I confess I am a KDE fan. I had great hopes on KDE 4, I liked it very much for its radical new features. I tried KDE 4 with Debian, Kubuntu, OpenSuSE, Fedora but none were polished and ready to satisfy me. But I think the wait is over with yesterday's release of Mandriva 2009. Here's a review and my first opinions of this wonderful distro.
Mandriva (known as Mandrake) was the first distro on which I had my baby steps in to the Linux domain. Mandriva was the Ubuntu during 1999-2003. During the time when RedHat stopped its community version and forked into Fedora, Mandriva too lost its glory with the introduction of Mandriva Club. 2004 saw the rise of the Ubuntu which revolutionized the Linux arena. Now OpenSuSE, Fedora and Mandriva, the major players have joined the race of making open source software better usable and available to the masses. Mandriva striked back with a bang with its 2008 version which was really impressive.
I installed Mandriva One 2009 KDE version on my Compaq Presario V3000 series laptop. The short specs are : AMD Turion 64 X2 @ 1.9GHz, 3 GB RAM, nVidia Corporation GeForce 7150M display with shared memory, 1280 x 800 screen.
Mandriva 2009 could not detect the resolution and boot into the GUI, I had to enter the CLI and use 'drakxconf' to setup my video card. The steps were easy but the point is the new user has to be familiar with CLI and also be aware of drakxconf.
Mandriva 2009 install from live CD is very simple, it doesn't ask for much information until the first boot. But there is a new script that removes unwanted modules in the installation.
The install went well but after there was an error reporting that the bootloader cannot be installed. So after the reboot, there was no operating system found. I repeated the install from the beginning and it worked fine.
During the first login, I was asked about the locales and to create a new user as well as the root password. After first login, Mandriva wanted me to register, which I have done before, I entered my details, Mandriva wanted me to send my hardware profile which was created in a tar.gz file. I happily uploaded the file and sent to Mandriva.
After install and a reboot, I could boot into the workable OS in 55 seconds and the basic install took about 2.3 GB.
Look and Feel
I am very much pleased with the aesthetics of Mandriva 2009. I never thought that KDE 4 could be so beautiful and a pleasure to use. Mandriva 2009 uses La Ora window decoration instead of Oxygen. The theme is very nice and the default wallpaper is elegant. The default mild blue colours are very pleasing. I am truly amazed by the looks which will be a key factor in me adopting this distro.
The launcher is classic sytle like KDE 3 but you can easily change it to kickoff style which is what I prefer. The classic menu style is logically arranged and free of much clutter, but the new kickoff menu has search function (Vista also has this) which is also very easy to use.
Package selection and installation
The default package selection is good with majority weight given to KDE applications. But I found it peculiar to find Ekiga for voip services instead of Twinkle or Kphone. But this chioce must be because of Ekiga's better features and must be appreciated. I would be happy if Pidgin was installed by default instead of Kopete. The office suite is the 3.0 version of OO. OO3 has many improved features like the ability to create tables in OO Impress. The default browser is Firefox instead of Konqueror which sensible. A KDE based distro need not fanatically be KDE based. I am not agains Konqueror, but most of the sites like gmail don't like konqueror, so there is no point to make it the default browser as other distros like OpenSuSE have done. Flash was installed by default but the codecs to play XviD and WMA can be downloaded with the help of codeina.
Installation of packages was breeze through the legendary Mandriva Control Centre. Also package installation at the command line with urpmi was at par with apt-get install. I would like to make a note that OpenSuSE's package installer Yast2 sucks despite their efforts to improve it, whereas Mandrivas package installer felt snappier.
Mandriva 2009 also mounted my windows partitions by default which was not the case in 2008.1.
Mandriva is the first to release a new version this season among the others like Ubuntu, Fedora and Opensuse. Being early to release a cutting edge version with KDE 4, Mandriva has done a really impressive job. In this way they can win a lot of new users who are waiting for an upgrade. I seriously doubt if there will be better implementation of KDE 4 in the near future. I have used Fedora 9 KDE in my home desktop and used OpenSuse 11 KDE in my laptop, but they both had several issues. KDE 4 is ready for prime time use with Mandriva 2009, so grab the iso and try it out.