31 Aug 2011

Mandriva 2011: Dusk or Dawn of Linux Legend?

You can never tell what happens with yourself next.
Did developers who started Mandrake project back in 1998 knew that their baby would become world famous operating system? But fate of this baby is not the easiest. It was renamed to Mandriva, remarketed, and finally split into at least two. I am talking about recent fork between Mandriva and Mageia. Of course, there were other forks before, but recent one was the most serious in the whole history.
But Mandriva as a project still exists. To prove this fact, new version of Mandriva Linux was released with codename Mandriva 2011 Hydrogen.
I have already written about Mandriva Linux several times. They were reviews of Mandriva 2010.1 and 2010.2, based on KDE. Up to that point Mandriva released different spins of their operating system: one CD iso image for GNOME and another for KDE version.
Latest Hydrogen release is different here. It only has KDE version. Other DEs were deprecated, although still available from community. And new ISO image weights more than 1.6 Gb. This is significantly more than previous versions which could fit standard CD. By the way, for limited time only you can still get CD with previous version of Mandriva from Buy Linux CDs web shop!
I was not much impressed with previous releases of Mandriva. But Mageia quickly became my distribution #1. That's why I was very curious how much Mageia 1 was different from Mandriva 2011.
It was time for me to create Live USB for Mandriva. Previous versions of this OS had special tool called "Mandriva Seed" to create Live USB. This time round I decided to use something more generic. And I was lucky! My Live USB was created from iso image with simple dd command. Same method is mentioned in release notes, if you bother to read them.
So, USB stick is in the port. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

