9 Sep 2011

Does Linux Community Need Corruption?

There is no secret that Mandriva as a company was on a brink of bankruptcy not so long ago.
It was good time for some external investors to take over the company. And there were such investors. Investment fund NGI bought a stake in Mandriva. Since then, things have changed in the company.
Let's look what is NGI. This is Russian-owned investment fund where Mr.Leonid Reiman has control. Same fund, by the way, controls another Russian company PingWin, but we'll come back to that later.
First, let's look at Mr.Reiman himself. Who is he?
Leonid Reiman was Russian Minister of Telecommunications (later Minister of Transport and Communications) and then Presidential Counsellor. During that time he was several times accused in bribery, holding a stakes in Russian telecom companies and other illegal affairs. Some of those affairs leaked as far as Wall Street Journal. During reign of Mr.Reiman relatively small company North-West GSM transformed into Russian market leader currently known as Megafon. It is the company from the "big three" of Russian GSM operators. Mr.Reiman, of course unofficially, held own interest in NW GSW / Megafon.
There is no secret either that Russian government is very corrupted. There are very few decisions which are made with clear concious. Most of the decisions are made for someone's lobbied interest. But actions of Mr.Leonid Reiman were too much even for Russian government. That's why he was moved from Government to Presidential Counsellor position, and later abruptly resigned.
So, ex-Minister invested his money into Mandriva. At the same time he started new Russian company ROSA Laboratories. And same fund NGI also acquired another Russian company PingWin.
If you look at sites of ROSA Labs (English version using Google Translate) and PingWin (English), it is easy to notice, they are located at the same address in Moscow: number 14 at Presnensky Val. Do you need any more proofs of their affiliation?
Now let's come back to Mandriva. Recent release of this Operating System, called Mandriva 2011 Hydrogen, was very revolutionary, if not say more. Mandriva dumped all the Desktop Environments, except for KDE. Distribution itself grew in size more than twice. And even KDE itself was reworked significantly with help of... surprise-surprise: ROSA Labs. As a result, we got monster operating system with oversized distribution, slow performance and very arguable interface. Reading all the reviews of Mandriva 2011, I have found no one where reviewer would be absolutely happy with new release.
But was happiness of users the task of Mandriva and ROSA Labs? Maybe answer is in another area? Let's look at another asset of NGI fund: PingWin. What does this company do? It promotes Free Open Source software, and one of the targets is... Russian public sector (English version): ministries, municipal and federal organisations and so on! Who can promote company among public sector better than ex-minister, especially if we talk about Russia?
And Russian is not alone in the scope of NGI-owned companies. Another target is Brazil. Mandriva was chosen as a vendor for Classmate PC project.
Having governments of these two countries in the pipeline for the projects, who would bother with rest of Mandriva user base? Definitely not the person who took his own interests above the public (remember the Megafon story).
And now it is time to ask a question to you, Linux users: does Linux community need this type of distribution? The one which is led by people with doubtful reputation? The one which puts its own interests above the community?

48 comments:

  1. Really an interesting article DD, not technical as usual, but perhaps more important.

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  2. @Linuxaria:
    Thanks for support!

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  3. I'd correct you english lol, but I guess it doesn't matter.

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  4. @BloggerMan: I don't mind if you send me edited version of the text, I will replace.

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  5. Очень интересно.
    You should go into this kind of thing more, and I think a lot of people are interested in the Russian experiments with Linux and open source in schools, too.

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  6. good grief, you, whoever you may be, make it sound like some company established a global illegal monopoly in the OS market, and all with the help of their morally and otherwise corrupt government (squeezing small countries into submission and into spending crazy amounts of money on Microsoft products from their impoverished budgets). now that would be interesting, mr. quack.

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  7. Pointless question. Linux is free to use it in any way. Deal with it.

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  8. In all fairness, has any reviewer ever been 100 per cent happy with a new distro?
    As it is Open they are free to do what they want with it. The difference is we are free not to use it if we do not want to.
    Good luck to PingWin is they can persuade a government department that an open system is better than a locked down proprietory system where they are then at the mercy of the company.
    If they want to be a world player, they will have to lead and continually develop and more importantly give back to the world their changes. If they don't or are slow to do so, they will be sidelined.
    You say oversized? In what way? does it have lots of packages or is each piece of it full of bloated code?
    "very arguable interface" - Have you tried Unity? Even Linux calls Gnome 3 and "unholy mess". The desktop is a personal thing so if you don't like KDE they you will hate it and vice versa.
    I have not tried Mandriva since it was Mandrake but I think I will now give it a go.

