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Mandriva: The Choice of a New(bie) Generation?

Mandriva is a long surviving Linux distribution, often touted as the best for new users. Is this really so? With an ever changing game, will Mandriva's methods last long term?

It’s been said around the Internet many times that Mandriva is the best choice for new Linux users. In many ways, it’s easy to see why.

Recently the distribution released their latest version, Mandriva 2010. The system comes in a few different flavors, which is certainly worth exploring.

The recommended download is called “One”, a 32bit only Live CD available in many languages with either the KDE or GNOME desktop environment. This edition includes closed source software such as proprietary kernel drivers and Adobe Flash.

Taking this version one step further is the “PowerPack”, which is not available free of charge. This edition includes even more proprietary software, as well as providing commercial support. The website lists the following software:

Flash
Fluendo DVD Reader
Fluendo Codecs
Acrobat Reader
Skype
Opera
Arkeia
VMWare

A similar live USB flash version is also available for a set price.

Finally, we have the “Free” edition, which only comes with Free software. Nothing proprietary, just good old free libre software. Oh, and this version is available in 64bit.

Newbie Central

Essentially, the reason why Mandriva is “easy for new users” is because all the proprietary software that they might need to access their data (and hardware) is installed by default. Closed source non-GPL Linux kernel drivers are built right into the system and loaded on boot. Support for some of those nasty proprietary data formats is also included and Flash works out of the box. It also comes with Codeina, an application which tracks required codecs, prompting users to purchase and install them.

What’s not to like? A single install of Mandriva not only sets a user up with a modern desktop (with a few caveats) but gets all those nasty things working without any hassle. Or does it?

While the “One” version certainly has support for MP3s built in, the system cannot play video files such as WMV out of the box. Opening such a video in the default player, Dragon, results in the program sitting there with a black screen trying to play the file. There’s no prompt to install a codec, no error message, no warning of any kind. That’s not particularly user friendly.

The Mandriva website shows that the PowerPack is the version of choice for those wanting a more complete experience. So does this mean the other versions are crippled by comparison?

Pieces of the Puzzle

It might be presented as a newbie friendly distro, but where does Mandriva actually sit in the Free software ecosystem? Most Linux distributions have their little niches which makes them popular and useful.

Ubuntu for example, is currently the most popular because (among other things) it is very desktop oriented. It makes the difficult things like installing closed source drivers easier. It doesn’t include them out of the box like Mandriva, but it does have a manager which makes it as simple as ticking a box and rebooting. Ubuntu is not shy of including closed source software and drivers if it makes the end user’s experience easier.

Fedora on the other hand, sticks to only free and non-patent encumbered software, building the best completely free operating system they can. Fedora is also sponsored by Red Hat, the number one contributor to the Linux kernel and numerous other projects. As a result, it has a strong developer community and is often more bleeding edge.

Then there’s the Novell backed openSUSE which has always been famous for their graphical configuration tool, YaST. Debian is a rock solid, reliable community distribution which runs on anything. Gentoo is the number one source based distro, while Damn Small Linux is famous for being, well, small. So what’s Mandriva’s playing card to attract more users? Does it have a niche?

Perhaps it does. Mandriva’s focus appears to be on support for proprietary software. While the free version does not include any of this by default, the One edition does.

So perhaps the benefit in using Mandriva, and therefore its niche, is a system which will work with all those proprietary data formats out of the box. Users can finally legally play their own DVDs, for example. It also provides users with those applications they might be used to under a Windows environment, such as Skype.

Defining Itself

Mandriva suffered much bad publicity a number of years back when it tried to make money via its Mandriva Club product. It did this by holding back the release of new versions from the general public, making them available only to those to paid up front. It completely backfired.

Having lost a huge number of previously faithful users, the distro is still struggling to define itself. With this new release, it is trying to be hip and cool, fancy and bleeding edge. Indeed on its website it proudly proclaims the 2010 release to be:

“The awesome Linux desktop.. In our opinion, the best Linux OS out there. Simple, open & innovative.”

Marketing hogwash aside, those are still some bold statements.

The new release is certainly a major achievement, there’s no denying that. The list of features is quite impressive.

Perhaps the most interesting one is the “Mandriva smart desktop” about which they say:

“Your desktop is even smarter and helps you in your every day activities. You have many documents, mails, data, pictures, videos. You can now organize them according to your projects. Add notes, comments, tags in few mouse clicks.”

Smart desktop you say? Now that’s starting to get interesting.

The Smart desktop is in actual fact, the implementation of Nepomuk within KDE. Unfortunately Nepomuk does not work in the One edition, due to a missing Soprano database backend.

Mandriva has big plans for Nepomuk, so it will be interesting to see where this technology goes.

The System

While the Mandriva Live release includes closed source drivers for hardware such as video and wireless cards, the Free edition does not. Unfortunately for those wanting both closed source drivers and a 64 bit operating system, the Live only comes in 32bits.

