Pros: * Easy to install, infact it's only Linux distribution that i managed to install on my computer without any problems. * It is easy to update online. * RPMDrake, brilliant program for trouble free installing and uninstalling of software. * Best Linux distribution for beginners. * Comes with a very good selection of software. Cons: * Mandrake's own sound configuration called SoundDrake didn't manage to do its job, in order to get sound on my system I had to use a program called sndconfig from a CD that came with Mandrake 7.1, but there is no mention of having to use this program in the documentation, I had to work this out for myself. (sorted in Mandrake 8.0) * Bug in linuxconf. I had to use text editor to make corrections in Apache web servers configuration file, because the linuxconf didn't allow long enough access path to my virtual servers root directory. (sorted in Mandrake 8.0)
For years the excuse for not swapping from Windows to Linux was because Linux was not user friendly enough. Well with the latest releases of linux this excuse can no longer be used. For the pupose of this opinion i am refering to my friend Mandrake 7.2. This distribution is fabulous. Lets start with what has baffled new users for years shall we, the installation. Mandrakes installation really couldn't get any easier, everything is automated and needs very little user input. Ontop of that, drivers. There has been the addition of many more drivers for your conveniance. Now there is one probablem that i always find with all distibutions is the sound cards. No matter what sound card you have, you can garantee that if you want it working under linux you are going to have to work for that privilage. Now i think what turned most people off with Linux/other *nix varients, was the fact of learning an extremly large and complex operating system. But with the advancements in Linux distributions today almost all tasks can be done from the GUI (Graphic User Interface) which is what you would see if you operate Windows 98. But in Linux we know this as X Windows, which is run through the startx command from the command line. Now as i was saying with new releases of KDE (KDE2.0) being released, this gives new users the ease of operating there linux system from a graphical view. So my point to this is. There is really no reason for people to stick with using windows anymore. Most of you are probably saying that Windows does you fine. But look at it this way. Windows is as secure as microsoft make it. Linux is as secure as the user makes it. The windows operating systems are limited to how secure you can make them, and with microsoft getting more and more lazy with every release, vulnerabilities are more and more common. Thankfully the light at the end of the tunnel is Linux, which is as secure as you want to make it. I a
m sure everyone knows the importance of security in this day and age. As i said before mandrake 7.2 is a excellent installment into the linux market.. recently with a release of Mandrake 8.0. For more information on Mandrake you can visit there website at www.linux-mandrake.com Also on a side note there is 2 conventions coming up for those that are interested in security. They are Defcon & BlackHat. www.defcon.org (held at Alexis park hotel, Las Vegas: 13th-15th of July) www.blackhat.com (held at Ceasers Palace, Las Vegas: 11th&12th July)
Unlike Windows there are many versions of Linux available. These versions are known as distributions and are all made by different companies. Each distribution is made around the same core components, the most important being the Linux kernel. Linus Torvald created the first version of the Linux kernel in the early 90's, it is heavily based on UNIX. The latest Kernel, version 2.4, was released at the start of this year. If you don't know what Linux is I have written an op on Linux in General which can be found from the main Linux section. I don't have enough time to go over it again here, so I will review Mandrake 7.2 assuming you have a basic knowledge of Linux. I have tried a couple of distributions and to be honest they are all pretty similar. They all use either Gnome or KDE as their GUI and they both come with a whole range of other programs. So what is good about Mandrake and why do I use it? The first thing you will do with any Linux distribution is installing it, and Mandrakes installer is one of the best. Dubbed DrakX, this is a fully graphical installation program which even has four colour schemes you can choose from. The great thing I find, however, is the way in which you can choose your level of installation dependant on your knowledge of Linux. For the beginner Mandrake is great, its installation program automatically detects hardware and you can install Linux in a minimal number of steps. The more advanced option lets you adjust settings and tell the installer what you want. DrakX also simplifies the installation progress greatly by partitioning your hard drive for you. This is a little complex and risky, so you should back up your hard drive before you start, but I had no problems with mine. You can install Mandrake on its own partition, or if you want to try Mandrake easily you can use Win4Linux to install Mandrake on to your existing Windows partition. This creates a dir C:\Linux on your hard driv
e, in which it places an image file which is your Linux file system. There are noticeable performance overheads when using this file system but it is still usable. Win4Linux is a good way to try Linux, but if you plan to use it a lot then you really should run it on its own partition. DrakX gives you 4 different ways to install Mandrake. The minimal install is only around 300Mb, the average install 800Mb and the complete install 1.2Gb. You can also do a custom install which allows you to choose which parts of Mandrake you want. Funnily you can install up to 1.8Gb worth on Mandrake using the custom install whereas the complete installation from the list is only 1.2Gb. Unless you are a beginner it would be a good idea to choose what you want, as the normal install for one person is unlikely to be what another person wants. For example, I did the normal install (800Mb) and while both KDE and GNOME were installed, I lacked the files I needed to compile drivers I downloaded as well as the common 'make' command. This is something the majority of users will do often so the so-called 'average' install probably isn't at all average. This is likely to have something to do with what Mandrake tries to be. It touts itself as the all round Linux distribution for everyone, from beginners to experts. With Linux however, it is quite difficult to achieve this equilibrium. For every simplification you make for the newbie, you lose one more option for the expert to fiddle with. A lot of users who use Linux will still want to use windows, so Mandrake automatically sets up a boot menu allowing you to choose between Linux and Windows. Mandrake uses the 'Grub OS Chooser' (its exact words) as opposed to the LILO boot loader that most distributions use. This loads when you switch on your PC and gives you the option of booting to Linux, Windows or using a boot disk. The default option is Linux, and if there is no user input for about 5 se
