Review of Mandrake 10.0 Download Edition
Last week I jumped to the opportunity to get my hands on the Community Edition of Mandrake 10.0 via Bittorrent as soon as Mandrake made that news known. There are 4 discs, 3 in the normal Community edition, and a 4th one, extra for clubmembers; this one was likely necessary since the mirrors were not up yet and this would mean no one would have access to the various rpms that are normally in the 'contrib' repository. All discs are approximately 700MB. To see which programs are part of the 3cd Community edition, please check distrowatch.
Arguably, the 2.6 kernel series is the next best thing since sliced bread. Well, you won't hear any counterarguments from me. It is very responsive, has lots of improvements all around, including improved USB support, ACPI (which I cannot test, I have no laptop yet), and many many things under the hood. KDE 3.2 is lean and fast, hand in hand with kernel 2.6 it flies. XFree 4.3 was incorporated due to license changes Mandrake (along with others) has not been able to include XFree 4.4. Which is also the reason that I can mention just this, XFree4.4 would have meant to actually mention all developers here, and that would have reduced this article to a mention of all XFree developers with some added text about Mandrake 10.0.... I know this is exaggerated, but anyway. I hope that the FDO X-server will be able to pick up momentum due to this - and that it will only prove to be a temporary setback, like taking a step back to be able to make a giant leap forward.
For now, you'll have to check here for the (proposed) errata for ML10.0CE.
As I mentioned, I acquired Mandrake Linux 10.0 Community Edition (ML10.0CE) through bittorrent. I got access to the bittorrent since I am a clubmember. On March 10th MandrakeSoft made ML10.0CE available for all via FTP and bittorrent. I have been using Mandrake 10.0 since the second beta version came out. I also downloaded and installed the first and only release candidate (RC1). I am writing this article in the final: ML10.0CE. It is quite likely that soon, you will be able to get ML10.0CE with magazines at your local newspaper stand. I will soon update my acquisition page to include the edonkey links, where I and likely others will make ML10.0CE a vailable as well.
The installation went smooth and nice; you can read about all the steps I took here. Note: use the upgrade function that is proposed during the initial stages of the installation at your own risk. It can certainly work, but there are too many people with problems (on forums etc) due to the upgrade function in the installer to omit this warning. I did a clean install, and the only thing that didn't go 'as advertised' was the configuration of my network postscript printer, and the checking/downloading of updates. The installer could not bring the network card up, so I had to do that after the installation.
For the configuration of my system, I followed mostly the same steps as I took with Mandrake 9.2. You can read the whole story here. Basically, I installed the Nvidia drivers (the installer set things up to use the 2D 'nv' driver, which worked ok during the short time I used it), after installing the appropriate kernel sources. The next step is to configure the software sources also called repositories (PLF and contrib are the minimum requirements) for the installer to function correctly. For more ample instructions of setting up sources, please go to www.zebulon.org.uk/ICML0.HTML (you may want to browse that site for other hints and tips too). Next to that, easyurpmi is up, but not yet with the correct info on Mandrake 10.0. For now you have to just wing it, with the ftp-mirrors; you can use easyurpmi with settings for Mandrake 9.2, then adapt the paths to reflect the addresses/paths on the FTP-mirrors for Mandrake 10.0.
On top of the normal things included on the 4 cds of the download edition, I installed and configured the following extra's
Some additional comments: during the beta-testing I have found that the NVidia driver is not all that - I tried out the demos of Savage2 and UT2K4 and with both I had a lockup. Still, even if I disregard 3D capabilities, the 'nv'-driver doesn't play nice with my home cinema projector, with the exact same modeline that I've used since I don't know how long, the projector image has the top and bottom cut off, and the aspect ratio is quite distorted. I can't really blame the developers of the 'nv'-driver since on my monitor the image is fine. With the 'nvidia'-driver and the exact same modeline the image is fine.