A 64bit system is only available via the Free DVD or by purchasing the PowerPack. Users taking the Free 64bit route will be on their own when it comes to configuring their proprietary drivers, as Mandriva does not appear to include any helpful user application to handle this complex task for the user.
Update: Users of the Free edition can configure the system to use proprietary drivers via the Control Center’s Hardware tool. Upon configuring their video card, for example, the tool will advise the user of the availability of a proprietary driver, and ask if they want to use it. If answered yes, this will cause the package manager to pull down the twenty odd packages required, install and configure the system for its use.

The system itself has many great components and works quite well. Installation is a snap and by default, Mandriva creates multiple partitions on the drive so that users have a separate /boot, /home and / mount points. That’s good to see.

After installation from the One Live CD, it also removes packages for unneeded drivers on the system, leaving only those which my system required. This is also quite neat.

Mandriva also comes with a control center which lets the user graphically configure various aspects of their machine. This is much more than distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora provide, but is not as complete as YaST from openSUSE. Still, it’s a handy tool which does make life easier for new users.

Updating We Will Go

The DVD installer offers the option of installing updates before booting into the initial system, which is good to see. This avoids running a potentially insecure operating system while updates take their time to install at a later date.

Strangely, after performing some updates the manager helpfully informs the user that a “new version of Mandriva Linux distribution had been released” and recommends that the user upgrade to the “Spring 2009” edition. Something is not quite right there!

Mandriva 2010 Update Manager
Mandriva 2010 Update Manager

Quite frankly, the package management system seems rather clunky with multiple windows popping up all over the place while the system updates, downloads, updates lists, downloads information for an update, confirms requests, and downloads more again. This causes lots of flickering windows as they close and then re-open in a slightly different location on the screen.

After the updates are complete, the system doesn’t actually mention that it was successful, but rather the updater displays the message:

“The list of updates is empty. This means that either there is no available update for the packages installed on your computer, or you already installed all of them.”

You’re the system, shouldn’t you know? This once again is not particularly helpful for the end user.

All these little things add up and overall it doesn’t really have the feel of a solid, reliable, easy to use updating system. Having said all that, it does get the job done and the updating process seemed to work correctly.

Long-term

It’s hard to see what an installation of the Free Mandriva version has to offer over any other major Linux distribution. In many areas, such as codec support, it falls far behind. Most distributions these days will automatically search for and prompt the user to install a required codec. Perhaps the behaviour is due to the system used in the PowerPack edition, which doesn’t translate across to the Free editions.

These days Ubuntu has most users sewn up, and is gaining in popularity all the time. Mandriva’s goal is to make money by selling their products and services. However, if a user can install Ubuntu and have proprietary drivers and codecs installed automatically, what is the benefit of a system like Mandriva over it?

Mandriva might well be shooting themselves in the foot with their “Free” offerings. In reality, these are like cripple-ware, designed to entice the end user to upgrade to the non-free version in order to gain full functionality. By doing so however, they might just be pushing more users away.

Comments on "Mandriva: The Choice of a New(bie) Generation?"

jahenn

Mandriva (and Mandrake before) used to be a newbie distro, but installing Ubuntu or Fedora can\’t get any easier. And the cartoonish look turns me off from using it.

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emverdes

Being a long time mandriva user, I\’d like to make some comments. As you pointed, Mandriva One is the recommended way to go, because of its support to propietary hardware, not software. Not all propietary codecs are included, but propietary drivers for wireless lan, 3D graphical cards and such. Propietary codecs and other software can be installed from Penguin Liberation Front repositories, which are easily added using easyurpmi web site (http://easyurpmi.zarb.org).
As you point, this can be made more easy for non expert users, maybe adding a desktop shorcut or an application, like easyinstall from Dreamlinux.
With some polishing, Mandriva can be a great newbie distribution. By now, you still need to do some tweaking to make things work smoothly.

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uris

I am an avid Mandriva user. Used it back when it was Mandrake and moved to Ubuntu(where I stayed for 2 years) after their fiasco. But now I am back to Mandriva and really love it. I have Fedora(and it is enjoyable really) running on some laptops too . I gave up on Ubuntu because they just don\’t cut it anymore. For a \’user oriented\’ distro, Ubuntu has nothing like MCC. If the desktop is the goal, an control center is mandatory. MCC to me is even better than YaST (I experimented with OpenSuSe 11 but got disappointed). Even its package manager (urpmi) is awesome. Yes, it is slower than apt-get, but it gets the job done.

In the server side, I work at a government department outside the U.S. and we have a distributed system across the country running on Mandriva Servers, and they are rock solid.

