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Was it because of a bad strategy? Was its release cycle too long? Was it the controversy over Gael Duval being fired? Or was it just the lack of quality in its latest releases? Whatever it was, it disappointed a lot of people. The once most popular Linux distribution had now fallen far behind the leading Ubuntu, Fedora and Suse. A lot of its users were moving towards PCLinuxOS.

Mandriva 2006 started to look obsolete after Fedora Core 5, Ubuntu 6.06 and Suse 10.1 had been released. With Fedora Core 6, Ubuntu 6.10 and Suse 10.2 planned before the end of the year, and with only one release a year, Mandriva 2007 had to get it right! If Mandriva ever wanted to get their popularity back, this was the one and only opportunity.

By the past, the French company proved that they had the talent to make things right. I couldn't wait for Mandriva 2007 to become publicly available. I was ready either to be impressed or to forget about this distribution.

P-Day: Penguin Day!

Things didn't start well. First, the announced release schedule wasn't respected and no dates were announced after it had obviously been postponed. Then, the fact that two people from Mandriva had written something like "Linux is not ready for the desktop” on their personal blogs created a huge controversy.

Slackware 11 was released in the meantime and caught a lot of people's attention. And a few hours later came Mandriva 2007. The announcement was full of promises and innovations and I went straight to the download section of their official website.

I realized that I didn't have to be a member of the Mandriva Club to download the newly released Mandriva 2007. By the past, Mandriva nearly always left a gap of a month or so between their releases, which were made available to their members, and the general availability of the ISO files. This was a nice surprise and I really appreciated it. It's a pity they didn't communicate on that because we don't really know if they'll go on like that or if they'll go back to their old strategy.

A lot of good and hopefully popular decisions have been made by Mandriva for this release. First, they made the download public and not restricted to members of their club like they did in the past. Second, they chose to provide torrent files instead of ISO, which is quite a popular technology and a smart way to save bandwidth and resources. Third, they gave the user a lot of choice. Let me explain.

Mandriva 2007 can be bought or downloaded. If you buy it you have the choice between three different bundles (Discovery, PowerPack and PowerPack+) which come with official support, and goodies like Cedega, LinDVD, Kaspersky antivirus...etc. If you prefer to get it for free, you can download it, and again you have the choice between two options:

  • a single CD called "Mandriva One” which acts as a live distribution and features a graphical installer.
  • a 4 CDs set called "Mandriva Free” which is similar to what Fedora or Suse do (a traditional install by booting on the first CD and inserting the 3 other ones depending on which packages the installer needs).
  • "Mandriva Free” is free of cost, and free as in "freedom”. In other words it doesn't include any proprietary software or drivers.

    "Mandriva One” on the other hand is whatever you want it to be. And this is a really good thing because it gives you more choice. For instance, you decide if you'd rather have a free and open system or one that includes non-free drivers. You can download a "purely free” or a "non-free” version of Mandriva One. And for each version, you have the choice between a KDE download and a Gnome one.

    I wanted to see what Mandriva was capable of so I decided to download the "non-free” version. This way I could try it and see if it supported things like MP3 decoding, or if it recognized all my hardware. As Mandriva had traditionally been a KDE distribution in the past, I suspected it to be better under this desktop environment so, I downloaded the "KDE/non-free” version of Mandriva One.

    The Live CD and the installer

    Although this is my favorite way of trying and installing a distribution, I usually don't pay too much attention to the live system. In most cases it's pretty much the same as the system which is going to be installed on your hard drive, but with poorer performances.

    I booted on the Mandriva One CD, noticed nice boot splash sequences, answered one too many questions about my favorite language, keyboard layout, home country, time zone, favorite time synchronization method, I signed a user license agreement and told Mandriva One I didn't want to activate the 3D effects (I didn't, because I wanted to keep that as a surprise for when it would be running from the hard-drive).

    Once on the desktop, I clicked on "Live Install” and the installer came up.

    The Mandriva installer is pretty basic. It lets you partition your disk and starts copying the system on it. Once finished it asks about how to configure the bootloader... and that's it. It's not a great installer to be honest. Instead of asking you everything when you decide to install Mandriva on your hard drive, it asks you things before booting the Live system, then before the installation, and then after the reboot before starting Mandriva for the first time. It's also a bit slow and non-responsive and it doesn't show much information about what is being copied on the disk.

