2010-09-03

Review: Mandriva 2010.1 Spring

Main Screen
Before I do anything else, I want to apologize to readers of this blog (and of Linux Today) as well as to the Mandriva community for giving Mandriva such short shrift in my comparison of KDE distributions for newbies. As I did this test separately (full disclosure: I also wanted to try desktop effects, so Mandriva gets 1 GB of RAM and 128 MB of video memory, while all of the distributions tested on my old computer got 448 MB of RAM and 12 MB of video memory), comparing Mandriva's performance against the others' isn't quite fair, so I won't compare them. My reasoning in the article for not testing Mandriva was that PCLinuxOS uses some Mandriva repositories and tools and seems to support more hardware than Mandriva, so it would be a better contender in the comparison. (It's like why I would choose Linux Mint over Ubuntu in a comparison of GNOME distributions.) Furthermore, Mandriva has been going through a roller-coaster ride of a financial situation of late, so I'm not entirely sure how much longer it will be around in its current incarnation. While the second point still stands, I stand corrected with regard to the first point. Please follow the jump to see why I am so sorry that I chose not to include Mandriva in the last comparison.
Boot Splash
The boot and startup time is fast. I don't think this has to do with the extra video memory, but it is a lot faster than Chakra and sidux (or any of the other KDE distributions, but those were tested on an older computer with fewer hardware resources). The boot splash also looks quite nice, though as it is just a spinning lit-up circle, there isn't a whole lot of information on how it is progressing. Following the boot process comes a few questions regarding language, time zone, and keyboard layout. In this sense, PCLinuxOS was a little better as it only asked for the language before proceeding to the main screen.
Dolphin and Folder View
The KDE splash sequence has been replaced by the much cooler-looking and sounding Mandriva desktop splash sequence. It looks a lot more well-thought out than any other KDE distribution that I have seen thus far. I've read articles that call for Mandriva to ditch the "dated" La Ora (in previous articles, I may have called it "Ia Ora" because I thought the "l" was an "I"; I stand corrected (UPDATE: It is "Ia Ora", not "La Ora". Thanks to reader adamwill for the correction!)) theme as it dates back to before KDE 3.5. Let me say that while I wasn't a fan of it either when looking at pictures of it, somehow, it looks a lot better (and better-integrated) when testing Mandriva in person. This is by far the most customized (and beautiful, in my opinion) KDE 4.X theme I have seen thus far. That said, it isn't without its quirks. For example, in PCLinuxOS and other distributions, a neat folder view trick is to hover the cursor over the home folder and be able to view (and interact with) its contents without actually clicking. Sadly, this functionality is absent from Mandriva. Furthermore, the sidebars in Dolphin have window decorations as well; the default Nitrogen window decorations fit better in this regard than Mandriva's custom blue window decorations.
KDE Main Menu and Mandriva Control Center
Furthermore, with regard to the desktop, Mandriva's own Control Center (which is also found in PCLinuxOS) is present and works very well. The KDE main menu is done in the KDE 3.5-style (with Mandriva's theme present) as in PCLinuxOS, but it looks a lot better because it looks less cluttered, the choices for favorite applications make more sense (e.g. Firefox and OpenOffice.org as opposed to drakX and other configuration tools), and hovering over the menu items reveal alt-text that helpfully describes the application's purpose (as opposed to simply repeating the (sometimes not very intuitive) application name, as in PCLinuxOS).
Firefox and OpenOffice.org
Speaking of which, Firefox and OpenOffice.org are both included. OpenOffice.org uses the standard KDE 4.X Oxygen theme for its icons, but it uses the Mandriva scrollbars, which is cool. Firefox goes a step further, using a totally customized theme for its icons (which I question regarding its integration with the overall Mandriva theme). Most proprietary codecs are included out-of-the-box. Other applications like the GIMP, Codeina (a video player, I think), and (thankfully) Kopete are included. Unfortunately, my laptop's integrated webcam is not recognized by Kopete, which leads me to believe that VirtualBox (and not any of these distributions) has a problem with integrated laptop webcams.
The only problem I had was that as I tested this distribution a few times, once or twice the panel would not appear during startup. I hope this is just a VirtualBox issue (and not a persistent Mandriva issue).
(OK, so I am going to make the comparison after all.) If I had included Mandriva in the original comparison test, I would probably have included it between Sabayon and Pardus, as Mandriva doesn't have a configuration tool quite like Pardus does (but is just as good (or even a little better, especially in terms of software repository sizes)). This also puts it way ahead of PCLinuxOS. (I would then also need to test Mandriva on my old computer to see if my USB webcam is recognized.) I really like the solid and comforting feel of the whole Mandriva experience, and would wholeheartedly recommend it for any newbie who is willing to try out a somewhat different OS (i.e. any KDE-based Linux distribution). I hope I have sufficiently satisfied the readers of this blog!

8 comments:

  1. What would a Linux distro be without quirks?

    Mandriva is a lovely distro, and you did a pretty good review.

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  2. About a month ago I started to look at something else besides Ubuntu that i was using ever since I started with Linux. And so I also tried many distributions. In the end I fell in love with Mandriva Linux and especially KDE desktop. It's simply amazing. Extremely polished look and the apps themselves are awesome.

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  3. @Barista Uno: Thanks for the support!
    @Marjana: I've also been looking into distributions other than Linux Mint (as you have just seen) mostly out of curiosity, but I've always come back to Linux Mint both out of necessity and because it has worked really well for me.
    Thanks for the comment!

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  4. great blog Prashanth ! you lived upto your word and reviewed Mandriva :-)I think its an awesome distro for newbies.

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  5. @Anonymous: Thanks for the support!

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  6. "I've read articles that call for Mandriva to ditch the "dated" La Ora (in previous articles, I may have called it "Ia Ora" because I thought the "l" was an "I"; I stand corrected) "

    Actually, you got it right before and wrong this time. :) It's an i, not an L. ia ora.

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  7. @adamwill: Thanks for that correction! It's been fixed.

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  8. Wait a sec, is this the same Adam Williamson of the Fedora project? SWEET! (My next post actually relates to a comment you made about Linux and choice.)

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