2014-05-06

Review: OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0

It has been a while since I've done a review, and I apologize for that. This week isn't actually getting any less busy for me; last night I finished my undergraduate thesis and submitted it to my thesis advisor, and hopefully there aren't too many major revisions that I would need to make. Beyond that, though, I still have problem sets, a midterm exam, and final projects to finish. I'm just doing this review now because finishing the thesis was exhausting, and I need a short break before I can get back to work. In that time, I'm reviewing OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0.

KDE Homerun Menu
As the name might suggest, OpenMandriva is related to the old distribution Mandriva, which went out of business. The first fork of Mandriva was Mageia, which preserved the traditional KDE 4 interface. After that, Mandriva changed its GUI from standard KDE to the ROSA customization of KDE, which I reviewed a little under 3 years ago here. Following that, ROSA forked as a distribution from Mandriva to showcase its customization of KDE; I reviewed that almost exactly 2 years ago here. Since then, another fork has arisen from ROSA, and that fork is OpenMandriva.
I tried this distribution as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by an odd jumble of scrolling text and what looked like artifacts from a graphical boot splash. After a reasonably short amount of time, that gave way to the KDE splash screen, which is a set of gears turning with the artsy blue wallpaper (the default for this release of OpenMandriva) as the background. Following that came the desktop, along with a helpful welcome screen with information about the desktop, links to customizing the desktop, and links to installing popular applications.

The desktop appears to be an interesting hybrid of standard KDE with ROSA customizations. That may be because a lot of the innovations in ROSA have become more standard KDE extensions and Plasma widgets. For example, the KDE Homerun menu is present on the panel, and that is a somewhat more standard KDE Plasma widget now; that said, looking back on my review of ROSA, I can't help but realize that it looks rather like the ROSA SimpleWelcome menu. The panel is a little more standard KDE than ROSA, with window buttons featuring both icon and text labels, and with the panel itself looking like a typical 2-dimensional panel (as opposed to a 3-dimensional dock upon which application icons "sit"). Meanwhile, the icons are the same as in the recent releases of Mandriva and ROSA, while the window decorations appear to be new. Overall, the desktop is quite pleasant to see and use.

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
Mozilla Firefox (at version 29, which I will have more to say about in a post in the near future, when I get the time) is the default browser. It does not have that many proprietary codecs installed, as it prompted me to install Adobe Flash (though the internal installer in Mozilla Firefox got hung up trying to do that, as is usually the case, so I used the general software installer instead, which I will detail shortly). That said, once I was able to get things installed, it worked fine.
LibreOffice is the default productivity suite. The other installed applications seem pretty standard for a KDE distribution.
Dolphin is of course the default browser, though its interface is slightly customized to look leaner, and that effect does come through. Additionally, the file previewer KLook is still included as well, and it works just as well as it did a few years ago, if not better.

The Mandriva Control Center is now the OpenMandriva Control Center, but otherwise it is basically the same in terms of general functionality. That said, loading and reloading packages is now a lot faster and more reliable. I was able to use it to install Skype, Mupen64Plus, and Redshift, all of which worked just fine afterwards. There were two pleasant surprises. The first was that the package listing for Skype claimed that the package was just a set of required dependencies and would not actually install Skype itself, for which I would supposedly have to go to the Skype website; when I checked the KDE Homerun Menu to see the newly installed applications, lo and behold, Skype was present in full form, and I was able to use it just fine. The second was that the set of packages installed with Mupen64Plus included the M64Py GUI, which I didn't think was an official GUI of Mupen64Plus, but maybe that has changed recently. The only issue with that was that my changes to the control set were not preserved; this has been a recurring issue on other distributions too, so I'm going to have to investigate this issue more carefully.
Dolphin + KLook + Desktop Grid
Google Talk was not present in the repositories. I was able to install it by logging into Gmail, clicking on my status icon & clicking "Add voice & video chat", and following the links. I installed the RPM file written for Fedora & openSUSE; thankfully, that file was installed by the automatic RPM installer included in OpenMandriva, and the plugin worked just fine.

OpenMandriva used about 580 MB of RAM at idle, which is a good deal more than before and is a bit on the heavy side now for KDE. That said, it was far more stable than past releases of Mandriva or ROSA, as I experienced no crashes or other issues with stability; the only issue I felt was that my laptop's fan seemed to be running faster than usual throughout this review. Regarding desktop effects, OpenMandriva enables a lot by default, but because of graphics driver and plugin issues, very few of them, such as the desktop cube, could not be enabled without further configuration (that I did not do).

