Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Europa boots Mandriva 2008.0

Well, I took the Mandriva "challenge", downloaded the "One" Easy Linux CD ISO, burned it, and booted into the latest release of Mandriva 2008.0. It came up cleaner and faster than just about any other version I've every tried to date.

During boot Mandriva allowed me to select between Compiz and Metisse. Not knowing what Metisse is I selected Compiz. Within a very short time Mandriva booted into its graphical desktop with Compiz up and running. It turns out that this version of Mandriva automatically choose to use the ATI driver that came bundled with it (8.40.4). This is the first major distribution I have booted that provided this feature. The screen shot below shows off the signature Compiz Fusion 3D cube supported by the ATI driver.

Quick and Dirty Itty Bitty Review

I've avoided Mandriva in the past because it simply would not boot on europa. That problem appears to be long gone. There are, however, other issues.
  1. Mandriva uses KDE, and I still like KDE quite a bit. I like the KDE Kickoff menu due to my exposure and use of openSUSE and SLED. When Mandriva boots it's using the older KDE menu system. When I changed to the Kickoff menu (by right-clicking on the K-Menu button and selecting Kickoff), it caused a crash of the windowing system. I was able to quickly fix it by resetting the X windowing system ([Ctrl][Alt][Backspace]), and log back in as guest.
  2. Good news is that the default browser is Firefox. The bad news is that while writing up this entry, the version of Firefox supplied ( insisted on underlining every word in red, signally that every word is misspelled. I know my spelling can be atrocious but not every single word. Fortunately Blogger's spell checker caught the real misspellings.
  3. In Configure Desktop, the Display panel shows the correct display settings. It was broken under openSUSE 10.3. Display settings allow you to set key desktop features such as resolution and refresh rate. Under Mandriva it's locked (on europa's hardware) at 1280 by 1024, which I find a bit peculiar.
  4. When Compiz Fusion is enabled you get all the goofy effects such as wiggly windows. I tried to disable that 'feature' with Mandriva's Control Center, Configurre 3D Desktop effects. The only thing I could do was select betwen no 3D, Metisse, and Compiz Fusion. Under Compiz there was an advanced settings selection that only allowed the selection between native and Xgl.
  5. As usual, because of the version of the ATI driver and Xgl, OpenGL support was problematic. If I were to install this distribution I'd have to go to the problem of installing the latest ATI driver (8.42.3) and disable/remove Xgl in order to see if the Compiz Fusion effects would work with the AIXGL support available in 8.42.3. Or else just turn off Compiz Fusion and disable Xgl to get full OpenGL support.
I won't be installing Mandriva 2008.0 on europa. I've been through more than enough installation woes lately. But I must say it's improved considerably from its last release. It comes with the necessary drivers for hardware graphics acceleration, and many codecs along with Flash 9 are installed and ready to go, making it a solid choice for the beginner and the pro. And my favorite nit to pick, the selection and rendering of screen fonts, is excellent, the best I've seen so far with the current crop of releases.

Mandriva 2008.0, in my limited testing, shows great polish and potential. If I were in the mood to switch distributions (and I still am) then I'd want to wait and evaluate the next release after this one to see if Mandriva can continue to maintain 2008.0's high level of quality while advancing the distribution. If they can, then Mandriva is not only worth installing but worth paying for.

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