Mandriva Linux 2006

Mandriva Linux 2006

Summary: Mandriva occupies the middle ground between consumer-focused and business-orientated Linux distributions. It's generally well put together, but lacks some details.

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  • Editors' rating:
    7.7
  • User rating:
    8.4
  • RRP:
    £136.00

Pros

  • Fast installation, especially from DVD
  • support for 64-bit systems
  • sensible selection of applications

Cons

  • Poor printer support
  • handholding during installation may not be tight enough for newcomers
  • lacks Exchange support

Despite combining the heritage of Mandrakesoft and Connectiva, Mandriva is usually considered a second-tier Linux distribution. Nevertheless, the latest version, Mandriva Linux 2006, is well packaged and includes support for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. The software comes on seven CDs, or one DVD (you actually get two DVDs -- one for 32-bit and one for 64-bit systems). Alternatively, you can download it from Mandriva's Web site.

Mandriva 2006 PowerPack+ (€199, or ~£136) comes with two large paper manuals, each with a different purpose: one is presented as a 'starter guide' for newcomers, while the other is a 'server administration guide' for old hands. There are two cheaper Mandriva 2006 versions: PowerPack (€79.9, or ~£55) has basic rather than full server functions, while Discovery/Lx (€44.9, or ~£31) lacks server functions and comes with fewer desktop applications than the PowerPack versions.

The slogan on this distribution is 'Switch to Linux', and the starter guide takes that literally, clearly aiming to help users of other operating systems find their feet. A straightforward chapter introduces the basics of Linux and takes the user through the installation process. After that, the next chapter 'Discovering Mandriva Linux' begins with 'Migrating to Linux from Windows and Mac OS', and proceeds to answer the generic question: 'Where's my...[Start Menu, Applications, etc]?' Despite appearances, though, the manual was no more help than most of its ilk when we used it in anger.

The package installed smoothly on both our up-to-date Acer Tablet (TravelMate C312XMi), and on our more mainstream 2.4GHz HP desktop PC. The DrakX installer by and large covered the options we needed, and guided us to the kind of installation we wanted. The installation was noticeably fast, particularly using the DVD.

The hand-holding was a bit slack in places, however. We found the disk partitioner a little harder to use than YaST2. It includes a good visualisation of the disk partitions in different colours, but choosing the manual partitioning option could lead the unwary into a dead end, from which it's very hard to get back. The automatic partition option, on the other hand, set up a working Mandriva for us without any trouble.

The Mandriva installer also failed to advise us as effectively as it should in the matter of security. Where SUSE's YaST2 prompted us to create secure passwords, Mandriva let inadequate passwords stand (dictionary words, all in lower case), without question.

When installing applications, Mandriva's install routine prompted us on our file format of choice, offering to set up OpenOffice to save documents in Microsoft Word format or its own format, which is a nice touch for users who are migrating.

As usual, we chose the GNOME interface, so we wound up in a familiar desktop environment. Mandriva does choose its own icons for some things, however. For example, its use of a nondescript globe rather than the usual Firefox logo had us searching through menus to find a browser that we could have launched from the taskbar. Like other Linux distros, Mandriva includes the Evolution email/calendaring program, OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheet, presentations and so on, and Gaim for instant messaging. The basics set up easily.

Installing a network printer turned out to be difficult, however. Although other distros found the standard HP laser printer on our office (Windows) LAN, we had to install Mandriva twice to get it printing. SUSE Linux and Novell Linux Desktop, for example, use the YaST2 tool to find and install printers, but Mandriva has its own control panel, which seems unable to add a networked printer.

It's a trek to the right window to do this: Applications/System/Configuration/Configuration takes you to the Mandriva Linux Control Center, which contains a further option for Hardware, and then a Printer Set-up window. Clicking to Add a printer gave us options to add local printers only. The tool seemed to be unaware of the possibility of a networked printer, or to communicate its abilities in that area.

Looking up Add printer in the manual, we were advised to use the PrinterDrake tool -- but not given any indication of how to find or launch that tool. The help pages for the Control Center were identical, however, so we assume we were already using PrinterDrake under a different name.

Checking the menus for other options, we found a Configuration option in Applications/System, which also promised printer settings. This gave us the choice of managing the ink in an Epson printer, running a printer utility program with a Lexmark, or launching an X Windows printer utility -- which aborted because no printer was configured.

Eventually we stumbled across a way of adding a networked printer when we had to reinstall the OS for other reasons. During the final stages of the installation process, when the installer is configuring the hardware, it's possible to search for printers and add them very simply by clicking buttons. The installer found dozens of printers on our network and printed a test page on our chosen one. We can't believe this functionality isn't available inside the operating system: do we really have to reinstall every time we want to use a new printer? If the option is available when the OS is installed and running, it's very well hidden.

We were disappointed with the Evolution client, too. It works well, but in Mandriva is supplied without the Microsoft Exchange connector which -- let's face it -- will be needed on most corporate desktops. Although it's possible to connect to an Exchange server via IMAP, this is more fiddly than using the Exchange connector, which could easily be made available.

The Mandriva site makes much of the fact that Skype telephony is 'fully integrated' with the distribution. Skype launched and worked, which is good, but we didn't see much evidence of integration -- how about Skype buttons in Evolution, similar to the Skype taskbar for Microsoft Outlook? Other applications included a personal finance program called GnuCash.

The GNOME desktop performed as well on Mandriva as other distributions we tried, but -- probably by sheer bad luck -- it was in this one that we suffered the incident that all Linux newbies fear: an accidental combination of keystrokes -- experimenting around Ctrl-Alt-E to try and get a euro symbol -- crashed the system and dumped us at a $-prompt command line, with no obvious route back to our unsaved work.