That is where my time OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0 ended. The stability issues are fixed (aside from my laptop running slightly hotter than usual when trying this distribution), and it does everything I want it to do. Especially in comparison to the previous versions of Mandriva and ROSA, I can give OpenMandriva extremely close to my highest recommendation, and I think OpenMandriva is more than a worthy successor to Mandriva.
You can get it here.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review! One thing I question, is why you use unetbootin to make live usb, when dd works fine and gives you the menu OM wants you to see... Even couldn't be simpler to do:
    https://wiki.openmandriva.org/en/2014.0/Release_Notes#via_dd
    Just make sure to wait 5-10 minutes for the iso to actually be fully transferred to the usb-key.

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  2. Good review, thanks.

    Of special interest is the memory usage, as I have machines with 2GB of RAM.

    Rather than the usual mudslinging seen in Libreoffice/Openoffice, I wish for some fraternal cooperation between OpenMandriva and Mageia, if not for advancement then for greater savings, at least.

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  3. First of all, Prashant, good luck with your thesis and exams.
    It is good to read another one of your useful reviews again, thank you!

    I installed OpenMandriva Lx 2014 and found some interesting points related to Home Run, which I will soon write about.

    Again, good luck!

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  4. @Anonymous 1: I actually have had a lot more success in reliably creating live USB systems with UnetBootin than with the "dd" command; besides, UnetBootin is not destructive of other partitions.

    @Anonymous 2: That certainly would be nice to see; from my end, I'd have to check out Mageia to see how feasible that really would be, but unfortunately I haven't had any luck in putting Mageia on a live USB system for testing.

    @Mechatotoro: I appreciate the support and enjoyed reading your thoughts on it too!

    Thanks for the comments!

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  5. Hi Prashanth

    Wonderful review of this OS with most of it covered. I would just like to go ahead and add my experience running this - most of which you already covered

    Kindly note that I will be basing some of my comparisions as opposed to running with Linux Mint 16

    The hardware stack that I run is a AMD Phenom x4 970 coupled with 8GB Physical. I also have an APC 1kva UPS (I will tell you why I am mentioning this in a short while)

    As opposed to you, I installed this OS on my system and get it dual boot with Mint

    The first hinderance I faced was the Partion scheme. Since I wanted it to dual boot I went in for a custom partition scheme. Choosing a significant portion for '/' partion and sharing the swap with Mint was not at all liked with OMV

    After lots of hits and trial, I got this working - you need to explicitly specify the /home partition and / partition and only then it moves ahead in install

    Phew !!! That done, I moved on to explore the OS. Truly, its a beauty and significantly impressive. The Sound output is also significantly much better. Having said that, moved on to install VLC and then found it did not play half the videos that I had. Consulting the forums found something about plf versions. However, this has been corrected in the recent auto update provided by OMV

    Yes, other partions only open with Dolphin - the Homerun shows them but clicking them shows the /home partition

    Now lets come to the real part - my most concerning part and you highlighted it :)

    I concur - CPU simply bursts while running this OS. Funny, but true, TOP or HTOP shows nothing at all - shows CPU is at the max 1.5 to 3 and nothing significant running - but still I can hear my CPU fan running peak and making sound like a jet engine. At first I thought, it could be the summer weather causing this, but then something caught my eye

    My UPS, has an LCD screen allowing me to view the Wattage consumed at runtime

    My stats :
    Running OMV (just an audio player) --> peaks at 180 W - minimum being around 155W
    Running Mint (running browser + playing a true 1080p video in VLC) --> peaks at 140W - minimum being around 133 W

    I found this really strange and was baffled - to which I reinstalled OMV - no luck its the same

    Something is eating CPU like anything causing it to spike up and heat - and yes if I manage to run a 1080p on OMV and open anything else - a significant delay and sometimes a hang up

    The other thing I noticed was I was trying to mirror my Data to another partion using rsync (500GB+ Data) - same drive internal connected to SATA

    Surprisingly, the transfer rate was about only 2-3 MBps. I tried killing and re running the rsync and still the same. I gave up and rebooted - and then the rsync ran with its full speed averaging around 40-50 MBps

    I wonder what I should say - but I cannot say its unstable, yet there are some issues

    Whether I will keep it or not - well thats a tough question - but the beauty of OMV keeps me attracted - so it will stay - sometime atleast

    Do let me know if there is anything I can check while I have it on my system and will be glad to post it here

    And finally, All the Best for your Exams :)

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    Replies
    1. @Amrit Narayan Prasad: That is a rather comprehensive review you put in this comment section! Thanks for the comment!

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  6. Great looking distro, lousy installer.
    Not a contender until its stupid simple to replace windows.

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    Replies
    1. @Charlie Brown: It is certainly true that installation is a big part of the issue in higher Linux adoption. In most cases, I would suspect that a newbie would have a slightly more experienced friend helping them out, but to cover all bases, it would be nice for the installer to be more friendly to new users. Thanks for the comment!

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