Boot menu of Mandriva 2011 only had 2 options listed: Launch OS and Install. Of course, my choice was for Live run.
As usual for Mandriva (and Mageia too), boot process takes user's attention with quite a lot of questions. System language, keyboard layout, time zone and clock setup are to name some of them. Of course, Mandriva 2011 has big choice of languages available out of the box. That was true for previous versions, this is true for Hydrogen. British English is called just "English" in the menu, and Russian is also in the list.
Total boot time of Mandriva 2011 was 3 minutes and 33 seconds. That is the longest boot time I've ever seen for USB-based Live run! Almost two times more than next fixed result. You can check yourself in Racecourse scoreboard.
Even during the boot you can notice some changes not only from previous Mandriva versions, but from other KDE-based systems. Most remarkable change at this time is boot splash screen. It was significantly reworked. Now it has different icons compared to what you could be used to. Yes, icons still appear one-by-one from left to right. But icons themselves are different. They remind you about cloud facilities (Mandriva sync) and other modern ideas in computer-related industry. And last icon is... Window! Yes, square window with vertical and horizontal bars! Is it just a joke towards Microsoft?
I need to mention here that Mandriva 2011 Hydrogen uses KDE 4.6.5. This is not the latest release of this Desktop Environment, maybe update will come soon.
Once booted, you get to KDE desktop without any icons on it. There is a panel at the bottom, but this is not standard panel. Instead, Mandriva 2011 uses RocketBar which was specifically adopted for Mandriva by Russian team of developers ROSA Lab.
Default wallpaper in Mandriva 2011 is blue-themed abstract picture. If you don't like it, you can still select from several others, which are more or less standard for KDE-based distributions. Surprisingly, there are no Mandriva-styled wallpapers in the distribution.
There are 4 virtual desktops by default, but there are no switch panel anywhere on the screen. That's quite strange, isn't it?
Freshly booted Mandriva 2011 uses about 400 Mb of memory which is too much from my perspective. For example, Mageia 1 on my laptop only takes 170 Mb when booted from hard disk. The difference is more than 2 times. Are these different ROSA Lab additions who took so many resources? I also noticed that processor load was quite heavy during all the Live run.
ROSA Lab provided Mandriva 2011 with quite significant facelift. I have already mentioned panel. That's just a beginning. KDE standard Kickoff menu was also replaced, of course with ROSA-style menu. Thus menu reminded me GNOME3 with almost full screen covered with black background. Menu itself has 3 sections: recent document, applications and timeframe. Last one is intended to list recent documents, but switched off by default because requires Nepomuk index to be run. There is a reminder on that tab which allows switching on Nepomuk.
From my perspective, ROSA menu is still worse than KDE-standard one. I would say it continues tendency to move closer to tablet PCs with large icons and finger-oriented interface. Not sure this is right for desktops.
What I found most annoying is that Applications part of menu has sections placed one after another. You need to scroll whole list to get to the very bottom of menu. Application groups are only used to separate items, but not for navigation. It is still better than, for example, standard HTC Sense launcher for Android. But Android is not intended for desktop use at all.
Does Mandriva 2011 Hydrogen speak foreign languages? I think I have already given you an answer when noted that Russian is among possible system languages. And of course Russian keyboard layout can easily be configured via standard KDE method in configuration panel - Input methods.
Unpleasant surprise waited for me in the network configuration. All the previous versions of Mandriva I've seen so far had no issues with my WiFi card Broadcom 4311. It worked right out of the box. But... here Mandriva 2011 Hydrogen made step backwards. I saw no network available. WiFi card Broadcom 4311 was recognised and listed fine, but firmware was not included. It should be downloaded from Internet. That is absolutely frustrating since free open source firmware for this WiFi card is available in the Internet. More and more distributions include firmware into the package, including RedHat and CentOS. But Mandriva team decided otherwise.
I could not manage pick up the network connection. That means I was not able to test support of external network partitions and their mounting. 
What is included into Mandriva 2011?
As I noted before, ROSA Lab team made quite a lot of changes to Mandriva design and functionality. Another part where these changes are obvious is Dolphin file manager. This new design is fresh and slick. Honestly, I like it!
An NTFS partition was mounted OK from Dolphin. Russian characters in filenames and paths were recognised absolutely fine. Is it consequence of KDE approach, or ROSA team input? Nobody can worry about support of multilingual users better than those users themselves. That's why so many distributions developed by English-speaking communities and enthusiasts (American, British, Australian etc) unfortunately forget about other languages at all.
Firefox 5 is included as default browser in Mandriva 2011. What is interesting: Firefox starts with default page file:///usr/share/doc/HTML/index.html, and this page says: Mandriva 2011 Alpha 1. Does it mean that Mandriva team released Alpha version? I would prefer to believe otherwise.
Other than Firefox, Mandriva 2011 includes KDE-native Konqueror browser. There are lots of other KDE-specific Internet tools: Kopete, Chokoq, KGet, KTorrent, KNetAttach to name just a few.
Mandriva 2011 includes LibreOffice 3.4.2 in full version with Math and Draw applications. You can also find Okular document viewer in Office section of menu.
Graphics section of Mandriva 2011 menu does not include GIMP, but there is Kolor Paint drawing tool. This section includes Gwenview, KSnapshot, Shotwell and still the same Okular.
Clementine is default player in Mandriva 2011 and it is listed in Multimedia section. SMPlayer is there for people who only use multimedia player to play music, but don't want their library (re-)organised. I am such a person. There are also K3B disk burning tool and PiTiVi video editor in Multimedia part of menu.
Tools section of Mandriva 2011 menu is huge. I won't list all the applications there, it will take too much time. You can have a look yourself. I should only mention that there are some standard tools which you find in any distribution, and some quite unique.
Mandriva 2011 running Dolphin, video and Firefox
Mandriva 2011 running Dolphin, Firefox and video in SMPlayer
And finally, last part of Mandriva 2011 menu is dedicated to games. There are 4 games included. Which ones? It's up to you to check yourself!
As I mentioned several multimedia players, I had to check support of audio and video files. Surprisingly enough, MP3 files played out of the box in Mandriva 2011. Russian characters in MP3 file tags were recognised fine in Clementine. Unfortunately, SMPlayer did not show me any tags at all.
Video files from local hard drive (avi) played out of the box too. I did not check which codec was used in that file. But at least one codec exists in Mandriva 2011 by default.
I could not check video playback from online sources like YouTube, because of network connection troubles.

What is my general feeling about Mandriva 2011? They are mixed.
New release of this famous OS has lots of great features. There is definitely progress since previous version.
Some of new features are very nice and from my perspective should be taken into other distributions
  • Dolphin redesign is just brilliant
  • MP3 / video support is very nice. There are some discussions about open source license nature and compatibility of these codecs. But from point of view of regular user, these codecs are the must.
But some of new additions in Mandriva 2011 are not that nice.
  • Distribution size. Why is this version so much bigger than previous?
  • Boot time should definitely be improved.
  • Memory usage is way too high.
  • System response time was generally very slow. For example LibreOffice Calc took about a minute to start, Firefox just little bit less.
Are these issues consequences of distribution ISO image obesity? Or they are results of something else? This is something Mandriva developers should look at. From my current position, I'd say that Mandriva 2011 Hydrogen offers user good choice of features, but price for them is too high.
Where will this OS go now? To its Dusk or to its Dawn? What do you think?

