I noticed readers of DistroWatch.com complaining about the small amount of attention that the new Mandriva 2009.1 release has gotten so far. This has a lot to do with the fact that the release date was so close to the always over-hyped Ubuntu 9.04 release. Therefore I decided to write a brief article about it, as I happened to give it a few days of action on my laptop in the RC2 phase and after the final updates for the Gnome edition . My test session was brief and not very thorough, but I have to say this: Mandriva 2009.1 looks like a very promising release and should not be overlooked. It is especially interesting for those that are looking for a KDE 4.x release that would actually be somewhat usable. While Mandriva is somewhat KDE centric, they do have a good Gnome offering and alternative desktops like LXDE and XFCE are also available.
I started off by giving the KDE4 live CD a whirl and I was pleasantly surprised. This is the first KDE4 distro that seems somewhat usable to my eyes. The stupid desktop plasmoid was gone and the desk top arrangement look very familiar for an ex-KDE3 user. Like always with Mandriva, and unlike Ubuntu, the visual appearance is very pleasing with rather bring blue design, beatiful desktop login animations, wallpapers and so on – this is something that Mandriva has always done well. However the Kicker menu was disappointing as always:”K-K-K-K-K….” – when do the KDE developers realize that starting every application name with a “K” looks retarded and is just bad for usability?
Over to Gnome version then and I ended up also installing the desktop and cofiguring it for my daily needs. The Gnome environment is also nicely designed with pleasant theme and graphics. The default theme “La Ora” comes in many colors if the default color scheme is too bright for you. Interesting thing in comparison to Ubuntu is that with the same basic configuration on my veteran Thinkpad T41 laptop, the Mandriva cosumes roughly 30-40 megabytes less RAM. My laptop has 1GB RAM so this usually is not a concern in web and desktop use, but this could make a difference if your PC has 512MB or less. If you want to use the ever lighter weight LXDE desktop you can do that by installing the meta-package task-lxde as using it shaves down the memory consumption further ~20 megabytes. I also tried Mandy on a Thinkpad X31 / 384MB and it was pretty responsive and perfectly usable. Besides memory footprint the overt all responsiveness is good and my subjective evaluation is that Mandriva is noticeably faster than the latest Ubuntu in desktop usage.
Mandriva also uses a 6 month release cycle so the changes in between versions are not too big. They introduced better boot speed, just like Ubuntu, and all the applications and components have been upgraded. Unlike with 2009.0 release, I did not immediately notice any serious bugs or flawed functionality. In addition to a good visual design and nice responsiveness, Mandriva also has the benefit of the Mandriv a Control Center system administration features, which would be a great addition to any distro (it’s open source, why nobody besides PCLOS is adobting it?). Mandriva traditionally has had a top notch hardware detection, and everything was installed correctly in 2009.1 as well (Unlike Ubuntu Jaunty which installs incorrect graphics acceleration settings for old laptop ATI Radeon cards).
So if you are looking for some distro hopping I can warmly recommend to give the latest Mandriva a whirl – especially if you are looking for a KDE4 based solution, but their Gnome offer totally fine as well. You just might end up liking it.
Mandriva can be downloaded at: www.mandriva.com