The MX700 wireless usb mouse was perfectly detected during installation, I didn't even have to add a second section to my /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 to get my ps/2 mouse and my usb mouse to both work... An advantage of kernel 2.6 I would say. Getting the thumb buttons to work was a snap too, easier than before. The only minor grip I have is that the button in front of the scrollwheel not only scrolls up, but also gives a single 'forward' signal - the program xev confirmed this. Since I normally don't use this button, I don't care much about it (in previous installations it worked fine, even then I didn't use it). The button at the very top of the mouse now does get detected, it gives the exact same signal as the left mouse button. Due to its placement I don't ever use it, I wouldn't even if the function it had were really useful.
My webcam: I have not taken the time to figure out how to get it to work in VGA resolution; this needs a proprietary driver and loading that one is different due to some 2.6 kernel changes.
The nvidia driver still doesn't allow hardware overlays on the second head, not even in a selectable way so that it doesn't work on the first head anymore. This means there is no way around 'tearing' on the second head, and for me this means I have to crawl under my desk each time I want to use my home cinema projector and swap cables - instead of using some dual monitor setup. Nvidia, nothing you can do about this??
K3B got much easier to use, no need to run the setup and add users to the burning group (cdwriter) - it just works, and very well at that. Note that with kernel 2.6 there is no need for the ide-scsi emulation layer anymore, burning is now done directly to the ide device.
Contrary to what I have always thought, lm_sensors is actually perfectly capable of showing the fanspeed of both my cpu fan and the case fan, the bios only rounds the speed to 0 if it is below 1200 rpms or so - which in my case the fans regularly are since they are temperature controlled and my workstation has a good airflow.
All in all, the configuration got quite a bit simpler, apart from the webcam vs pci-soundcard issue. Progress is being made here.
The user experience in terms of speed is not much different from Mandrake 9.2, if you look at the boot time or startup time of applications. KDE starts quite a bit faster though.
The Drake tools have been reworked quite a bit, as has the Mandrake Control Center:
Many Drakes have been partially or completely rewritten.
Note: generally, it is not wise to use a drake-tool for some settings, then fiddle around in the config file yourself, then use the tool again. The settings/modifications you do by hand may well be discarded by the respective drake-tool the next time you use it, and IMHO for a good reason: after using any drake-tool, the system should be functional. Imagine a user makes an incorrect modification, which 'breaks' the system. If the drake-tool would keep the incorrect information and just append the new modification, the system would still be broken. Implementing checks for the correctness of the configuration files would really be too much work. In other words: once you start doing hand-edits on something, don't use the related Drake-tool or at least keep a copy around of the hand edited file(s).
The menu structure has been overhauled too:
There are few main groups, it looks quite clean but for people used to the old menu it will take some getting used to.
The look of KDE3.2 is new, and there a lots of improvements all around. There is now an entry in the base menu to start a new session. If selected, it will explain how to switch between the 2 sessions:
As you can also tell from the above screenshots, with KDE 3.2 panels can now be completely or partially transparent (that is, the background can be seen through it, not windows that are under it). Another new features is that windowborders can be removed (hit alt-F3 when the window is active, then: Advanced, No Border).
Something that new users have often looked for but until recently not found is now integrated (or was it already there in Mandrake 9.2 / KDE3.1 ? I normally use ctrl-alt-+/-): krandrtray. The menu entry can be found here (yes, quite nicely tucked far away - you can also start it by entering the command
Note that ctrl-alt-+ and - also still work, and can even be combined, but after using the krandrtray you cannot make the display larger than that setting with ctrl-alt--. This krandrtray allows resolution and refreshrate switching on the fly, but contrary to ctrl-alt-+ and - the KDE desktop scales with the resolution setting, so the virtual desktop is adapted too, no more scrolling. Just right-click the icon on the tray, and select your resolution and/or refreshrate:
You can use the 'configure display' entry to open this dialog:
As you can see, there are also tabs for the gamma (works fine) and multiple monitors settings. Since I don't have two monitors I didn't have any settings available to me there.
So far, the only thing I can complain about is that KDE doesn't always remember the location of programwindows when it resumes a session from the last time, and from time to time applications still crash - though as far as I can remember, when I was shutting down the system or the respective application.