My desktop is running Mandriva 64bit (Free Edition) and have never had problems installing codecs. I have it running on a small Compaq laptop also without any problems. WiFi works great and codecs are installed with ease (I have never bought anything from Codeina for codecs, but if you can afford it, Codeina makes life easier if you are too dumb to google for solutions). In fact, the upgrade from 2009.1 to 2010 was flawless. Never before have I been able to upgrade from one previous version to another in any other distro with such ease.

Mandriva is not out there flaunting itself, nor does it get much news coverage, but it is darn good.

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au5mounty

I am a long time Mandriva user, and yes I update to the newest version as soon as I possibly can simply for the fact that with my systems hardware they seem to resolve certain issues, IE – RadeonHD drivers (4350 chipset). It seems that this revision that the opengl is working correctly, after installing a game called World of Padman (WoP). This game achieves some positive refresh rates and is not sluggish.

I am in fact a computer consultant and I have a dual boot environment of Windows 7 & Mandriva 2010 Official.

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haapi

Yeah, it\’s a bug to offer 2009 as an upgrade to 2010. :-(

What\’s your problem with the flavors of Mandriva? Free is to Debian as PowerPack is to Ubuntu, though the Free and PowerPack are actually sourced identically. \”One\” is a live-CD you can try out anywhere, even without installing, that\’s a feature — and you didn\’t even mention their Flash distro. PowerPack costs some money, but I think it has high value.

I am a PowerPack user, because I am happy to send Mandriva some cash every year to support libre software, integration of the proprietary drivers/packages, and get regular security updates.

I am also happy with how Mandriva provides cutting-, if not bleeding-edge releases of the kernel and various major packages. They maintain a corporate distribution that is more conservative, from an IT perspective.

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dibosco

Pretty unbalanced and odd review IMHO. For example, the bit about the bug upgrading to the previous edition. Gosh, a new release has bug! How shocking. Other distributions and operating systems never experience that.

Then there\’s the bit about how Mandriva Club stopped you getting new releases. How can that be? It\’s GPL, it had to be available. I\’ve been using Mandriva since 2001 and I never experienced a time when I wasn\’t free to go and download the latest distribution. There was, and still is an option to get hold of non-free and extra software, but that is not the same as what you reported. This is very poor reporting and I\’d expect better from a Linux specialist magazine.

The piece about the upgrade manager is ridiculous. To say it\’s clunky and flickers is outright wrong and the bit about multiple windows is overstating it. It opens a window to tell you what it\’s going to download and has a progress bar. Oh dear, how can my mind cope with all that information?

There are a lot of reasons for using Mandriva over other distributions. Ubuntu is all very well if you\’re a Gnome user, but many of us prefer KDE and Mandriva do hands-down the best KDE distribution in terms of looks and ease of use. Kubuntu is not in the same league in terms of presentation.

Then there is Mandriva Control Centre which is widely regarded as the best in the business.

The bit about Ubuntu having most users sewn-up: so what? What\’s your point? At one point, Mandriva had most users \”sewn-up\”, but had financial issues and lost their way for a couple of years, which in the fast moving Linux world is a long time and enough to lose a lot of ground. However, it is every bit as easy to install and use as Ubuntu. Even the Free edition, which does not come with proprietary drivers for things like nvidia drivers is an absolute breeze to install and almost everything else just works. The issue is that Ubuntu is currently the darling of the Linux world as Mandrake was a few years ago. This does not make Mandriva any less excellent or valid and doesn\’t mean everyone should pack-up and leave it to Canonical.

If you want everything proprietary, then install the One CD, which is like the Ubuntu CD. I prefer the Free DVD which has far more on it and is better for installing to multiple machines as you have much less to download. And I have not had issues with standard codecs for years, even on the Free installation. Installing them if they\’re not there is also a breeze with PLF repositories.

Finally, this paragraph is weird and contradictory:

\”Ubuntu for example, is currently the most popular because (among other things) it is very desktop oriented. It makes the difficult things like installing closed source drivers easier. It doesn’t include them out of the box like Mandriva, but it does have a manager which makes it as simple as ticking a box and rebooting. Ubuntu is not shy of including closed source software and drivers if it makes the end user’s experience easier.\”

Which is then? Mandriva supplies the codecs or Ubuntu? And, as stated above, Mandriva also has a *great* package manager to install non-free (free as in freedom, not beer) software. I\’m pretty sure you don\’t have to reboot once you\’ve installed the codecs in Ubuntu or Mandriva.

I have nothing against Ubuntu, I am very, very happy it\’s spreading Linux very effectively. What I do object to is an inaccurate article that looks more like an Ubuntu fanboy\’s writings than someone who really understands what he or she is reviewing.

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uris

I agree completely with dibosco. The quality of the articles in this magazine have been getting below par, especially for a \’technical\’ magazine.

