Ok, Now I’m Happy

I just got past the last of the re-configuration issues that always seem to pop up when I install the OS on my computer. Only took me two days this time. Of course, it was my own fault that it took even that long – when dealing with Linux, always, always, always link to the repositories and update before getting frustrated. It’s much easier that way.

I did a fresh install late Friday to Mandriva 2008, the One CD edition (I think the bits were still wet, it’s so new) from Mandriva 2007.1 (also known as ‘Spring’). I did try the 3 CD/1 DVD ‘Free’ addition, but wasn’t able to instantly connect to my router. I’m not sure why I couldn’t. Maybe it was the WPA encryption; maybe I missed typed the key, or something idiotic like that. I’ve connected easily before using the ndiswrapper middle-ware code and the windowz device driver, but I didn’t bother to play with it or investigate much, since the ‘One’ version supplies the MadWiFi driver anyway, and it’s a very stable driver.

The driver availability is an interesting story. The drivers for wireless cards are generally proprietary. In addition, the driver for the NVidia card (as well as most video card drivers) are proprietary. Most every Linux distribution supplies free, open source drivers, some of which work better than others. It’s a path to get you going. Both the MadWiFi and NVidia drivers are free of cost and freely distributed, but…

They are still proprietary. I don’t understand that. Is this a licensing matter? They’re just not under the GPL? Well, I guess that’s the story, but then I don’t understand why Mandriva can offer them on the ‘One’ CD, which is distributed free of charge. The situation certainly makes the ‘free’ version of the Mandriva distribution more difficult than it needs to be.

Fortunately, the ‘One’ version, which is a so-called Live version (it can run from the CD without installing to the hard drive) has both of these drivers (and more, I understand).

And once you’ve connected to the ‘net, then the repositories contain all the gooey Linux goodness that you could possibly want, no matter which version you’ve installed.

This is my quickie review of Mandy 2008. Bare in mind that I really, really liked 2007.1. What the new version offers is more of the same, but faster, with an updated Linux kernel (2.6.22), updated version of KDE (and Gnome, if you prefer), the Open Office suite and of most apps, and of course more cowbe^h^h^h^h^h bug-fixes (always a good thing). Truly, I was surprised that it’s noticeably faster.

The interface to the system controls (the MCC) is revamped (again) and very much improved over the older versions. The taskbar menu (equivalent to the Windowz Start button) has a flatter structure, and places the installed software much more intelligently than 2007.1.

Mandriva has provided a new set of fonts that a very much nicer than the old default set. I’m seeing tons of web pages using FireFox that look much nicer, including the Linux Questions forums, which I highly recommend.

In other words, they’ve kept the things I very much liked in 2007.1, and added one thing that will keep me from going back to the older version – Compiz-Fusion. You need a 3-D capable video driver (which is why I needed the proprietary NVidia driver), but my experience with this windowed environment is very positive. It may ultimately be just eye candy, but I love it.

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