Getting to grips with Linux can be both daunting and time consuming, especially if you’ve only ever used Windows before. However, if ever there was an easy implementation for the first timer, it’s MandrakeLinux 10.1.
To start with, the Mandrakesoft package is incredibly easy to install, with an automated routine which, much like Windows, works out what you’ve got and configures just about everything automatically. That includes a wide range of graphics and sound cards and just about any network adapter going, including wireless and Bluetooth.
The same setup routine will also work out how you connect to the Internet and other Windows/Linux networks and configure itself to match. Comprehensive documentation is another plus, added to which access to a range of support services, including automatic updates, comes as part of the package.
Neither do you need particularly highly specified hardware to run MandrakeLinux. Any 32-bit x86 processor can be used (Pentium or above) with support for both HyperThreading and multi-processing technology also built-in. There’s even a 64-bit version.
Plus it’s possible to start with just 32MB of memory (64MB for all the graphical features) and a 1GB hard disk. And that can be ATA, SATA or SCSI, with RAID support also included along with drivers for CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives, CD/DVD writers, USB, PCMCIA and FireWire storage devices. Some hardware isn’t yet supported – we couldn’t find drivers for a Canon iP8500 printer – but that’s true of Linux distributions in general, not a fault with this particular one.
It really is one of the easiest implementations of Linux to start off with, the only complaint being the need to feed in 8 CDs in the PowerPack+ version we tested, although it can be installed from a single DVD if a suitable drive is available.
Aimed more at experts than novices, the PowerPack+ implementation (£140 + VAT) includes groupware and other server applications on top of the Apache Web server, Samba 3.0 file server and MySQL database in the standard PowerPack package (£56 + VAT). Novices, meanwhile, can start with the 3 CD Discovery pack for just £30 + VAT, or for free for those with the time and bandwidth to download it.
The same 2.6 Linux kernel comes in all three versions, along with a KDE and, in the PowerPack version, GNOME desktop. OpenOffice, the Microsoft-compatible office suite, is also bundled, along with a variety of Web browsers, multimedia and other productivity tools. A barrage of other applications can also be added with over 1,600 utilities in the Discovery package and more besides in the PowerPack versions.
And finally there’s a more serious side to MandrakeLinux, which is capable of supporting corporate networks and hosting enterprise level applications, if required. It may not have the profile of the big name alternatives but it has similar capabilities and other Linux vendors would do well to make their products as accessible and easy to use as this.
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