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  9. Thanks everybody who already took part in discussion.

    The question is, whether Linux needs distribution which is far from the best in design, but still being pushed to the users with administrative methods.
    From one hand, this will definitely help to convert/teach users. From another, there is a high risk this will frighten most of them from using Linux whatsoever.

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  10. @Anonymous:
    >If they don't or are slow to do so, they will be sidelined.
    I am afraid, this is not the case. Once contract with government is in place, they can continue for quite significant time without much improvement.
    >You say oversized? In what way?
    In the way that Mandriva 2011 weights twice more than Mandriva 2010. But there is not much improvement in functionality, except for new menu and taskbar from ROSA labs. Indeed, I even saw reduction of functionality: b43 drivers for WiFi card are excluded.
    >"very arguable interface" - Have you tried Unity?
    Yes, I have tried Unity and GNOME3. In this way new ROSA menu is 3rd part of trilogy.
    >if you don't like KDE they you will hate it
    I like KDE. It is my personal choice. But I like menu style of KDE3 more than KDE4, and the new menu from ROSA Labs is the last thing I would consider to vote for.

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  11. The Russian government is likely more corrupt than most. That is an assertion that I would agree with. But the reality is that corruption follows power and for that reason it is present to one degree or another in all governments and in all large corporations. That is one major reason that Linux purists are attracted to Debian. Even in the case of Debian based Ubuntu there are shades of minor degrees of "corruption" in terms of ulterior motives on the part of "management". So I think that your point is definitely valid. BUT ... in the midst of corruption, there is also that factor of power, and typically money to throw away. And in that crucible, good things *can* happen. The huge value of Mandriva under ROSA is that a huge amount of innovation *is* happening even though the immediate result may be crap. This is the magic of the GPL. As Mandriva pushes forward with endless amounts of development capital and political connections, other smaller distros, including Mageia, can swoop in and harvest the fruit. Thus Mandriva becomes a test platform for forced innovation. In the process they are spewing out GPL source code that others will be able to mine and turn into gold. And also in the process, there are plenty of users out there who are actually attracted to this process and to Mandriva under ROSA. But one final point for Dark Duck. Russia, as corrupt as it may be, doesn't have a monopoly on corruption. During the darkest days of the energy company scandals here in the USA, one of our federal legislators made a bold comment about how it is difficult for one to differentiate between "corruption and clever business management" as if what one person might negatively call corruption, another might admire as being superior business management skills. So, when it comes to business management *anywhere* in the world, many seem to value "moral decadence" as an asset.

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  12. You would prefer the corruption to lead to Windows being selected instead of Linux? At least the corruption, assuming it is an issue as you say, can't take away the GPL (most) everything is licensed under.

    Your comments about the new release being bloated or having a radically different GUI... how does that differ from several other of the newer top distro releases?

    Do we need a corrupt distro? Heck yeah, it wouldn't hurt Linux to get a foot in the door even if there were some sort of unfair political influence going on. That's basically how most everything works so why should Linux be pure and lose out every time?

    But seriously, this is a story if and only if one or more governments or projects get switched over to some sort of commercial contract with Mandriva. At least one would hope that such a thing would put Mandriva on solid financial footing for a while, which is definitely something they have been needing.

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  13. US government mostly uses Windows. Russian government strongly promotes Linux. Now you can know who is more corrrupt.

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  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  15. @ghmitch:
    Thank you for another long and detailed comment on my blog!
    I am sure that Russia is not the only country with flourishing corruption. And there is always thin line between "corruption" and "clever management".
    But does this behavior of Mandriva / Rosa / NGI show Linux community in good light to potential users? Are we sure that purpose always justifies methods?

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  16. @Scott Dowdle:
    >new release being bloated or having a radically different GUI... how does that differ from several other of the newer top distro releases?
    Other systems (I think you mean Fedora and Ubuntu with Unity here) do not grow in size twice just to accommodate new interface. Indeed, Unity and GNOME2 come in single CD for Ubuntu 11.04.