    After reboot, a wizard helps you configure your network interfaces. Although it would have been better to do all of that during the installation process, I have to admit: the network configuration wizard is really good. It recognized my IPW2200 wifi card, which a majority of distributions don't, and guided me through all the steps involved in setting it up (addressing, routing, user permissions on the interface, etc...).

    I had to choose a root password and create a user account, and after I skipped a wizard asking me if I was interested in creating a Mandriva account, I was ready to log in.

    Inside Mandriva 2007

    Artwork

    The first thing you see when you start Mandriva is their new artwork. It's called "Ia Ora”, it's orange and it's quite visible. It features a nice set of widgets and it comes with 4 color schemes: Orange (which is the default choice in Mandriva One), Gray, Blue and Free (which is some kind of turquoise and the default choice in Mandriva Free). The theme's window decorations are quite dull and its icon set is very common. In Mandriva One, the orange is predominant and a bit too aggressive. Compared to the nice brown-orange theme from Ubuntu 6.06, it definitely doesn't look as nice. The mouse cursor has a blue animation around it when the system gets busy, and it looks similar to the one used by Fedora Core 5. Of course, it's a nice animation, but although it looked right in the blue Fedora desktop, it looks a bit weird in the middle of that orange theme.

    The Mandriva One 2007 Desktop

    Overall, the efforts made by Mandriva to improve their artwork are noticeable. Mandriva 2007 looks much better than its predecessor, but it's still not as refined as in Fedora, Suse or even Ubuntu.

    The desktop

    The Mandriva 2007 desktop is nice to use but it has major flaws. For instance, although OpenOffice Writer is installed by default, it is not visible as such in the menus. And .odt files are not assigned to it within Konqueror. This is obviously something that hasn't been tested. Attention to detail is important.

    On the desk, there is a "Devices” icon. It shows the partitions that you have on your drive and represents a handy way to access your data. Although, this is a good idea it doesn't go far enough. A lot of distributions have some kind of a "my computer” icon which shows not only the devices, the root filesystem, the network, the printers and a lot of other places.

    The Home folder

    The Home folder is preloaded with directories such as "Documents”, "Pictures”, "Music”, "Download”, each with a different icon and color code. I thought this was a great idea, and it definitely helps novice users to organize their data within their home folder.

    3D effects

    Although XGL and Compiz have been here for a while now and a lot of people have successfully used them, the fact that they are installed and preconfigured by default within a distribution is quite new. In Mandriva 2007, setting up the 3D effects was made extremely easy.

    The 3D Effects configuration tool

    A "3D Effects” tool was added to the Mandriva Control Center, which allows you to choose between 3 options:

    • No 3D effects
    • 3D effects through the use of AIGLX
    • 3D effects through the use of GLX

    Depending on your graphic card, some of theses choices could be unavailable. I'm not too sure about this but I think nVidia cards work with GLX, Intel cards work with AIGLX and ATI cards work with both.

    Once you've turned the 3D effects on, you can adjust a lot of options by running Compiz.

    Compiz

    In my case, I used AIGLX and I was extremely impressed by it. I simply chose to "use AIGLX” in the Mandriva Control Center, I restarted X, and here I was, seeing wobbly windows when I moved them, fade-in and fade-out effects everywhere, windows transparency, and a lot of other really cool effects. The cube and layout effects are also really handy and they can greatly improve the way you work with your computer if you're used to open a lot of windows.

    The 3D Cube

    I've only used those 3D effects for a week now and I simply got addicted to them!

    Hardware recognition

    I was very pleased with the hardware recognition in Mandriva 2007. My IPW2200 Wifi card was found automatically. Although the default resolution was 1024x768, I noticed that the 915resolution package was already installed, and I didn't have to type anything to change the display and get widescreen resolution on my i855 graphic card. Through the Mandriva Control Center, I just tried to change the resolution, it asked me if I wanted to load i915resolution, I said yes, rebooted (because I wanted to check that it also loaded i915resolution at startup) and worked out of the box.

    I only had one problem. Some function keys on my laptop didn't work. They were always detected on other distributions so I found it a bit strange. It's not a big thing though.

