Battle of the Titans - Mandriva vs openSUSE: The Rematch

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Last fall when the two mega-distros openSUSE and Mandriva both hit the mirrors, it was difficult to decide which I liked better. In an attempt to narrow it down, I ran some light-hearted tests and found Mandriva won out in a side-by-side comparison. But things change rapidly in the Linux world and I wondered how a competition of the newest releases would come out. Mandriva 2008.1 was released this past April and openSUSE 11.0 was released just last week.

My history with Mandriva goes back eight years. It was the first Linux distribution I was able to make work and paved my way to freedom. openSUSE swept me off my feet when 10.0 was in development and I've followed it closely since. I like both of these distros very much and as this article will show, it is very difficult to pick a favorite. But lets try:

Welcome to our re-match - In the blue corner weighing in at 4.4 GB, defending champion Mandriva 2008.1 Spring. In the green corner weighing in at 4.3 GB is our returning challenger openSUSE 11.0.

Installer

As many of you already know, openSUSE's installer received a big old facelift this release. They've eliminating some steps to streamline and speed up the process. Despite that, Mandriva's is still a hard one to beat. The partitioner alone still garners much of the glory as it enables a new user as well as the experienced to visualize how their partitions lay on their hard drives. It's easy to see where the space is distributed and where any free space may be. I've installed a lot of distros and I've yet to find one to equal Mandriva's.

However, there was a distinct difference in the speed of the package install step this time. The eliminated steps didn't do much to speed things up - or it didn't figure into the equation much, but one could definitely tell that openSUSE has improved the package installation immensely. In fact, it wasn't as noticeable until I actually installed Mandriva and it became very clear.

With the looks, package selection screen, and bootloader installation being more-or-less equal, we have one point for Mandriva's partitioner and one point for openSUSE's package installer. I guess that leaves us with a tie on the installer.

Winner: Tie


Curb Appeal

This is a difficult area to judge as it comes down to taste. openSUSE's default wallpaper is new this release, but it's rather flat. I wasn't impressed with it much. I didn't dislike it though. Mandriva's wallpaper is real nice with its blue tones and penguin motiff. Who doesn't love penguins?

openSUSE and Mandriva both use really nice KDE 3.5.9 window decorations and style. I like Mandriva's panel appearance, start button, and menu a bit more. Color themes match well in both and fonts are rendered equally as well for me in each.

Although it's a matter of opinion, I think Mandriva is just a little bit prettier.

Winner: Mandriva


Installed Software

With both installations I went with the default packages except added all window manager/environments and kernel developmental packages. They both come with lots of great software and both have extensive on-line repositories. It seemed to me that Mandriva had a bit more variety included in the default install, but openSUSE did have to make room for KDE 4.

One area where openSUSE is going to win is in the multimedia support. Out-of-the-box they both suck equally as bad, but openSUSE's community branch and one-click make installing the codecs much easier. Mandriva will open a Codina window from which you can install many codecs, but it doesn't include decryption for DVDs where openSUSE's does.

In addition, openSUSE includes a repository listing that carries NVIDIA proprietary graphic drivers.

Perhaps erroneously, last time we used version numbers to judge and Mandriva had a few weeks advantage. This time openSUSE has had a coupla months advantage. Despite this, very little difference was found in software beyond kernel and Xorg versions.



openSUSE 11.0 Mandriva Spring
Kernel
2.6.25.5
2.6.24.4
Xorg
7.3
7.2
GCC
4.3.1
4.2.3
KDE 3
3.5.9
3.5.9
GNOME
2.22.1
2.22
OpenOffice.org
2.4.0
2.4.0
Firefox
3.0b5
2.0.0.13
The GIMP
2.4.5
2.4.5
Pidgin
2.4.1
2.4.1
qt
3.3.8
3.3.8
gtk
2.12.9
2.12.9
apache
2.2.8
2.2.8
php
5.2.5
5.2.5
mysql
5.0.51
5.0.51


As you can see, despite the two month release gap, the versions almost line up. Firefox was still too beta two months ago to be included, so no points lost or gained there. Mandriva does have more apps by default, but openSUSE almost has to win for its inclusion of KDE 4. And not just the inclusion of it, but their treatment of it as well. It's close, but I think openSUSE is gonna squeak passed Mandriva this time.

