Mandriva, previously known as Mandrake, was always an interesting mainline GNU/Linux distribution to use, providing some superb server or desktop software. As far as quality is concerned, nothing much has changed since the Nineties, but as far as sophistication of the desktop is concerned, things have come a long way from those dark days of loud laughter when the GNU/Linux desktop was mentioned in public or in private. The presentday Mandriva desktop or the desktop of other GNU/Linux distributions is so much more complex than it once was. It is endlessly configurable and can be made to suit just about anyone’s tastes. It has left the Microsoft and Macintosh desktops behind in the 20th century.
The RC1 release was used for the purposes of this review, although the RC2 version should be around by the time you read this. RC1 proved to be bug free, an excellent and easy-to-use installation GUI which is a lot like the Ubuntu, openSUSE or Debian graphical installers. Many people are heard saying, “That was easier to install than XP.” The installed desktops can be KDE 4.3, GNOME 2.27, Xfce 4.6 or just about any of the other window managers that are out there. You can make your own choice of what suits you. Other software that is said to be due to be released with Mandriva 2010 is Xorg 1.6.2 which is a bug fix release. After installation, the desktop has the inevitable OpenOffice.org 3.xx and plenty of additional software such as the Firefox browsers and others. There’s Kmail and Evolution or perhaps Thunderbird for email, as well as video and sound editing tools. Drakxtools is the online update and software installation tool, also used for hardware and system configuration – very much like YaST in openSUSE. In the Mandriva RC1 release, Drakxtools proved to be very reliable.
TOMOYO is also in this version of Mandriva. TOMOYO is the new security framework used by default instead of AppArmor. It promises quite a lot just now but should mature rapidly, as do all GNU/Linux-based security applications. On the Mandriva community wiki, you are advised not to use the RC1 or RC2 version to upgrade an existing Mandriva Linux installation. There are unresolved issues with KDE and GNOME and other windows managers, which is likely to result in a system upgraded from any stable release to this version being unable to start a desktop or rendering it useless for most people. The beta version should only be used as a clean installation and do not expect to be able to use it as a day-to-day workstation. The final design is still not integrated. However, earlier versions of Mandrake and Mandriva from the Nineties and after 2001 were extremely buggy and unreliable – more so than the present RC1 and RC2 releases. The latest release, providing it is the finished version which is coming along soon, would seem to be the kind of software that just about any business or government could rely on for future use. For personal use, it certainly is the kind of thing that will make your domestic bills shrink. Well worth a try!