Back in the 1990’s I used to use Mandrake Linux as my preferred distribution. Back in the day it had great hardware support and looked good.Mandrake merged with Lycoris and Connectiva to form Mandriva Linux.
Mandriva went through a stage where the distribution was not as stable as it should have been and about that time Ubuntu came on the scene, I switched to Ubuntu and never looked back … until now.
Well actually I did still try out some different distributions and occasionally ran Fedora, but the point is that today everyone one of my personal computers (4 of them) primarily run a variant of Ubuntu (Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Ubuntu Netbook Remix), so I guess you can say I’m pretty much a Ubuntu fan. That may change.
One of the reasons for converting was the package management that Ubuntu uses
(debian based) which was a welcome break from the dependency hell that was a major problem with rpm based distributions. Although I think Debian packages still have the upper hand, the package management tools used to manage RPM have come a long way and so that issue has now gone.
Another reason for not looking at Mandriva for so long is that it is KDE based which has gone through some pain due to a substantial rewrite moving from version 3 to version 4. KDE 4 does have some demanding system requirements, but it is now stable and looks good.
I do occasionally install new distributions to keep up with the developments, but this time the change was due to a particular frustration with Ubuntu. The issue on this occasion is the kdenlive video editing software which is completely unstable on Ubuntu. The application is one that is still under active development and seams to produce as many unstable as stable versions. Ubuntu 8.10 had a stable version, but that is now the case with Ubuntu 9.10. I tried upgrading with the official packages and with the builder but neither of those methods worked (QImage module missing using binary package for Ubuntu Karmic). I do normally work my way through problems, but on this case I just wanted to get down to video editing rather than spending a long time trying to upgrade the kdenlive set-up. Fortunately Mandriva has the latest version 0.7.6 (at the time of writing) and that is very stable and worked really well (see the sledging video I created using this set-up).
The new look KDE looks good and is very responsive on my fairly recent laptop. I don’t think I’ll be trying it on anything without at last 1GB of memory though as it is not light-weight.
There are all the usual applications included within the software repository including some less common ones such as Mixx (DJ software).
Using the Mandriva One 2010 live CD MP3 support is installed by default, but Java needs to be installed through “add software”. Once installed the Facebook file uploader seams to work, which is one of the more problematic online java applications. Adobe Flash Player is also installed giving access to YouTube etc.
If you want only 100% free software then there is a free version as well without any proprietary software.
Mandriva is available as a free download, but you can also purchase the Mandriva powerpack which adds some proprietary software including the ability to play DVDs etc which costs €49. There is also an Enterprise server version
I have only scratched the surface of what Mandriva has to offer, but so far I am very impressed, maybe even enough to use it for my “power laptop”, although I’ll probably stick with Ubuntu on my other computers.
Mandriva as a company has now liquidated, but Mandriva lives on as OpenMandriva