About this site

Site news

Latest site additions:

Updated January 13rd 2008:
My LIRC page: The Linux Audio Server Project - Revisited

Added January 3rd 2008:
My (K/X/)Ubuntu review: Ubuntu - beyond the hype

Added December 2nd 2007:
My Mandriva 2008.0 review

Added November 20th 2007:
The configuration page of Mandriva Linux 2008.0

Added November 18th 2007:
The Installation walkthrough of Mandriva Linux 2008.0

Added November 17th 2007:
The review of openSUSE 10.3

Added July 8th 2007:
The Configuration page of Mandriva Linux 2007.1 Spring

Added July 1st 2007:
The Installation walkthrough of Mandriva Linux 2007.1 Spring

Added December 18th 2005:
The third and final part of my Mandriva Linux 2006 review

Added November 14th 2005:
The second part of my Mandriva Linux 2006 review

Added November 6th 2005:
The first part of my Mandriva Linux 2006 review

For older additions please see the articles page.

"I wrote this song for all my friends..." -- 'little' Stevie Vai

To explain my motivation for this site I have written this page. You will find that my motivation is far from selfless, but I strive towards a goal that in my humble opinion serves the common good, as you can read below.
Basically, I have recently made the transition from windows to Linux. Well, recently is actually almost 2 years ago (NB: true at the date I first wrote this, early 2003). Now I'm often helping friends out on how to use Mandrake Linux (or other flavours of Linux), if I can. BTW, I mainly use KDE nowadays, so any desktop manager related things will likely be restricted on how to do it with KDE...

Why Linux?

I firmly believe that open source is the key to freedom in the digital world, honest prices, avoidance of single-supplier lock-in, and good quality. There are definitely other options than Linux, but I think Linux is the most viable. It is gaining enormous momentum in the business world, and is backed by large multinationals like Sun, IBM and Intel.

Why Mandrake Linux?

The answer to this question is twofold, firstly: any distribution I will recommend and spend time and effort to learn must be (as much as possible) fully free/open source. Secondly: it must be userfriendly, both to install and to use, and if possible with good community support.
Ad.1: The notion of fully open source implies the following important things:

  1. since the source is in the public domain and therefore forever available, there will never be the impossibility of support; also it makes the idea of the distribution maker going bankrupt irrelevant, since others can, in the spirit of the GNU-GPL, continue the distribution (be it under another name if legally necessary). Even if Mandrake goes bust (what I don't think), this won't matter: the code is in the public domain and can never be taken out of it.
  2. anyone is allowed to make copies of the data and distribute them, install on as many machines as desired etc.
  3. there can be no lock-in from the distribution maker, therefore guaranteeing the users independence and freedom
  4. in relation with the former point, there is no way a hostile take-over would work, because all those interested could just create a new distro, based on the old one

This effectively rules out SuSE, Lycoris, Xandros, LindowsOS/Linspire, Libranet, to name a few. Update: I have been informed that SuSE actually can be considered back into the picture, my biggest grief about SuSE was the no-copies thing (the only proprietary part of SuSE is YAST(2) and I'm not so worried about lock-in as for that, since in SuSE you can configure things without even touching YAST), which is actually not true. I repeat: yes you are allowed to make a copy of SuSE from/for a friend.

Ad.2: From the distros that remain, I think RedHat and Mandrake are the most userfriendly to install, use and maintain. I have installed and used RedHat, but there were too many things to my liking that made me choose Mandrake. There are many small, personal and possibly not very relevant and/or important reasons. Problems to get mp3 playback working on RH, to name one, and the better configuration tools on Mandrakes side to name another.
Big advantages of Mandrake: NTFS resizing (available first in Mandrake 9.1), urpmi (no dependency problems). And another thing: RedHat has always taken the position that GNU/Linux is just for the serverside of things, not for the desktop, and Mandrake has always aimed at the desktopuser. Only when RedHat noticed that Mandrake was having considerable success did they change their tune..
Anyway, I find it important that you can really test all functionality of the distribution before (or even without) buying. I personally do support Mandrake financially, but chose to do so after I was more satisfied with their distro than with that other often used Operating System.
I realise that there are many more possibilities out there, but I won't go into those.
As for community support, see the links-section to find the addresses of resources for Mandrake Linux -- you'll find links to forums and instructive sites.