More noteworthy things
Sound: 1- the settings aren't muted upon install. And 2- Kmix has been simplified, at least for my audigy2 sound card, there used to be many more controls that made things overly complicated, this looks much better:
These two points are really big improvements compared to Mandrake 9.x releases. BTW, under the advanced checkbox hides the following:
Also new in Mandrake 10.0 is that if you pop in an audio cd KsCD pops up and automatically starts playing the cd, this works with a mechanism called magicdev, both under KDE and GNOME.
Video: for dvd playback of encrypted dvd's the libdvdcss package is required, and due to the USA law called DMCA this cannot be included in the regular Mandrake editions. Getting it is easy enough though, and once it's there, XINE and MPlayer play all dvd's very well. Pop in a dvd and Totem will start playing it, with the same mechanism magicdev as for audio cd's. Note that totem has messed up colours in some cases, check the errata for the fix.
Graphics: GIMP 1.2.5 is included, not 2.0(pre) - can't have it all. Besides, 2.0 is not yet final, and this is MandrakeSoft policy to stay with the latest final. If you really want to have GIMP 2.0 pre, go here.
Other applications I just have to mention
I guess I already mentioned it: K3B, which can also burn dvd's. When starting to burn with a cd-rw disc that is not empty in the drive, K3B asks if it should format the disc, neat! Also, if you leave the speed setting to auto, it will burn at the highest possible speed that the media and drive are capable of. Another really great feature is that it automatically checks the md5sum when you choose to burn an iso image. Another thing I would like to note is that the cpu load is mostly around 5% on my athlon XP 2400+ during a 32x burn, whereas with older versions the load would gradually climb up to 15 to 20% and even over 30% for 52x burning - which I actually don't use since three discs in a row at 52 speed invariably led to a non-functional 3rd disc.
Next to K3B, I just have to mention the new and improved Quanta+ that now sports near WYSIWYG capabilities. I still use Bluefish for this site, but for all my other sites I have moved to Quanta+. It is a very powerful webeditor, with loads of extensions and options.
To come back to an issue that I ran into and mentioned in my Mandrake 9.2 review, quoting myself:
"The external USB2 harddrive can work at high speed (20MB/s) -- if I mount it by hand, instead of letting supermount do its thing, it works ok. I had the following in my /etc/fstab:
Actually, I found out that supermount wants to enable the user to unplug the drive at basically any moment, so it continuously updates the 'atime' or access time file property. Basically, this means that each time data is read, some data gets written too, tremendously slowing down the system. I did some more tests, following a hint on the buglist, and added 'noatime' to the supermount fstab line for the external harddrive. This fixed things, but the drive would not mount automatically anymore. So one may just as well use the manual way of mounting the drive. Note that for writing to the drive, both methods are equally fast, as far as I can tell (transfer speeds between 12 and 22MB/s according to my gkrellm). Still room for improvement here.
Mandrake release cycle
Recently MandrakeSoft changed their release process. There is some confusion now, as to whether ML10.0CE is a final or just another RC, with the Mandrake Linux 10.0 Official Edition (ML10.0OE) being the true final. Well, IMHO, this is the final as much as previous finals were finals. The ML10.0OE, which will be the version for the boxed version, will be an extra step in the chain, more robust but less cutting edge in terms of included applications. Basically, if you install ML10.0CE now, and keep your system up to date with the software update manager, the moment ML10.0OE gets released you will actually have the exact same software installed on your system.
Another thing I'd like to point out again, is the commitment of Mandrake to the GPL, this is something that they should get more credit for than they usually do.
Linux in 2004
To say it in the words of Tank: "This is very exciting!!":
The installation and configuration are 2 hurdles that many people are just not prepared to take, even if they are willing to use a different operating system that they are used to.
There are sure some things to be improved, ironed out and fixed, but all in all, I can wholeheartedly recommend Mandrake 10.0 - if you don't give it a try you'll never know what you miss out on. As with all things Linux (or even computing), YMMV: your mileage may vary. If you get the same mileage out of Mandrake 10.0 as I do, I'm sure you'll agree that Linux, in this case: Mandrake Linux, is more than ready for your desktop. It sure is for mine.
Now if you'll just excuse me, I'm off to renew my clubmembership. My way to say: thank you Mandrake, for this great Linux distribution.
More links on the link page.