I'll just lay this out right from the beginning: Mandriva Spring 2008 Live CD is better than most other distributions fully installed. I am currently writing this blog on a laptop (that is generally flaky about Linux distributions) running the Live version of Mandriva Spring 2008. And even without installing the distribution, I am very impressed. Let's see just how this is faring.
Display: Works perfectly.
Wireless: Works perfectly.
Sound: Works perfectly.
Hibernation: Works for the most part but because of the Live nature the laptop doesn't want to fully hibernate.
Performance: Outstanding (blows away the currently installed gOS).
Installation: Quirky but simple.
So now, let's break it down into its constituent pieces.
Installing Mandriva Spring 2008
It's not so much the installation that was quirky but loading the Live CD that caught me off guard. Generally a Live CD is booted and places you directly on the desktop. The Mandriva Spring 2008 version of the Live CD first had you select your local and your keyboard and then you actually had to accept an EULA. I have never come across this in a Linux distribution. So I accepted the EULA and then had to select my local and keyboard yet again. Once that was done the live CD booted to the login where you select Guest as the user and no password.
Once logged in everything worked perfectly. I had to open up the network connection tool and select my wireless network. But once I clicked connect I was up and running (and writing this blog.) I really like what Mandriva has done with KDE 3.5. The look and feel is one of the nicest default KDE themes I have seen.
Now the installation on one of my desktop machines was flawless. During the installation you are asked if you want 3D desktop effects enabled and what you want to handle them (either Compiz or Matisse - I chose Compiz.)
The desktop installation didn't surprise me. The graphics chip is fairly standard. The laptop, however, did surprise me because the chip is a Via chrome chip which can be rather difficult to get working at anything above 800x600. Mandriva automatically configured the laptop to run at a beautiful 1440x900 at a 60 Hz refresh rate. This is probably the first time I have installed a distribution on this laptop and not had to monkey with the display properties to get it to work properly. The only downfall with the laptop is the 3D effects would not work. Of course this doesn't bother me because the laptop is used almost entirely for writing purposes so 3D effects are not a big issue. And since the 3D effects worked out of the box on the desktop, I can't hold that against Mandriva.
Another issue that has plagued my laptop is wireless. The easiest distribution up to this point has been gOS. But even with gOS I had to install WICD to get wireless to work with encrypted wireless. Not so with Mandriva. Mandriva worked with WPA2 out of the box. Another big score for Mandriva.
Not that sound is really an issue these day, but I figured I would say that, even with the Live CD, there was no configuration needed to get sound working. Out of the box the Everex laptop had beautiful sound.
This has been an Achilles heel for Linux for a long time now. And I can't say for sure that hibernation is working on this particular laptop 100% because of the nature of the Live CD, when I try to hibernate the laptop comes right back. The good news is that when it comes back up (almost instantly) everything is still working fine - no need to reconnect to the wireless network. So that, combined with all reports saying Mandriva's hibernate works out of the box, leads me to think this might be the first distribution that has come close to actually solving the biggest issue with Linux on laptops. I will know for sure when I am ready to blow away my current installation and install Mandriva (I have to make sure I can get Enlightenment installed first ;-) ).
This is where I am truly amazed. Even running as a Live CD Mandriva is out performing the fully installed gOS on the laptop. This is certainly the best running Live CD I have ever experienced. And if that is any indication of how the system will run installed, I think we have a winner for sure. The desktop installation isn't too shabby either. The hardware is, suffice it to say, ancient and the full installation runs like a champ (even with Compiz running).
Here's where I step up on the soap box I have carried around for over a decade and say that Microsoft, upon experiencing Mandriva 2008, should be getting close to shaking in their boots. With the Spring 2008 iteration of Mandriva the Linux community is witnessing probably the closest to a Windows killer the community has yet to see. This is, without a doubt, the finest release of any Linux distribution I have ever experienced in my 10+ years of using Linux.
Mandriva Spring 2008 is amazing simple to install and use. It's incredibly robust and stable. It is, I would have to say, the future of Linux.
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.