    Default set of applications

    Mandriva 2007 comes with the popular KDE 3.5, Amarok 1. 4, Firefox 1.5.0.7 and OpenOffice 2.0.3. It preferred Kmail over Thunderbird as its default email reader. Konversation is not included, but Kopete is and it provides IRC support. Man pages are not there by default. I know this will be unacceptable for some people, after all it's one of these things like "man”, "bash” or "vi”, you just expect them to be there, on any distribution. Well, it is not the case here. I suppose they needed to make some place for Mandriva One to fit on a single CD. It's not a big deal and you can install them from the package manager, but it does create a shock the first time you type "man” and get a "command not found”.

    Multimedia support

    Kmplayer is installed by default and it comes with a big collection of bookmarks in which you can find online radio streams sorted by countries. I don't know if we owe that to Kmplayer or to Mandriva, but it is good enough to be mentioned.

    I couldn't read encrypted DVDs, but MP3 files were decoded fine. I'm not sure which package you have to install for encrypted DVDs to be supported (libdvdread?) or for which legal or moral reason it had to be left out, but it's very easy to add it through the use of the package manager.

    Networking

    I had mixed feelings about the networking in Mandriva 2007. The configuration wizard had found my wifi and Ethernet cards, configured them correctly and guided me through all the required steps. On the desktop, a little applet was present in the system tray to show the quality of the wifi link and to easily switch between networks.

    The Network applet

    The problem was the desktop. Although everything is simple to configure the desktop doesn't make it easy to "browse” the network. For instance, I had to manually open Konqueror and type "smb:/” in the address bar to browse the Windows Shares on my network... and even then, it didn't work.

    Another problem was the lack of support for Bluetooth devices.

    Package Management and Configuration tools

    Mandriva has always been famous for its Control Center, an application which allows you to configure many aspects of your system. I was very impressed by its quality. Every time I needed to configure something, I found it both easy and efficient.

    The Mandriva Control Center - Package Manager

    Part of it is the software manager itself. Again, it is very easy to use. It's split into 4 sections. The first one let's you define your repositories. It already knows where to find the list of its mirrors and configuring them is trivial. The three others are there for installing, removing and upgrading packages. They're all very intuitive and easy to use.

    Mandriva uses RPM packages so one can easily compare their package manager with those used in Fedora and Suse. To be honest, they're all intuitive, pleasant and easy to use. Mandriva's package manager is integrated within its control center though, and this is an advantage over the others. It's also much faster. I remember blaming Fedora Core 5 and Suse 10.1 for having a slow package manager. It is definitely not the case here. Mandriva's urpmi is as fast as APT, maybe even faster.

    I wasn't too impressed by the packages themselves though. A huge majority of them didn't have descriptions, and dependencies were sometimes very grossly defined. For instance, I couldn't install Kwrite and Kspread without installing nearly the whole Koffice suite. I am used to Kubuntu which uses the Ubuntu packages and I didn't have that dependency issue in that distribution. Also, I thought the package manager could show a little bit more information about the packages, such as the download size for instance.

    The Mandriva Updates applet

    The day of the release the PLF website was down so I couldn't add their repositories. It is back online now and I believe they're ready for 2007. The Mandriva Updates applet which sits in your system tray and is supposed to tell you if updates are available never worked for me. I'm sure it will be fixed, but again Mandriva could have paid a little bit more attention to details.

    Speed

    I found Mandriva 2007 to be quite fast. The graphical interfaces and the desktop were always responsive. On my Sony Vaio T2XP laptop, the system takes 1m15s to boot.

    My graphic card is an Intel 855 and as such, the 3D effects were available through the use of AIGLX. Whether the 3D effects were turned on or off, the speed seemed to be the same and I didn't see anything slow down. I ran glxgears both under a normal X session and under AIGLX, and I got around 785 FPS for both.

    Conclusion

    If Mandriva could have improved their packages, their artwork and fix a few little things here and there they could have made this release the best on the market. They got really close though, and although I can find things to criticize I am still very impressed by some of the innovations and the overall quality. Mandrake was a wonderful distribution by the past, and I believe this release is a real sign that they're back as one of the major Linux distributions. Of course, no matter how good Mandriva 2007 is, it will probably be forgotten as soon as Fedora Core 6, Ubuntu 6.10 and Suse 10.2 get released. I was pleasantly surprised by the strategic decisions made by Mandriva and impressed by their latest release. Without a doubt this will make their popularity grow again. The only thing they need now, is a faster release cycle.