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gerlos

I\’m a old time Mandriva user (I started with Mandrake 9.0, in the last century) ;-) but I use also Ubuntu and Debian, and after reading this review I had a strong feeling that the author missed the most important things in the distro.
Proprietary software/drivers aren\’t the most important things in a distro, as it seems to mean the author.
The best features in Mandriva are others.
From my point of view, the Mandriva Control Center is something that add a really great value to the distro. Using it a newbie user can find almost everything he/she needs in just one place, with a decent documentation to guide him/her. But there\’s also tools useful for expert users, like Diskdrake, the Control Center module to manage partitions, that is , afaik, the only graphical partition manager out there that lets you manage LVM volumes.

Another important point is that Mandriva doesn\’t force you to choose a desktop environment. They like KDE, but the distro is really DE-agnostic.

OK, it\’s true that if you are on KDE and using Dragon Player, nothing happens to help you install codecs. But dragon player is really young, and maybe they\’re working on this feature. Try to open the same file with Totem: codeina will fire up, and will ask if you want to install proprietary codecs of the free ones to open the current file. And since Totem and Dragon player are both gstreamer based, you will be able to open the file also with Dragon.

Under the hood, they\’re also working on a lot of new technologies. They\’re auto-configuring repositories, and for example, they now are using aria2c for downloading the packets to install. This way, you will be able to have faster downloads, since aria2c will start parallel downloads from different repositories. Also urpmi, the package manager, is almost as advanced as apt.
They\’re also supporting actively the development of KDE4. They pushed the porting of K3b from KDE3 to KDE4, and now they\’re pushing on Nepomuk.

Maybe the author didn\’t understand that Mandriva, unlike Ubuntu, pay attention to really free (as in speech) software, giving the people the choice to have a really free desktop. And if someone changes his/her mind, and wants some proprietary packages, they just have to pick the non-free repositories in the control center, in a way not different from Ubuntu.
It\’s also easy to switch from the One flavour to the Free one, and even to the Powerpack one, you just need to install one meta-package. There\’s no artificial difference between these flavours (obviously, the powerpack one has a couple of more repositories…).

And let me say one last thing to correct the original article: proprietary drivers aren\’t included as something not separable from the kernel… they\’re dkms modules, if you don\’t want them you can avoid them, and if you want some of them you can just install what you want, in any flavour of the distro.

Please, try to know more the topic before writing a such bad pitched article, next time…

Reply
wweng_linux

Newbie cares about \”support\”, they need to have someone to ask help from.

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csmart

@emverdes, Glad to read that you agree. Mandriva is an excellent distribution, hopefully it can continue to innovate and become more user friendly.

@haapi, I don\’t have a problem with the versions of Mandriva, I was just pointing out the differences.

@dibosco and @uris, Of course all distros have bugs. I actually experienced a lot more bugs than I included in the article, for example one was with the Mandriva installer which formatted the entirely wrong drive during the install process! See, \”http://blog.christophersmart.com/2009/12/10/not-that-drive-mandriva-no/\”

In relation to the delayed release issue, perhaps it\’s because you were already a club member that you didn\’t realise the change in policy. The Mandriva 2006 release was deliberately made available only to Club members and delayed by some 5 weeks for everyone else.

Might I suggest that you can take a read of these:
\”http://www.mandriva.com/archives/en/company/press/shorts/mandriva_club_members_meet_mandriva_linux_2006.html\”
\”http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20051010#2\”
\”http://distrowatch.com/?newsid=02948\”
\”http://distrowatch.com/?newsid=03041\”
\”http://lwn.net/Articles/155466/\”
\”http://news.softpedia.com/news/Linux-Mandriva-2006-Ready-to-Install-10128.shtml\”

As for the update, I\’m sorry but it is clunky. It works, but it\’s clunky. It uses third party tools (like curl) which perform functions such as retrieving data. I wasn\’t suggesting that all of those dozen things happen at once, but each of them does that when you perform that function. It would be much nicer if they called these in the background and used their own progress information. Still it\’s just not as pretty as I\’d expect, but as I wrote it works perfectly.

The Mandriva desktop does look very pretty.

How good the control centre is or not, is a matter of opinion (obviously). In my article I do mention that\’s it is VERY HANDY for new users. I also mention that it\’s light years ahead of anything Ubuntu or Fedora offers, but it\’s not as complete as YaST. What\’s wrong with that?

My point about Ubuntu having most users sewn up is exactly your point, that if Mandriva wants to get back lost market share then they need to innovate and catch up with Ubuntu. Ubuntu is currently much more user friendly than Mandriva (perhaps with the exclusion of PowerPack, which includes everything). That\’s my point. As you point out, Mandriva used to be very popular until Ubuntu took over. Now the tables have to turn if Mandriva wants a larger piece of the pie (which they do need because they are a publicly trading company).

The One CD does not come with everything proprietary as you suggest. The Mandriva \”Which edition?\” web page (which I link to) clearly shows the differences. The fact is that the One version does not include all the proprietary software that PowerPack does, and it does not prompt to install missing codecs, which leaves users unable to play all their data.

