Linux

10 things Mandriva is doing right for Linux

The latest release of Mandriva has moved this distribution to the front of the pack. Jack Wallen explains why.

Some time ago, I stopped paying attention to Mandriva. I felt that this Linux distribution, which hails from France and is financially backed by Russia, wasn't quite sure what it wanted to be. All has changed now. Mandriva knows where it is and where it's heading. Mandriva Linux Powerpack 2011 is available for purchase and is one of the finest releases I have come across in quite some time. What makes it so good? Let's break it down.

1: Smart desktop

This is really the one major place Mandriva has taken control. Ubuntu and GNOME have tried -- and for the most part, are failing -- to get people to take the bait for their newest iteration of the PC desktop. Well, Mandriva has succeeded. For all intents and purposes, Mandriva has taken KDE and layered on just a bit of what is unique about both Unity and GNOME 3. You click on the Start button and something akin to a Unity Lens opens. This Lens allows easy access to applications, documents, and even a user-based timeline for documents (called TimeFrame).

2: Better application integration

Now you can have KDE and GNOME applications installed and have them look and feel alike. This has always been an issue when you wanted to have both KDE and GNOME apps installed on the same machine. Oh sure, they all worked fine. But the difference in UI was enough to make users not want to make the journey back and forth. In some cases, this difference was even enough to cause users to look for a less featured or robust application. Mandriva has solved that, and now you will find no graphical differences between GNOME and KDE applications.

3: Better login manager

The Linux login manager has always been less than stellar. Although some might think this not a big deal, it's the first glimpse new users see. If you have a login manager that looks like it was stripped from a Solaris machine running CDE, you're not going to be impressed out of the starting gate. Mandriva has really made some major improvements to the look and feel of this piece of the Linux desktop. Other distributions should be looking closely at what they are doing with the whole of the aesthetic.

4: Installation

Let us all hearken back to the days when you installed Linux and were able to choose everything you wanted. Mandriva brings this back. During the installation, you can click off check boxes for what you want and/or go the advanced route and add/remove every piece of software you like. You want Samba? You got it. Apache? Sure. Gimp? No problem. The list goes on and on and on. I was quite happy to see this return to a Linux installation in such a user-friendly fashion. During the installation, you can even choose to add proprietary video drivers (should the install detect a video card that could benefit from them).

5: Package management

Mandriva has finally migrated away from PackageKit to offer a much more user-friendly Add/Remove Software utility. One of my biggest gripes with distributions like Mandriva (pre-2011) and Fedora is PackageKit. As far as package management front ends are concerned, PK is not good, epecially for new users. Mandriva has removed the complexity from PackageKit to create a much easier-to-use software installation tool. This new tool is experimental and is not included in the distribution by default. But you can install it from the current Add/Remove Software tool and then use it to manage your software. Be warned: It is experimental, so it might be prone to issues. But it's worth trying just to see where Mandriva is going with this.

6: Bug reporting

Average users aren't going to concern themselves with bug reporting, but Mandriva has managed to make it something anyone can do. The dedicated bug reporting tool is integrated into the desktop so that bug reports are nearly automatic. Communication between users and developers is easy, which will only serve to further improve the Mandriva distribution.

7: Under-the-hood stability

Mandriva has added new pieces and stuck with proven pieces to create an incredibly stable environment. You will find such goodness as Kernal 2.6.38, X.org 7.6, X Server 1.10.3, Bash 4.2, Python 2.7.2, PHP 5.3.8, Apache 2.2.19, Glibc 2.13, and GCC 4.6.1. In some cases, a more proven technology was chosen instead of the latest, greatest. For instance, it opted for a proven stable kernel release instead of the current stable (3.1.2) or the mainline release (currently 3.2-rc2). With the combination of stable technology under the hood and newer technology on top, Mandriva has created a release that really shines.

8: Startup optimization

SysVinit has been replaced by systemd. Although you won't find bootups as fast as you find with Ubuntu (and Ubuntu derivatives), the new system offers much more control over the startup of daemons, startup scripts, and the like. The systemd system is also compatible with LSB and SysVinit scripts, so there's some backward compatibility built in.

9: New default apps

Some of the standard applications have been replaced by more reliable tools. For example, the battle for the default music player, waged between Rhythmbox and Banshee, has been won by -- wait for it -- Clementine! That's right, a new kid is on the block, and it doesn't suffer from the bloat found in the other players. Although Clementine doesn't have a built-in music store, as both Rhythmbox and Banshee do, it's a powerful player with plenty of options and features to enjoy.

10: Included codecs and other goodies

When you purchase the Powerpack, you get all the codecs necessary to play all the multimedia your heart can yearn for. Out of the box, you'll be playing audio files, videos, flash, and much more. Also included is CodeWeaver CrossOver, so you can easily install Windows apps on your desktop.

