Verdict: Excellent Distribution (Mandriva 2008.1 with KDE 3.5.x.)
In practice, Mandriva turns out to be a wonderful GNU/Linux distribution that makes computing a totally CLI-free nirvana. The developers should be proud.
Having received a new computer a few days ago, I tried a variety of distributions on it (both 32- and 64-bit). The maturity of GNU/Linux was demonstrated by the fact that, in all cases, everything worked right ‘out of the box’.
I don’t consider myself qualified to write a comprehensive review, which would also require time and dedication. But in any event, this is just a note to say thank you for the Mandriva team, which put together a wonderful product.
Time will tell if it will stay this way, at least in the sense that a lifetime of a distribution and it success cannot be measured based on just a few days of regular use. I used Mandrake on two of my PCs before, but never used Mandriva. The loss was mine.
Package management: super (so far, so good)
KDE integration with Mandriva’s tools and branding: good
Hardware support: based on a single test, all is great
Installer: better than (or on par with) any of the others that I tried
None so far. I just don’t fancy the default wallpaper, but that’s easy to take care of.
The Possible Snag
There is still a level of caution when it comes Mandriva because of Manbo (Turbolinux has an intellectual monopoly deal with Microsoft and it swaps code/RPMs with Mandriva). This should not be an issue, according to Alan W. and others in Mandriva, including the CEO. We also asked the FSF about it.
Time will tell, but I don’t want to end up like I did with SUSE. I used it at home and at work for years prior to the Microsoft/Novell deal. It goes back to S.u.S.E. days.
The Beranger Take
Mandriva dreads Beranger, a renowned Linux guru who comments constructively without much mercy. In my correspondence with Beranger, who is intimately familiar with this distribution, some interesting points came up. We share them here for completeness:
“I hope you meant “KDE3″, not KDE4,” he wrote. “Mandriva has different set of bugs twice a year. Was it “Mandriva 2008″ or “Mandriva 2008.1 (Spring)”? Try the other one and you’ll see different bugs out of the box!”
Regarding support, he shared: “All Mandriva Linux editions are supported for twelve months (desktop packages) or eighteen months (core packages) for official updates from the product release date. The Mandriva Product Lifetime Policy describes the supported life for Mandriva software products.”
“But they can barely fix the bugs for the current release,” he argued.
“Mandriva 2009 will have KDE 4.1, and they’ll only have KDE 3.5.9 in “contrib”. That means it’ll be less supported, specifically “contrib” gets NO security fixes!!! So this (2008 Spring) is the last Mandriva with KDE3, in real terms.”
About “contrib”: “These updates are not tested, signed or supported by the Mandriva security team; they are built and issued by the maintainers of the ‘contrib’ packages. We do not guarantee that all maintainers will issue security or bugfix updates, but we provide this media for those maintainers who choose to do so.”
“All in all, Mandriva 2008.1 has been a wonderful GNU/Linux distribution so far.”“They had a Mandriva Corporate Desktop 3.0 (KDE-only),” he told me, “and they claimed to have issued a Mandriva Corporate Desktop 4.0 (KDE-only too), but they’re now both unavailable from the online store!!! Actually, MCD4 was never available in the store!!!”
He concluded with: “Too bad, Mandriva can’t afford to maintain a Desktop distro that would have been supported for years… and it was a KDE3 distro!”
The debate here seems to revolve a lot around updates, which is probably not a huge concern anyway. In Free software, upgrades rarely involve much trouble, or even a payment. So, that last bit is a rant to be taken with a grain of salt but not to be ignored. All in all, Mandriva 2008.1 has been a wonderful GNU/Linux distribution so far. Consider giving it a try. █