conds then Linux will load automatically. There is the option to change the boot sections in Linux itself. When you boot any distribution Linux it shows all the modules and settings being loaded, Mandrake is the same except that the second half of this boot sequence is done in a graphical environment. This doesn't really affect the way Linux works but does make it look a little nicer on the eye. This does seem to take quite a while to complete, but no longer than Windows takes to boot up. After loading is complete you are presented with a graphical user log in. This is one way in which Linux differs from Windows; you have to be logged in as a specific user. The users available are listed as little icons, all you have to do is click the one you want and enter the password for that account. You can then choose from a variety of options as to how you use Linux. These include KDE, GNOME, the standard command prompt as well as a couple of more diverse GUI's. By far the two most popular options are KDE and GNOME, and out of these KDE is the most popular. They are quite similar in what they offer to the user, but KDE is definitely more polished than GNOME. A lot of programs run happily on both GNOME and KDE, but there are some that are specific to one GUI. Just about every Linux program is available free under the GNU General Public License, which means that unlike Windows, Mandrake comes pre-packaged with just about everything you could ever want to use! There is an office suite, called KDE Office. This is very similar to MS Office in the programs it offers, the MS Word equivalent, KWord, is very close to its expensive counterpart. There are also full spreadsheet and database programs, as well as things like Address books. If you enjoy Instant Messaging then fear not, there are a variety of programs that come with Mandrake that allow you to talk on the MSN Messenger network, ICQ and Yahoo Messenger. The only
problem you may face is getting your modem to work, but more on that later. The Mandrake distribution also comes with a load of games, both online and offline. For online play there is an Aircraft Fighter game, a Civilisation clone and a Bomberman clone. The other games tend towards being a little complex; strategy and puzzle are definitely the top genres. There are plenty card games, as well as version of classics like Tron and Space Invaders. Mandrake comes with a full Control Panel style program that allows you tweak Linux, ranging from the hardware installed to the way KDE works. There is also a comprehensive package manager allowing easy control of what is and what is not installed. Mandrake is fully compatible with .rpm (Red Hat) packages. The only problem you may have using Linux is trying to get all your hardware to work. I have been extremely unlucky that neither my modem, printer nor scanner worked with the standard Mandrake installation. With a little research on the Internet I found that there were drivers for my modem, but that my scanner and printer were not supported by their respective manufacturers. There may be the possibility to use a third party driver to get the printer to work, but it appears impossible to get the scanner to work. Obviously whether you have this problem is down to luck, and irrespective of whether the hardware is old or new you may or may not have problems. On the modem front, all external modems will work fine but with internal PCI modems the chances are a little slim. There are drivers for most modems out there, but getting them to work can be a little difficult. Overall, you could do a lot worse that Mandrake 7.2 either as your first Linux distribution or for a more experienced user. It tries it best to be easy to use, but the reality is that newbies (like me) will struggle somewhat to get by initially. Stick with it though, trust me, it gets easier.
Linux mandrake 7.2 is definitly the best linux distribution I have tried. It contains the latest versions of lots of software especially things like KDE 2. The install is very easy and I had virtually no problems. It autodected all my hardware even my TV card (which is a first!). The only problem with the install is the way you select software as a percentage of the total which is not very clear. Once installed it is ready to go. I was very impressed with KDE 2's enhancements. Some of the highlights are KOffice and the enhanced internet dialer which finally make linux be able to work out the DNS servers like windows does. It is definitely the easiest distribution to get on the net. Konqueror the KDE 2 web browser is excellent and gives netscape a run for its money. The only gripes I have are a few software packages I liked from 7 and 7.1 are missing and the KDE header files a missing which makes compiling new kde software hard. In general I think this is an excellent distribution that is definitely ready for the desktop.
I have to say that this came off a cover disk, so I'm sure I'm missing some of the goodies you get when you fork out for the boxed set. Conpared to something like Debian, installation was swift, informative and went like a dream. For Windows users want to try out Linux this was an easy way in. Unlike RedHat or Debian, Mandrake comes with KDE as the GUI rather than Gnome. It looks slick and is easy to navigate. Like everything else in Linux it's extremely configurable. There's also an Office suite to go with it, KOffice, which has all the usual features. If your interest is in using Linux primarily as a desktop rather than as a server then this is certainly one to consider. Corel Linux has had the reputation of being for the beginner, the only problem with it seems to be that it's flaky and not especially fast. Mandrake, on the other hand, is speedy and provides everything you'd need.