Hands on with Mageia 3

Taking a look at this excellent Linux distribution suitable for anyone from first-time Linux installations to seasoned hands.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor on

This is another "catch-up" post as Mageia 3 was actually released just over a week ago (19 May). 

It has been very interesting to watch Mageia grow up, from their start as a dedicated group of Mandriva developers and users who forked Mandriva —  to a first-class distribution today.

For those who have commented on my previous post about Debian 7.0 with concerns about some (proprietary) drivers having to be added manually, or whether upgrading from a previous release works properly, Mageia provides a good contrast. 

This distribution has included drivers for every device on every system I have installed it on so far - where Debian required manual intervention for the Broadcom 43xx and Ralink 3290 WiFi adapters and Radeon HD graphic controller, Mageia not only handled the WiFi adapters but it also informed me that there is a proprietary driver available for the Radeon HD (fglrx, of course) and asked if I wanted to install it. 

Personally I find this even easier than what Ubuntu (and Mint, and others) does with the jockey utility to inform you about the proprietary driver after installation is complete, and it is way easier than what you have to go through to get fglrx installed on Debian, Fedora, openSuSE and such. 

Obviously this still leads to the question of how you feel about installing non-FOSS packages and how much you want to know about what is really happening during the installation, but if your concern is simply getting things installed and working, it doesn't get much simpler than this.  Anyway, the bottom line here is that when the installation was complete, everything worked, period.

As for upgrading, in response to the comments on my previous post I have tested this release three different ways. 

First, starting from a single-file-system installation of Mageia2 (no separate /home partition) and using the DVD Installer image, Mageia noticed the installed system (even this is not entirely trivial, because I am doing this on a system which has anywhere from four to 10 other Linux partitions), offered to either upgrade it or make a clean installation, and when told to upgrade it did that with absolutely no problem. 

Second, starting from a Mageia 2 installation with a separate /home, again the installer saw the existing installation and upgraded it with no problem. 

Finally, ignoring an existing installation and making a fresh install also worked (of course).

The Release Notes give all the usual details and information about this release. Here are just a few of the things that I find most interesting:

  • Linux kernel 3.8
  • Desktops: KDE 4.10, Gnome 3.6, Xfce 4.10, LXDE 0.5.5, e17 and RazorQT. Whew!
  • LibreOffice 4.0.3, the absolute latest available

Oh, and I should mention at this point the one thing which disappointed me about this release - no built-in UEFI Boot support. 

I have seen a couple of comments indicating that you can add UEFI support yourself by installing grub2-efi (duh). I have done this with other distributions, and I can tell you that while it is possible, and not terribly difficult, the simple fact is that if UEFI boot is a priority for you, the best bet is to choose a Linux distribution which has support for it already built in. 

As a result, in this case I have not installed Mageia 3 on my UEFI systems. I have installed it on my Aspire One 522 (where the screen shots included here were made), HP Pavilion dm1-3105ez and Fujitsu Lifebook S6510. 

Of course, if your priority is to get this distribution installed on a UEFI machine, the other alternative is to simply enable "Legacy" boot support, and treat it just like any other traditional installtion.

The Mageia distribution is available in three formats:

  • DVD Installer, ~4GB, either 32-bit or 64-bit.  Note this is an Installer, not a Live image.
  • CD Installer, ~700MB, dual architecure, again an Installer, not a Live image.
  • Live CD/DVD, only for Live boot and new installations, can not be used to upgrade Mageia 2.  Start with this one if you want to find out whether your hardware is fully supported before installing, or just to "get your feet wet" and see how it looks and works before installing it.

I have previously installed Mageia from the Live images, but there always seemed to be some small problems with locale and keyboard settings. This time I decided to use the DVD Installation image, and it was much smoother and produced a better result. 

The installation program is a full-blown GUI application (as opposed to the recent Debian installer, which was an ascii program with the mouse added), and it walks through the installation process very clearly and easily.  One big advantage of the DVD installer is that all of the desktops are included, so you can choose whichever one(s) you want without having to worry about getting the "right" Live image, or having to install just one first and then add whatever others later. The installation process took longer than I am used to with Live images, something like 40 minutes rather than 15 minutes or so, but it also installs a lot more packages.

I chose only the KDE desktop, which comes up looking like this with the default theme (this was taken on the Aspire One 522, a netbook with 1024x600 display):

Mageia KDE Menu
Mageia 3 KDE Menu

 On this kind of system I prefer to switch to the KDE Netbook Desktop, which then looks like this:

Mageia KDE Netbook
Mageia 3 KDE Netbook Desktop

Yeah, I know, I just keep going on and on about the KDE Netbook desktop. It's just that good. Honestly.

One of the most important things to keep in mind about Mageia is the dedication of the developers and the enthusiasm of the users. 

Producing a Linux distribution of this size and quality requires a very large amount of very hard work, and the developers have really done an excellent job of it. They are justifiably proud of what they have produced. 

The same can be said of a large body of Mageia users, they are proud of the distribution and they want to help make it successful. If you try Mageia and run into any problems, or have questions about it, the Mageia Forums are an excellent source of information and assistance.

In summary, Mageia 3 is an excellent Linux distribution that is suitable for pretty much anyone from first-time Linux installations and novice users to seasoned hands. 

I know that the new Linux Mint release is coming very soon (in fact I just saw the release announcement) and that it will get a lot of (well deserved) attention. 

But if you want to look at an alternative for any reason (perhaps you just don't like Ubuntu/Canonical/Shuttleworth, you don't like Cinnamon or MATE, you prefer a smaller, more "personal" distribution, one where you might be able to get involved and really make a contribution, or you are just curious), I would strongly encourage anyone to give Mageia 3 a try, it is very likely to impress you, as it did me.

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