Winner: openSUSE


Software Management

openSUSE's software manager has seen lots of improvement this release too. It's faster and sleeker and it's very easy-to-use. It appears Mandriva's graphical interface got a few changes at some point, but I don't like search function much. It was difficult to tell if it really searched for a package and didn't find one. There was no busy or progress indicator - just an already empty pane remained empty. I had to go back and search for something I knew it had to make sure it was working. I also prefer the way openSUSE's filter is right there on the window. I also think the groupings are more logical - just easier to find things listed. As far as the commandline version, they are really just about equal to me. So, in an upset, this time I like openSUSE's package management better.

Winner: openSUSE


Hardware Support

Hardware support is also a tough race to call. Basic support is there in both as is much advanced power saving features (with pretty much equal hit and misses). The point of contention this match is with the wireless ethernet chip. I know I'm talking about a proprietary chip and it's unfair to judge based on it, but I can't help it - dang it, I want it to work - by any means necessary. And I could not bring it to life in Mandriva this time to save my life. I tried Ndiswrapper and b43-fwcutter after Mandriva's "Use windows firmware?" to no avail. Yet despite openSUSE using a 2.6.25 kernel, Ndiswrapper worked wonderfully.

So, as close as it is:

Winner: openSUSE


Stability

Well, here we go again with "not much difference." I experienced a coupla niggles from both here and there, but it seemed openSUSE had a few more and one more serious. I'm still having trouble with openSUSE's Online Update Applet crashing while in GNOME. I'm not sure if this is being seen by others, but if it is, it could be serious for those who use GNOME exclusively. This is a point-0 release for openSUSE, but still:

Winner: Mandriva


Performance

Mandriva and openSUSE are very close in performance as well. Both are snappy and responsive with no artifacting. Those fancy menus in openSUSE are much slower than Mandriva's more traditional menus, but applications seem to perform almost equally. But here are some times for comparison:



openSUSE 11.0 Mandriva Spring
Boot up
26
26
KDE 3
11
13
GNOME
19
21
OpenOffice.org
3
3
Firefox
3
3
The GIMP
5
3
Shut down
16
16


I was actually surprised by how close these number were. In fact, if you count the menus, it's another tie.

Winner: Tie




Overall Winner

Well, in a surprising upset, openSUSE seems to have won this time. It's surprizing that their stable release that everyone liked so much lost out to Mandriva last time, and then their point-0 cutting edge release won this time. I really wasn't expecting these results when I started. Please remember that this was just for fun and very superficial. But in any case, it's so close that you really couldn't go wrong with either. They are both great distros with dedicated and talented developers.


Winner: openSUSE






StumbleUpon

Some valid points

I am not happy that openSUSE wins in your comparison, but you made some valid points though.

You're so very right when you complain about RPMdrake: "It was difficult to tell if it really searched for a package and didn't find one. There was no busy or progress indicator - just an already empty pane remained empty." My feeling too.

And... Ndiswrapper in openSUSE: a true winner indeed, much better than Mandriva's attempt to "fix" my BCM4318! (I don't use the wireless, I have no hotspot, but I just checked whether it could be used or not.)

Some Invalid points

"It was difficult to tell if it really searched for a package and didn't find one. There was no busy or progress indicator - just an already empty pane remained empty."

This is not true. If no results are found the bottom left corner of the Mandriva Control Center window displays "Search Results (none)". Maybe it is not the most obvious place for the results to appear but I prefer it to a pop-up window that you then have to close.

A total noob's point of view

I donnot know much about Linux. I am just interested if they work on my computer(s) out of the box.

I am a Mandriva user. But i like to install other distros to see how they work. When i installed openSUSE all went well, but after restart the X server didn't want to fire up. It dropped me straight to console without any reason and when i run startx i got something like No X server found. So i reinstalled Mandriva, because it always worked out-of-the-box on my computers (AMD's Sempron, Athlon64 and INTEL's P3).

Unfortunately i know almost nothing of how to configure a distro. This is why Mandriva still remains the best for me Smile

Nice to see another review from you . . .

Susan,

Great to see another review from you. Though you gave OpenSUSE 11 the nod, I suspect that regards Mandriva vs OpenSUSE, it's pretty much a wash.