As for the \”contradictory\” paragraph, the subject is Ubuntu, therefore the \”it\” refers to Ubuntu, not Mandriva. \”It [Ubuntu] makes the difficult things like installing closed source drivers easier. It [Ubuntu] doesn’t include them out of the box like Mandriva, but it [Ubuntu] does have a manager which makes it as simple as ticking a box and rebooting.\” Note that this is talking about DRIVERS, not CODECS (hence the reboot).

Before you accuse me of being an Ubuntu fan boy, perhaps you should take a look at one of my previous articles:
\”http://www.linux-mag.com/id/7607\”

No-where did I say that Mandriva is a bad Linux distro, so perhaps you should read the article in a more balanced light rather than getting over excited that someone might not think that Mandriva is the perfect operating system. It\’s good, but it has some work to do. That\’s my point.

I use lots of different distributions and I know how they work. I don\’t just use one distro and then make uneducated assumptions about others.

@gerlos, I don\’t think proprietary drivers are important at all, but Mandriva includes that as a primary focus of their distro. It\’s one of the major features that they push about their One and PowerPack versions. As such, this is the focus of the article.

Yes, the Control Centre is good, see my comments @dibosco and @uris above.

Fedora does come with a graphical LVM tool, Ubuntu does not, AFAIK (although this might work in Palimpsest).

It\’s good to see Mandriva improving under the hood, but this article was about the front end experience for users.

Finally, to refute your \”correction\” about the kernel modules. I was referring to the Live CD, where they are already pre-built for and linked to the running kernel and exist under /lib/modules. The fact that these can be removed is irrelevant in this instance.

Chris

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pillingm

What a newbie cares about is basic functionality and I\’m afraid all the major distros I\’ve tried so far have failed that. I built a machine for my Aunt who really just wants to surf the web, download knitting patterns, print them, do email and watch you tube.

Now every distribution I\’ve tried: Ubuntu 9.10, Kubunto 9.10, OpenSuse 11.2, Mandriva 2010, LinuxMint Helena fails out of the box. They all have some wierd sound bug that makes the desktop silent (except for logging in and out noises on some of them).

How can I wean someone off windows and offer them a no-sound desktop? I really thought Linux had progressed enough now to offer as a substitute for windows for the non-geek user, but clearly I was wrong.

The mother board I used was a bog standard Gigabyte GA-MA770-UD3 which is not bleeding edge by any means and has normal intel sound chips in it.

The problem is it took me one day to build the hardware and almost 5 days of trying various distributions with no clear end in sight. The biggest problem is the difficulty in deciding which advice in forums is real, usable and applicable to my situation. And I have two software degrees so how is my Aunt going to handle this. Even once I solve it can I trust that updates won\’t break it again?

Mandriva, like others, would do well to focus on testing the basic operations like web browsing, flash, sound, printing etc. It would also bee great if there were patterns in the install to choose simple raid 1 and automatic backups. If it were not for this disqualifying sound bug common to almost all major distributions, Mandriva would have been my prefered distro to give her, it\’s got a clean look, a logical layout, still a menu – not some horrible categorised set of panes, KDE, Matisse ( a great way to use 3D for making desktop operations like cut and paste across overlapping windows rather than eye candy ).

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wweng_linux

@pillingm,

Linux is always a bit lacking in terms of video/audio tools, compatibility. I mean, if some smart people who work with kernel all the time can spend some time working on the sound code, I am sure the video/audio can become robust as ever.

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stuartiannaylor

What I think is important which Linux excels at is choice. Mandriva differs from Ubuntu in implementation and is probably the best KDE distribution.
The problems with Microsoft is that it is the only Devil we know Linux doesn\’t provide that threat. Linux has some exquisite flavors and needs this variation to survive and evolve.

Stuart.

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jonjermey

Mint also includes codecs for standard media formats on installation. It also happens to be the only Live CD I have tried so far which happily copes with the weird screen resolution on the PCs where I teach. (PCLOS boots up in 640 * 480, and everything else I have tried so far just crashes or boots in text mode.) I\’m looking forward to trying the new Mandriva on them to see what happens.

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dibosco

Chris,

The issue for me is that, even with your reply (thanks for that), your article concentrates very much on the negative side of Mandriva and points out the faults (including dragging up irrelevant issues from years ago).

I would be quite happy if you\’d gone through all the fantastic points of Mandriva, like ease of installation, hard drive partitioner, beautifully presented (important to attract non-Linux users) etc etc and then said, it has some issues as well though. Instead it comes across as \”Bah, Mandriva, what\’s the point?\”

I maintain, even mentioning that upgrade bug is just petty, the installer accusation is just overblowing the case completely and not even worth mentioning. It works, it\’s reliable, it\’s easy to use and it does *not* flicker. Criticising it the way you did was, again, petty.

