Mandriva plans on releasing the community version of 2006 on or about August 15 and Official on September 15. With the first beta expected in little over week, I thought it wouldn't be entirely inappropriate to take a look at the current cooker and get an idea of the kinds of things to which we can look forward.
The most exciting new inclusion I spot almost immediately is KDE-3.4.1. Folks were sorely disappointed in getting 3.3.2 in 2005, and it looks like Mandriva is not gonna let that happen again. Right now some rpms are in the 2nd and 3rd incarnation, we can expect more improvements and bug squashes before release. However, in its present state, I found Mandriva's KDE to be quite stable and fast. I counted 5 seconds from typing 'startx' to seeing the splash screen disappear. (Good thing too, as they left Monster Tux splash to greet you!) One can credit KDE with much of this speed improvement as I attested in my coverage of KDE 3.4.1. But it also must be said that Mandriva went from lilo to login in about 30 seconds. I have no idea what voodoo they've conjured to get those boot speeds, but its likely winning users and influencing developers.
I did have some trouble with fonts in konqueror. I couldn't seem to get them anti-aliased in the konqueror web browser. Perhaps this is related to still using xfs despite being exiled by Xorg. But they were gorgeous everywhere else.
I didn't really see too much new eye candy, but they usually throw that in during the last stages. They did change the default Monster Tux wallpaper to the less malevolent, quite familiar and aptly named 'default.png'.
Which leads us to the kernel. Right now the latest kernel in cooker is linux-2.6.10-11. I would expect this to change probably even by the time the first beta hits the mirrors. They are coupling that with udev, but it looks as tho they are tarballing up all devices imaginable instead of using udev in the true dynamic manner in which it was written. This could change as well. However, it's a safe option as it eliminates the risk of devices not being made upon boot.
In addition to KDE, Mandriva has started using version 4.0 of gcc. I didn't try to compile anything with it during my test, unfortunately, but surely it works as I had to download 2500MB of rpms containing 550 packages to update my month old cooker.
Well that's the biggies I see at this point: KDE-3.4.1 and gcc-4.0. Stay tuned for further developments. Tuxmachines is planning to cover each stage of development of 2006 until the day of release. You can find Screenshots in the TuxGallery as always.
UPDATE: Please see complete rpm list here.