Mandriva amazes me with how they can get something so right (their graphical disk partitioning) and despite considerable work, do something so mediocre (RPMdrake). In any case, I still won't use OpenSUSE due to their partnership agreement with Microsoft.

I'm going to take a close look at the next release of Sidux when it comes out. I'm looking for something to use as a Server--and unlike Ubuntu, Sidux remains compatible with the Debian repositories.

Versioning

Great review; some interesting observations. It's worth noting that the versioning of openSUSE releases is artificial: there is no underlying difference between a .x and a x.0 release in terms of development process or methodology. Where there is a slight difference is whether the upcoming release will be the base of the next SUSE Linux Enterprise, which 11.0 wasn't (and 11.1 will be).

As Goldilocks discovered ... this review is just right.

Although I liked the speed and look of Mandriva Spring, I switched to Kubuntu 8.04 32bit because it just worked all my dell xps 1330 hardware, including the media buttons out of the box (and connected wifi better than vista!).

I am currently dual-booting that Kubuntu to test the new openSUSE 11 64bit.
Unlike my previous looks at SUSE and openSUSE, this version is not boring and slow.
I had tried the early kubuntu kde4 offering, and so, I was not so shocked with the kde4 of openSUSE. But I was shocked at the improvement of kde4, it is entirely workable and feels normal in speed, now. Great work, kde team and openSUSE...
OpenSUSE discovered and used all my hardware, except I had to set the correct monitor resolution in yast. Mandriva had compiz only one-click away in the menu. Like Mandriva, openSUSE does not access my hardware media buttons, so tie.
I had a very difficult time in getting my wireless to work. I am still using WEP, a circumstance of hardware and where I live. OpenSUSE kept on insisting on reverting to hex mode rather than accepting my password mode choice.
I couldn't believe the speed of the updates and package install! Wow! And I thought the 'buntu family had that hands-down.
With only a few hours of work with openSUSE I need some more time to really do a comparison between Mandriva and openSUSE. I agree with the reviewer that it is close. But even with this, Kubuntu, true yet unexciting, seems to be the ultimate winner for my needs.

The Novell Factor

Missing from the comparison above is the role of Novell. When you download and use OpenSUSE, you help Novell and -- by association -- Microsoft also. Microsoft gets paid for Novell's distribution of Free software.

If you support From software, you are advised use something else. If Free software gets taxed by Microsoft, you can kiss goodbye to it.

OpenSUSE developers should fork or disengage from Novell. They sure have talent! Shuttleworth, for example, has already invited them to join him team.

I'm tired of this FUD

I'm tired of this FUD. I don't like the MS-Novell deal either, but show me where it really had a negative effect on Free Software development.

The "invitation" by Shuttleworth, sent to a SUSE mailing list not the least, was a disgusting move. Such kind of behavior should have no place in our communities.

And if you look at contributions upstream, just check how many GNOME and KDE developers are employed by Novell, look at the kernel commit logs to find out how much comes from Canonical (or see below),ah , and don't forget that Novell is the largest contributor to OpenOffice.org outside Sun.

But that does probably not fit your preexisting mindset of who the "good guys" are.

tux:~/tmp$ grep -i suse ChangeLog-2.6.25| grep -c Author
578
tux:~/tmp$ grep -i novell ChangeLog-2.6.25| grep -c Author
37
tux:~/tmp$ grep -i canonical ChangeLog-2.6.25| grep -c Author
2
tux:~/tmp$ grep -i ubuntu ChangeLog-2.6.25| grep -c Author
7

If this were SUSE then this would be true...not openSUSE

From the Novell employee charged with oversight of openSUSE:
http://andreasjaeger.blogspot.com/2006/11/opensuse-and-microsoft.html
The business cooperation does not directly affect us at openSUSE at all.

Novell is NOT paying ms for openSUSE code, just to cover SUSE an its derivatives.

God Bless
Doug

Stop the FUD

When are you going to stop trolling openSUSE stories Roy?

If you support free software, openSUSE is actually an _excellent_ option as Novell/SUSE have been some of the greatest proponents of free software ever. They are the ones continuously putting their money where their mouth is and employing HUNDREDS of free software developers to work on the Linux desktop (instead of just packaging software) and make it a viable option for the future. Or other little things -- you know, like being founding members of the Open Invention Network.