Free services with Mandriva Linux 2006 include Web-based technical support (for 90, 60 and 30 days respectively with PowerPack+, PowerPack and Discovery/Lx); you also get one month's free membership of the Mandriva Club online forum and one month of free Mandriva Online updates (three months with PowerPack+). A variety of paid support options are available here.

Conclusion

Mandriva 2006 provides a solid system that installs and boots fast, and runs quickly on ordinary hardware. However, it's not our first choice for a desktop Linux distribution, owing to the difficulty of setting up printers, and the lack of in-built support for Microsoft Exchange.

Specifications

There are currently no specifications for this product.

Prices

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Topics: Operating Systems, Reviews, Software

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43 comments
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  • 9.0

    anonymous
  • 8.5

    For example: make sure that Kat is not installed (normally installed by default).

    Further this is the best OS I ever used.
    anonymous
  • 4.5

    Once upon a time I bought Mandrake 8.0 powerpack After a lot of messing about I finally had a small network with dial up internet sharing working fairly well . Then along came Mandrake 9.1 powerpack which I duly purchased and installed only to find most of the configuration tools and updater were broken bugged and unusable.
    Last year I downloaded 2005LE
    and mandriva 2006. Strangely although both were download editions The 2005LE installed easily the Nvidia card and display worked and after the usual fiddling I had a broadband connection to Tiscali using the supplied Sagem fast 800 USB modem.
    The 2006 version however was not a success and I stuggled to get the display working and never did get the broadband modem to connect.
    Undeterred and in the nieve belief that you get what you pay for I bought the 2006 Powerpack edition and did an upgrade!!? install over the 2005LE. Ah well I should have known it would trash everything leaving me with a display trying to go into meltdown and a broadband connection that no longer worked and defied all attempts to fix it. I did leave the option to boot into the older version however so maybe all was not lost. Alas it was now that too failed to connect and the display was garbage.
    Well then no point in waiting so I went ahead and did the clean install of 2006 which installed the nvidia driver and got the display back but to date the broadband modem has failed to get me back on line because it appears the Mandriva tools for the job (and there are many if you include eagle and raving penguin offerings)all fall down in the simple task of communicating with the Sagem fast800.
    If you want to use Mandriva my advice would be try the download edition first, if it doesn't work then dont delude yourself that the full product will. Also from my experience I would suggest 2005LE is better anyway.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 9.0

    anonymous
  • 8.0

    anonymous
  • 10.0

    Easy install, a lot of CPU support, good Chinese character support, NTFS support, I/O speed up.
    anonymous
  • 9.5

    You can install a printer easily with the Mandrake control center. Don't blame Mandriva for your lack of familiarity with Mandriva config tools.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    Having used all of the distros tested Mandriva is still my choice for the desktop although my window manager of choice is KDE. I do find it odd that you had so much trouble configuring a networked printer or partitioning a harddrive which are very simple tasks in the excellent set up process.
    anonymous
  • 7.0

    anonymous
  • 9.5

    Everthing you need is on the DVD. Mandrive installs witin 30 minutes with all the applications you have choosen. OpenOffice, Mplayer, Evolution etc. etc.

    No drivers to look for. Everything works direct from the box.

    The only thing you have to do is loading libdvdcss for playing DVD's from other source, because of copyright issues.

    With the tool urpmi upgrading is very simple to do.
    anonymous
  • 9.0

    My experience with Linux started some 3 years ago with Mandrake 9.0, later on I spent a lot of time using Fedora/Aurox ("Polish" Fedora-based distro) and SuSE/SUSE. I love SUSE, Fedora is... well, acceptable for me if no SUSE and no Mandriva are available. Recently with no internet access at home I HAD TO switch to Mandriva as neither Fedora nor SUSE seem to care for video dvd's, divx, mp3 which is AWFUL!! I tried Aurox, but despite being Polish it doesn't seem to be POLISHED <lol> well enough when it comes to working well with my hardware... So LONG LIVE MANDRIVA, especially 2006!! (in 2005 LE I had a problem with mc and k3b)
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    I'd just like to point out that this distribution supports netprinters and Exchange. Installing netprinter can't be more easier than using printerdrakes wizard. You can energise printerdrake from drakconf or from commandline by typing printerdrake. Exchange plugin for Evolution comes with package named as evolution-exchange. You can install it from packagemanager.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    Excelent for the "Average Joe". Comes with almost everything a user commonly needs, has good configuration assistants, and is very responsive (Actualy using on a 256M RAM Amd600).
    anonymous
  • 4.5

    Mandriva has up until now been one of the best distro's for newbies. Yes everything is more or less presented and configures in a noob friendly way. That is until you discover one of the pertinent bugs in 2006 (Development spapshot of Xorg, logrotate bug, KAT, etc; that will affect the majority of users), which will scare you away from either Mandriva, or possible Linux in general. What's more you have to pay for official support, for a sub-standard product you may have already paid good money for! If you are going to try it, probably try the free version first and read up on the errata and unofficial forums for advice before installing!
    anonymous
  • 8.5

    anonymous
  • 4.5

    Performance is poor compared to contenders, some fetures is not present out of the box .
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 8.0

    Administration and configuration of MandrakeLinux 10.1 was much easier than Mandrivia 2006. I feel Mandrake has taken a step backwards. ...too bad too as this was my favorite distro.
    anonymous
  • 9.5

    anonymous