Losing the Magic
Mandriva is a commercial Linux distribution: emerged from the ashes for Mandrake and Connectiva. Mandrake was the trend-setter for user-friendliness in Linux. Mandrake was Ranked #1 distribution for a long time before Ubuntu took over. Currently Mandriva is ranked #8 at distrowatch. Mandriva comes in different versions; one (single CD), free (OSS only), PowerPack, Discovery. I am using free DVD version for the review.
Pentium D 2.8 GHz with 2 gig of RAM, Nvidia 7300GS with 256 meg RAM and 19" wide screen monitor.
"Mandriva One" is the live CD; "Free" does not come with a live CD environment. So if you are curious whether all the hardware will properly function or not, you have to download a separate CD. I preferred to wait and see once the installation is complete.
After installation, desktop came up with native 1440x900@Hz. Only a few distributions are actually able to correctly configure a wide-screen monitor, thus Mandriva scores high points for this.
The installation process is a bit changed; changes seem to be influenced by PCLOS. Graphical Installer comes up and walks you through the installation process. The standard questions are asked. The security configuration that used to be the first screen, has been moved to post-install configuration page.
Mandriva searches for all the installed linux distributions and provides you the option for upgrading the compatible distributions. For my system, the installer gave me option to upgrade existing Centos, Ark, PCLOS distributions. I have never tried the upgrade path, but would certainly like to try them out once.
You can easily manage your partitions to accommodate the new installation. A new desktop selection screen is added. With this you can pick either Gnome or KDE as your default desktop environment. After the selection, installation starts and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.
Post-Install configuration shows the most changes. It is now much more similar to the PCLOS configuration, and it is really awkward. Time-zone and country selection is a complete mess. The configuration for auto-login is missing. My wireless network card was not detected. The only good part came with desktop resolution. The driver for the graphics card was nv instead of nvidia.
Mandriva still retain the La Ora theme introduced in the earlier version. For the Free version its light blue and really pleasing to the eyes. But the fonts were looking really bad.
Being a DVD install there are plenty of softwares available. But majority of the software is of older version. Open Office is 2.2.1 instead of the latest 2.3.0 and Firefox is 184.108.40.206 instead of the latest 220.127.116.11. Additional repositories can be configured to install more software as well. This installation failed for me though.
Surprisingly the Free version comes with the audio/video codecs preinstalled. The kaffeine wizard reported lack of win32 codecs and libdvdcss. But, astonishingly, I was able to play MP3 files, WMV files, and DVDs.
Mandriva comes with Mettese and Compiz Fusion. But I was not able to use them with the default nv drivers. I needed nvidia drivers for 3D acceleration but was unable to install the nvidia drivers.
When I tried installing the drivers from on-line repositories, the installer was unable to set up any repository as it was always "unable to parse media.cfg". When I tried to manually build the drivers, nvidia.ko failed to load because either there was a version mismatch between the gcc used to build the kernel and gcc present on the system, or something regarding mis-configured headers.
This experience makes me think about the beta testing employed by Mandriva. These bugs should have been ironed out in beta and should not have made it to the release candidate. But, here they are in the release.
Mandrake used to have a unique identity. Initial versions of Mandriva continued with that identity. But the latest version seems to be shedding that identity, and becoming a shadow of other distributions. If you want to lead, don't follow someone else.
The current version is at best pathetic. It is below the expectation level of a free distribution, leave out commercial distribution. Hope that Mandriva tries to regain its vision and identity with future versions.