Mandriva Alpha 1 was released today. So I downloaded the ISO onto europa and booted 'er up. Mandriva Spring 2008 fired up without any issues on this hardware. Overall it's quite usable and stable for an alpha.
What's more, I'm encouraged by the evolutionary polish that this release exhibits. Consider, as one example, how text is rendered.
Call me silly, but I really do pay attention to how text is rendered by all the applications that run on top of Linux, especially Firefox. I find I'm spending quite a bit of time reading on-line, and with my bad (and aging) eyesight I find that crisp, clear readable text is of great importance. Firefox (18.104.22.168) running on this release of Mandriva provides the best readability experience by far of any Linux distribution I've touched to date. Every difficult web site I know about that fails to render well under older distributions renders perfectly with this combination. Consider, for example, the Eweek site. You see how it renders on Firefox and Mandriva Spring 2008. It is, in a word, perfect.
Now look below at the same version of Firefox on europa's currently installed Linux distribution, Ubuntu 7.10. No amount of tweaking on my part can get this site (and others of equivalent complexity) to render correctly (check the menu bar across the top). With Mandriva and Firefox there was nothing that had to be tweaked. It Just Worked.
The only other combination of browser and OS that renders as well as Mandriva is Windows XP SP2 and the same version of Firefox.
This is an excellent start for a development cycle, especially with an alpha. It's as much a gut feeling on my part as it is a technical check of its capabilities, but I personally believe that Mandriva 2008 for the desktop has the potential to turn into a truly magnificent release for 2008. It's certainly worth following and checking as it moves towards final release.