Worth the bucks

Mandriva Powerpack 2011 might well have brought this distribution back to the front of the pack. It's user-friendly, powerful, and flexible, and it brings elements to the desktop that others have been unable to realize. Although some will scoff at the 59.00 USD price tag, from my vantage point, it's certainly worth the cost.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

12 comments
Sphincter_Muscle
Sphincter_Muscle

Hey all, I have used Mandriva 2010.2 PowerPack for the past year or so. When they finally released the 2011 Distro I was ver pleased. I love the desktop background and the features BUT after installing it 14 times now and it failing each time, I started looking elsewhere. I tried Linux Min 12, and then Ubuntu 11.10. Ubuntu is very stable. I don't really care for the desktop ubuntu offers, but it wortks and all of the programs that came with it were up to date. ie LibreOffice 3.4.4 versus lower versions on Mandriva. If they fix the bugs with Mandriva 2011, I'd go back in a heartbeat as long as I could install it on another computer. I have everything up and running under Ubuntu, and as the saying goes... if it aint broke, dont fix it...so Ill be keeping things the way they are on my little notebook.

paulfx1
paulfx1

Even though 13 has always been my lucky number I don't want to skip over 2012. I don't know how many more years I have in me to discount one out of hand. Notice I didn't even say good years, as I'm pretty sure they're all behind me at this point. When I finally got over my distro hopping phase and settled down to run one Linux setup for a long time it was SUSE. I bring that up because it is an RPM based distro like Mandrivia is, and it is pretty solid from my experiences with it. I don't run SUSE now but why is too long a story for here. I still don't hesitate telling people to give SUSE a look. Because when I ran it it served me well for a long time. Probably too long, which was why when that system finally gave out I was in such a spot. Then SUSE became a casualty of its own success. Although my complacency for the duration is not beyond reproach. Anyhow I hope they've made strides with their upgrade methods from when I used it to today. I'm confident they have. We're talking over 10 years now. They must have done something between then, and now. My class killed me off for my 25th reunion. I was listed under the In Memorial section. I imagine with my hard living they figured I'd did myself in. The joke is on them though because I still have all of my hair and I look good for my age! Not all of them do. I fell asleep driving once myself. I made it about 150 miles in 2 and a half hours. The only casualty there was I missed my exit by about 100 miles. Longer story how I ended up in that situation that I'm not going to delve into here at all. The only rationale I can proffer to live through today is just to see what tomorrow holds in store for us. Because none of this is going to end very well for any of us. It never does.

lweldon
lweldon

Until recently I paid the $60 a year but when they started making news in bankruptcy then missed the 2011 year almost completely I was alarmed. You get to know how things work together in a distro... I had moved to Ubuntu and Mint and I was encouraged by this article but neither the PWP 32 or 64 bit loads in a test machine. It can't find the CD ROM after loading the initial loader from it. DUH!

paulfx1
paulfx1

For real open source zealots there is, was, and likely always will be, Debian GNU/Linux. Which Ubuntu and Mint both happen to be derivatives of. BTW the last poll I read Amarok won the battle of the audio players. As far as doing right by Linux goes Redhat is still the top slot, followed by Novell. Whatever Mandrivia is doing for Linux it doesn't make the list: https://www.linuxfoundation.org/sites/main/files/lf_linux_kernel_development_2010.pdf

pgit
pgit

Mandriva really bit off a lot of extra work for this release, and did a great job in the end with this power pack release. It was tough going at first, with the official release of "free" there were a lot of bugs to work out. The change to rpm version 5 caused some problems with updates and installations, a few of them capable of necessitating a reinstall to get the system back. But they have been working diligently of bug fixes, something Mandriva had fallen somewhat behind on in the recent past. A stock 2011 install, "free" or power pack is now a very usable system. They pulled the systemd switch out of a hat, swiftly ironed out the bugs and now Mandriva is well poised for the future. I expect a lot from this new team. eg the Rosa panel is indeed the best in class in the battle for the "typical end user" who just needs to get work done. Jack is right, it takes the best of unity and gnome 3, layers it over the very powerful KDE4 environment and "Just Plain Works"(tm) The only drawback at the moment is that the free installer does not offer the options power pack does. If you want to avoid bugs in the original release and save time with updates after the install, you'd want to be able to set up on line sources, where you would get the latest packages during the install. Alas, this is not possible with the free installer, so anyone using that to test Mandriva 2011 is going to think these rave reviews are nuts. They'll either have to do a lot of tweaking, just to get to where they CAN get the updates rolling and hope their hardware is at least basically supported, or bite the bullet and buy the power pack. (which I consider well worth it) BTW that ability to select individual packages for install was something Mandrake/Mandriva had for years, until a couple years ago. I and many users in their community lobbied relentlessly for them to bring this feature back... I'm ecstatic they did, that was the most useful thing since the toaster, for me. Saves a lot of time uninstalling things that you don't want on a server.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It was my first long term use distribution when I first got started (going by Mandrake at the time). Until recently, I'd still use it's isntall disk up to the disk setup just to use it's partition manager to prepare a disk for whatever other distribution I was actually installing. Powerpack including patent licenses for 60$ is very reasonable compared to the price of an equally capable Windows license or the hardware buy-in cost of Apple's OS. Mint is probably the no-fee OS giving it a run for it's money right now.

