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Mandriva Desktop 2011 review

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A very cool and useful feature of the Mandriva desktop, one with no drawback that I have noticed, is the StackFolder, which makes it easy to browse the contents of a folder without opening Dolphin, the file manager. By default, there are two on the Rocketbar, one for the Download folder, and the other for the Documents folder. I find that it is better to remove them and make your home folder a StackFolder, which is pretty easy to do. Just launch Dolphin, navigate one step above your home folder, then drag it (your home folder) to the Rocketbar. You may then view the contents of any folder in your home directory without actually opening Dolphin. Note: The StackFolder is not unique to the Rocketbar. It can also be added to the traditional KDE panel.
Home Directory StackFolder

This screenshot shows the contents of the Download folder viewed by clicking on it from the image above.
StackFolder Mandriva 2011

This is a screenshot of the main view of the KDE Plasma Netbook interface, one of several modern desktop interfaces for Linux and BSD systems. While it showcases the beauty of the Netbook interface, it also shows a drawback of the Rocketbar, which is clearly visible. By displaying in the Netbook interface, it obscures the configuration tool box of this interface. If you replace Rocketbar with the standard KDE panel, and switch to this interface, the panel will not be visible. Two screenshots at the end of this review show what I am trying to describe.
Mandriva 2011 KDE Plasma Netbook

When a video DVD is inserted in the optical drive, the available device actions seem to depend on a factor that I could not determine. The image on the left was taken from a recent computer with more than enough resources to run any operating system, while the one on the right was from a very old system with 435MB of RAM. For the same video DVD, there is an obvious difference in the number of available device actions. But that is not even the problem, which is that the action to play the video is not listed. So the only way I could play the video was to start SMPlayer, the installed video player, and open the video manually.

And it does not get any better when a music CD is inserted because the device notifier does not even respond. The system does not seem to detect that a music CD has been inserted. These are easily fixable issues, but it would have been better that they work, out of the box.
Device Notifier Mandriva 2011

Video Device Notification Options

Installed and Available Applications: The following is the list of major applications installed by default:

  • Firefox
  • LibreOffice
  • Mozilla Thunderbird email client
  • PiTiVi video editor
  • SMPlayer
  • Clementine music player

These are besides the standard KDE system utilities and desktop accessories. Firefox 5 is the version of the popular Web browser installed, and it is the only version still available in the repositories. The latest stable (is it really stable?) version of Firefox is Firefox 6. Aside from Firefox, other major Web browser available for installation are Opera 11.50 and Chromium 13, both latest stable versions. Flash plugin and Java JRE, two applications required to make Firefox or other Web browser that you install truly usable, are not installed. They are, however, available for installation. I think if critical applications like Flash plugin and Java JRE are in a distribution’s repository, they should be installed by default, especially if the distribution is one that is supposed to ship with non-free software.

If you have Windows applications that you would like to run on Mandriva, Wine and PlayonLinux, a graphical frontend, are available for installation. The latest stable version of XBMC, the popular media center application, is available for installation. For games, there are just four installed, but several dozen are available for installation.

Software Management: Mandriva is an RPM-based distribution, and Mandriva 2011 is the first Mandriva edition to ship with RPM version 5. (RPM is recursive for RPM Package Manager, where RPM was originally Resource Package Manager.) The command line utility for managing software on Mandriva is urpmi. While urpmi is easy to use, Rpmdrake, offers a graphical interface for point-and-click package management. Rpmdrake’s main interface is shown below. Rpmdrake has been in service for a long time, and like the graphical package manager on Fedora, it is slow, compared to more modern graphical package managers on other Linux distributions.
Mandriva Software Manager

Mandriva has an update package management system and out of the box, the system is configured to check for updates five minutes after booting, and every three hours afterwards. Most distributions with a working update management system are configured to check for updates daily, that is, once per day. If you would rather have your system set up similarly, you can change the settings using the “Configure updates frequency” tool on the Software Management tab of the Mandriva Control Center. (More about Mandriva Control Center further down)

The only update that has been available since it was released (four days from the date of publication of this review), is the initscripts package. Attempting to install it generated the warning shown in the image below. What do you do if the system informs you that the signature of a package you are about to install is bad? What is a new user supposed to do?
Mandriva 2011 Update Error

Aside from Rpmdrake, there is a new graphical package in Mandriva 2011. Named the Mandriva Package Manager, it is still in unstable status, but is slated to replace Rpmdrake once it reaches production status. Though still in active development, it already looks very good, and a lot faster than Rpmdrake. Shown below is the main view. Interface-wise, it is similar to the Package Manager of Pardus. Functionally, however, it has more in common with the Software Center of Ubuntu and the Software Manager of Linux Mint.

