Of course one can set a (new) root pass without knowing the previous one. Just exit out of lilo or grub graphic mode and boot the image adding "single" to the parameters.
You come up with a kernel level shell as root. a quick "passwd" command and reboot, voila. New (and hopefully more secure) root pass word.
And the beauty: anyone who doesn't know how to do this, shouldn't do this!
For my tastes, I'd far prefer Mandriva 2008 over any other, I can't say enough good about this distro.
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