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Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD and Mandriva One 2010: Reviewed and Compared

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UbuntuMandrivaI’m used to reviewing one distro at a time, and that has worked quite well. You could read a review and assuming it is well written and detailed, decide whether to download and install it on your PC. For this review, however, I’m doing a two-for-one – revewing and comparing two very popular distros. For the reader, I think it makes it very easy (or easier) to evaluate distros. So for this combo-review, I’m taking on Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD and Mandriva One 2010.

Ubuntu and Mandriva are two of the most popular desktop Linux brands. Both are backed by commercial entities. Ubuntu by Canonical Ltd., and Mandriva by Mandriva. Both are free to download and use, and have a vibrant, online user community. Ubuntu is a GNOME-based distro, while Mandriva One has separate iso images for GNOME and KDE desktop environments. In order not to compare apples to oranges, this review features Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD and the GNOME edition of Mandriva One 2010.

Any review should always begin from the beginning – the installer, or the installation procedure. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do here.

So, let’s being – from the very beginning.

INSTALLATION:

The Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD installer is supported on 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. The installation process is just a simple, six-step routine. No support for LVM, RAID, and disk encryption. By default, Ubuntu creates one main partition, using the ext4 file system. The installer gives you the option to boot into the Live environment, or to install it on your PC, bypassing the Live environment.

Ubuntu desktop boot screen
Ubuntu desktop boot screen

The Mandriva One 2010 installer is a Live CD with the option to install to hard drive from the Live environment. With Mandriva One, you have to boot into the Live environment. The installer is supported only on 32-bit platforms. During installation, you have the option to configure NTP (manual configuration is default). LVM, soft-RAID, and full disk encryption are supported.

Mandriva One 2010 boot screen
Mandriva One boot screen

THE EDGE: At the installer level, Mandriva wins easily – no contest here. When evaluating a Linux or BSD desktop operating system, you want to make sure that it has support for LVM and disk encryption. LVM is not a must-have for every user, but in today’s computing environment, you need disk encryption. Why is disk encryption that important?

The Mandriva One installer is less automated than the Ubuntu Live CD installer, and offers more advanced options. With the Mandriva installer you have the option to choose between using GRUB or LILO as bootloader, with GRUB as the default. Ubuntu installer does not give you a bootloader option. GRUB is it.

One of the most annoying aspects of the Mandriva One installer is that it lacks a ‘back’ button. You either move on to the next step or you cancel the installation. This problem was brought to light in a review of Mandriva Powerpack 2009, and no one at Mandirva has bothered to address it.

Mandriva installer. Hey, where’s your ‘back’ button.
Mandriva partitioner

As simple as it is, the Ubuntu installer gives you the freedom to go forward or backward as many times as you like.
Ubuntu installer with the back button

THE DESKTOPS:
Both distros are using the same version of GNOME (version 2.8). There is nothing especially remarkable about the default wallpapers. Ubuntu’s is as bland as you are going to find on any desktop operating system, and Mandriva’s is no better. But as the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. If you want to see what a good desktop wallpaper and configuration looks like, take a look at Hymera Open.

Ubuntu desktop screenshots are available here, and those from Mandriva One here.

The Edge: Let me repeat: One man’s meat is another man’s poison. If you want to, you may sex up the Ubuntu desktop with Cairo-Dock, and do the same for Mandriva.

INSTALLED AND AVAILABLE SOFTWARE:

Ubuntu – Aside from the stock set of games, desktop accessories and system tools that comes with any GNOME desktop, Ubuntu installs the following by default: F-Spot Photo Manager, the GIMP, Empathy IM Client, Evolution Mail, Firefox, Transmission BitTorrent Client, Totem Movie Player (with GStreamer backend), Rythmbox audio player, and GNOME-Sound-Recorder. There is, of course, Brasero Disc Burner, and OpenOffice.org office suite.

Mandriva – Mandriva also ships with the usual set of GNOME utilities and desktop accessories, but not a single game application is installed, not one. Ok, so games are not installed, but you do get the following: Ekiga Softphone, Empathy IM Client, Epiphany and Firefox Web browsers, Evolution Mail, OpenOffice.org office suite, F-Spot Photo Manager, the GIMP, Eye of GNOME, Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor, Kino, Totem Movie Player (with GStreamer backend), TVtime Television Viewer, Cheese Webcam Booth, Rythmbox audio player, GNOME-Sound-Recorder, and FM-Radio Tuner.