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  17. @Anonymous:
    >Russian government strongly promotes Linux.
    Errr? Where? In tenders for hardware for disabled children care centres with conditions only met by Apple laptops? In web site to prepare for state exams which only works under IE? Sorry, you have been misinformed.

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  18. @Anonymous:
    Your comment starting with "In US both Democrats and Republicans vote without blinking..." has been deleted.
    This blog is not a place for antisemitic propaganda.

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  19. I think it's interesting to have Mandriva under the control of an extremely rich person who is not Mark Shuttleworth. I say let's see what happens, could be good or bad. I agree that the latest Mandriva release is disappointing and overstuffed with bling, but I think ROSA Labs have some promise. And anyway, Mageia is there for those who want old Mandriva with new packages.

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  20. @Gmasterboots:
    The difference between Shuttleworth and Reiman is that Shuttleworth has never been a minister. He does not use administrative resources to push his company. He is in more or less competitive market acting equally with others, though he has some good starting point.
    Looking at Reiman, I can't guarantee true competition.

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  21. @DarkDuck
    Yes, that is the big difference (and I couldn't think of any other distributions with billionaire sponsors), that is why I said it will be interesting to see how Reiman manages things. If Linux is all about many different strategies all competing for attention, then this a new experiment. Whether it succeeds or fails, we (the ever-present Linux community) will learn how a new type of owner changes things. I hope, though, that it doesn't result in the loss of a distro, or messy GPL litigation.

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  22. Mandriva 2011 twice as big as 2010 is a major problem for me, and I've been a Mandrake/Mandriva user since before Red Hat decided not to distribute a community desktop (passing the torch, so as to say, to Fedora). When did this happen? 2002?

    Anyway, I'd much interested in a "diff" between Mandriva 2011 and 2010.2, just to know what has disappeared (I cannot believe a missing wi-fi driver and a new launch panel would fatten it that much).

    OTOH, I'm very worried about what has entered my favourite distribution. Maybe some packages for desktop management in corporations? (like Windows SMS, for instance)

    Let's no forget some products rely on size to appear more respectable (aka featuritis). Also, as of lately, desktops have grown to be somewhat massive, KDE being a perfect example with semantic search and more complex displays... it's even harder to understand for me (and I am a KDE4 user!) I'm a tad upset about Linux desktop surpassing W7 and Mac OS X in capabilities... and these two certainly are not lean systems!

    Regarding corruption, well, that's certainly not a problem exclusive to Russia. Newspapers even hack phones to have a better view of other people's secrets, and Wikileaks is getting famous for surprising revelations about supposedly honest governments. I trust community driven software development yield better results, because I've seen proprietary software approaches and the results are akin to disastrous (on many levels), so if there's got to be corruption, at least that the software be F/OSS. It's one less evil...

    BTW, thank you very much for the heads-up; another good article about a sensitive issue: well done!

    I'm hoping to stay with Mandriva for my newer computer acquisitions, but depending on what comes inside I might change my opinion.

    Also, writing is not just about orthography; style counts a lot and you certainly write in a non-boring way.

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  23. You should also mention the dirty trick played by Mandriva to their shareholder :
    - place all debts on a company that is owned by Mandriva.
    - declare bankruptcy
    - fire everybody in that company
    - do not pay the 4 millions euros of debts
    - reduce the share to the minimal value ( ie from 30 cents to 1 cent, which is the minimal value )
    and then start again to hire people with investement coming from a fiscal paradise.

    Your analysis regarding who own Mandriva is correct, the money come from NGI, owned by Arthur Akopyan and Rosalabs is managed by Dmitry Komissarov, who was the director of PingWin Software.

    It is also worth noting that despites having money, the worker are all fleeing to another free software related company, which is kinda worrying for most people.

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  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  25. Removing a post just because it criticizes the corruption schema active in US and UK shows how much freedom of speech and opinion is important for you, and how much you actually side with this corruption schema.

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  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  27. The support of Russian (and North-Korean, and Chinese, and Cuban etc.) government to Linux is very well known and documented. Looks like you are a bit outdated about your own country. An since the US government support to Windows is equally well known, then you can know where corruption is stronger.

