Mandriva Linux, formerly known as Mandrake, has always been one of the most user friendly distro’s out there. Full to the brim of graphical glitz, and multimedia features, Mandriva has traditionally aimed at newbies. I’ve been checking out the various versions of Mandrake right from ver 8.0, but somehow, I never got around to using it on a full time basis.
Last year, Mandrake merged with several other Linux companies, notably Lycoris and Conectiva, and emerged in it’s new avatar of Mandriva. Mandriva Linux 2006 is the first release from Mandriva that includes developments from both Conectiva and Lycoris. It is also the first release in line with the new release strategy of Mandriva, namely one major release per year.
Traces of the old name still remain here and there, but it’s mostly all changed to reflect the new image. Mandriva offers a Free Download as well as a Powerpack edition and Powerpack+ edition. The public Free Download edition contains practically the same software as the Powerpack editions, minus the closed source software. Programs like Opera, Skype, Acrobat Reader and Java, are not included in the free Download edition, but are fairly easy to download and install. The download edition consists of 3 cd images, or a dvd image for both i586 and AMD64 architectures.
Features of Mandriva Linux 2006
- i586 and AMD64 versions available
- kernel 2.6.12-12mdk
- gcc 4.0
- first Intel Centrino certified Linux distribution
- reduced boot time
- Easy software installation via urpmi
- SMART package manager
- Interactive Firewall
- drakwizards: Mandriva Control Center
- KDE 3.4
- GNOME 2.10
- X.Org 6.9
- OpenOffice.org 1.1.5 _and_ 2.0pre
- Easy wifi roaming
- internationalisation – large choice of languages
- a large number of available packages/programs
I’m not going to dwell on the installation, except to say that it is extremely easy, and you shouldn’t have any problems with it, unless you are a complete newcomer to Linux. If that is the case, then just go through the excellent documentation available on the Mandriva website, or at many other places.
Post-install, Mandriva Linux 2006 doesn’t look that different from previous versions. They have changed the bootlogo, and included a progress bar, but there’s nothing startlingly different. Which is a good thing, because it looks clean and professional. The first time you log in, Mandriva pops up a First-Time Wizard, which is pretty much a marketing ploy to get you to fork out some cash to join the Mandriva Club. I just refuse, and continue. There’s nothing that is affected by this choice.
I chose KDE as my default desktop, because I’ve always felt that Mandriva(drake)does a better job with KDE. Not to say that Gnome is not usable, but it just a personal preference. Once on the desktop, a Mandriva webpage with a globe and links to the various Mandriva services pops up. You can shut this down, and choose never to see it again, which is generally a wise choice.
The desktop has been tweaked a bit since the last version, and it looks very nice. It’s very crisp, and the new shadow outline on the icon text makes it really stand out. The desktop wallpaper is a hopeful looking penguin gazing into the middle distance. There are only four icons by default, Home, Welcome, Devices, and Trash. I installed a fairly complete set of applications, so I had plenty to start with. These days the program loadout of Linux distro’s has become pretty standardized, which is a good thing. You have Firefox, OpenOffice, Evolution and so on all ready to use, no matter which distro you are using. Mandriva 2006 follows this pattern, and there’s really nothing much to complain about.
Installing New Software
Ah, that perennial bug-bear of most distros. Downloading and installing new software. This has been a problem for RPM based distro’s like Mandriva since the days of yore. Well, fear not, it’s 2006 now, and they’ve finally got it licked. The inspiration for the urpmi system was Debian’s excellent apt-get which made software installs completely painless. The urpmi system has now been beautifully integrated into Mandriva, and you have access to over 10 gigabytes of software. Of course, you do need a nice internet connection to really take advantage of this, but thanks to BSNL and other providers, broadband is no longer something you can only dream about.
You do have to add the repositories before you can begin to use the software effectively but this is fairly easy. The website http://easyurpmi.zarb.org/ has easy to follow instructions on how to do this. Once setup, you have access to the entire software library. All you have to do is go to the Mandriva Control Centre>Software management, and click on “Look at installable software and install software packages”. This launches a Software Packages Installation Wizard (rpmdrake). This allows you to scroll through the available software, or search for something in particular. Once you have found what you are looking for, Mandriva will automagically resolve any dependencies, download and install the software for you, with the appropriate shortcut inserted into the K menu.
Installing software is therefore, very easy. What about Control and Configuration?
Mandriva’s version of the Control Panel is called Mandriva Control Centre. This is pretty good way to handle your machine, though I still prefer Suse’s YAST somehow. The Control Centre does a great job of consolidating all the config pages and options for your computer, and sets reasonable defaults. Power users may find it’s tendency to overwrite hand edited files irritating, but then, if you are editing config files by hand, you probably aren’t using Mandriva anyway!
All my hardware was detected and worked perfectly, including my Nvidia graphics card. I tried plugging in a digital camera, and Mandriva detected it instantly and popped up a dialog asking if I wished to import the photos. I also used various USB thumb drives, a Acer Scanner and an HP Laserjet, and all of them were detected and worked well.
The Control Centre is a well rounded, and integrated management method. New users will have no issues with it.
The year 2006 is going to an important one in terms of security. Already there is news of a new Windows exploit. With Linux becoming more popular, it’s only sensible to assume that malware creators are going to start looking at infecting the Linux platform. While Linux has some intrinsic advantages over Windows in terms of security, it’s good to know that your distro is security conscious.
Mandriva Linux 2006 offers all the regular security features, as well as some additional features and extensions.
- Users are guided to create a regular user account and not log on as root
- Email attachments are not executable
- The software packages are signed
- Updates are centrally organised and arranged
- Clamav / Klamav
- Msec security levels
- Interactive firewall
Users are guided to create a regular user account and not log on as root. The root account has a special, bright red wallpaper which warns you that you are working in a privileged mode, and should be careful.Email attachments are not executable by default. Of course, since this is Linux, there’s no active-X, and the browsers aren’t integrated into the kernel, and can be removed or added as desired.
Mandriva has included ClamAV in it’s desktop integrated version, KlamAV. There’s an integrated firewall, that gives you a degree of control over what’s entering and leaving your machine. No servers are installed by default, and if you choose to install any, Mandriva warns you at the time of installation.
Mandriva has decent security, and Linux in general is relatively free of pesky adware, viruses and the like. This is the single biggest change new users notice when they first use Linux.
Mandriva Linux 2006 is a very well rounded distro, and I can recommend it to anyone who is new to Linux. In fact, Mandriva can be used by pretty much anyone, from newbies to power users, but it is especially suited to new users. It’s easy to use and manage, and looks good as well. Hardware works well, multimedia is covered, except for the standard Dvd licensing issues, and it’s free from viruses and malware. Software installation is as easy as pie, and there’s a huge amount of software available that covers pretty much anything you’d want to do with your computer.
Mandriva has a free download edition that covers all the bases, but should you pay for the Powerpack Editions? That depends. I’d personally suggest you first try the free edition, and see if it meets your requirements. Most people will be able to get by just fine with the free download version.
It’s a new year, and we have a nice new distro to try out. Mandriva 2006 comes across as a very nice distro with no real glaring bugs, and no revolutionary new features. Just a well fleshed out alternative to the restrictive world of Windows. If you do decide to try Mandriva, you’re sure to enjoy it, and talk about it, just like me.