Following Roy's completely illogical form of argumentation here you should also not be using Linux. As Novell has firmly positioned its future with Linux, in using it you are helping them and 'apparently' (the claim that more people using Linux is helping Microsoft if it's coming from Novell is absurd in itself, but...) helping Microsoft.

Again, for those who might be confused from the FUD that Roy spreads everywhere, see http://opensuse.org/FAQ:Novell-MS

More FUD = Bigger Yawns

Roy should change his avatar to Elmer FUD.

"Shhhhhhhh, be vewwwy, vewwwy quiet; I'm spwreading tinfoil hat woumours, heheheheheheh"

trivial comparison

Is the new openSuse installer really so different? Looks much the same to me. All the modern large distros have an easy to use installer. And so what? How often do you install the system anyhow that it really matters?
And the wallpaper. Now theres an important issue.
What it really comes down to for many people is - how easily can I install the software that allows multi-media to play - how many of the applications I want to use are in the repository - how many of the applications I want to use actually work. The answer is usually not enough.

How I ended up with Mandriva 2010

Overdue Comment

I know it's from 2007. Nevertheless, thanks for the review. Nice one. It helped me choose a distro. I don't know if I would weigh in the 'installer' or 'Curb Appeal' so much, as these are peripheral altogether. How often do you use the installer? Once in a lifetime of an OS? If you do not like the openSUSE green desktop wallpaper, just change it. I don't know if this is important when evaluating an OS. Anyway, I thought you may be interested in hearing How I ended up with Mandriva 2010

Enough is enough!!!

I got fed up with Windows. For the last 10 years I suffered this horrible OS to the point I could not take it any more. Since Windows 95, all the way to XP, I used it and wept. Last week, the prefetch mechanism stopped working (for god knows what reason) and the entire boot process started to take ages. Then, it began to take over 2 minutes for MyEclipse to start and every time I needed an OpenOffice document to be opened - I could afford to take a coffee break, come back, and still have to wait.

Every 6 months or so, I had to re-install my Windows from the system CD, and then spend about two days upgrading to service pack 2, 3 and install the dozens of security updates. Only then begin to recover and install my own development tools (Java, Eclipse, MySQL, JBoss, XMLSpy, Enterprise Architect and etc...) not mentioning reconfiguring my wireless connections and bluetooth device. All of this, while Windows runs a gazillion obscured processes (a.k.a 'services'), only occasionally, letting me, the real owner, have some CPU time for my own needs. I had been doing this at least twice a year for 10 years. To summarize: I had enough.

Change is never easy

I had been toying with the idea of replacing Windows altogether for months This is always a risk, and always uncomfortable, and clashes with urgent tasks and work I have to do on my computer. There is also the ever-present fear that something would go wrong and I would have to, shamefully, reinstall Windows - admitting defeat, knowing I not only failed but also wasted the time. Adding to this, I had previous bad experience from 6-7 years ago, having bought the RedHat Linux 7.1 CD pack for a good money and unsuccessfully installing it on my (then new) Packard-Bell desktop. I could not even get the internet connection to work and the entire process was back-breaking. Of course I was a novice developer and a very inexperienced Linux user back then. Still, the impression was made.

Hardware Problems

Finally, I work with an Acer Ferrari 3000 AMD Athlon laptop. 4-5 years ago it was the top in it's league. Now, it's an old piece of crap with out-dated devices with no drivers support. Getting the bluetooth and wireless devices to work is difficult even with Windows and the 2500 GHz AMD processor emits more heat than my toaster (to the point it damaged my desk lacquer). Adding insult to injury, the very day I finally decided to get rid of Windows - my Ferrari's built in CD burner stopped writing to disks. After I tried to fix it with cleaning liquid on the lens - it got even 'better' and stopped reading from disks. Now it's completely deceased. So here I am, with a difficult laptop, no CD drive, failing Windows and lot's of work to do. I was left buck-naked with 4 working USB ports and an 8GB SunDisk pen to work with.

