The DistRogue

Friday, November 10, 2006

Review: Mandriva One 2007: KDE edition

Mandriva 2007 was codenamed "Ia Ora", which is French Polynesian for "Hello". I can think of 5 different letters to describe it: "Oy vey". It might be easier to use, but it's caused me some royal pains that I didn't get from Xubuntu, Zenwalk, or PCLinuxOS. I still have it installed as my "gaming" machine, but it might be a bit of a misnomer. Sure, it has a working copy of Compiz, the live CD still boots into it without a hitch, and for general use, some Windows users might even like it (actually, they probably will), but for a gamer, it's not what I want. Not quite.
The installation was easier than normal, using a 100%-graphical Live installer that didn't ask me for as much information as some installers. After about 5 minutes, I was ready to try my new, Xgl-enabled system. After the reboot (which featured a nice GRUB bootloader with shiny colors and pictures), I copied my files off my pendrive, and noticed that Mandriva was missing something in the /media folder: my Windows partition. (Yes, I dual-boot. My parents' faults, not mine!) Be warned: Mandriva does NOT support NTFS-fomatted Windows drives as of now! It still exists (thank God for that, my parents would have killed me), it just doesn't show up.
Another quirk was package management. I added all the archives I could to Mandriva's URPMI package manager, and refreshed it several times, but nothing new showed up in the package listing. I liked PCLinuxOS's Synaptic+RPM combination better.
Compiz was crazy. It has so many nooks and crannies for exploration that it's almost impossible to learn how to use it in one day. It's not a window manager, it's a complete rewrite of the way we use our computers! On the surface, it's just a bunch of effects that make windows wobble and sway, but they all have their own triggers. I still can't figure out how to rotate the desktop cube on all 3 of its axises, but just watching it spin like a top is fine for me.
While it might look like Xgl wasn't a big issue, something went wrong somewhere. My NVidia driver loaded successfully at boot time, and GLXGears reported framerates in the 1600s WHILE the cube-top was spinning, but when I tried a real benchmark, things went awry. After copying all the files off my pendrive, I launched ThinkTanks, my favorite game. I joined some servers, trying not to notice that I was gaming at 640x480 screen resolution (my monitor is 800x600), and I felt like I stepped into Narnia. All the maps were white. The texture maps were missing for the terrains. Maybe I missed some of the files in that copy, but it was weird. Then, to take advantage of my lower res to up my framerate, I changed the resolution to 640x480 (so my graphics card wouldn't have to render as many pixels), and cranked down the quality. Every server I joined crashed the game. This has never happened before. So, I stuck with the defaults, where I got an annoyingly-slow 15 FPS. Bleah!
All in all, while an average user might not notice the difference between Mandriva and other distros, it'll be a pain in the... err, adminning utilities for their sysadmins. Gamers are better off with Xubuntu. Like I said, if you're a newbie to Linux, just coming out of the Windows world, you'll blow your friends and coworkers away with the cool 3D effects, and everything'll seem familiar for the most part.
Friendliness: 5/5- Not even a Windows user can turn up their noses at it.
Performance: 2/5- Mandriva's weakest link is performance, far and away. Quirks abound for Linux gamers.
Features: 4/5- Lots of software on one CD. Very Knoppix...
Packaging: 3/5- Quirky, unintuitive... Hey, it's RPM-based.
Overall: 3.5/5- Newbies: This could be your distro! Sane people, move along, nothing to see here.
I'm installing SUSE 10.1. Yeah, the CD works. Something's in my DVD drive (not another DVD) that's preventing me from installing Fedora instead, so I'll buy a set of FC6 CDs (my DVD was FC5, anyways. Outdated...), and tell you how it goes.
From Xubuntu 6.06.1 (upgrade to Edgy in the works),
The DistRogue


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