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  28. How on earth is this "corruption"? Is the ex-minister actually handing bags of money to people in government to get them to select Mandriva for government computers? If not, then there's no corruption. It sounds to me like he's invested in Mandriva by contributing software to them from his own company, and then working on getting the government to select Mandriva, and that he's doing it using his contacts (i.e., he personally knows lots of people in the government). That's not corruption, that's called "networking". For it to be corruption, someone in the government has to be getting paid off to make a choice that's not in the government's best interest. There's nothing wrong with networking; people naturally like to work with people they already personally know, because there's a level of trust there that you don't have with strangers.

    If you want to see a government that's really corrupt, and probably the most corrupt in the world, look at the USA.

    And finally, what is all the vague BS about Mandriva being too big?
    ">You say oversized? In what way?
    In the way that Mandriva 2011 weights twice more than Mandriva 2010."
    Huh? Are you saying the Mandriva DVD actually has more mass than a standard DVD? I don't think that's possible. What'd they do, add a layer of lead to it?

    Or are you just talking about the software included by default? Software doesn't weigh anything. And who cares anyway? With everyone having 1TB hard drives, I fail to see what the problem is. More software doesn't make anything "bloated", unless you're actually running the software. One thing I usually do when I install a new distro version on my desktop PC is to install most of the games available (which is a LOT on a Debian-based distro), plus tons of other stuff I may or may not use. Why not? A few GB of hard drive space is nothing to me, and it doesn't slow down the system. Have you actually done a diff to see what was added, and what its real impact will be? You could make a really "lightweight" distro by leaving out Firefox, Open/LibreOffice, and many other useful and popular apps, but what's the point? Users will have to immediately download and install these apps to make their systems useful to them. A bigger install media (CD/DVD) with more software means less stuff they have to download.

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  29. @Anonymous who continues:
    This is my own blog and nobody told you it is a place for free speech. If you continue pushing your dirty messages here, I'll impose manual approval for comments. I think other readers won't be happy about this.

    For you and for anyone else.
    The USA is not the only country in the world. Americans is not the only nation in the world.
    Any negative comment mentioning people of other nations or leaving in certain countries (Jews, Israelis, Russians, Bulgarians, Australians...) can hurt honest and modest people leaving there. That's why I will never tolerate this behaviour and will always delete such comments.

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  30. @Anonymous:
    >The support of Russian (and North-Korean, and Chinese, and Cuban etc.) government to Linux is very well known and documented.
    Support of American government to "democracy" is well know and documented (Vietnam, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan).
    Don't believe propaganda. Trust facts. And I have already mentioned at least couple of them where FOSS was not priority for Russian government.
    I also know that at least some of Russian ministries use Windows as their desktop and server solution without any plans to change.
    Both US and Russian (and many other) governments use Linux. RedHat in US Ministry of Defence, Alt Linux in some Russian schools etc.
    Truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle.

    That's why I started this discussion.

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  31. @Grishnakh:
    Have you seen many cases when corruption cases for top politicians were proven?
    Will you believe that big powerful people will do anything "just for networking" when it concerns allocating of big piece of government budget? It is not necessary direct bag of money. It can be "roll-backs", indirect bribery, presents etc. Are they legal?

    My term "weight" relates to amount of kilobytes/megabytes for the distribution. In this case, Mandriva 2011 has 1.6Gb while Mandriva 2010.2 was less than 700Mb. I did not do detailed difference check, but top-level showed nothing strategically new, except for new taskbar and menu.
    Your comment about terabytes is not very valid. You won't believe, but many people still use computers with 1-2 Gb of memory running with 1.5-2GHz processors, 60-100GB hard drives or even less. Also, not everyone has unlimited fast internet connection. Some areas of Russia, say, still only have dial-up connection as the only available option. That's why distribution size matters. If you like to stuff your HDD with tons of additional software, it is your preference. I don't judge you for this, but don't push your experience and habits to others.

    And anyway... thanks for your comment! I think every comment in this discussion matters!