Rate This Article: poorexcellent
 
Comments about this article
purely free??
writen by: somebody on 2006-10-16 17:54:14
I wonder what do they mean when they say that whether KDE or Gnome based versions of "Mandriva One" are "purely free". I tried the Gnome based "free" version and I found that it used the propietary Nvidia driver anyway. Regards!.
RE: purely free?? written by somebody:
?
writen by: RG on 2006-10-16 18:34:21
RE: ? written by RG:
purely free??
writen by: somebody on 2006-10-16 22:21:20
RE: purely free?? written by somebody:
check the filename
writen by: leibowitz on 2006-10-17 01:37:28
RE: check the filename written by leibowitz:
Try the full release
writen by: leadsling on 2006-10-17 15:08:57
If you use the full release, you will find a lot of the little inconveniences will disappear. I do agree that 1 year in the Linux world is WAY TOO LONG! to wait for a new release. I've been a Linux and Mandriva(drake) user since 8.2 and this is by far the slickest Linux I've used, and that includes FC5, Suse 10.1, and (k)(X)Ubuntu. The only one even close is PCLinux, which has its roots deep in Mandrake. You don't get even close to the ease of setup and use experience with the single CD setup.
RE: Try the full release written by leadsling:
Not bad, but...
writen by: RJ59 on 2006-10-17 19:23:59
I've been a Mandy fan, and an occasional Club member, for years now. That is, until PCLinuxOS came out. I also keep trying the new releases of just about all the major distros out there, and keep coming back to PCLOS. To me, it is the most up to date and complete desktop distro there is, right off the live CD. The latest comes with KDE 3.5, and a simple apt-get update installs the 3.5.5 version, amongst other goodies. I've tried the non-free ONE as well, and found it inferior in every respect, except for those 3D Desktop effects. They rock! And the addition of Cedega for Windows games compatibility is a really smart move on Mandrivas part. PCLOS needs to get 'em both.
RE: Not bad, but... written by RJ59:
Mandriva
writen by: JRL on 2006-10-18 03:59:49
I've been using Mandriva (formally known as Mandrake) since 8.2 when Red Hat failed to install on my Athlon XP. The main thing that Mandriva has gotten right, in my opinion, is the optimization for i586 and first support for new hardware. Ubuntu has no processor optimisations for 32 bit processors and is compiled for i386. I had Mandrake(now Mandriva) running x86_64 before any of my freinds had x86_64 Gentoo, Ubunto or Red Hat on their systems. After recent thoughts of moving to Ubuntu I considered their x86_64 package only to find out that the developers don't care about 64-bit development; spoken freely about in the Ubuntu forums. Seems here, that the world is on a band wagon when it comes to Ubuntu. Mandriva has it right when it comes to bleeding edge performace and optimizations to get the most out of what you paid for the most(your hardware).
RE: Mandriva written by JRL:
Mandriva 2007
writen by: vilas2006 on 2006-10-22 09:37:11
New to Linux. Yesterday I got Mandriva Linux 2007 DVD version (Dual). The installation runs smoothly including graphic card, tv tuner, sound card and onboard network card. Configration of broadband connection is giving trouble. I am unable to connect internet. Further Mandriva donot included the tv system setup for india Finally after taking tv system for East Europe channels are loaded but no sound only the pictures. The reason that plugins not supported sound output of TV Tuner as the same is connected iternally without using Line In. Anybody guide me in this matter
RE: Mandriva 2007 written by vilas2006:
Getting help for your problems
writen by: Sitor on 2006-11-09 07:40:55
RE: Getting help for your problems written by Sitor:
Definitely still in the race
writen by: skole on 2006-11-13 20:17:17
I don't know what the future holds in store (as is to be expected), but I can say that Mandriva is still ahead of the competition in terms of just overall OS end-user experience. Fedora 6 came out and that was crap. *ubuntu 6.10 came out and that was pretty good, but not really ahead of Mandriva. I have downloaded and installed Mandriva 2007 and have been very happy with it. Coming from a Debian system I was not too impressed with the slower urpmi package management, but I have become acquainted with it since and now I am running it without problems. No distro is perfect, nor will it ever be, but when you put it into perspective, Mandriva really is the most complete Linux distro there is right now. I absolutely love Mandriva 2007 because it just works, and any problem I may have encountered I was able to fix. *ubuntu may be game for competition but Fedora and SUSE are really quite far behind Mandriva.