The Research

Now I started the 'What Linux distro is Best for Me' research. I spent two days at it last week. Gosh there are lot's of distro's. I had no idea how many are out there. Some say more than 800. It soon boiled down to two choices: openSUSE or Mandriva 2010. There were dozen other choices but my key goal was a distro that would give me the least head-ache on my weird laptop. It is said that openSUSE is the most recommended distro for laptops (see: http://www.linux.com/learn/docs/ldp/282996-choosing-the-best-linux-distributions-for-you) That's also when I encountered this review. I finally made up my mind to go with openSUSE because it seemed to closely win some more points for a laptop configuration than Mandriva. I downloaded the 4.2 GB or so distro - but then, my CD broke (well, I broke it - see above) and I could not burn an ISO image. Luckily, I found out about Mandriva Seed 2010.

Mandriva Seed 2010 - Creates a USB Bootable

Mandriva Seed 2010 is a small utility, freely downloadable from http://www2.mandriva.com/int/downloads/?p=seed. It allows you to take the large 4.3 GB Mandriva 2010 free iso image and make a bootable USB image. This isn't just about copying the iso to the USB, oh no, it actually creates a 'bootable' out of the iso, so you can start your computer without an installed OS (say after you formatted your hard drive) and install Mandriva from your USB pen. (Of course you will need to tweak your BIOS to boot from a removable device, before it searches the hard drive for any bootable sectors). So, there I was, about ready to finally get rid of Windows. I downloaded the seed utility and iso image and was up and at it. The problem was, I could not get the seed utility to actually write to the USB. Or so I thought.

Silly Seed Problem

Every thing with the seed utility seemed OK. The iso image was found, my USB drive was recognized and when I started the seed process I could see the USB pen led flashing as if it was written into. Devil's work was when the process ended (takes a good while to write 4.3 GB to a USB device) I could not see anything on the USB device. It seemed completely empty. When I tried to test it and write some files to it - Windows complained that it's not formatted and offered to format it for me. I repeated this a couple more times with same results before researching the issue. I found out other people encountered this issue. Some guy complained that he unzipped the Mandriva seed 2010 to a manually named folder and failed, just like me. Then, he unzipped it with the default folder name - and it worked. Sounded like Voodoo to me - but I gave it a shot. Believe it or not it worked!!!.

Then I realized. It's exactly what I thought the first time; 'Voodoo'. Seed don't give a rat's ass about the folder name. In fact, it worked the very first time I tried it. The problem is with the USB file system. Windows does not understand the file system created by seed. It's not FAT32 or NTFS, it's rather 'raw'. To Windows the USB seems empty - even though I witnessed with my own two eyes the pen is being written to, Windows still thinks it's empty. (BTW, everything you have on the pen gets lost when seed created the bootable - back it up!!!).

Now, I did not research this, as I was getting short on time, but I'm sure openSUSE has some similar solution to create a USB bootable image. It just happens that I found Mandriva's first. Nevertheless, I rebooted and started the installation from the USB. From now on everything went, more or less, smoothly.

Last Minute Doubts

My point of origin regarding the Mandriva installation was, to begin with, skeptic. It could work, or not. I had no idea. The worst case scenario for me was that it fails - and I'd have to 'borrow' an external CD drive from work and burn an image of openSUSE, then install it as I planned to begin with. I had no high hopes regarding success. I still had the faint bitter taste of my former RedHat 7.1 installation attempt from years ago. This was just a wager for me. Even if I succeeded, I had no idea if I could set up all my tools I need for work (I'm a Java Enterprise Architect) or even if they are available for Linux at all. Further more, I had no idea how to set up an internet connection, leave alone a wireless one. So, fearfully, I progressed with the Mandriva installation.

Installing Mandriva - R.T.F.M?

I must confess, being a lazy SOB I don't like to read documentation unless I absolutely have to. I mean, I end up reading hundreds of pages of manuals, tutorials, API's, Specs and work related docs a month. The last thing I need, is reading installation notes and finding out the installation actually works without it. Even if it doesn't work - I'd still rather try again, with different options, than reading the $#@!ing manual. I generally believe good software means none - or very little reading. I also must admit - this attitude got me into lot's of trouble in the past and it does not usually work this way. I generally end up with both several failed attempts together with having read the manual in details. At least, I gain some experience regarding what not to do.

Run Forest, Run!