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  32. @darkduck: As I said before, the more popular software a distro sticks on its install media, the less people have to download. So if you're stuck with dial-up, you want a distro that stuffs as much software on their DVD as possible (and you definitely don't want to waste time with a CD), so you can just use that and not waste time downloading apps over dial-up. In fact, a multi-DVD package would be even better. But just because they're on the install media doesn't mean you have to actually install them all. All you seem to have talked about here is the size of the install media, which is utterly irrelevant; what's important is how much software is actually being installed, and what is it? Is it software you actually need for the system to run, or is it just extra junk you can uninstall?

    As for hardware, if you have a 100GB drive, that's still plenty for installing everything from a 4.7GB DVD and having 80-90% of your disk space free.

    I'm not pushing my habits on everyone, but you seem to be pushing your preferences on everyone by demanding a minimalist distro when there's no reason for one. If you don't want a lot of extra software from the install DVD, just don't install it. It's there for people who do want it and don't want to download it.

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  33. @Grishnakh:
    Let me again disagree with you.
    Why do I need to download DVD if I don't need most part of it?
    Also, I'd like to mention that I have not noticed much changes or additions in Mandriva 2011 compared to Mandriva 2010.2 in terms of pre-packaged software. The only change is taskbar and menu. That makes me very suspicious if all these additional Mbs are just price for new doubtful functionality, and if they were pushed to Mandriva 2011 by wish of new Mandriva management?

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  34. Once upon a time, we the Russians sincerely believed that our country was the world greatest and the hope of all Humanity. Now we sincerely believe that our government is the most corrupted, our mafia is the most cruel, and our destination is more doomed than any other. Thus, I tend to agree with each and every word of the article.

    However, I am surprised to see that the phone carriers here are better than there, including the US, and even our Internet access is second only to that of the Asian Tigers. We do not know what a locked phone is, BTW.

    So, corrupted or not, Reiman has real achievements and proven abilities. Will it help Linux or not remains to be seen.

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  35. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for clever comment with nice SOH.
    Спасибо за толковый комментарий с хорошим чувством юмора.

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  36. @DarkDuck: If you're stuck with a slow connection, why are you stupidly downloading a whole DVD? Ever heard of the postal service? Just buy a DVD with your favorite Linux distro burned on it. Surely there's plenty of places that offer DVD-Rs with Linux for cheap prices. The postal service has far, far, far greater bandwidth than any network connection. The latency isn't so great though, but for installation DVDs that's not important.

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  37. @Grishnakh:
    You are very right about option to buy DVD from many available on-line stores. You won't believe, but I run one of those: Buy Linux CDs.
    But from user's perspective, why should he need to buy/download whole DVD, if most of it is not needed?

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  38. Hi from the UK. Gotta agree with DarkDuck here. Poor download speeds will test a users patience for obtaining a full featured OS over the interwebs.
    I personally advocate a 'best of the field' choice selection (no dupes) of included software, no matter what the ISO size. This is fine for those with good BB of course, but postal service? Well okay if the infrastructure is that bad, but a minimal OS does allow easy, bandwidth friendly, selection of required apps.

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  39. @Anonymous:
    Funny enough, I am from UK as well. But I was born and lived most of my life in Russia. I know Russian realities.
    That's why I still see no point to over-inflate distro size without actual need.

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  40. Russian experiments with Linux and open source in schools, too.

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  41. @meet single people:
    Yes, they do, but not with Mandriva in that case. Alt Linux is more popular for school project.

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  42. Who can promote company among public sector better than ex-minister, especially if we talk about Russia?

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  43. @Cheap Web Design:
    Don't mix up promotion as a result of fair and voluntary tender with pushing a product into government organisations because your company will be paid for support.

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  44. Arthur Akopyan and Rosalabs is managed by Dmitry Komissarov, who was the director of PingWin Software.

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    1. So what?
      Management and ownership are two distinct things.

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  45. That makes me very suspicious if all these additional Mbs are just price for new doubtful functionality, and if they were pushed to Mandriva 2011 by wish of new Mandriva management?

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  46. If you don't want a lot of extra software from the install DVD, just don't install it. It's there for people who do want it and don't want to download it.

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    Replies
    1. I am not sure about Mandriva, but most Linux installers do NOT allow you to choose which components to install. Definitely the case for Mageia, my favourite distro, which forked from Mandriva not so long ago.

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