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I raved about the new Mandriva 2008.0 Power Pack as I was truly smitten. I switched to Mandriva from Windows fulltime back when it was known as Mandrake, so I've followed it's releases fairly closely. I found Mandriva 2008 Power Pack to be the best release since Mandrake 7.2. But what about the Free version? We all know the advertised differences, but were there going to be major differences in performance and stability? I set out to see.

The artwork in the Free version is a bit different than found in Mandriva 2008 Power Pack. It's not any less lovely, just different. It might even be a bit cooler. Instead of the multicolored double-helix strand made of healthy stick people, the main focal point of the theme is the word Linux in dark blue made up of penguins. To me, that represents Linux through and through. I think the Power Pack icon tends to represent a connected community of users, while the Free icon represents the community of developers. A DNA strand is a universal symbol of humanity while penguins in our world represent Linux. ...or maybe I'm just reading too much into it all. In any case, I love the new artwork in both versions. I can't decide which I like better. The window decorations in Free are Ia Ora like the Power Pack, but they are of a lighter blue color, as are the highlights and such. I know I prefer the Power Pack colors.

    


Since there are no proprietary graphic drivers in the Free version, Compiz Fusion did not work for me out of the box. I tried installing the NVIDIA drivers myself, but the kernel source wasn't installed with the developmental packages as with the Power Pack. Actually, one only needs the -devel.rpm, in my case it was the kernel-laptop-devel-2.6.22.9-1mdv-1-1mdv2008.0.i586.rpm. But all I got was a white cube. That is par for my laptop tho. Metisse worked fine. Compiz Fusion and Metisse worked fine with the proprietary drivers included in the Power Pack.

There was no difference in the problems I had with Ndiswrapper and my "WinNic." Just as with the Power Pack, after blacklisting bcm43xx, I still could not graphically or manually set up my wireless ethernet using Ndiswrapper until I also blacklisted ssb, pcmcia, and pcmcia-core. Then all was well and automagically connected at login.

Most of the other hardware worked just as it did in the Power Pack as well. My graphics resolution was correctly autoconfigured to 1280x800, my touchpad and USB mouse worked perfectly, as did the sound either through built-in or external speakers.

I did have trouble with advanced powersaving feature of the Free version. CPU scaling worked out of the box. Suspend to disk worked fine, but suspend to ram would not wake up properly. All this worked wonderfully with the Power Pack.

    


In my Power Pack review I stated I could watch any video file I had on hand without issue. This was the case with Free, other than.bin files. Mp3s were no problem either. Encrypted DVDs were no problem in the Power Pack, but would not play in Free. Flash is not included by default in Free, but Firefox will download and install it in just a minute or two. This make Google, YouTube, and other flash video sites watchable. In addition, I could watch Apple.com trailers in both. So, there really wasn't much difference in multimedia support.

Installed software is similar as well. They both offer the full compliment of KDE software as well as many popular gtk apps. They both contain Firefox, OpenOffice.org, The GIMP, and Pidgin. The both use kernel 2.6.22, KDE 3.5.7, GNOME 2.20, Xorg 7.2, and GCC 4.2.2. What isn't included in Free are some of the commercial applications such as LinDVD and Cedega. Some others include Skype, Second Life, LMMS, Google Earth, and Picasa.

Performance wise, they are almost identical. I had started a nice table of boot, application opening times and such, but found they were coming out to be the same. Stability was no problem with either edition either. I've experienced nary a crash on either, but I haven't used it day in and day out for weeks or months. I tested the Power Pack on and off for about a week with light tasks and the Free version for a couple of days. So, I'm not saying that there won't be any crashes, but this is the most stable version of Mandriva ...ever.

So what are the big differences? The Power Pack includes proprietary drivers, some commercial and proprietary applications, different artwork, and three months of support.

My question was if there were any performance or stability differences between the two large versions of Mandriva 2008 and I found there weren't any. For some reason suspend to ram doesn't seem to work for me in the Free version. I had to figure out and install the package needed to make the NVIDIA drivers. I couldn't watch files with the .bin extension and format or encrypted DVDs. I had to install my own Flash and do without some proprietary applications.

Either version is a good choice. Choose the Power Pack if you wish the extras or to support Mandriva. As they've opened up their "club," they are no longer receiving any funds from that. Anyone can now join to post on the forum or download any of the software found there. Recently the membership badges disappeared from the users' profiles. There are clear differences in the systems and slight difference in bugs but not in stability, performance, and the community.





Why not One?

Susan, it's very nice that you've compared Powerpack with Free and not with One, as many people are likely to install the Free edition, for one of the following reasons: (1) has more software on the install media than One, which is important for people with slow Internet; (2) has a 64-bit edition too, something that One lacks.

Nevertheless, One has some advantages on its side too: (1) it has some "non-free" packages (obviously, not the commercial stuff, such as LinDVD and Cedega); (2) you can try it before you install it; (3) as with Ubuntu/Kubuntu, you can have a limited-yet-decent software selection on a single CD, coming with the desktop environment of your choice.

I still believe that n00bs should try One first, unless they wanna buy Powerpack.

re: Mandriva One

Mandriva One's pretty nice -- it's got both the fglrx and nvidia drivers on it, so it offers 3D effects for both chipsets, including XGL, even though its version of XGL has ugly black overlay artifacts. My Broadcom bcm4318 wireless chipset was easily configured with ndiswrapper, through Mandriva's GUI configurator, without having to blacklist anything. It also has Flash preinstalled, but not the win32 codecs, so no sound when playing QuickTime movies. No libdvdcss, of course. No ntfs-3g module.

My understanding's that all that stuff can be easily installed from the repos after a hard disk installation, no?

It comes in GNOME and KDE versions. It has an installer. As far as the artwork goes, it's got the "double-helix" wallpaper, just in various shades of blue (see screenshots on Mandriva's site).

Which brings up an interesting question: Which is better for laptops, Mandriva or openSUSE? They look pretty comparable.

re: Mandriva One

» My understanding's that all that stuff can be easily installed from the repos «

Some of them from PLF. Go to http://easyurpmi.zarb.org/ and check under "Penguin Liberation Front" both "plf-free" and "plf-nonfree".

» Which is better for laptops, Mandriva or openSUSE? «

I have the (biased) feeling that Mandriva is snappier and less bloated than openSUSE.

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