With this hindsight I proceeded with the Mandriva installation. I just went with the wizard. It's very intuitive. I would not recommend anyone to mess with the partition manager unless they know what they are doing. There is an automatic partitioning option you can choose - if you haven't got a clue. It's good for most intents an purposes. Of course, I had to give it a shot my self and create some fancy partitioning. I like to have a partition labeled 'data' under /data where I keep my Maven repository and database files, separate from, say, binary installation partitions. I also got lot's of Java related tools such as Maven, Ant, Glassfish, Tomcat, JBoss and etc... that I like to concentrate in a /java partition I label 'java'. The Mandriva Partition Manager is very intuitive and is equipped with very good defaults. For example, if you create a new partition, it is automatically defaulted to ext4 file system which is a very good choice. Swap partition is created and labeled automatically - so no need to worry (or even know) about it. Once you are passed the partition manager, the rest of the installation is pretty easy, except for the network part... I'll get to that soon.

Enjoy Both Worlds

It is worth mentioning, that, now, after the installation, I can tell you Mandriva has the ability to use your Windows drivers to configure devices on your machine. So, if you are not like me, holding a grudge against Windows, and you did not format your drives to completely get rid of it, you'd be able to access your Windows partition and retrieve driver files from there to use with your devices. This is a cool feature. If you have, for example, a weird machine, like mine, and it takes ages to install a driver for a 'Widcom bluetooth device' and get it running. If you had a device running on windows, Mandriva can use it's drivers to run it too. I have no idea how 'posix' compatible this is or what's the MS connection - but this is an advantage and I was surprised to find out about it. I had years and miles of posts on Widcomm bluetooth for Acer Ferarri before solving this issue - trust me - you don't want to go at it again. If it works - use it.

Plug in your Network Cable

I have a Siemens 4 channel wireless ADSL modem at home. It's in the living room. In my study I use a wireless connection. When my Dad comes over, I plug a network cable from the modem to his laptop so he can get online. His IBM notebook is a mess. His IT guys stuffed it with propriety connection software which allows him to make international phone calls for the price of local calls -that is, when he is at work. However, When he's home, he pays the price he saved on those international calls because he can't get connected so he uses the regular phone. When he's at my place - I pay the price. So over time, I managed to at least get a network connection to work for his machine and this very connection I used on my machine during the installation.

This is an important step while installing Mandriva. You need (not must, but nice to have) an internet connection. When you advance through the installation wizard to the network connection part - you have the chance to configure your network interfaces (wired, wireless and etc...). This connection is important because Mandriva installer would, at some stage, connect to an update site and install hundreds (over 370) packages that were updated after the release (I don't know when, now is the beginning of March 2010 and I'm installing Mandriva 2010 that was probably released this year...) to complete the installation. You could, nevertheless, perform this update at a later stage - but it's always nice to get it over with during the initial installation process and have an operational, useful, distro and not just a free open-source dud that would complain about missing packages every step you take.

Any way, the key point is, even if you know all the connection parameters by heart, even if Mandriva agrees with you and accepts your configuration, it would still, no matter what you do, fail the connection test. It would congratulate you on being such a smart user who managed to configure it - but would tell you it can't connect. The funny part, really, is that it can - and will.

If you plugged in a network connection cable (assuming it is connected at the other end to a modem with a live internet connection) - Mandriva will recognize it - even if it tells you it doesn't. I'm not sure why this happens - I guess the network wizard comes too soon in the process before some core packages are installed. Fact is, after you configure users for your machine, and after you select regional settings, and after whatever minor settings are left, Mandriva will execute an update using the connection you configured and will succeed at it. (it takes about 46 minutes). The same is not true regarding the wireless connection. Don't even try - I don't think it has a chance of succeeding. I will get to setting a wireless connection later - but this is only after the installation completes.

Can't get rid of the guest

Speaking of users - Mandriva allows you, in the installation wizard, to disable or enable (set a password to) the guest account. The guest account is a default guest user. Guess what? You can't get rid of the guest, no matter what you do in the installation wizard. I guess it's a bug. Seems like a pretty big security breach too. Anyway, don't worry about it. You can easily remove it after installation completes using the Mandriva Linux Control Center (shortcut exists in the KDE desktop task bar).

We're all living in America

If you need none US regional support - you got it. No problem. You may have to toggle a pretty large list to find your country or time zone - but it's there. Believe me - just use the 'more' button to get a list of countries that are not geographically located in America. Mandriva even has support for weird RTL languages like Hebrew and Arabic. I installed Hebrew for the heck of it and Deutsch for the fun of it . It works! (I r/w/s both). Same goes for keyboard layouts. (I worked in 5 different countries - some speaking some odd languages to hear and odder to type, including Hebrew, Latvian, Russian and Finish - I had never seen anyone configuring a different than standard US keyboard layout, including secretaries, executives and developers - why this option exists anyway?).