Addition (December 30th 2003):

Mandrake has published a Press Release that I find interesting enough to mention here. They mention 8 Golden Rules that MandrakeSoft will live up to:

  1. Software updates for all Mandrake products
    Official MandrakeSoft software updates -- including bug fixes and security updates -- will remain freely available for all public supported products, according to the official product lifetime table.
  2. Product lifetimes are not hidden
    A product lifetime table for all major MandrakeSoft products is publicly available on the Mandrake Linux website. For example, the Mandrake Linux 9.2 Download, Discovery, PowerPack and ProSuite editions will be supported with core updates until March 30, 2005.
  3. Product lifetimes do not change during a product's lifetime
    The support lifetimes are respected, and may sometimes even be extended.
  4. Free as in 'Libre' and Free as in 'Beer'!
    A download version of Mandrake Linux, consisting entirely of Open Source software, will continue to be released, provided without cost, and supported.
  5. MandrakeSoft's code conforms to the GPL
    ALL applications created by MandrakeSoft, such as the Mandrake Linux installer and Linux configuration utilities, are released under the General Public License. Our firm commitment to the GPL is the appropriate way to "give back" to the Free Software community.
  6. Mandrake Linux -- A true Open Source project
    The development of Mandrake Linux is conducted entirely in accordance to the Open Source spirit. Development of Mandrake Linux products are based on "Cooker", which is a publicly available development platform and community. Cooker provides complete access to:
    1. Source code -- through a CVS repository
    2. Direct communication with developers -- through numerous mailing-lists
    3. And a 'Wiki' collaborative website
  7. The choice of free support...
    All Mandrake Linux users have free access to the community-supported MandrakeExpert.com support platform.
  8. MandrakeSoft listens to you...
    MandrakeSoft encourages and welcomes feedback and suggestions from its base of users, thereby releasing products that better match the users' needs.

Now, for me the importance of this is that it reaffirms the general idea that was behind my decision to choose Mandrake as a distro to support: with this website, by promoting it to friends, colleagues and any others who want to get started with Linux, by helping out on forums and through financial support (clubmembership -- I don't really want anything else in return for that than that Mandrake sticks to these 8 rules). The importance of these 8 Golden Rules can be summed up as follows:

  1. You will be able, in the future as you are today, without restriction, to use and to pass on the Mandrake download discs
  2. they will be freely available in the future
  3. which means that you will always have access to free updates
  4. which means that you're not wasting your time if you invest it in learning how to work with Mandrake Linux and their tools
  5. nor are you wasting your time with bugreports, helping out in improving the distro
  6. because even if MandrakeSoft would not survive, all the tools/developments are GPL-ed and thus will live on openly, giving you access to the fruit of the combined effort forever
  7. and all the money that goes to MandrakeSoft developers salaries is used to make GPL-ed code and is therefore not wasted either (which it would be if it would go to closed source tools/apps and the company would go bankrupt)

Addition: November 28th 2004:
Note that what I wrote about RH is quite dated, today the choice wouldn't be between RH and Mandrakelinux but between Fedora Core (FC), SUSE and Mandrakelinux. In the case of FC, I'd say the disadvantage is that you don't get to have the final version since it's really the beta version of RH. On the other hand, in a similar vein Mandrakelinux Community Edition is more or less the beta version of the Official Edition (which is the boxed product). Hoever, in time, the OE will be available for free download, whereas the RH final version of FC won't be (well, there is Whitebox Linux). What does this mean? MORE CHOICE. Yes you are reading this properly: for beginners, you now have a choice of 3: Mandrakelinux, SUSE and FC. Ok, for SUSE you're going to have to work out how to get the install discs, as far as I know you can't download isos from the web, at the moment.
All in all, I still prefer Mandrakelinux, but there are no real reasons not to try your luck with SUSE or FC.

