One of the most popular distributions of Linux, a position it’s held for many years, Mandriva is a distribution that straddles the needs of both home and business users surprisingly well. And while on the one hand you sacrifice a little of the immediate simplicity of something like Ubuntu, Mandriva 2010 is nonetheless a rounded and accomplished distribution, with plenty more up its sleeve.
We downloaded the full DVD release, the ISO for which weighed in at just shy of 4.1GB. Once we’d burned our disc, we found the installation routine a delight and even easier and more straightforward than something of the ilk of the aforementioned Ubuntu. It took longer than usual, as it was nearly half an hour from commencing the installation to getting a usable desktop, yet that was accounted for by the thoroughness of the job it did and the sheer amount of software installed.
As part of the installation you’re offered the choice between the two main desktop managers, KDE or Gnome. We opted, as many seem to do, for the former, and were pleased with the latest version of KDE. Little things like annotations are welcome features and it was also very fast in operation.
The installation, as you’d expect, also offers to take on disk partitioning and formatting work as required, and it keeps a timer running so you know how long you have left to go. We found the timer to be quite cautious though, as Mandriva installed comfortably ahead of advertised schedule. We liked the fact that you could choose to get a detailed commentary on the installation, and one that even the less experienced user could get a handle on, such was the clarity of the descriptions on offer.
The operating system itself is rock solid, highly stable and zipped along at real speed. It’s friendly to use and comes with a huge array of software, from the basics you’d expect through to page layout tools, lots of little take-it-or-leave-it accessories and a generous smattering of games.
None of this, of course, will appeal to those who like their installations free of bloat, but that said, the simple install/remove software option from the main menu does make changing programs very easy. We were also delighted to see that even Windows network shares on other machines were automatically detected. Mandriva really does offer an operating system that was up and running from the moment the desktop screen first appeared.
There are some snags and grumbles, but not many. The OS was oddly insistent on the DVD being in the drive when one or two updates were installed (something we expect to see removed from the final version), while you’ll need to fork out for some of the necessary media codecs to get certain material up and running.
But having used Mandriva consistently for a good week or two now, this is clearly one of the most polished and professional of mainstream Linux distributions. It’s diligent and detailed in its work, is extremely user-friendly and, coupled with KDE, makes for a fuss-free yet quietly powerful operating system. The final version – for this is the release candidate – is likely to be well worth a download.