On the contradictory paragraph, you need to make sure you don\’t leave your modifiers dangling. You\’re a professional journalist (I assume), take more care in properly presenting your argument. ;~)

In the same way that Mandriva needs to look at the video issue, you need to look at how your article comes across as being something that *looks* like an Ububntu fanboy\’s writing.

Cheers and thanks again for taking the time to reply!

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proyvind

There are severals things wrong with this article..

First of all regarding codecs, the fact that Mandriva provides Fluende codecs with it\’s Powerpack has nothing to do with you lacking wmv support, there are free codecs available in the distribution providing such. The actual issue would rather be if Dragon player\’s behaviour should be considered a bug and/or if the codec for providing wmv support should\’ve been installed by default (situation is the same for several other distributions, so this is nothing unique for Mandriva Linux).

For proprietary drivers and them being provided with only One (and Powerpack), you seem to miserably fail to grasp some of the concepts behind the live cd… You complain about these drivers being preinstalled and you not being given an option whether having them installed or not. This makes absolutely no sense, considering that the live cd is a read only medium supposed to work out of the box, these drivers of course needs to be preinstalled, also when installing the distribution using the live cd it will simply just copy the distribution tree running from the live cd and install any other packages from packages available online rather than installing everything from packages!
For installation using the Free edition you claim that users are on their own when it comes to proprietary drivers, this is simply wrong, drivers are available in the online non-free repositories and the Mandriva Linux tools will inform you about them being available for the relevant hardware and also offer you to install these.
You making these things into Mandriva mainly caring about proprietary software because they offer a paid Powerpack version which contains additional proprietary payware software is just so embarassingly silly.
You even say later in a comment that this is why you make it the focus of your article, despite the fact that you\’re not even testing the Powerpack version! This makes your article more of a rant touting your own opinions from the silly conclusions you draw rather than an actual review of a distribution you\’ve tested.

Since you\’re bringing up old history regarding initial 2006 release of Mandriva Linux through Mandriva Club only and also write about how Ubuntu at least providing you a choice and all, it\’s worth noticing that in contrast to Mandriva, Ubuntu was actually formerly the one guilty in what you\’re accusing Mandriva of ( http://me.abelcheung.org/2006/07/03/ubuntu-distribute-non-free-software/ ). Ubuntu doing this is actually one of the reasons behind why we had to provide these non-free drivers as well (some highlights from the discussion back then: http://lists.mandriva.com/cooker/2006-09/msg02831.php http://lists.mandriva.com/cooker/2006-09/msg02506.php)..

Other than your nonsense rant, you don\’t seem to comment on much other than Nepomuk which you didn\’t test due to a missing package (it missing of course being a bug, but it\’s a package that you could\’ve easily installed) and the bug in the updater applet offering you to install to 2009 Spring (oh noes, a silly bug that only looks silly without causing problems?? SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!).

Oh and last, while the fact that you recently also wrote a very negative Ubuntu review release might prove that you\’re not an Ubuntu fan boy, it might also just as well suggest that you\’re a bigger fan of writing negative articles for the attention rather than actually making the trouble of writing well balanced ones..

Reply
houndhen

I tried Mandriva 2010 One and it sortof worked.Had problems getting a music CD to play. The folks as the forum helped me resolve the issue. To me I didn\’t see any reason to use it that much. I already have Mepis 8 that does everything that I need to do. I also have installed Mint 8 and was very impressed with it. PCLOS 2009 seems to work fine on my pc. I couldn\’t recommend Mandriva over either of the three that I mentioned. But then, to me it comes down to which distro actually works on your hardware and has a look and feel that the user likes. With Linux it is all about choice, which is good but someone just coming over from Windows will many times be intimidated and confused by the wide range of choice. It just takes time to find a distro that fits your situation. Many get turned off when the first one they try doesn\’t just work. Linux is worth the effort to find what one needs.

Reply
alejandronova

Months with Mandriva have taught me what Mandriva is and what isn\’t. It isn\’t a newbie-friendly distro in the sense of Ubuntu, trying to coerce you to take some decisions about your desktop, your drivers, to give you a pretty standard system. If Ubuntu works, great for you, but if it doesn\’t work, you must fight with the unmitigated Debian roots of Ubuntu. It\’s Debian, after all, and if you want it to work, you must know the Debian way of doing things. Mandriva isn\’t that. It is a user-friendly distro. A Linux-user friendly distro.

You know, for instance, how all the Ubuntu userfriendliness fades away when I try to run KDE on it. Ubuntu utilities are so GNOME-centric that, if you want to install them, you MUST INSTALL GNOME, and if you try to run them in KDE, they cast one half of GNOME desktop, including Nautilus (because they need the GNOME Control Center to run). You know that you CAN\’T USE the GStreamer backend in Kubuntu because is \”buggy as hell\”; you need to install the Xine backend. And knowing what a backend is, for instance, is soooo user friendly. You know that you can\’t configure your printer in Kubuntu using the bundled utilities; you must do it through localhost:631, like I do in Arch Linux. This is soooo user friendly… BTW, Mandriva uses the GStreamer backend in KDE all the time.