The problem with Linux today

I believe that now the time has come that any user who knows something about computers can actually install Linux and use it. The main thing holding back Linux from taking over the world (well, as a matter of speech :-) is the lack of users.
Of course this is a snake that bites its own tail. The big problem with Linux is the lack of applications and driversupport for some hardware. You can freely substitute 'applications' with 'games' in the former phrase, since for almost any other task there are plenty of OpenSource alternatives available. Only the professional may need more than what can be found in the OpenSource domain.
The main problems, apps/games and driversupport will be solved automatically if there are enough people using Linux. If there is a market, any soft- or hardware manufacturer would be crazy if they would disregard that. But currently, there are so few users (on a relative scale) that it may not be economically viable to develop for Linux, or to support the community. Once Linux on the home desktop has a considerable market share (5% would already count as considerable, 10% would be a marketshare that no company could pass on) these problems will be solved.
Hardware manufacturers merely have to work with the community so they can make the drivers necessary to use that hardware. Software makers will have to port their games and applications, which in the case of OpenGL games can actually be quite easy. Note that there are companies specialised in porting games.

So my motivation is: if I can help my friends and colleagues who are now or in the near future moving on to Linux (be it as a dualboot), and who knows even strangers who find helpful information on this site, I'm speeding up the process of getting to that critical mass. I firmly believe there are enough people today who are computer savvy enough on one hand and ease of use in top Linux distros that having critical mass today would be possible.

One remark: I generally help my family, friends and colleagues with questions and as far as I can (because I am in no way a guru on Linux). But I feel that all those who, in my opinion, are perfectly capable today to make the transition to Linux, but don't, are holding back the reaching of the goal of critical mass. By the time (2004? 2005?) Linux has more than ~5% marketshare, things will be so userfriendly that a) people that I consider ready for Linux today shouldn't need my help and b) those same people could have made a bigger difference by putting in a bigger effort through switching earlier. You must also realise that currently there are maybe 5 million Linux users, so one more has a bigger impact than in 2 years, when there are maybe 25 million Linux users.

So I will consider anyone capable to switch to Linux today to be wanting a free ride if they wait until Linux has already gotten that critical mass. And I will not assist such people with their Linux problems (Hint to my friends, family and colleages: switch today, or!!! ;-). I also don't think I will keep maintaining this website after Linux has reached critical mass.

Who can use Linux today -- Linux is ready for the big time, are you?

The complexity of Linux, or any OS for that matter, is really overwhelming. But then, you don't have to know all about engines before you can drive a car. To drive a car, you need basic skills, and some generally givens: adequate eyesight, good hearing, decent reflexes etcetc. You need to be able to reach the pedals. Most people can do it, but all have to learn.
With Linux (or actually, computers and OSes in general), the same goes. You need the following: ability to read, capabilitiy of logical thought, patience, politeness and good manners, some investigative spirit, some endurance; an internet connection and a computer. The latter are not necessarily related to your Linux machine. Furthermore, decent skills in english are a plus, but generally you can find forums in your own language, as is the ability to search the web, but this can be learnt with some practise and the basic needs (reading skills, logical thinking).
Then, it is nice if you have some genuine curiosity for computer stuff, hardware and software.
Basically, if you can install and figure out how to work with any other OS, you can do so with Linux.

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Page first created: Feb 2003. Page last updated: 2005-06-16 00:37

Pages tested with but not specifically made for: lynx, konqueror, galeon, Opera, Mozilla, Firefox using OpenOffice.org, Quanta + and the Gimp on Mandriva Linux by aRTee
All contents © copyright 2003 - 2007, unless mentioned otherwise, published under the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL) by aRTee. Artwork and CSS don't fall under the FDL, standard copyright applies. Tux image from Larry Ewing. You may use anything published under the FDL on this site freely, as long as you include this copyright notice and a reference to the main address of this site: www.mandrake.tips.4.free.fr.