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Mandriva 2007 Beta 3 Report

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It was no secret that Mandriva released Beta 3 to their upcoming 2007 yesterday. I saw the news carried on just about every Linux site out there. I'm not sure why all the excitement and attention this time, I must have missed something. I mean, I'm always quite excited, but that kind of press is usually reserved for major releases or developmental milestones. Perhaps beta 3 is a milestone. There are some nice new features this time and perhaps this is why it was so noteworthy. It took me over 24 hours, but I finally got the 586/x64_86 dvd downloaded and burnt. This is what we found.

Some of the changes appeared soon after boot. The installer has a revamped look this beta. The initial boot screen is the same as encountered before with some adapted openSUSE components. However the installer has some new looks. The background is a new graphic with the color of a lovely Royal blue. In the upper left hand corner we find a modified Mandriva logo featuring the Mandriva Penguin head, their familiar star, and Mandriva name in white. In the other upper corner we find "Beta 2007" in some cool futuristic font. The wizard window is a bit updated with a new color highlight of light blue and 3D scroll bar. The basic steps are the same to which we are accustomed.

        

I'm not sure how many of you remember, but back before the turn of the century Mandrake (as it was then known) had the ultimate Linux installer. It ran circles around all others. It was beautiful, logical, and easy to use. It was Mandrake and their ground-breaking installer that did more for the proliferation of Linux at that time than anything else. I feel confident saying that. I believe it with all my heart. Mandrake was the newbie's distro. It made installing Linux as easy or easier than found with Windows. One of the major problems for any newbie I think is the partitioning step. Mandrake took that step and found a way not only for a newbie to visualize what might be happening, but to visually resize and make new partitions. Fdisk and cryptic commands were not needed. Long before I knew how to use fdisk, I often used Mandrake's Diskdrake for my partitioning needs. I recall booting Mandrake install cds to do the partitioning so I could then boot Red Hat or whatever to install. The rest of the installer was just as easy. Understanding mbrs and how to install bootloaders wasn't necessary. Again, Mandrake took the worry out of users' hands. But I digress I guess. They may have released some clunkers from time to time, they may have started treating their users like gnats, and they may have kicked Gael to the curb, but I'll always have a soft spot for them. Mandrake opened the world of Linux to me and this is why I still follow their development fairly close.

At the login screen I noticed something a bit different. There was an entry in the menu called drake3d. This must be the 3D desktop about which I've heard. Of course that was my first choice. Upon login I got the ai/glx configuration screen, but most options were grayed out and I was informed my desktop didn't support 3d effects. I double-checked and xorg was indeed using nv. I though perhaps I could try and configure it per this howto posted by a developer a week or so back. Still no joy was found. Next, I downloaded the nvidia proprietary drivers and tried again. This time xgl was available and I was told to restart X. After X restarted, again I was back at the grayed-out configuration screen with the message my desktop doesn't support 3D effects. Well, I was disappointed. :cry: I knew I had enjoyed these effects in Kororaa, openSUSE, and Dreamlinux.

However, I mentioned my luck to a friend and he said it worked for him. He was using an ATI 9250 graphics card with the 586 KDE live cd version. He tried the livecd in another machine that had an nvidia graphics chip and he suffered the same fate as me. I surmise there are still issues with Mandriva's implementation and nvidia chips. But ATI folks are in luck. When activated you will see an entry in the Mandriva Control Center called Configure 3D Desktop Effects. That opens a module identical to the configuration that opens when attempting to login to the 3D desktop giving one the choices of using AIGLX or Xgl. Clicking upon Run compiz configuration tool brings up this more complex options configuration screen.

        

As you can see from the following screenshots, contributed by Texstar, the effects appear to be working fine. We see in the first screenshot how scaling is working. The windows appear to size themselves equally to fit in the screen. In the second screenshot we can see some of the "wobbling" effects, and in the third shot we see the most popular effect of "the cube." Texstar said of the system performance under AIGLX, "It was acceptable. Sometimes enlarging a window would cause a little pause before it would adjust. Menu opening was quick. Wiggling the windows was good. The cube worked fine but I could tell my video card was straining a bit." Very good work from Mandriva.

        

As we heard, Mandriva has updated their Package Manager as well. The new RpmDrake v3 now combines installing, updating, and removing of packages from within one module. Users have been asking for this for years and now it is so. One initial glitch is that trying to start it as user from the menu shoots an error about there not being sufficient priveledges, rather than asking for root password. However, I started it at the console and was able to test the basic functionality. Indeed, it does install packages and places an entry into the menu as we can see here with installing Rock 'n Diamonds. Much like synaptic, one clicks on the software package they wish it install and a little plus sign appears on the package name to let you know it's selected. Once you press Apply, the package and its dependencies are install.