If you are interested, here are some links:
Review by Prashanth: http://dasublogbyprashanth.blogspot.com/2011/08/review-mandriva-2011-hydrogen.html
Review of Mandriva 2011 RC2 from Cristalinux: http://cristalinux.blogspot.com/2011/08/mandriva-2011-review.html
Review by ComputerworldUK: http://www.computerworlduk.com/in-depth/operating-systems/3300129/five-reasons-to-try-out-mandriva-linux-on-the-desktop/


  1. Your experience with Mandriva Desktop 2011 is very similar to mine. Oddly, Iveryone to whom I have showed the new ROSA SimpleWelcome has loved it... except me.

  2. I LIKE the new ROSA scheme. I am dual booting Mandriva 2011 along side Mageia 1 on a dual core Pentium 64 bit system with 4G of RAM, so I have plenty of horsepower and it moves along pretty well for me, almost as fast as Mageia. My biggest problem with it out the gate has been stability or at least things I consider stability issues. For example, for a long time it was changing my KDM settings as fast as I could change them back. It insisted on maintaining the themed KDM although I HATE themed KDM because it is so restrictive. Other issues include software manager that refuses to install packages, but if I install them from the command line, everything is fine. Lots of stupid stuff like that that is so Mandriva. So ... with this sort of thing going on, I still don't use Mandriva 2011 much. I have it because it offers apps that Mageia doesn't. But Mageia 1 has just worked for me with none of the idiot glitches that Mandriva is famous for (I have used Mandriva since it was known as Linux Mandrake 6.0 way back when). Mageia is very basic, at least at this point, but the great joy of Mageia for me is that everything works like it is supposed to and that is VERY refreshing. It means that I can actually get work done with it. Isn't that a novel concept?

  3. Your choice of often omitting the definite and indefinite articles (a/an and the) make your texts uncomfortable, heavy and cumbersome to read, even if their subject might be otherwise interesting. Maybe it's just me, but I often see myself giving up reading your texts before the second or third paragraph, as my interest for the subject is supplanted by my displeasure with the language.

  4. To Anonymous's comment above I would also like to add the apparent lack of knowledge on the part of the author about computers, operating systems and any form of testing methodology.

    Mr DarkDuck:
    1. Please include your name in the RSS feed, so I know it's you and don't bother to open your article in the browser. Alas, I've learned to detect it's you from the text and its grammatical errors, so you could skip this step. Please try, though!
    2. Please STUDY the subject of an OS running live from a CD or USB stick. You will then know NOT to compare memory usage, boot times and general performance between such an environment and one installed on your hard disk.
    3. Please understand that you cannot possibly get the full experience of an OS (any) by just testing its live version. However fully functional they may appear to be, they have severe limitations. You should be able to understand this when having completed step 2 above.
    4. Until you have completed all of the steps above, please refrain from writing any other "reviews" and "articles" if possible. You will save yourself some face-value and spare us some time and brain cells.

  5. @Mechatotoro:
    I like some ROSA parts, like new Dolphin. But I am afraid these additions are the reasons for distro weight and performance. 8-(

  6. @ghmitch:
    >I can actually get work done with it. Isn't that a novel concept?
    I like that concept!

  7. @Anonymous:
    You maybe surprised that most people in the world are not native English speakers. I am Russian, though I live in the UK. People understand me, and that's enough for me.
    Articles... they absent as class in Russian language, that's why it is very difficult to get whole concept. Please excuse me for omitting a's and the's where native English speaker would place them.
    If someone wants to become an editor for this blog, I will happily accept the help. Volunteers? Maybe yourself?

  8. @Anonymous:
    1. RSS feed, as well as blog itself is named "Linux notes from DarkDuck. It is shown as such in my RSS reader, and on Feedburner site. If your reader does not show the name, it's not my problem. I always put my name under something I write. I never comment as Anonymous. Next offensive and subject-irrelevant comment placed this way will be deleted without warning.
    2. Racecource scoreboard shows values for different boot methods, if you bothered to have a look.
    3. Why do I do Live system reviews?
    4. Please don't tell me what I should or should not do. There is good Russian saying: "Don't tell me what I should do, and I won't tell you where you should go". If you don't like it, don't read it!