RE: Definitely still in the race written by skole:
Very promising........
writen by: Lina on 2006-11-15 20:12:44
I`ve been a SuSE guy for about 3 years and during these years when I tried other distros I got disappointed even with Kubuntu. Recently after Novell Microsoft deal, I really decided to find another distro, which led to test of different distros again. Again disappointed until I came to Mandriva 2007. Wow... how easy to use... how fast package manager... how fast updates and package downloads... . I did encounter problems (the installation procedure does not complete even after 4 reinstall! it comes up when I power on the machine again and again...). Now I am going to download DVD version. I think the number of Mandriva users has grown at least by one!
RE: Very promising........ written by Lina:
Mandriva 2007(free) vs. Novell SLED 10.0
writen by: someone on 2006-11-27 19:53:45
Well, I am really split which is best: Mandriva 2007 or SLED 10.0 Both have great improvements but also negative points. The most important differences I found: during installing, SLED 10 allows only 4 partitions (disapointment) and the display of the partitions looks ¨primitive¨ as compared with Mandriva 2007. Both recognized my system well; however, I had to set manually the keyboard type and the mouse: I forgot to do that in Mandriva and at boot I found myself without mouse! Goodness was that I could navigate with the keyboard to change the correct driver for my mouse! Updates: SLED 10.0 is at the top of the class, albeit it was extremely slow (more than 90 min to update like 70 packages or so!). Mandriva updates failed miserably. Although I prefer the Mandriva Control center where packages are installed, uninstalled and sources managed, this time I was a bit lost. Especially when I tried to update packages: I cannot distinguish nor know which are the packages that should be updated because they are not labelled as such. SLED 10 kept updating my system next day after install: Slow but functional! Also SLED has an advantage over Mandriva 2007 Free in supporting things such as JAVA, FLASH, and Acrobat Reader on Firefox, but this is expected since Mandriva 2007 Free has (almost) no proprietary apps. What about aspect? SLED impressed me with some of its polished things for the desktop, both in Gnome and KDE. Mandriva 2007 did not impressed me because it looks very much the same as Mandriva 10.1 Community. But Mandriva 2007 feels and works faster than SLED 10. A big dissapointement from both distros is that they did not include my favorite apps. at install. I like to play chess with Xboard, but it was nowhere in the disk. I installed in SLED 10 and opened only to find an error saying that something was missing! What! YAST did not take care of the dependency? And Mandriva 2007? Installation of Xboard also failed! Conclusion: I wish that the best of SLED and Mandriva could be fused into a new distro, so I can have the best of both worlds. I havent finished my evaluation of these distros and still dont know which is better:(
RE: Mandriva 2007(free) vs. Novell SLED 10.0 written by someone:
IS
writen by: JS on 2006-11-30 12:40:07
RE: IS written by JS:
no_body_important
writen by: mike morello on 2006-12-07 05:03:02
I have mandriva 2007. I have been using mandrake starting with version 7.1, But 2007 has me stumped. The internet (fire fox) or konqueror with work for a breif moment just long enough to display the google mandriva welcome screen then Die.... Please help Btw I and using a dual processors pentuim 4 CPU 2.60ghz, with a 37inch HDTV/moniter.Realtek RTL-8139 Network card, no wireless or blue thooth. Thanks in advance.
RE: no_body_important written by mike morello:
decision taken SLED 10 rocks!
writen by: My name is Nobody on 2006-12-29 19:50:32
[quote/]I havent finished my evaluation of these distros and still dont know which is better:([/quote] Well I have decided to keep SLED 10 in my computer. All minor 'details' that I found, were relatively easy to correct. Definitely, SLED 10 is a great piece of software. Essentially, everything works except for a KDETV causing a "Black Screen of Agony" (BSOA), possibly because my Monitor resolution is not compatible with the TV tuner card. But kRadio works flawless. Now for the first time I have no issues with mounting/unmounting media and those old errors saying ""unable to ...Media is busy" are a thing of the past with this distro. Now I can play chess with Xboard. Only one thing I could complain about: Yast is very slow.