You know that Ubuntu userfriendliness ends when you try to use it with KDE. Do you want to use PulseAudio? That means that you have a fight ahead. If you want to install PulseAudio, you definitely want to use GNOME. And if you dare to run PulseAudio under Kubuntu, you\’ll end with a totally meaningless list in your Multimedia configuration, under KDE. Have I told you that Adélie imports properly your PulseAudio configuration into KDE?.

I use nVidia drivers, like so many people using Linux. And I like them updated. In Ubuntu, when I have to update them, I must enable a PPA and, if I update them, expose KDE to be removed. This is sooo user friendly!!!! BTW, Mandriva delivers updated nVidia drivers as regular updates, and Mandriva is no rolling release…

And I haven\’t started with the Mandriva Control Center, or their Nepomuk integration. You mention that Mandriva features the ordinary KDE Nepomuk integration, and you are completely wrong. The massive experimental features exposed by Mandriva deserve a review in their own, and, oh… wait… they have it! ( http://dot.kde.org/2009/12/10/exploring-new-nepomuk-features-mandriva-linux-2010 ). Mandriva is the BEST KDE implementation in this cycle. And they achieved that with a lot of GTK-using utilities. Way to go, Ubuntu!

Adélie is not without its faults. The GUI utilities are clunky and slow. My eGalax touchscreen is still unsupported, and they are not including several useful apps included by Kubuntu. They don\’t include so much games as Ubuntu, BTW. But if Ubuntu is the mark, and you want to taste KDE, Mandriva is THE distro. I\’ve never liked OpenSUSE, and Pardus 2009.1 may be an interesting one to watch, but, until then, to have \”a good desktop oriented KDE distro\” is THE REASON to have Mandriva.

Reply
csmart

@dibosco, The issues from years ago is not irrelevant, it\’s actually quite important. Mandriva used to be very popular and the decision to withhold releases really hurt them. They are trying to claw back market share, and so this is all quite central.

The fantastic points you provide are a given with most distributions these days. However, this is not a review of the distribution, this is a discussion about Mandriva\’s position on providing ease of use, centralising around proprietary software.

The inclusion of codecs out of the box, but more importantly proprietary drivers is unique to Mandriva out of all the major Linux distributions. This is a major selling point for the software, so this is what I was focusing on.

Like it or not, Ubuntu is the most popular distro at the moment with good reason. It is the closest we can compare Mandriva to, because it has all those tools to make things easier, which is what Mandriva\’s trying to do.

@proyvind, Sure there are repositories out there and if I install gstreamer-plugins-ugly then most things will work. Problem is that this is not particularly user friendly. A user doesn\’t know what repositories to add and what packages to install. By comparison, other distributions do this. Someone did mention however, that this does happen with totem, just not dragon player.

I wasn\’t complaining about not being able to remove the proprietary drivers at all. I was just stating that they are there, and included so as to make more hardware work out of the box for new users. That\’s great for One users, but makes it harder for the Free users. In my experience using the Free product it never prompted me to install proprietary drivers for my hardware, as you suggest. Once again, it\’s in online repositories which a new user doesn\’t know about.

Finally, yes this and the Ubuntu articles might look like everything is always negative, and my reply to that would be go read my other articles.

@alejandronova, Thanks for those points, good food for thought.

I actually intended to do a more in depth look at Nepomuk on Mandriva for another article, discussing what benefits it has, how it impacts the system, etc. With the responses to this article, I think I\’ll just leave Mandriva alone and not go back there.

Reply
wweng_linux

Linux desktop is already a niche market. It is gonna be extra-hard for Mandriva to get back the lost market share.

Reply
unbob

Install the free edition and then go to \”Browse and configure hardware\” in the Control Center, and Mandriva will pull in packages and configure your hardware automatically.
Go to the graphical server setup and Mandriva will tell you that your hardware may work better with the closed driver, and will offer to install and configure it automatically.

It seems to me (and probably a couple above me) like you haven\’t been using Mandriva for a very long time.

How easy is it to configure the stuff you can do in MCC, on other distros?
Filesharing, formatting a usb drive, setting up backups, setting up hardware, configure your firewall, parental control, etc
How do Mandriva and other distros compare when you plug in your printer or some other device?

When you do that comparison you can answer your question, because \”newbies\” may need to do stuff other than surf the web too.

There are a lot of things I don\’t like about Mandriva (I use openSUSE) but I still recommend it to someone that tells me they have heard great things about Linux and want to give it a try.