pgit
pgit

me too. I have all my hair and no gray. I'm one of the youngest looking in the bunch. Revenge will be mine.

paulfx1
paulfx1

You were using their distribution a full two years before it even existed. Where do park your time machine?

obxbiker
obxbiker

I do not get the connection between a December 2010 report and a distribution released 10 months later.

pgit
pgit

'96, '98.. it was a long time ago, I wouldn't hold someone making a swift comment in the middle of a busy day to their memory of a date that far back. The real point is what lweldon mentions vis the device node failing. That has been a huge problem with Mandriva, starting with their 2009 release but really taking off with 2010. Sometimes one had to take drastic measures to get something simple like "play and audio CD" upon inserting the disk. I had to add a node creation, link it to an existing one then change the permissions on the link to 777, from rc.local, in order a plain audio CD be recognized and played. Have your 'typical end user' encounter that, then render their opinion on how "user friendly" Mandriva was. They are getting this stuff ironed out, but they also piled on a heap of new hurdles with rpm5, systemd and the Rosa/plasma stuff, making for a few new buglies in the works. Slow but sure they're pulling it together, gotta give em an A for sick-to-itiveness. I think I mentioned above you are miles ahead trying to install the powerpack rather than the free version... but you still run into the show stopper on occasion as lweldon has. All I can say is 2012 HAS to a LOT better. Here's hoping. 0:-)

pgit
pgit

Great way to start off a Friday! Thanks for the levity. Yeah, I hear you on counting chickens, but the way Mandriva has been run over the last few years hope is all one has. Mandriva does use udev, but I admit it's implementation leaves much to be desired. *though this is one big area cleaned up with 2011 PWP) Probably the biggest problem is the lack of communication forthcoming from the team. One thing users were left to wonder was the apparent abandonment of the drakx tools to go with the more fedora-ish system-whatever-config. Baaaad move in most people's opinion. A few absolutely critical functions were left hanging as the move hadn't been fully implemented, eg control of system services. It looked as though Mandriva was going to offload a lot of that stuff to the KDE tools, but then after a series of patches and upgrades, lo; the control of services from within mcc worked again. (makes calls to systemctl) But no word on whether this was intended, a temporary fix, the way of the future... not a word. That's one reason I look forward to 2012. If services ends up broken apart and tied to upstream fedora methods... might as well use fedora. If mcc is still there, and works the way it had for years despite a new system under the hood... then I'll stick with Mandriva. I remember talking about 2001 back in high school in the 70's. A couple of weeks after we graduated I was nearly killed in a car accident when my dad fell asleep driving our car, with me in the front passenger seat we hit a tree. I had already been through horrific medical problems all through high school, and my bad luck continued onward. At our 5th high school reunion the class jokingly voted me "least likely to survive to 30," you had to be there to see the humor. But I distinctly recall mentioning I didn't expect to see the twenty first century... and here I am. The future is now a decade past. I have it on pretty good authority that in order to cover financial misconduct of biblical proportions, and to save Obama from certain defeat in November, the powers that be are pulling out all the stops to get WWIII started in October 2012. Two signs of this preparation are the hasty opening of the Bakken and Gull Island oil fields. The other is the inevitability of the collapse of the house of cards we call "federal reserve notes." I sure would appreciate a new calendar, one that skips 2012 altogether would be ideal. :P

paulfx1
paulfx1

the late 90s were that long ago. I'm not holding it against them, but I don't want to see misinformation spread either. Maybe Mandrivia should use udev like everyone else does. It works. Linux was never made for typical users. I'm comfortable saying computers were never intended to be used by most people either. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched. About all I've heard about 2012 now is if you're Mayan you'll be due for a calendar upgrade. Who knows, maybe that'll be the shot in the arm this economy needs? All them Mayans running out to buy new calendars. I kind of like their upgrade cycle. Every 36,000 or so years you're due right? From this PC's hwinfo: system.firmware.release_date = '08/20/2001' At another time in my life everyone thought 2001 was far in the future and we'd all be flying around in space by then. Now you're going to tell me my PC is old. I got older ones.