Post Install Tips

Like I already said, the installation succeeded! it took about 50 minutes to install. I got it right the first time - and had to read not a single page of manual or help file. I did not even have to click a 'help' link once. I was truly surprised. When I rebooted for the first time (after detaching the USB bootable) and logged in, it took me a while to get used to the KDE desktop. I chose it in the installation wizard as default. It was the first option. I could have chosen Gnome just the same). If you chose KDE your two best buddies are the Mandriva Control Center and the Application Launcher Menu. The later is equivalent to the Windows 'run' menu, and is in the leftmost, (blue circle with white star) icon in the task bar at the bottom of the screen. The first is the VGA monitor style icon with the red wrench encircled, 5th to the left, which says 'Configure your Computer' in the tool tip.

Your other friends are the Konsole (terminal) - hey, this is Linux, don't complain, and, if you need an explorer like file browser, you got the Dolphin File Manager. Both applications are accessible from the Application Launcher Menu. Remember this is unix like system. As a user who logged in to an X-Window environment, you only have access to your own directory tree so you may use Dolphin (or Konqueror) to browse root files - but you can only write (copy or create) files in your own tree (under /home/<your_user>). To do anything else you will need to su (switch user - to root, which cannot login like a regular user to a desktop or X-Window environment). The Control Center, however, prompts you for the root password before it launches because ordinary users are not allowed to tweak system wide parameters. This is what you'll need to do to set up a wireless connection.

Setup the Wireless Network Connection

I'm not going to tell you what to do (this is lengthy) but I can point you to: http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/b43 all the information you need is there. Three points to remember (this is not cast in stone - just my experience):

  1. Mandriva is able to locate the b43 package required to setup your wireless device. It did it for me, but got it wrong. My wireless network was not picked up until I installed the b43 driver myself as described in "Linux Wireless: b43 and b43legacy" in the above URL. I used the lspci -vnn | grep 14e4 command to check what driver I need. Turns out I don't need the legacy one after all. Told you my Ferrari rules - didn't I? Well, actually, I didn't. I said it's crap now. However, it was PC Magazine's choice of the year back in 2004.

  2. Even if you get it right - meaning you have the right driver, it is installed correctly, and you configured your wireless gateway and IP correctly - you will not be able to pick up your wireless network - until the next time you boot. This is strange - I was under the impression we're done with the rebooting bullocks with Linux... Apparently we are not. On the other hand, I did not encounter this ever since this incident no matter what I installed. I even got Skype installed (manually) which is a notorious installation for Linux - and did not have to reboot for the effects to kick in.

  3. In the control center, when you configure wireless hardware (ethernet card) or any device driver, you can choose between running a configuration tool or using a Windows driver (I discussed this earlier). Mandriva has a configuration tool called Drake or XDrake or something like that. You need to choose it from the menu - and then navigate to it's auto configure file and choose it. If you have the driver, say the b43 driver installed, it will find it and use it to configure your device, displaying a wizard in the process.

Nice to know Stuff

After beating the wireless problem - it only took me a couple of hours more to install Java (JRE and JDK), Maven, Ant and Glassfish. Lot's of console work under root with su - but I prefer installing to my own costume locations rather than some RPM tool installing a packages to wherever it wants. Adding system wide environment variables is done in the /etc/profile file as follows:

# /etc/profile -*- Mode: shell-script -*-
# (c) MandrakeSoft, Chmouel Boudjnah <chmouel@mandrakesoft.com>

loginsh=1

if [ "$UID" -ge 500 ] && ! echo ${PATH} |grep -q /usr/games ; then
    PATH=$PATH:/usr/games
fi