RE: decision taken SLED 10 rocks! written by My name is Nobody:
wtf
writen by: hmm on 2007-01-04 10:15:22
tralalalalalala
RE: wtf written by hmm:
Mandriva Cds --> DvD
writen by: Erucolindo on 2007-01-27 10:50:59
I am currently downloading the last couple of CDs for the non-free version of Mandriva 2007. Im an IT Technician for IBM, and I do alot of work with some rather particular windows programs, so I definately wanted the support to run them, and still hold onto the possiblity that I would no longer need to run windows on my box again ;-) Problem I have, is seeing a non-free DvD image offered for mandriva, but not being able to find it anywhere! I get either no speed, no seeds on a the torrent, or its the wrong file when it downloads, and not nearly large enough to be the dvd. So my question is, what is the possibility (and process =p ) for taking those 6 CDs for the non-live version, and packaging them all on one DvD. Not sure how it looks to install itself, or native-Linux support for ISOs even. Can anyone offer any assistance?
RE: Mandriva Cds --> DvD written by Erucolindo:
hi
writen by: Ajith on 2007-02-19 04:13:52
hi guys my name is ajith residing in india, Bangalore..Last week i installed mandrivalinux 2007 free ware version..its really good..but i hv a small problem wid it..the problem is whenever i shutdown my system using that shutdown option it doesnt shut down..and even after trying it in that console command in unix using "poweroff" command even then it doesnt shut down properly..instead it shows a blank cursor 4 a long time which doesnt at all go and gets hanged all the time..then i dont hv any other option other using that reset button..so tell me what could be the problem?plz reply me at the earliesr or u can contact me at 09845545612
RE: hi written by Ajith:
re:
writen by: JS on 2007-02-26 13:31:21
RE: re: written by JS:
Mandriva 2007 on VAIO T2XP...HELP!
writen by: Pasquale on 2007-03-07 07:59:49
Hi guy, complimenta great review! Can you help me to configure the mandrive 2007 on my VAIO T2XP for the monitor? I can't view in wide screen but I have a black bar in the side of screen! THANKS! BYE
RE: Mandriva 2007 on VAIO T2XP...HELP! written by Pasquale:
Terrible wording for a positive review
writen by: John on 2007-04-25 13:20:24
The tone of your review was very positive, with almost everything to be satisfied about and very little to be displeased about. Between the review and the discussion of it, Mandriva 2007 compares favorably with every other Linux distribution that was mentioned. SO WHY ARE THE INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ABOUT MANDRIVA 2007 SO NEGATIVE, SO DISCOURAGING ABOUT MANDRIVA TO THOSE WHO JUST QUICKLY GLANCE AT HEADLINES? I found several points to be dissatisfied with in the 4-CD free version. I would rather use the regular KDE login screen than the Mandriva-supplied one. I enabled root gui logins in the security settings and still couldn't log into KDE as root. I didn't find the /proc/pci file which has the info I need to set up my hardware PCI modem (it's not a winmodem) with setserial. There could be some other modem-related bugs introduced with Mandriva 2006. I'm just testing Mandriva 2007 now, while happily running Mandrake 10.1 for general use. And I haven't found a better distro of Linux than Mandrake/Mandriva for average desktop users. If Linux ever is to be competitive with Windows in serving the general public at any price (free, 50 USD, 200 USD, whatever), it has GOT to include decent hardware setup to make the display work right, and it should get smarter at recognizing PCI modems as network devices and set them up just like a good distro finds and sets up a PCI soundcard. All the setup hardware-probe program needs to do is identify the response of a PCI device as a modem, send a standard AT command that a winmodem doesn't respond to without a driver, and see what the response is. If there's a typical response to an AT command, it's not a winmodem and is easy to set up as a network device. What's hard about coding that???
RE: Terrible wording for a positive review written by John:
.dv,
writen by: zoma on 2008-06-30 09:52:13
RE: .dv, written by zoma:

Comment title: * please do not put your response text here