Reply
csmart

@unbob, thank you for that information. I have re-installed KDE Free from scratch and followed all the defaults (including updates post install) and the system does indeed prompt me to install the proprietary driver when I configure my video device. This did not come up when I tried to configure the card previously on another install. I\’ve updated the article to reflect this.

-c

Reply
aborrell

I\’m also a old Mandrake user, and continue to use Mandriva at my desktop. It has one of the best supports for multimedia.

Reply
steonet

\”While the Mandriva Live release includes closed source drivers for hardware such as video and wireless cards, the Free edition does not. Unfortunately for those wanting both closed source drivers and a 64 bit operating system, the Live only comes in 32bits.\”

The \”One64 Community\”
http://www.community64.net/
created two LiveCDs for 64 bit systems (not officially sponsored by Mandriva): one is for KDE and the other for GNOME. The website is in French (but English translation will come soon).

Community One64 KDE:
http://www.community64.net/telecharger/120-mandriva-one-64-kde4-explanations

Community One64 GNOME:
http://www.community64.net/telecharger/121-le-bureau-gnome-en-detail

Reply
alejandronova

What all of this shows is: Ubuntu is the most popular distro, but it has to learn a lot of things of Mandriva. This is about being user-friendly all the time, not only when you do things the way the distro wants you to do them.

Small things make the difference, and I would like to state them to fill the gaps in the review.

1. Mandriva uses ifup and wicd to enable wireless connections, instead of NetworkManager. It isn\’t as pretty, but it enables connections in a lot of scenarios that NetworkManager still can\’t handle.

2. I\’m still impressed by the user friendliness of urpmi.

Let\’s suppose that you want to install evtouch. In Ubuntu, the logical choice for a newbie is Synaptic. When you go away from the GUI and enter the console, you have two confusingly similiar package managers, aptitude and apt-get, and, more confusingly, you are adviced to use apt-get all the time when aptitude is actually better at dependency-handling. But, let\’s leave that. The issue here is: you must enter the precise package name. And it can be a nightmare with X11 drivers. Was it xorg-input-driver-foo? x11-input-driver-foo? xserver-xorg-driver-foo?.

In Mandriva, urpmi handles all of that. If I want evtouch, I simply issue #urpmi evtouch , and watch the system to give me suggestions, or to allow me to install all packages that match my pattern. This is real Linux-user friendliness in my book, not some luser-hand-holding.

3. Problem solving and catastrophe scenarios are easier to solve too. In Ubuntu, I must pray that their \”BulletProof-X\” work. If it doesn\’t work, I am sent to hell. The Ubuntu console sucks. Before Ubuntu 7.10, it didn\’t even had a real console; it used BusyBox, and it was a disaster. It improved a little since then because a sudden smartness attack made them replace BusyBox with bash. Mandriva console doesn\’t suck. The autocompletion is 400x better than Ubuntu\’s, and a lot of convenient aliases are preconfigured for me to use. THIS IS REAL LINUX-USER FRIENDLINESS.

And, about X… XFDrake can handle every disaster scenario that I\’ve trown at it.

4. The advanced security framework. Mandriva security is simply like a tank. SELinux related features are A BREEZE to configure and enable, through the Mandriva Control Center. The MSec framework allows me to switch between a basic and a hardened profile with a click. Every setting is explained. I haven\’t seen anything like that in Ubuntu.

What is really the worst thing about Mandriva? Its Red Hat Linux roots. Not Fedora. Not RHEL. Red Hat Linux. And with this I really mean that the initscript system in Mandriva is old. VERY OLD. It\’s almost the same (well, with a pretty boot screen) since Mandrake 8. And you cannot teach the old dog to do new tricks, like booting fast. That\’s why Mandriva has so many issues with speedboot (they try to speed up the only part of the boot process that SHOULDN\’T BE SPEED UP: device recognition, load X, and see what happens). If they decide to scrap the entire boot process and replace it with Fedora\’s for 2010.1, it would be simply awesome.

Reply
stosss

This is for the author and the guilty posters.

\”an Ubuntu\” is wrong.

So is \”a old\”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_%28operating_system%29

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/determiners/determiners.htm#articles

Learn English!

Reply
csmart

@stosss, you\’re (incorrectly) assuming that I pronounce \”Ubuntu\” with a \”yoo\” sound, which I do not.

The correct pronunciation is with an \”oo\” sound (as in \”oo-BOON-too\”), which means that my use of \”an\” is correct.

http://www.ubuntu.com/aboutus/faq

-c

Reply
aapgorilla

@csmart,

the fact you are not prompted a codec should be installed in mandriva is because you are running kde and kde apps, which still have no packagekit integration, if you would run the gnome version of mandriva this does happen

Reply
csmart

@aapgorilla
Thanks, someone else did also mention that it works under GNOME.

-c

Reply

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Thanks again for the blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Want more.

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I think this is a real great blog article. Really Cool.

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