Clicking on an entry in the list will show REMOVE or INSTALL to the far right of an item, depending on its status.
Mandriva Package Manager

The problem with it, as with Ubuntu’s Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager, is that you cannot queue multiple applications for installation. And considering that every installation requires authentication, it can be a pain, if attempting to install a bunch of applications at the same time. Since development is still in progress, this is your opportunity to influence the direction it takes. Let the developers know how you feel about not being able to queue multiple applications for installation. If a Mandriva developer is reading this, consider this an official complaint.
Mandriva Package Manager Install

Graphical Administrative Applications: Of all the desktop operating systems that I have used, even counting my days as a mac addict, Mandriva has the best graphical administrative applications of all. If you are familiar with Mandriva, you probably know that I am referring to the Mandriva Control Center (MCC). If you are reading this and have never used Mandriva, the MCC has all the applications you would need to administrate any aspect of the system without ever dropping to the command line.

There is, for example, a parental control tool with whitelisting and blacklisting features, and time-based access control. The disk management tool handles traditional disk and LVM (Linux Logical Volume Manager) operations. The “Import Windows Documents and Settings” tool makes it easy, when dual-booting with a Windows operating system, to, as the name suggests, import your documents and settings from the other side. What makes MCC especially easy to use, is access to it requires authentication, so you do not need to authenticate for every application you need to use. Shown below is the main view of MCC, with the applications on the System tab in focus.
Mandriva Control Center

Aside from the MCC, there is the standard KDE Control Center, which anybody with access to the system can use to modify desktop-specific settings. There is an icon for the KDE Control Center on the Rocketbar, but not of MCC.

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17 Comments

  1. Linux comamnds says:

    Superb review. Clear to the point.

  2. Luca says:

    I have to add (look at n. 1 post) that I installed Mandriva 2011, because I encountered some problems with Mageia (random freezes on boot).
    Mandriva is running very good. No problems so far.
    The desktop is BEAUTIFUL, very polished and elegant! I got rid of Rosa panel, installed a standard panel and now I have an absolutely typical KDE desktop (with very nice wallpaper and widgets).
    I added the new Restricted repository and installed all the required codecs and multimedia stuff in a moment!
    Clementine and VLC work very well: I can play everything from mp3 to DVD (after installing libdvdcss2 from the Restricted repository).
    Installing the proprietary Nvidia driver was a breeze!
    The control center is awesome!
    My sincere advice is to try it!

  3. Luca says:

    Very professional review.
    I’ve tried Mandriva on live cd, but then I prefered to install Mageia on hard disk, because I liked a more traditional KDE desktop.
    In my case, Mageia has a better hardware recognition and, in my opinion, is more polished and accurate.
    I believe that Mageia 2 will rock.
    Anyhow, I’m also interested in the future development of Mandriva …

  4. Andreas says:

    “The problem with it, as with Ubuntu’s Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager, is that you cannot queue multiple applications for installation.”

    You can do that, just have to be quick about it so the authorization wont time out before adding the next app.

    • finid says:

      That proves my point. You cannot queue multiple applications for installation in Ubuntu’s Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager.

      • Andreas says:

        Well, if you add them quick they are are put on hold so in the practical sense you still can. But if ticking boxes for the same outcome is the definition then there is that after all. Potato, tomato. ;)

  5. nikesh says:

    I never tried mandriva before but looking at the screenshot I think I should try mandriva now after seeing ubuntu changed to unity.

  6. Keith Bowes says:

    1. RPM originally stood for Redhat Package Manager.
    2. The command line rocks!
    3. I don’t consciously use encryption, so I don’t know (plus, I’m using Mageia 1 instead of Mandriva 2011; I might upgrade to Mandriva 2012, but the Mageia 1 packages are newer than Mandriva 2011’s, so I don’t think downgrading is a good idea).

  7. John says:

    A interesting review. But I must say I prefeer Mageia now instead of Mandriva. Rosa panel, Unity and Gnome 3 are nothing for me yet.
    I am the “old school” in computer look. But who knows, maybe I will try with it someday again.

  8. darkduck says:

    Very nice review, as always on this site. Much more comprehensive and detailed compared to mine (http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2011/08/mandriva-2011.html)

  9. Stiz says:

    Awesome review. I find the issues you raised about security very interesting. I don’t thing any reasonable person will cripple disk encryption, remove the security features of the boot loader, and disable the firewall. What’s the point?

    I think I smell sabotage. Considering that Mandriva has been bleeding employees, I think a disgruntled developer, must have done something nasty.

    This is a guess, but what other explanation could there be?

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