The original Mageia was released less than a year ago, in June 2011, but in that short time its popularity has exploded. Breaking into the top ten on DistroWatch is no easy feat, especially when it’s placed higher than the OS it’s based on, Mandriva. The team are now ramping up for their second release in May with a second and final beta of Mageia 2.
On paper there are updates across the board. Core changes like upgrading the kernel to version 3.3, and including GNOME 3 as an option during installation are joined by updates to all the default packages to the latest versions. This is all standard stuff of course, but it’s always nice to have the newest versions available from the word go.
Aesthetically there’s a lot of changes to the basic theme in Mageia, with the neon turquoise colours of old replaced with more subtle shades of blue that help it look a lot more professional and classy. There generally seems to be a lot of these small design changes throughout the OS, with a clear focus on polish making it a lot more presentable.
The whole design philosophy behind Mageia is usability of Linux for everyone. And while that’s pretty much a cliché in itself these days, the way the team pull it off is quite unique to this OS and its Mandriva base. The amount of control users are given in the UI is astonishing, starting with the highly customisable installer. Based on the Mandriva installer with the teams own additions, users can install a completely personalised system, with any number or variety of display environments and package types, along with incredibly advanced network and security settings.
It’s all presented very clearly, with basic options for each stage and an advanced option for those that know exactly what they’re doing. This is also carried over into the OS, with the repurposed Mageia Control Centre giving access to a lot of these settings to customise and tweak down the line. It’s very smart, and well suited to more advanced users who understand the difference between GDM and KDM, but would rather click a button than sudo the change.
Unfortunately while there is definitely a lot right with the beta, there is a pretty serious issue with package management. Mageia comes with RPM, and rpmdrake is used as a graphical interface for it. The problem is, rpmdrake is affecting the package database, causing problems for updates and installs from the terminal or UI. There is a general work around for this on the Mageia forums at the time of writing, but it’s not ideal, nor a permanent solution. Obviously, this is beta for a reason, so bugs can be ironed out before release candidates and stable releases.
When it does work, there are a lot of packages to choose from outside of the numerous pre-installed with the OS. While it’s maybe not as pretty as something like the Ubuntu Software Centre, it’s practical and to the point, with plenty of filtering options to find the exact package you need, or alternatives.
It is unfortunate that an otherwise really great Beta is hampered by a small issue that could ruin the experience. It can be easily spun into a positive though – as the rest of the OS is so well put together, if this simple issue can be fixed it will be a stunning release well worth looking forward to.
A superb early look at what is sure to be a fantastic OS, however system wide issues related to the package manager highlight the reason these things go into beta. Still, it’s very promising, with plenty of polish over Mageia 1, and a clear focus on usability for every user skill level that doesn’t patronise