The Edge: Mandriva One obviously packs more useful software than Ubuntu, but why the absence of games? Any application not part of the default installation is likely available in the repositories. In terms of default installed applications, I’m yet to review a distro that tops Sabayon.

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31 Comments

  1. Chu Sports says:

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  2. gr says:

    Mandriva has an excellent control panel, it also runs most all media files (using “restricted”).
    All Distros have their strong points. What distro you end up choosing is you own personal preference.
    Windows work great (except the consent attacks, the MS monopoly, spying and other issues), but Linux somehow seems to advance faster. We URGE YOU, THE USER TO EXPERIMENT, YOU WILL FIND THE “PERFECT DISTRO”. At least Linux systems allow you to decide what is best. Please do not take the communities efforts for granted.

    Thank you sincerely a devoted Linux User. Peace

  3. Oddvar says:

    My favorite since 2004 has been Ubuntu. Now I’m using Ubuntu 10.04 Beta 1 and I like it. Cant understand what problems mr Keith Stracchino experienced. Ubuntu is by far the easiest OS I’ve ever installed. It find all my hardware without problem. The only problem I’ve experienced with Ubuntu is a thermal program in 9.10 that bring down my computer unexpectedly. After installing Ubuntu 10.04 the problem disappeared. This is a beautiful distro with lots of new goodies. For me its Ubuntu 4ever!

  4. Keith Stracchino says:

    Since I have become disenchanted with MS and its expensive bloatware, I decided to try a Linux distribution. Following “good” advice I obtained a Ubuntu source disk and attempted to install the OS from it. Well, well, despite all the eulogies about the ease of use of Ubuntu, I have been unable to install it, even starting from a clean HDD. (Low-level formatted to ensure no clashes.) Yes, my hardware meets all of the requirements specified, and then some. To put it mildly it has not been a pleasant experience, I have wasted too much time and have now abandoned Ubuntu completely! I’m still trying to decide my next move. It was to have been Mandriva, but after reading the comments here, I’m dubious about that too. Perhaps Debian is the way to go.

    • finid says:

      If you are looking for something that works out-of-the-box, it’s not going to be Debian. And it’s not because it is a bad distro, but because Debianites are free software purists. You can customize it after installation to make it as user-friendly as you want, but you can do that with any distro. Give Mandriva a shot. It’s not a perfect distro, but none is (I’m still looking for one).

      Part of what I’m trying to do with these reviews is a search for the perfect distro or distros. when I do find one, I’ll sing its praise ’til thy kingdom come. But do give Mandriva a shot.

      Btw, could you describe for us in some detail the experience you had with Ubuntu. It’s not my fave distro, but I’ve never had any problem installing it on any hardware.

    • bob says:

      I can’t speak for Mandriva never tried it but Ubuntu just works. I haven’t found anything wrong with it either despite updating 7.04 several times to 9.04. It won’t run som M/S games true but that’s the only thing I’m now using Windows for. Oh and some sites that are only coded for IE (yes I could fix that) and some flash stuff.
      There is no such thing as a perfect distro of anything including Windows 7 which is on a laptop I purchased.

  5. John says:

    I have tryed Mandriva One 2010. But it take some time to learn Mandriva. The problem for them I think they have the best in the Powerpack version.
    Why pay for it when you can get all (mediacodecs etc) in Linux Mint 8 or Pardus 2009 for free?
    To install thoose in Ubuntu 9.10 are very easy to if you compare with Mandriva.

    • finid says:

      Mandriva is just as easy to use as any other distro. Take a look in the Mandriva Control Center. Mandriva has the best graphical management utilities of any distro I’ve used. But this is the beauty of Free Software. Choice ….

