It’s Spring

…so it must be time for a Linux update. Oddly enough, with the introduction of their 2007.1 (Spring) version, Mandriva shows that they agree with me.

Usually I download their 3 (or 4, with extras) CD “free” version. This time I tried the Live “One” version, a single CD that executes without installation (very nice for verifying hardware compatibility), and installs optionally. It took a total of thirty minutes to install and confirm that it had the necessary drivers to run my sound card, my wireless network connection, the networked printer, the graphics card, and of course, my standard keyboard, mouse and monitor. By the forty-five minute mark, I had installed to hard drive, restored my saved files and re-installed some available software (like the kstars planetarium software) that I like and use, and restored some plug-ins (like the java jre). I was done in time for dinner.

And today I’m saying Wow! This was definitely the most painless install I’ve ever done (far easier than the Windows2000 install I’ll be facing shortly). The drivers for both wireless and graphic cards are vastly improved from, let’s say, two years ago. I can barely remember how difficult it was to get those things working in Mandrake 10.0! And you can tell by checking the users groups (try Mandriva Users), that the sound card problems plaguing nearly everyone in living memory are effectively gone.
I had had a problem with the Open Office Spreadsheet program, probably introduced by a botched update. The program ran perfectly, but loaded exceedingly slowly, wait time measured in minutes (plural), not seconds. That problem is gone.

The 2007.1 Spring version features the Linux 2.6.17-13 kernel, two new desktop managers for KDE, Matisse and “3-D desktop”, and Beryl is available. There are several bug-fixes, including the fix to an annoying, but minor, problem with the Mandriva Control Center, and a fix to something I discovered a month ago: it’s possible to screw-up the remote printer sensing in a way that requires the user to re-install the OS to fix. At least, I could find no other way to fix it. The installation correctly sensed my wireless networking card, offered a choice of two drivers (one being a true Linux driver, the other a “wrapper” that uses the windows driver provided with the card), and automatically installed wpa-supplicant to allow effective encryption. Excellent!

Last build, the Nvidia graphics card required a driver not provided with the installation. This time, the driver was immediately available. Also excellent. And as usual, those packages not available on the installation disk are available through Easy Urpmi for free-gratis. More than excellent.

As for aesthetics, the default scheme is the relatively new “La Ora” orange, which is perhaps a might harsh, but a welcome change to the remorseless blue to which many Linux distributions default. With KDE and Matisse, the change works pretty well, especially at boot-up. I’m still learning about Matisse, but I think I see one defect – it doesn’t seem to integrate well with the multi-desktop functions of KDE. Or I’m mis-understanding something. Maybe. Can’t tell yet.
Other than that, I like the new functionalities of these more advanced desktops, even after the fun of playing with flipping pages and rotating cubes is gone.

As I expected, I’ve seen absolutely no stability problems, and boot-up is improved over previous versions. Well, boot-up is never fast enough, but it’s not bad with 2007.1. Not bad at all. Old problems that plagued 2005 (the borked menu-updater and starry-eyed penguin) and 2006 (transparent cursor and CAT) are just gone.

Complaints? 1) Where’s the screen savers? Only 3 are provided, and one of those is “none”. 2) Usually I install nntp to and let the clock check the time against time-servers on boot. I’ve done that, but now I can’t tell from the clock that it’s actually using nntp to get the time. I’d sure like an indication that this is, indeed, what’s happening.

I’m a happy man.

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