Mageia 4.0, hands-on: Another excellent release

This forked distribution that has carried the Mandriva torch for several years delivers its fourth major release.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

A few years ago (September 2010 to be exact), when things got really crazy with the Mandriva distribution, some of the core developers and users announced that they were establishing a fork to continue the development and distribution with the new name Mageia. That has proven to be a very good decision, because they have just made their fourth major release.

The Mageia Linux Welcome Window


The Mageia 4.0  Release Announcement gives a brief overview of the new release, but to me what is really important about it is the tone. This was obviously written by people who are happy with what they are doing, and are excited to make a new release for general use. The release notes contain a lot more technical detail, and this is where you start to see how much work went into this release.

The release can be obtained from their Downloads web page, where you will find a very well thought-out selection of ISO images. 

There are, of course, the usual Live images (both DVD and CD, for those of you who care about image size), and there are Installer images which are much larger, contain much more software, but can't be booted to a Live desktop. 

There are also Network Install images which are very small, just enough to boot a basic set of tools and then download the rest of the installation from the internet. The Installation Media wiki page gives a pretty good overview of what is available and why.

There are Live images for KDE and Gnome, either 1.4GB with all languages included or 700MB with only English. The full-blown installer DVD is 3.7GB, and includes Gnome, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, Cinnamon and MATE.  There is also "Dual Arch" installer which has 32-bit and 64-bit architecture support, with Xfce only in about 1GB. All of the Mageia ISO files are hybrid images, so you can copy them to a USB stick with dd, or of course you can burn them to CD/DVD disks.

This release of Mageia does not support UEFI Boot. The release announcement includes a link to Experimental UEFI Support, which in turn says that although UEFI is not fully supported in this release, there is preliminary "experimental" support included for those brave enough to try it, and they are planning to include official UEFI support in Mageia 5. 

I was brave enough to try it, but I didn't get very far. 

I downloaded the full DVD image and burned it to a disk, then booted that on my HP Pavilion dm1 - or at least I tried to boot it. It came up in the UEFI boot selection menu, and when I selected it I got the initial GRUB menu, but when I then tried to boot the installation process, it hung.

I was able to get around that problem by enabling Legacy Boot support in the UEFI BIOS, then booting and installing Mageia that way. I don't particularly like doing this, but I was determined to get this release installed on the HP. 

Once it was installed I disabled Legacy Boot again, and just added Mageia to the openSuSE GRUB boot menu (well, I didn't even have to "add" it myself, I just ran grub2-mkconfig).

The Mageia installer will look familiar to old Mandriva (Mandrake) users, as it is still essentially the same process. Although this can be good, because it is well known, thoroughly tested and very stable, it is also completely different from what many of the other Linux distributions are doing, and its age is starting to show. The Mageia installer asks questions before, during and after installation, so you can't just start it and then ignore it until it is finished. It will be interesting to see how they manage to get UEFI support integrated into it.

Once I got it installed and running, the initial KDE desktop looked like this:

Mageia KDE
The Mageia KDE Desktop

I wanted to install Mageia specifically on the HP dm1 because this is the system with a Ralink 3290 WiFi adapter, and so far only Fedora (and Korora, derived from Fedora) have worked correctly on it.

The others I have installed lose the wi-fi connection after a few minutes, and are not able to reconnect.  Fedora is running Linux kernel 3.12, and all the others are still at 3.11 or less; Mageia is also running 3.12, so I wanted to see if that fixed the problem... and it does!  I'm pleased to say that wireless networking has been working perfectly with Mageia, and I have been running it for several hours now.

So, a few specifics: Mageia 4.0 is running Linux kernel 3.12.8, KDE 4.11.4, and X.org X Server 1.14.5.  The Live images include both Firefox and Konqueror web browsers, LibreOffice, GIMP, Gwenview, Amarok and Dragon View media player. I was a bit disappointed that it doesn't include digiKam in the base distribution, but that is only a few mouse-clicks away in the repositories.

As always with KDE, the Netbook desktop can be activated rather than the standard desktop. I have installed Mageia 4 on my Samsung N150 Plus, and the netbook display on that system looks like this:

KDE Netbook
Mageia KDE Netbook Desktop

 I have also installed Mageia 4 from the Installer DVD on my Lenovo T400 - this time with the Gnome 3 desktop. It got the dual monitor configuration right, with the laptop display (1280x800) and the external HP monitor (1920x1080) at optimal resolution. This screen shot was taken from the default (laptop) display only.

Mageia Gnome
The Mageia Gnome 3 Desktop

 This Mageia release uses Gnome 3.10.2, so it has pretty much all of the latest bells and whistles. One thing that confused me a bit was the way that Network Manager was integrated in the Gnome desktop. Rather than being integrated in the User/Power/Audio icon (top right of the screen), it has been moved down to the Notifications area (bottom right of the screen).

Mageia Network Center

As I am not a regular Gnome 3 user, I don't know if this is a general change in the latest Gnome release, or if it is something special in Mageia.

I can tell you that when I wanted to manually switch from wired to wireless network connection, it was plenty confusing until I figured out what had moved where. I suspect that this is something specific to Mageia, because when I finally found the network utility, what came up was the same Network Center window that has been used in Mageia (and Mandriva) for about as long as I can remember.

So, overall I would say that this looks like a really good new release.  It has a good selection of Live and Installer images, it has installed very easily on the three laptops I have tired so far, and all of the hardware was recognised and configured and works with no problem.  It actually recognised the Radeon display adapter in the HP dm1, and offered to install the proprietary driver, but I don't use that so I declined. 

The selection of desktops is impressive, but keep in mind that there are Live images only for KDE and Gnome, if you want the others you have to either use the Installer DVD or the Network Install. Once installed it works very well.

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