  6. Rod says:

    Interesting comparison. I used PCLinuxOS for a good while, a few years back, and found it excellent. It got me hooked on Linux.
    PCLOS is to Mandriva what Mint is to Ubuntu (roughly). Having had a positive experience with PCLOS, I tried out Mandriva and found it a buggy mess.
    PCLOS dated quickly, however, and I found myself using the Mint version of Hardy (8.04). Absolutely sterling!
    Now I’m using newer hardware and Ubuntu 9.10, and having played with Mint 8 on a variety of hardware and in a vm I’m kind of wishing I’d waited a bit and gone with that. Not because Ubuntu is terribly flawed, but because it has small annoyances that Mint has fixed, and Mint is a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
    Bottom line is that Ubuntu just works, and just works everywhere. Mint adds a bit of polish and follows the release cycle.
    Mandriva more often than not has major issues that are simply showstoppers, and as much as I would have liked to have stayed with Mandriva/PCLOS I just had to go with what worked AND stayed up to date.
    So when I read a review that compares Ubuntu and Mandriva, and comes out in Mandriva’s favour, I have to scratch my head. Why then isn’t Mandriva top of the pops at Distrowatch, or ‘up there’ by any other rule-of-thumb measure. The punters vote with their feet.
    Try using Mandriva as your general purpose desktop,on a variety of hardware, and see how far you get, and how quickly you get there, if at all, rather than just doing a superficial point by point comparison. Then you might arrive at a more realistic conclusion.

  7. wazzat says:

    Thanks for the time taken to compare these distros. On my spare computer- Windows won’t install on it- I’ve installed Ultimate Edition 2 {Ubuntu 904 based} and after 5/6 years of trying Red Hat, Mandrake/driva, KUbuntu, etc. have yet to find one that does everything and installs all hardware. And doesn’t BREAK while updating or installing extras. Let us know when you find the perfect NON MICROSOFT OS which will run MS games and apps.

    • Linux Newb! says:

      there is no “PERFECT” linux distro. but i am pretty sure that MS is also not a “PERFECT” OS… in fact MS is the CRAPPY OS out there compared to LINUX…

      • Mike.G. says:

        Yep!
        Programmed To Crash!…
        Then,Have The Junk Breathing Down One’s Neck!
        I rather like the idea of…
        No `Perfect’ Operating System!
        Because…That’s what makes it so…
        Exciting and Fascinating….OM.

  8. David says:

    This comment’s a little late, but I just wanted to say thanks for the article. I’m not going to argue the finer points, because I can’t. I’m a newbie to Linux and this article helped me a lot.

    • Mike.G. says:

      Greetings David.
      2013 is Rolling along!
      So….What’s your point of view about…
      Linux and Open Source…Up to Date?

  9. Greg says:

    November 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm
    finid
    Reply

    “If that’s the case, all three editions should have the same installer. The Free and PP editions solve the ‘Back’ button issue by giving you an opportunity just before the packages are installed to make changes to all the configuration options.”

    The installers are quite different for the ONE discs…There is a reason for that… (but a “back” button WOULD be nice)

    Much of the ONE install is configured at first boot. MANY (if not most) things like network config etc can be configured and tested in the live environment… and survive the install.
    This is a big feature.

    At one point you could even install additional software in the live environment that would also get installed, IIRC, not sure if that still works or was just a feature of the lovely MCNLive discs.. (Their build in remaster and USB install capability is still unbeaten, I use MCNLive Toronto” to this day like I used to use Knoppix CDs…)

  10. Varga (Brazil) says:

    I was an Ubuntu Netbook Remix user (9.04) and after switching for the 9.10 UNR I had a hard time to configure wireless networking with no success. 3G networking worked out of the box. So I decided to try Mandriva 2010. Everything worked out of the box in my Lenovo S10. So, for me, according to this experience, Mandriva is the today’s Linux SO. Just to remember: this wireless issue in UNR is known and the workaround requires more than basic linux skills.

  11. Frank says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone way that Mandriva Uses Network Manager. Mandriva uses drakconnect, which is far from being network manager. Though they look the same in the systray they are not the same. drakconnect has been around and working more fully than network manager for quite some time.
    With drakconnect you can connect your system from the command line. Network Manager has no such ability. With Mandriva you still have the ability to use ifup and ifdown commands. Try that with NM.

    To say that they are the same is a complete fallacy.

  12. Mint Affic says:

    I have been very very very impressed with the 2010 version of Mandriva. It seems that every year Mandriva releases a distro that is |_| close to perfection .. but there is always ONE thing that screws it all up. I have yet to find that one thing for this release.