        

Uninstalling a package works very similarly. Click on the item to be uninstalled, click apply, and it will uninstall the package and any of its exclusive dependencies. The menu entry for it will also be removed. The basic functionality is in place, but it still a bit buggy. During one "reload package list" I suffered a complete crash and burn of the program, but the next time it did not. Also, repainting of categories list was buggy. I had to mouse over sometimes to get the list back if another window had been opened over the package manager window. Weird huh? But all in all it was very impressive for a first run of this application.

        

Also new since my last test of Mandriva, which was beta 1, is this great looking Gnome 2.15.92 theme. It features a light blue windec with a round 3D almost gel-like appearance. It's called la Ora Free and features nice 3D like widgets throughout. The lower panel was extremely nice looking as well. This new look hasn't made its way into KDE yet, but Gnome was looking very slick indeed. Another :up: for Mandriva.

        

KDE did get a new splash screen that looked rather fantastic. However, upon my first logins, the fonts in Mandriva were quite fugly again as found in beta 1. I was using nv and then later nvidia to no difference. I copied some ttf from my gentoo partition and ran mkfontdir, mkfontscale, and fc-cache and it looked much better. In fact, they looked some better after restarting X before I changed the fonts to one of my imported ttf. I bet it needed to run fc-cache. Texstar stated of his font experience, "I switched to the 1024 res as it looks best on my flat panel. It was kinda mixed. Some fonts looked really good like in the menu but others like in the kde control panel were like they weren't AA or something." Firefox fonts were the worst for both of us and never did improve here.

        

Another glitch encountered was with hal and kde automount. Upon insertion of a cd or dvd, the KDE media daemon opens its window, but does not mount the media. It states it needs Hal. I knew I had left the haldaemon enabled during the services configuration step of the installation, but upon double-checking, it was not running. On boot was check, it just isn't getting started. Once you start the haldaemon, the automount works as it should. Gnome's removeable media automount worked fine.

        

Icewm had some kind of widget rendering problem, but wmaker seemed to work fine. I also didn't find a new changelog. It appears it hasn't been updated since 2006 was released. On a good note, commonly used video formats worked really well in totem and xine.

        

Some version numbers this release are:

  • kdebase-3.5.4-12

  • gnome-desktop-2.15.92-1
  • kernel-2.6.17.2mdv-1-1
  • x11-server-xorg-1.1.1-8
  • gcc-4.1.1-3
  • openoffice.org-2.0.3-2
  • mozilla-firefox-1.5.0.6-4
  • gaim-2.0.0-2.beta3.1.1
  • gimp-2.3.10-5
  • Full rpmlist as installed.

Overall, I think Mandriva 2007 is beginning to turn the corner. Functionality is improving slowly but surely and looks are improving quickly and dramatically. Hardware detection was really good, including my newish printer model. Overall system performance was good here, although I didn't test vesa drivers (which was what was giving us problems last test). There were some new features and some new eye candy to get excited about. There were a few problems here and there, but we're still in beta and things are looking up. Perhaps 2007 will be a banner release for Mandriva afterall.

UPDATE: I found the changelog. Blushing

Mandrake/driva's installer

I remember three or four years ago using Mandrake to get into the Linux world. I was surprised at how easy it was to install after hearing so much about how geeky Linux was. My question is, why does no other distro, at least to my knowledge, use Mandriva's installer? Is not released to the public or something like that? If so, it's a shame because I found it to be an extremely easy and beautiful program, especially for newbies.

re: Mandrake/driva's installer

It's gpl'd. PCLOS bases theirs on it and several distros based on mandriva or pclos use it.

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You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

Mandriva One 2007 Beta 3: Almost Good

Beranger has some interesting observations and thoughts on Mandriva's Beta 3 as well. He says, "Unlike Mandriva 2007 Beta 1, this third beta worked flawlessly right out of the box! But..."

His Full Article.

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You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

mdv: Reader's comments

In an interesting email concerning my story, a reader states, "Can confirm that the 3D desktop stuff DOES work with ATI cards. It crashed my X Server a few times, but I'm only using free drivers, so it may be more stable with proprietary drivers (since my graphics card will only do SOFTware acceleration under free drivers)."

In addition, he offers this advice to those suffering from the fugly font fituation: "there is a fix for the ugly fonts! Big Grin. Need to go into KDE control centre, DISable AA, click apply, Enable AA, click apply. ta-da!

We thank him for his input.

----
You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

ATI

Do you mean Nvidia?

re: ATI

I don't know, he emailed me and said ATI. So... ?

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You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

ATi

ai/glx worked for my ATI card but not XGL. ai/glx and XGL did not work at all on my nvidia however a friend of mine says his nvidia works but didnt say what he used ai/glx or xgl.

re: ATi

Yeah, he verified ATI.

thanks.

