Mageia has been pretty popular ever since its original release last year. While all Linux distributions give you more choice than any other operating system, Mageia was one of the few distros that has a lot of these choices upfront. This is partly due to it being an offshoot of Mandriva, however the team at Mageia have taken it noticeably further.
Straight off the bat, the Mageia 2 installer offers a huge amount of options, features, and customisation that allows you to build up your system your own way. With the ability to choose any or all of the included desktop environments, add extra package sources, and even advanced network set-up. Obviously as well you get custom install partitioning and user name creation that other installers come with. Even if you’re not the sort of intermediate or more advanced user that would completely understand all the available options, the default selections will suffice for more novice folks.
By default, Mageia recommends their slightly modified version of KDE 4 to be used as a Desktop Environment. The main theme doesn’t include the file pane on the desktop, and some of the effects are toned down, probably in the interest of conserving resources.
Of course, if you want to add more Desktop Environments at a later date, you can grab them from the package manager. When we previously saw a Beta for Mageia 2, the package manager was broken – the graphical manager interfered with the even command line operations, rendering it almost useless. As that was broken, no patch or update could be sent to it. Thankfully, that issue has now been resolved, and the package manager now sort of works.
Unfortunately, it’s still hampered by a small issue that has affected Mageia and Mandriva for a while now – it sometimes searches for the install disc, which you’ve probably already removed. If this can’t be found, it won’t switch to checking on an online repository for the same package. This is fairly easily fixed by turning it off in the sources list, however it really shouldn’t be something that ever happens. Sure, it’s nice that if you don’t have the internet handy, some of the packages can be added after a fresh install. However, when it negatively affects the use of the distro the rest of the time, it should be handled better.
Otherwise, the package selection is generally quite good. A lot of the packages have been updated to the very latest version, with GIMP 2.8 just sneaking in there. One small surprise though is Firefox. It’s the default browser in Mageia, which is fairly normal of course, however Mageia has now switched to the Extended Support Release. Firefox 10.0.0.4 ESR is the version designed for Enterprise and other users that don’t wish to be on the 6-weekly update cycle.
With the weird repository bug and ugly package manager aside, the rest of Mageia is great. To keep the theme of choice going once the system is installed, Mageia comes with the Mageia Control Centre – an all encompassing graphical interface that gives you complete control over a lot of the core of the system. Boot options, updates, sources, hard drive partitions, and much more. Using Mageia is generally great, as not only do you always have a completely customised and personalised experience, there’s no price to stability from it.
Linux is all about choice, and Mageia is all about putting this choice upfront to the user. With no allegiances to any particular Desktop or packages, Mageia is a wonderfully customisable operating system that you can mold to your exact liking. As long as you fix the minor repository bug first