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Mandriva Linux 2010
(formerly Mandrake) with KDE 4.3.2
Linux user interfaces have come a long way over the years. It is 2010
now, the desktops, file managers, and application user interfaces are much
more complete and robust than they once were. Unfortunately while reviewing
Mandriva I ran in to quite a few more speed bumps and blemishes than I
Originally this product was called "Mandrake Linux", but for various
reasons they changed the name to "Mandriva Linux".
Mandriva comes in KDE, Gnome, and XFCE versions. (Confusing before you
even download it!) The KDE version is apparently the more popular, and
what Mandrake used previously, so this is what I chose to review.
Mandriva Linux booting up.
Installing Mandriva Linux from the Live CD.
Mandriva boots from a "live CD" that can be used to install the OS or
sample the OS without installing.
The first time I tried to install, the installer completely refused
to start with no hint as to what was wrong. It turned out it was confused
because the drive was previously formatted for HaikuOS.
After wiping the drive the installer started but gave an error saying
"I can not read the partition table of device sda, it's too corrupted for
me :(" Yes, the error message is in first person, and yes, that is a text
frouny face at the end. Not very professional, and poorly worded.
There were a few other problems I noticed that made the installer appear
kind of shabby. Most "advanced" buttons displayed the advanced options
in the same window, making it unclear if I could go back or cancel from
the advanced selection. Also, it often displayed just a blank window while
performing lengthy operations.
Once installed, this is the default desktop. (Pretty much the same
as the live CD)
The default icons on the desktop are:
The bottom of the screen contains a Taskbar-like "Panel". This contains:
Home - Opens a folder window to the "home" folder containing documents,
downloads, music, etc.
Join Mandriva - Opens the Mandriva web site.
Trash - A typical trash folder that stores files until it is emptied.
Upgrade to powerpack - Opens another web site.
Welcome - Opens the welcome screen seen at startup.
Application Launcher Menu - A menu with several common options, groups
of programs, and a list of recently used programs.
Devices (USB) - Lists externally connected media such as USB drivers and
Show the Desktop - Hides open windows to expose the desktop.
Configure your Desktop - A control panel with user oriented desktop settings.
Configure your Computer - A control panel with more advanced system level
Firefox - The famous web browser, what else?
Desktops - A set of buttons that selects different "desktops" for open
windows (but all desktops share the same desktop icons)
Task Manager - A list of currently open application windows to select from.
System Tray -
Volume - Volume goes up. Volume goes down.
Klipper clipboard tool - A tool for more advanced clipboard management.
Internet Connection - Displays the status of network.
"Mandriva Online" - This is the Mandriva update tool.
Clock - The current time.
Lock screen - Covers all open windows and requires the user password to
return to the desktop.
Power - Shuts down the computer.
One of the first things I needed to do was reset my clock. The clock
control panel appears during installation but can also be accessed from
the right-click menu of the desktop clock.
Setting the clock is very painful because it only uses a non-standard
24-hour format. Regular people do not use 24-hour time, so it doesn't make
any sense to present this to the user. It is a matter of just adding and
subtracting so why shouldn't this be done by the computer?
Speaking of time, it is now 2010. Windows 2 from 1987 was capable of
enabling users to set their time using either 12 or 24 hour time depending
on their control panel setting. And the clock here is indeed set to normal
12 hour time.
The Mandriva clock also insists on always adding an extraneous zero
to the beginning of the hour.
And, as if there weren't enough problems with this control panel, the
time zone selection was a pain because it asked for a "city" from a huge
list rather than just asking for Eastern/Cenral/Pacific time. It doesn't
seem right selecting "New York" for Eastern time when I really live in
a city nowhere near New York. Redundantly, there is another seemingly redundant
time zone selection in a second separate control panel with some other
Clicking on the clock brings up a browsable calendar (not used to set
time). Whatever that first column is on the calendar, it doesn't fit.
One of the clock's right-click menu options is a "copy date to clipboard"
option. An interesting feature, but where would this be useful?
The Application Launcher is much like the Windows "Start Menu" except
programs are organized in to a number of predefined groups rather than
all being stuffed in to one "programs" menu item.
An interesting feature of the "Run Command" menu item from the Launcher,
is that it produces a list of possible matches from the program groups
as you type. (But it doesn't help if you forget the kommand you want starts
with letter "K")
Files can be placed and stored directly on the desktop. Links, similar
to a shortcut or alias, provide an icon that points to a file stored in
a different location.
On the desktop, when you move the mouse over an icon it changes to look
like a button. This gives the impression that it can be single-clicked
on, but it can't. By default it must be double clicked, although single
clicking can be enabled as an option.
Files can be dragged and dropped between folders or the desktop. Instead
of immediately dropping it, Mandriva displays a menu prompting which action
should be taken. This is an extra step but eliminates any ambiguity in
what the default drop action may be.
While trying to get screen shots, it turns out that the "print screen"
key can not be used while a menu is being displayed. Instead the screen
capture utility must be started separately and set to take a timed screen
shot. (Is this is a clever way to prevent users from sending in screen
shots to the help desk where they say "well, I clicked this menu item and...")
The desktop file manager is called "Dolphin". Hence the word "Dolphin"
appearing in all of the file windows.
"Dolphin" can display files as regular icons, in columns (Like MacOS
X), or as a detailed list.
You can change the size of icons using a slider that usually appears
in the lower right of the file windows.
There are four optional "panes".
This computer has a standard internal floppy drive, but Mandriva does not
seem to want to recognize it. I just get crazy errors such as: "An error
occurred while accessing 'PC Floppy Drive', the system responded: org.fredesktop.Hal.Device.Volume.Uknown
mount: you must specify the filesystem type". Presumably they omitted simplified
errors to make room for the tuna.
Places - shown by default, lists common file locations a user may wish
to select from.
Information - shown by default, displays a preview of the currently selected
file and some file details.
Folders - hidden by default, displays a folder tree that can be used to
navigate the folder hierarchy.
Terminal - hidden by default, displays a command line within the file window
for advanced users.
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