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You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

another user's comment

Indeed it appears that some NVIDIA users are not completely out of luck with Mandriva and 3d desktop - although their choice may be xgl and not mandriva's aixgl. From a user using a similar chipset as mine, a Nvidia 6600gt, "I installed their standard kde 'One' livecd version and then installed the plf nvidia drivers and it worked fine. The control centre module picked up that I had installed the proprietary driver and then allowed me to chose xgl for my 3d desktop."

We thank him for his input as well.

(this is the friend of which Texstar spoke of in an earlier comment).

----
You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

Better than expected

Having download and installed Mandriva's prior 2007 Beta releases, I wondered if Mandriva was going to start to pull this one together. With Beta3, it looks like they will.

After installing the X86-64 version of Mandriva 2007 Beta3, I went to www.nvidia.com and grabbed their latest driver, and tried to install it. But, of course, to install the nvidia drivers, I had to have the kernel headers (kernel source code) so the nvidia drivers can hook into the kernel. I've got kernel 2.6.17-2 from my base install. I go to one of my favorite Mandriva FTP sites, where I discover that there is no kernel 2.6.17-2 file anywhere. So I download the 2.6.17-3 kernel and source and install those. Later I find that this issue is discussed in Mandriva's forum. I should know better by now, and should have checked the Mandriva forum before installing.

So I try again to install nvidia's driver. Still no joy as I lack some xorg development files. I install these, and finally install nvidia's driver. It works.

But as reported here, the 3D stuff doesn't. OK, it's Beta3, and according to Mandriva's release plan, they have releases RC1 and RC2 before the final. Still time to get this working, if they can.

I'm a KDE guy, so I can't comment on Beranger's Gnome impressions. My fonts are OK, but, I had to set the anti-aliasing in KControl.

The new rpmdrake needs some finish work, as it seems impossible to display the packages in an alphabetically sorted way--they insist on being listed in the Mandriva categories. Makes it impossible to browse through looking for a particular package. However, the Search box worked.

I don't have any problems with the automounting of removable devices, under KDE. This works smoothly for me.

My primary interest with Mandriva, at this point, is as a potential server, at it comes with the latest Postgresql, MySQL, Samba, Drupal, and other web groupware.

All in all, it looks like Mandriva Release 2007 may eventually be a solid one. Frankly, I think it's make or break time for Mandriva--if 2007 isn't a very good release, Mandriva's decline will accelerate. And with the Beta1 and Beta2 releases, I thought they were going to sink like a stone. I kept thinking that they have got to be motivated by the proliferation and popularity of Ubuntu/Kubuntu, why aren't these early betas better quality? Finally,that extra motivation is just starting to show with Beta3.

re: Better than expected

gfranken wrote:

After installing the X86-64 version of Mandriva 2007 Beta3, I went to www.nvidia.com and grabbed their latest driver, and tried to install it. But, of course, to install the nvidia drivers, I had to have the kernel headers (kernel source code) so the nvidia drivers can hook into the kernel. I've got kernel 2.6.17-2 from my base install. I go to one of my favorite Mandriva FTP sites, where I discover that there is no kernel 2.6.17-2 file anywhere. So I download the 2.6.17-3 kernel and source and install those. Later I find that this issue is discussed in Mandriva's forum. I should know better by now, and should have checked the Mandriva forum before installing.

I just typed urpmi kernel-source and they installed (after setting up a ftp mirror). They must have already addressed this issue by the time I installed.

gfranken wrote:

So I try again to install nvidia's driver. Still no joy as I lack some xorg development files. I install these, and finally install nvidia's driver. It works.

This is one of the reasons I always check developmental when choosing main install categories.

gfranken wrote:

My fonts are OK, but, I had to set the anti-aliasing in KControl.

Well, I verified that it was checked here, but I didn't think to uncheck it, save, recheck, and save as the our email commentator stated. running fc-cache seemed to work as well. it probably gets run when applying anti-aliasing in the kcontrol gui.

All in all, even with the unusable 3D desktop, I was pleasantly surprized by the turn around discovered in beta3. I'm actually excited for them again.

----
You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

Mandriva Turnaround

It is a real turnaround, as most everything seems to be working smoothly. There are some rough edges, but no real show stoppers. As I mentioned, I'm going to use Mandriva 2007 as my server OS (with PCLinuxOS and Win XP dual boot on the desktops).

Mandriva never has received enough credit as a server OS. A few years back I used Mandriva (version 8.2) as a Web - PHP - MySQL - Postgresql - file & print Samba server for a full school year. Never had to reboot once (only restarts were 2 power outages during the year -- had to learn to use the XFS filesystem repair utilities after the first power-outage, but after, everything was fine). Mandriva performed these services reliably and flawlessly. With Webmin and ssh, it was relatively easy to administer remotely.

I'm pleased that Mandriva has made some real progress with Beta3 as I've always regarded them as being fairly good open source citizens for a commercial distribution. And, of course they do have the best disk partitioner in the business. I too have often used it over the years when trying out other distros.

As always, thanks for your good review.

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