Mageia 3 Beta 2 Review – An uncut gem

Is this beta for one of the best community run distros around a good indicator for the full release, or a serious work in progress like last year?

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It’s about time we stop harping on about how surprised we were when Mageia’s initial release became somewhat of an overnight sensation just under two years ago. The release of Mageia 2 last year proved it wasn’t just a one hit wonder, with improvements across the board making it truly one of the best distros available today. As development nears the end for Mageia 3, we look at the second Beta to try and get an idea of what the next instalment will bring us.

Mandriva Mandrake KDE
Mageia and its Control Center are returning in the updated distro

First of all, going by the features list to begin with, not much has changed in Mageia this time around. The usual round of updates are present to the packages, and the most noticeable change is the inclusion of a graphical boot menu, similar to Fedora 18’s. A fairly major change will be coming before the final release with a switch to systemd for the installer, however that’s not fully implemented yet.

The installation process slightly differs depending on which version of the ISO you get – of which currently the usual dual arch version is not available. As well as the individual desktop spins that clock in at about 1.5 GB for each DE and architecture, there’s also the full DVD with more choice. The spins give you a quick and somewhat minimal install, with a very watered down graphical installer compared to the full version. The full drakx version takes you through the installation process step-by-step, with good defaults, and plenty of options to fully customise the process.

There is a small problem with both versions of the installer though. First of all they’re both supposed to install GRUB 2 by default, which they don’t always do. Secondly, the installer tries to install GRUB to the wrong location. If you don’t catch it in time, you will end up having to do some creative GRUB installation independently, or go through the installation process again. It’s a known bug for the Mageia dev team, so it will hopefully be fixed before the final release. At least the installation itself does not take very long, taking no longer than 15-20 minutes on a decent, modern machine.

LILO Mandriva Mandrake KDE
The GRUB installation can be a problem

A brief user set-up process follows this quick install, however once we were into the desktop environment, we were hit with a massive, two-stage update that took about half an hour to complete. This is more than likely due to the fact that packages are being constantly updated as part of the QA process, and it at the very least fixed some of the graphical issues we’d briefly experienced after the initial install.

Some of the major packages for the distro are pre-release versions, with the expectation that they will be final versions by the full release. The repos no longer have the common Mandrake issue of only wanting to use a live CD as a source, so you have full access to the pretty extensive Mageia packages. In our tests, sudo and yum were not installed by standard though, which seemed a little weird, forcing us to go through the graphical package manager to begin with. This resides in the fantastic Mageia Control Center, which still allows you full control over almost every aspect of your system with good graphical tools.

It’s clearly not quite ready for mass consumption yet – but compared to last year, it’s in a much better state. We’re looking forward to the full release, which is currently planned for the beginning of May.