It has been a couple of days since the Mandriva team released Mandriva Linux 2009 in KDE and GNOME flavours. I decided to try Mandriva and see for myself how it has improved over Mandriva Linux 2008.1. So, I downloaded the One version based on the KDE desktop. The One version is a Live CD and helps to see how it all works without installing it on to the computer. So lets get started.
The test system is my year and half old Dell Inspiron powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 1.73 GHz. It is supported by a GB of RAM and the graphics support is provided by an Intel 945 GMA. It has bluetooth and an Intel 3945 a/b/g wireless chip. That is not really a cutting edge configuration but enough to get work done.
As for the Mandriva Live CD, the first thing it reveals is its new artwork. Blue is out and black is in. There are fine lines of various colours on a black background. Mandriva has moved to KDE 4 and this version packs KDE 4.1.2. Other goodies include Mozilla Firefox 3, OpenOffice.org 3.0, Amarok 2 SVN version. There is no Flash or Java support out of the box but MP3 files were played without any complaints.
This is how the desktop looks right after booting. Mandriva has chosen to use its La Ora theme for the controls and the window decoration than go with Oxygen. I think this is a good move. I personally like the window decoration to be distinct from the work area. There are some pretty themes for both the desktop as well for the Plasma engine. The wallpapers are pretty refreshing too.
I can easily say that this is one of the best KDE 4 distros out there. openSUSE has the KDE 4 desktop as default for a while now, but I should say that nothing comes close to the polish that one can see in Mandriva Linux 2009. The OS is a pleasure to use. Another area that has received more attention is the Mandriva Control Center and this is apparent from the new sleek design. Another important thing – Plasma is quite stable and crashed just once when I tried to change the wallpaper. Not sure what went wrong but at second attempt things worked as expected.
There are a few areas where things are still to be improved. For example, when I wanted to check the amount of free space in my hard drive, there was a question mark in the place where the drive icon should have been. I know, this is minor, but does not reflect well on a OS which not so long ago was considered the best linux distro out there for anyone to try. Icons were missing in a few other places as well.
I did not have a wireless network so I could not test that. I know this is really important but I just did not have a hotspot around to test. Another thing that did not work was the front audio control. This one is also quite important and I would like to know if there is any way to get it working. But that apart, almost all the other components worked. The display was set to the correct resolution at 1280 X 800.
Initially there were some redrawing issues, especially on the window decoration, but once I turned Compiz off, everything was smooth. I guessed that an Intel 945 GMA is not sufficient to run Compiz and Plasma together. I tried booting the CD on my brother’s fairly recent desktop powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 processor with 2 GB RAM and an Nvidia 9500 GT with 512 MB RAM. The same issue was visible. However, I tried to boot with the CD again and this time there was no such problem. I am not sure what is wrong.
My conclusion is I am going to install this as dual boot with my current OS and try using it for a while and then decide which is the one OS that I am going to retain for daily use. I have got used to GNOME apps and I may be critical of some KDE apps. I would just like to tell everyone that I started with KDE with Red Hat but have come to like GNOME. I am not going to start a flame war here but Mandriva 2009 has made KDE 4 Kaptivating enough for new users. I sincerely wish Mandriva goes back to be one of the best Linux distros for anyone wanting to use it.
I have a bunch of screenshots here. So let me know what you think.