Sunday, March 02, 2008

Casual viewing: Mandriva 2008 Spring RC1, Fedora 8

In a January post I uttered the asinine comment that I was not going to bother with Mandriva after that posting because it had failed twice in succession to boot on my machines, especially europa. I forgot about that utterance and downloaded Mandriave 2008 Spring RC1 KDE One, and booted it on europa. I can say that it not only booted and ran, but the overall quality ranges from good to excellent.

One of the key features I feel is important and which I always test with a new release is the ability to play back some video (any video, frankly) that I have on my system.

As you can see above Mandriva found and mounted my existing partitions, including my home partition and all its data. I was able to play back a movie with Kaffeine that I had ripped with K3b (MPEG4 video, MPG3 audio) without any problems. The ability to just Do It is still a wonder, both from a technical and ideological perspective. It failed to play back a DVD. Kaffeine started up and played the opening screen and FBI warning, then failed to continue with a "not enough permissions" error message. Keep in mind that europa has two DVDs, so I was using the second as the player while the boot CDROM was in the first. DVD playback failure is not such a big deal; after all, Simply Mepis failed as well. I will say, however that Linux Mint 4 had no problems with DVD playback.

And as you can see from the capture above, Firefox comes equipped to play back nearly any Flash-based video stream.

I tried to boot Mandriva both with and without Compiz. It did boot into both, but because of Mandriva's selection of the ATI driver and my card (X1950 Pro) it performed a lot better without Compiz. This is a problem with the ATI driver and 3D effects enabled, not with Mandriva. In both cases Mandriva used the ATI driver.

Fedora 8

I wanted to retry Fedora 8 to check some facts. I booted Fedora 8 booted on rhea (with nVidia 7600GS). I wanted to check and see what would happen if I tried to play ripped video (see above). When I double-clicked the video Fedora attempted to play it back via Totem. I was presented with a dialog that gave me three choices; free playback via GStreamer, an MPEG Playback Bundle for 16 euros, and an MPEG 4 part 2 decoder for 7 euros. Wow. I selected free-as-in-beer GStreamer option, and all I could play back was the audio portion.

Then I tried to play back the same type of CNN video in Firefox. Instead of it just playing, I was presented with a dialog to download Adobe Flash. It went through the motions of getting it, then failed to install it.

that I know is built into Fedora is not a bad distribution. Once installed it's a handsome and easy distribution to work with as long as what you want is already installed and configured correctly. But its support of video playback is crippled, and I personally don't like to have somebodies hand stuck in my face asking for money to purchase a codecVLC and MPlayer (Totem needs to be abandoned, and Kaffeine needs to be cleaned up or dropped alongside Totem).

Conclusion

My initial judgement notwithstanding, Mandriva 2008 Spring may just turn out to be a pretty good release and a decent distribution, especially if you want good video support off-the-CD. If the final release is as good as this release candidate then this will make the second consecutive Mandriva release that actually works from the get-go and is a pleasure to work with. Based on my admittedly limited experience and not-so-humble opinion I rank it up there with Mint 4 and Simply Mepis 7.

Fedora 8 either needs to provide the codecs and drivers necessary to fully enable today's computer hardware, or someone needs to spin off an alternative distribution with everything needed, the way Mint is an alternative spin of Ubuntu. It's an excellent quality distribution that's been deliberately hamstrung by misguided ideology, and it shouldn't be that way.

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting observations - I too was set to ignore mandriva, even tho I had been sent the distro DVD recently. I may look into it. I have just completed moving from Mint celena to daryna and I am pleased with the outcome. I have used mint 3.1 Celena for nearly six months now in lieu of XP and do not feel a need to go back. In my job it is a different matter. Thanks for a good view into Mandriva.

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  2. Google for 'Penguin Liberation Front' to find an easy way to add "legally dubious" libraries to your Mandriva system that will allow you to fully play back DVDs.

    I disagree that Totem should be dropped, I think it is an excellent player. Any problems you may have had can probably be attributed to uninstalled codecs. Alternatively, you could try Totem with the xine backend.

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