Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
Mandriva, created in 1998, is a fast and stable binary based operating system. Their goal is to be the easiest to use distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system available. Mandriva 2005 is a milestone for MandrivaLinux as it's the first release under the new name.
Mandriva 2005, released to club members on April 13, is said to also mark the beginning of a slower one-release-per-year cycle. As a result, they have also adopted a new naming scheme. Moving from the familiar numerical versioning, we will now see names based on the year of release. It appears they are backing away from their bleeding-edge reputation as well, despite mixed feeling from the community. This is reportedly in response to requests from users and customers for a greater investment of time into the development of new features and functions. In Mandriva 2006, due out fall of 2005, they will be integrating unspecified Conectiva technology. They are hoping with a new name, new features and a new release cycle will come a new reputation. Perhaps 2005 is the beginning of that.
Featuring a 18.104.22.168 kernel, Firefox 1.0.2, The Gimp 2.2, GNOME 2.8.3, KDE 3.3, gcc 3.4.3, openoffice.org 1.1.4, Mandriva is striving to be the operating system of choice not only amongst Linux users, but computer users worldwide - both consumer and enterprise.
So what's new?
from SuSE it is aimed at providing smaller updates for MDK 10.2. Basically, a .delta.rpm is a binary diff between two RPMs with the header of the new package copied to the new .delta.rpm. This means the resulting rpm acts as a real rpm: you can query files on it, check deps, etc. but you can't install delta rpms directly.
Mandriva provides an easy way to make delta rpms using "mkdeltarpm" in the following manner:
$ mkdeltarpm <old package> <new package>
so for example:
$ ./mkdeltarpm old/xfsprogs-2.6.3-1mdk.i586.rpm new/xfsprogs-2.6.131mdk.i586.rpm
The fam daemon, which was the default tool for providing notification to userspace about modifications to the filesystem, was plagued with problems, primarily related to locking of devices. For Mandrakelinux 10.2, famd is being replaced by gamin which eliminates many of these problems.
Magicdev, the software that used to be in charge of mounting usb key on the desktop, is replaced by gnome-volume-manager and HAL.
In order to enhance support of 32 bit development on a 64 bit architecture, a new system has been added to sort arch dependent files.
Perl has been built without thread support.
Ispell is now completely replaced by aspell, which is still being actively developed.
- In order to highlight the Kmenu button in a more obvious fashion, a text label has been added that says "menu". However this can be removed by editing ~/.kde/share/config/kickerrc and adding
- There is a new feature in the default login manager (KDM) for this release which allows it to be themed like GDM. The default theme is quite attractive and functional, however you can revert to the older kdm behavior by editing /etc/kde/kdm/kdmrc to reflect
- Now TiMidity, a MIDI playback engine, can be executed as a ALSA sequencer client. This means it can act as a software synthesizer.
X.org version 6.8.x is now shipping with an experimental extension called Composite. This means you can enable transparency in your X environments. They warn of stability issues with this feature and disable it by default. Please see the notes in my Fluxbox article to enable.
Newer multimedia keyboards can now be configured via the keyboarddrake applet in the Mandrake Control Center. GNOME and KDE have already been configured with certain default actions for common multimedia keys.
The installation was painless and quick. The changes under the bonnet made for a more stable and faster install yet the interface remained familiar in appearance. The sequence of events and the manner executed are very similar to Mandrake installs of releases past. Most return users will find that comforting while the ease and polish will impress newcomers. Mandriva's installer has been one of their best selling points since the very beginning. It's nice to see they are only improving in that area.
Worth mentioning, however, is the new install and lilo splash/boot screens. Every Linux enthusiast loves a penguin, I have no doubts. But Mandriva's new mascot is almost scary. It's a huge close up focusing into the starry eyes of Tux. When I say starry eyes, I don't mean a 'dreamingly longing look', I mean the pupils are big stars. He looks either drunk or beaten or zombie-ish. And it is scary - almost nightmarish. I quote a friend who states, "...looks like it is possessed! Kinda fiendish..." I recommend not booting around your 4-year old. You will encounter "Monster Tux" again at certain areas such as the kde loading/progress screen, but those are easily changed. I hope Mandriva rethinks this image before their next release. I kid you not when I say I literally jumped when I first booted my install floppy! This is a small issue in the grand scheme of things I realize, but image is everything. If Mandriva is hoping for a more professional reputation, I'm not sure Monster Tux lends itself to that.
The default KDE desktop is nice and professional looking. As in the past it includes icons for removable media and multimedia apps associated with webcams or tv cards as well as the usual Trash and Home icons. The default panel/launcher comes with a larger start menu start button featuring the label "Menu" as well as the usual Desktop button. Also included is a button for Firefox, Kontact, Emacs, and Konsole. The system tray includes quick launchers for Network Monitoring, MdkOnline, Kwikdisk, Screen resize and rotate, sound mixer, and the kOrganizer alarm daemon.
The menu(s) are a scaled-down, neat, and organized newbie friendly version containing logical, easy-to-understand categories, subcategories, and entries for most popular tasks. Utilizing a centralized XDG menu allows for more consistant menus across the different desktop environments and allowing for user edits to also cross the desktop divide.
New in the Mandrakelinux Control Center is some updated more modern icons and faster operation. I believe the ups monitoring set-up under the Hardware section might be new since my last look around. However the new multimedia keyboard configuration is a wonderful addition. It's always been possible to configure these extra keys, but it was always more trouble than it was worth to me. Thank goodness for the boot up splash config, but unfortunately the only included theme is the Mandrakelinux Monster Tux. We can uncheck use graphical boot and show theme under console.
Rpmdrake is a familiar face as well. As with most other applications in this new Mandriva, it seems faster and more stable than previous versions. It will be interesting to see what happens to rpmdrake in future releases given the plan to integrate Connectiva technology - and that being so vastly different, especially in the area of package handling. Can we speculate this may be the reason for no new features in rpmdrake?
The list of included applications and desktop environments is as always unsurpassed. This release of Mandriva is definitely a step in the right direction for Mandrivalinux. I was impressed by the speed of operations and the stability of the system. I haven't felt this good about a Mandrake/Mandriva release in a long time. One might miss the bleeding edge applications until they work within this new stable release, then one can appreciate the effort Mandriva is making eliminate bugs and provide a reliable system.
This "transitional" release is not only a milestone, but yet the end of an era. I look forward to seeing how Mandriva incorporates the technology acquired with Connectiva, yet I also bid a fond farewell to the Mandrake on which I cut my Linux teeth. However you choose to look at the situation, you owe it to yourself to test drive this release. If you choose to run Mandriva full time, please consider supporting them by ordering a boxed set or joining the club.