  9. I've found that removing the unused locales & hardware modules will improve the weight, speed & responsive of the OS overall. You can do it by running /usr/sbin/remove-unused-packages

  10. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for great finding and sharing it!

  11. Hi, your reviews of any Linux distribution are just perfect, so clearly descried with a lot of details! Could you, please, do such review for Russian ALT Linux (Simple Linux). Could you take a look on this, very promise Linux from Russia?

  12. @Anonymous:
    I am quite surprised with this request.
    First of all, Alt and Simply are 2 different distros.
    Alt Linux has Russian, English and even Spanish/Portuguese versions. I wrote review of it already: follow the link.
    Unfortunately, Simply Linux has no English version and, as far as I know, has no Live version yet. Thus, it is neither possible for me to review, nor it would be interesting for English-speaking community to read the review.

  13. Knowing that you come from a language where articles are not used, and that their omission was therefore non-intentional, makes the feeling very different! While I cannot assume the task of reviewing them, I congratulate and support your effort to express your views about Linux, specially in a language different from your own. Spasibo!

  14. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for support!
    Hope you'll stay subscribed and will probably contribute in some form. Constructive critic commenter is better than destructive denier. :-)

  15. You`re doing just fine, brother. We understand what you mean very clearly, and as a big fan of the Russian people I enjoy the "accent". Carry on, and remember, troll is troll.

  16. Or perhaps, some people are just nekulturny, yes? XD

  17. @Neuromancer:
    Thanks for support!
    And yes, some people just lack education and politeness. 8-)

  18. I find this Start menu that takes up the whole screen an utter absurdity.
    What on earth are they playing at?
    It's appalling design, not least of which because it's a waste of space. Very bad design decision. On a par with Unity.
    The designers have gone mad.

  19. @Anonymous:
    Absolutely agree. I noted it in my post, but compared with GNOME3, not Unity. 8-)
    Is it general tendency now?
    If you look at MintMenu, it is also very-very big. Yes, it is better organized than SimpleWelcome or Unity, but still there is no point to cover so much of the screen.

  20. When you dig deeper, it gets worse. NIS is largely broken but can be configured from the control panel. The installer forces a user account with no NIS option. Autofs is broken and requires IP addresses instead of host names in NIS maps. Packaging software with RPM5 is horrid. I compile a large open-source distribution on many distros and this is the worst that I have come across. There were no problem with 2010.2 at rpm 4.6, but the mess that RPM5 made in 2011.0 is unworkable. The Java build environment is plain busted. Some of these issues are listed in bug reports on cooker and have not made it to an update in over 6 months. I would say the release is at the alpha stage and is quite unstable. urpmi is busted too. apt-rpm does not work at all. Many broken dependencies between packages and too many alternates. I gave up on it altogether. Maybe in a year they will have some things fixed.

    OTOH Mageia 1 was better than 2010.2 in many ways, with a few understandable quirks. It is obvious to me where the better developers went.

  21. @Anonymous:
    I have not digged that far. And it is very sorrowfully to see OS in such a bad condition as you describe...

  22. Had read flash would be configed IN [NO]
    Always bad on fireware, since they want to SELL
    a full version.
    I like configuring every detail, this release
    install ALL. RPM -E is my buddy

  23. Could you enlighten me what games are included in Mandriva 2011 by default? I don't plan to install Mandriva just to check this... Thank you!

  24. @Anonymous:
    You don't need to install system to get the list of games. Live run suits just fine.
    Anyway, here is the list from my Live run: KMines, KNetWalk, Kollision, Kapman.

  25. Well I used Unix in the late 80s and early 90s until retired in 95. Have played with Red Hat and several other flavors of linux including mandrake 7. I downloaded 2011 and installed on a couple machines, 5yr old desktop with Belkin Wireless PCI adapter that is about 4 yrs old. However in my newer Dell Laptop that has BCM4322 wireless, Mr. Mandriva won't recognize. My brain has left me and I don't know how to get my Laptop wireless working correctly. If someone would help this 70+ yr old by emailing the instructions to get this puppy going I'd appreciate it.

  26. @Anonymous:
    There is a section about installation of b43 driver on Mandriva 2011.