Reviewed: Since its last release, Mandriva has undergone a few changes – many of which have rubbed the community up the wrong way. But when it comes to producing a general-purpose Linux distro, Mandriva always seems to pull it off. Its latest, Mandriva 2009.1 Spring, is haute couture, trend-setting stuff.
As usual 2009.1 Spring is available in three flavours: ‘One’, which has proprietary drivers; ‘Powerpack’, which has proprietary apps; and ‘Free’, which has neither. Free is a 4GB ISO and One is an installable Live CD. You can also drop the One ISO on to a USB drive and boot off it.
The installer has been redesigned and now uses WebKit for displaying inbuilt documentation. Like Ubuntu 9.04, Spring also supports the ext4 filesystem. Upgrading has been Mandriva’s Achilles’ heel since the last few releases, and if you’re a KDE 3 user upgrading to Spring, you’ll have to take precautions to save your personal settings and customisations.
Spring boasts of a significant reduction in startup times, thanks mostly to Mandriva’s Speedboot system, which starts display manager-related services and gets you to the login screen, before starting other services in the background. On our test machine, Spring takes 26.6s to boot, as compared with 42.6s for Debian Lenny.
Thanks to some neat init voodoo, Mandriva 2009.1 Spring springs into action considerably faster.
It’s business as usual on the applications front, except that there’s no K3b, which Mandriva help port to KDE 4, on the One installations. The Mandriva Control Centre gets some more configuration tools, adding to the already impressive list of Mandriva’s administrative tools. Mandriva’s security framework, Msec, has been completely redesigned with a new GUI, improved logging and support for plugins.
The security backbone in Mandriva 2009.1 Spring has been redone for better protection and easier management.
Vive la difference
Mandriva Linux 2009.1 Spring is one of the first major distros featuring KDE 4.2 as the default desktop environment. The whole distro is built around the current stable KDE release and there wasn’t as much as a blip, even while we were running around the desktop pushing all the buttons for this review (there’s also Gnome 2.26, Xfce 4.6 and LXDE for netbooks and older machines).
If you’re new to KDE 4.2, you’ll be impressed with the flashy KWin window manager, which is now almost as flashy as Compiz (but isn’t enabled by default). Plasma’s Folder View mode now lets you place icons on the desktop, which is what Spring defaults to, but if you switch out of this view and back again, the icons appear faded.
Mandriva 2009.1 Spring relegates KDE 3.x to the history books; KDE 4.2 is ready for prime time.
There are also major changes in the new Xfce environment, which now lets you select multiple icons on the desktop, but there are also some problems. For example, after enabling display compositing, the whole desktop becomes sluggish – even switching between windows takes forever. The session manager sports new Suspend and Hibernate buttons that work flawlessly, but the age-old options to shut down and restart computer don’t.
Mandriva always seems to bring out the best in KDE – or is it the other way around? Either way, if you want a mainstream Linux distro with KDE 4.2 goodness, it’s time to spring into action.
Verdict: A well-designed, stable distro for KDE fans, though the Xfce implementation could use some love. 8/10
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