    • finid says:

      Don’t get carried away. Mandriva 2010 is very good, but when setting up LVM, I want to be able to encrypt a physical volume, and not just the logical volume housing the home directory.

  13. terry demonte says:

    >Ubuntu is a GNOME-based distro, while Mandriva >One has separate iso images for GNOME and KDE >desktop environments.

    Shall I be the one to tell you about Kubuntu? Or Xubuntu? Or any other of the Buntu family?

    How many times did you read your second paragraph before you finally convinced yourself that it made sense?

    Mandriva is widely known as the best KDE4 experience around,… so of course you wont cover that. Wtf?
    Are you going to find the best XCFE distro around and then test it on another desktop instead?

    As for:
    >Both are backed by commercial entities. Ubuntu >by Canonical Ltd., and Mandriva by Mandriva.

    Sorta truth. Canonical is a company started out of the good will and deep pockets of a sugar daddy. It will one day achieve positive cashflow.
    Mandriva is a publicly held company that has to deal with stocks, investors and all that stuff.
    Sure, they are sort of similar but one is a one-off project that cant be replicated without the unlimited pocket of a benefactor while the other could be seen a a template (of what not to do in business!) for maybe other distros to try.

    (This is written on Kubuntu9.10.)

    • finid says:

      No, wise guy, you do not have to tell me about the *Buntus. I know a thing or two about them. Here’s an assignment for you: Check out the what is Ubuntu? page. See anything about any other Buntu on there? You won’t because Ubuntu is a GNOME-based distro.

      Now, here’s the first paragraph on the Kubuntu home page:

      Kubuntu is a free, user-friendly operating system based on the K Desktop Environment and on the award winning Ubuntu operating system

      So Kubuntu is based on Ubuntu. Lest you forget, Ubuntu is based on Debian. If I have to compare the KDE edition of Mandriva to anything it has to be against Kubuntu, which is “Ubuntu with the K Desktop Environment.” Btw, that last quote is from this page.

      In case you are still clueless, Kubuntu is a Linux distro derived from Ubuntu. Mandriva One, the edition of Mandriva Linux that I reviewed and compared to Ubuntu, is not based on any other desktop edition of Mandriva Linux. I could go on and on, but ….

      I could in the future, compare the KDE version of Mandriva One to Kubuntu, but the result’s not gonna be different.

  14. Linux_oid says:

    Just a few words

    Section ‘Multimedia playback’

    To install vls in Ubuntu
    $ sudo apt-get install vlc

    in Mandriva
    # urpmi vlc

    In ‘Security Posture’ I wouldn’t compare Apparmor and Msec. Apparmor, SELinux, and Tomoyo could be compared.

    In 2010.0 Mandriva Linux is using Tomoyo and Tomoyo Gui configuration tool is the very first GUI implemented for it.

    • finid says:

      True, Apparmor and Msec are not exactly the same, and Tomoyo is more like Apparmor. For the record, the Tomoyo Gui configuration tool is not installed by default. You’ll need to run the following command (as root) to install it:

      # urpmi tomoyo-gui

  15. A few points:

    It’s not that ‘no one from Mandriva bothered’ to implement an installer back button, it’s an intentional choice. MDV’s installer used to include a back button; it was found that this was at the root of more installer breakage than any other single feature. So it was removed in a rewrite a few years ago. Yes, it can be a bit annoying that it’s not there, but the trade-off is that the installer is far, far more robust than when it had one.

    CUPS is left off the Mandriva live CDs for space reasons. If you use the Free or Powerpack editions, or the network install, you will get it. It is a shame that it’s missing from the live images, but if it were added, even more important bits would have to be taken out.

    Mandriva does not use NetworkManager. It uses its own desktop network applet called net-applet, and the convenient configuration interface available from MCC is called draknetcenter. The underlying configuration layout is based on the traditional Red Hat-style network config files, and – unlike NetworkManager – the Mandriva configuration tools are fully and transparently compatible with this layout, so you can use old-school or shiny GUI tools interchangeably.

    • finid says:

      If that’s the case, all three editions should have the same installer. The Free and PP editions solve the ‘Back’ button issue by giving you an opportunity just before the packages are installed to make changes to all the configuration options.

      net-applet does look very much like NetworkManager, but thanks for the correction.

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