umask 022

USER=`id -un`
LOGNAME=$USER
MAIL="/var/spool/mail/$USER"
HISTCONTROL=ignoredups
HOSTNAME=`/bin/hostname`
HISTSIZE=1000
# JAVA_HOME env var and bin entry in $PATH added by tnsilver
JAVA_HOME=/usr/local/java/jdk1.6.0_18
export JAVA_HOME
PATH=$PATH:$JAVA_HOME/bin
# ANT_HOME env var and bin entry in $PATH added by tnsilver
ANT_HOME=/usr/local/java/apache-ant-1.8.0
export ANT_HOME
PATH=$PATH:$ANT_HOME/bin
# M2_HOME env var and bin entry in $PATH added by tnsilver
M2_HOME=/usr/local/java/apache-maven-2.2.1
export M2_HOME
PATH=$PATH:$M2_HOME/bin
# M2_REPO entry added by tnsilver
M2_REPO=/data/.m2/repository
export M2_REPO
# GLASSFISH_HOME env var and bin entry in $PATH added by tnsilver
GLASSFISH_HOME=/usr/local/java/glassfishv3/glassfish
export GLASSFISH_HOME
PATH=$PATH:$GLASSFISH_HOME/bin

if [ -z "$INPUTRC" -a ! -f "$HOME/.inputrc" ]; then
    INPUTRC=/etc/inputrc
fi

# some old programs still use it (eg: "man"), and it is also
# required for level1 compliance for LI18NUX2000
NLSPATH=/usr/share/locale/%l/%N

export PATH PS1 USER LOGNAME MAIL HOSTNAME INPUTRC NLSPATH JAVA_HOME
export HISTCONTROL HISTSIZE

for i in /etc/profile.d/*.sh ; do
        if [ -r $i ]; then
                . $i
        fi
done

unset i

The /usr/bin directory is in the path by default. If you need users to be able to execute an executable file, say the 'skype' executable under the /usr/bin/skype-2.1.0.81/ skype installation directory - you'll need to create a symbolic link in the /usr/bin directory.

For example, to make skype executable accessible to all users, navigate in a console or terminal window as root to /usr/bin and type ln -s /usr/bin/skype-2.1.0.81/skype. This creates a link (like a shortcut) to the executable. Now if you 'exit' to be a user again, you can run 'skype' from anywhere.

Summary

I'm, so far, very happy with Mandriva 2010. My worst fears of not being able to run devices on my, now legacy, laptop had faded. The installation was a relative piece of cake and I'd even dare say, leave aside the partitioning part, easier than a Windows typical installation. I had managed, after a few hours of getting back to unix style OS and reviewing the Linux shell (both bash and sh) basic commands such as ls, grep, cp, mv, pwd, find and etc.. to get most of my development tools up and running. I find the control center very intuitive and easy to use. Other than some 'man' pages, I did not have to refer to any further reading to get my tasks complete.

How much experience do you really need?

I have been developing Java systems for the last 10 years, but never in all my previous work places used Linux as a standard OS. All used Windows. I'm not an experienced Linux user and only have some basic limited unix experience from Sun Sparc Solaris and some experience with Linux RedHat 9.2 servers. My linux experience amounts to deploying applications to application servers and administrating databases that just happen to be installed on Linux / Unix systems. This is nothing to gain me a Linux wizard award, and in fact, I'm a bit rusty. Yet, I managed, without difficulty and even without resorting to 'help' manuals to install, setup and operate Mandriva 2010 to run all my development tools and favorite applications in less than 3 days (installation is about 50 minutes - the rest is my own stuff).

Mandriva is truly remarkable

This is nothing to underestimate. I think, if I had to reinstall Windows, it would take me about the same time to setup my environment from scratch to a working status. This is amazing because here I had to deal with a Linux OS that I had never encountered before and do everything for the first time, from scratch, as opposed to Windows, where I've done everythng dozen of times. What's more amazing is that my laptops configuration is so odd, I had a hard time configuring all the devices to work properly even with Windows. Here, with Mandriva 2010, everything seems to be in order: All my keyboard keys and shortcuts work properly (except for the 'windows' key), all my pointing devices work, my network adapters and cards work, and after a little struggle - even my wireless network is picked up and used. I've got Firefox browser (version 3.5.8) as default - so no more IE, OpenOffice.org is installed already so I can correspond with my clients and bosses who still like to exchange MS-Word style documents. The 'Curb Appeal' is indeed impressive and the Mandriva look & feel does seem professional - even 'sexy'. Now, that I've installed skype, I can brag about it to my friends. So excuse me, I'll get at it, I can't wait.

re: Book Deal

@tnsilver

Are your two book length posts coming out in paperback or kindle form any time soon?

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