I've been installing some of the latest Linux releases for the past week to better understand what's available. I've taken the time to scrub the install system's (rhea) primary drive so that there's nothing on it any more except Linux. And I've tried to spend some time after the initial installation running some builds and installing other applications such as the latest Java and Netbeans, then running additional tests and comparing the results with past experiences. And the surprise, for me at least, is that the best distribution for me in this latest round isn't my old favorites openSUSE or Ubuntu, but Mandriva 2008.1 KDE. And for the record, I installed and tried to work with Fedora 9, and found that that particular dog just don't hunt.
Working with Mandriva 2008.1 KDE reminds me of the past working with SuSE Pro and early versions of openSUSE, especially version 10.2. I have come to respect and even like Gnome, but KDE is my preferred desktop environment and Mandriva helps remind me why I personally preferred it over Gnome. This is not a 'one-is-better-than-the-other' troll. I would no more have KDE 'win' over Gnome than I would have Gnome 'win' over KDE. I'm thankful there is choice, and that I can choose KDE for personal use.
One of the best features of this version of Mandriva is Mandriva Linux Control Center (MLCC). MLCC brings everything together into a useful cohesive whole. It's the application Suse's Yast should be. The Software Application section of MLCC makes software installation and management every bit as easy as Ubuntu's Add/Remove Applications and as powerful as Ubuntu's Synaptic.
One key gripe I've had with Ubuntu, starting with 7.10 and continuing with 8.04, is the poor functionality of K3b 1.0.4. I use K3b to rip DVDs to my local media server. I started to use the tool heavily with openSUSE 10.2, and when I switched to Ubuntu 7.04 I found that K3b from the Ubuntu repositories worked as well as the version supplied by openSUSE. But when I upgraded to Ubuntu 7.10, the ability to view and rip a DVD wound up broken. I eventually rebuilt a properly functioning K3b from sources and with the proper development libraries installed on Ubuntu 7.10, thinking that the LTS version would fix the K3b build problems.
Turns out the problems were not fixed. I installed a fresh copy of Ubuntu 8.04 on rhea and went through the same build process on rhea that I did earlier on europa and Ubuntu 7.10. When I finished K3b was still broken. That's when I made the decision and installed Mandriva 2008.1 on rhea. After the installation I tested K3b and discovered it needed libdvdcss and transcode to make it fully functional. Once those two packages were installed then I was back in business. Getting the proper repository (PLF) to install libdvdcss is dead simple. Just go to Easy Urpmi and follow the very simple instructions. Then use Software Manager to find and install libdvdcss.
It is amazing how well Mandriva performs on what is now considered limited hardware. It may not be the most exciting distribution you can install, but it runs as expected and performs the complex multimedia tasks I want it to run in the manner to which I have become accustomed with earlier distributions and releases. It has truly come a long way and is worthy of first consideration as an alternative OS.
Speaking of europa and Ubuntu 8.04, I removed Mono (mono-common) from the distribution, and it took Tomboy, Banshee, and F-Spot along with it. I will not have C#/Mono running on my Linux machines.
I find it interesting that many problems I encountered with the Mandriva Gnome release didn't show up on the KDE release. Or perhaps I've gotten better at installing Mandriva (whatever that means :). But Mandriva KDE installed and ran smoother than Mandriva Gnome. And in both cases is was a completely new installation including a fresh home directory.