux Mint, Fedora 11 and some of the other distributions. It would be nice if this could be improved in future releases.

In general it seemed to perform slower in the virtual machines I tested it in (Parallels, VMWare and Sun’s VirtualBox). I generally don’t hold performance against distros or other software when testing them in VMs but there are quite a few people who use VMs to test and evaluate operating systems so making sure that Mandriva Linux One performs better is certainly a good idea for the developers.

In a nutshell, I’d like to see some speed increases in future releases.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Mandriva Linux One is certainly worth a download for anybody in the market for a desktop Linux distribution.

While it doesn’t quite match the overall slickness of Linux Mint, it is a fine desktop operating system in its own right. Given that there are free versions available I see no reason not to download it and give it a whirl. It stands up pretty well in terms of usability and it provides a pretty good range of software for most desktop computing purposes. Plus you get the added bonus of the Mandriva Linux control center.

mandrivaaddremovesoftware

Summary Table:

Product: Mandriva Linux One 2009.0 (KDE)
Web Site: http://www.mandriva.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Comes in KDE or Gnome versions. Also offers a truly “free” version with no proprietary software or drivers. Good range of desktop software. Fairly easy to install. Mandriva control panel provides excellent system configuration controls.
Cons: Somewhat slower boot time compared to other desktop distributions. VM performance could be a bit speedier.
Summary: A solid desktop distribution that is worth taking a look at as a possible Windows replacement.
Rating: 3.5/5

Edit: A reader (Shashwat) in the comments (the same one who requested this review) has alerted me to the fact that this review is of the 2009.0 release and the current release is actually 2009.1. My bad on that. I must have grabbed a slightly older version off one of the mirrors.

To see the differences between the release of this review and the current one be sure to view the changelog. Note that they have apparently fixed the boot time issue I raised earlier. I’ll keep an eye on Mandriva (well two eyes actually so I review the right version next time) and I’ll do another review when the next major upgrade is released.

My apologies to everybody for the error.