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Mageia 1 Review: The Magic Begins Now!

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Mageia just released its first stable version this 2nd June. To those who aren’t familiar with it, Mageia is a fork of Mandriva Linux created by volunteers, community members and other developers (some of them former employees of Mandriva itself). Mageia is, according to Mandriva’s ex-employees, a distribution “not dependent on the economic fluctuations and erratic, unexplained strategic moves of the company” (hinting perhaps at Mandriva SA).

Mageia 1 took almost 10 months in the making. The journey began in September last year, and the first stable build came this month in June.

With the origins out of the way, lets get straight to the review. Most of us must have used or tested Mandriva Linux at some point of time, and Mageia 1 doesn’t add too much of radical differences. In fact, after I had tested the installation, I also attempted an upgrade of my Mandriva installation to Mageia – it was successful.

So, I downloaded the 32-bit install DVD and popped it in. The installer was pretty straight forward (absolutely identical to Mandriva, except for the logo). It asked for the language, and then later on the choice of Desktop Environment – KDE, GNOME or custom. I chose GNOME. As soon as that was done, the installation began.

Mageia Install

Once the copying was done, it asked for the root and superuser details, bootloader installation, and that’s it! In the Summary, it showed the incorrect time. I modified it, and minutes later, I was greeted with the Mageia 1 desktop. Even in the desktop, the time was incorrect, I rectified it again. The problem persisted, to the extent I had to modify the /etc/adjtime in order to set it correct. I searched the forums assuming this might be a bug, but happened that I was the only one to experience this.

The bluish-dotted wallpaper isn’t wonderful or comparable to the artwork of say Sabayon or Mint, but its pleasing nevertheless. On the software front, here is what Mageia 1 mainly brings to you:

linux kernel 2.6.38.7
X.org 1.10.1 X Server
KDE SC 4.6.3
GNOME 2.32.1
xfce 4.8.1
Firefox 4.0.1
Chromium 11
Thunderbird 3.1.1
GIMP 2.6.11
Inkscape 0.48
Pidgin 2.7.11
Empathy 2.34.0
Ekiga 3.2.7
LXDE
WINE 1.3.2
Virtualbox 4.0.6
GCC 4.5.2
Window managers such as IceWM, Openbox, WindowMaker, Fluxbox, etc.

Of course, there are numerous other packages available, including Libre Office 3.3.2.2, Evolution, Epiphany, kMail, etc. Unfortunately, Blender is only 2.49b (not 2.50), though this can be updated easily. The IDEs on the DVD for developers include Anjuta, kDevelop, Eclipse and Netbeans.

The default dependency resolver in Mageia is urpmi. In addition, the standard set of tools is the same as that of Mandriva, such as drak3d, rpmdrake, drakguard, drakx-net, userdrake, drakconf, etc.

When it comes to input methods, Mageia supports The Intelligent Input Bus (Ibus 1.3.9) and Smart Common Input Method (SCIM 1.4.9). To choose either, head to Mageia Control Center –> System.

And since this is a fork of Mandriva (based on Mandriva 2010), Mandriva’s repos too work with it. Being a Mandriva user, I had no difficulty in getting my way across Mageia. The software manager is almost the same as that of Mandriva’s, and it lists packages as ‘General Updates’, ‘Security Updates’, ‘Bug Fixes’, and so on. Further more, package are also categorized as Office, Multimedia, Development, etc.

Users of Synaptic and other package managers shouldn’t really have a problem with the GUI and getting their way across things. And if you’ve been using openSUSE or Fedora, you can probably operate Mageia’s package manager with eyes closed (well, almost). The local media such as DVD/CD are added by default, and so are few online repos. If you wish to add custom repositories, go to Options–> Media Management under Software Manager.

As regards GNOME 3, its implementation may be on the cards in the next release. Its only natural that Megeia folks chose the stabler version 2 for their first release. Speaking of desktop environments, I also tried LXDE and KDE.

KDE seems to be very well integrated (as was the case with Mandriva). When it comes to GNOME, the integration is average, and I personally feel the Mageia folks could’ve done slightly better tweaking with the theme and layout.

On turning to LXDE, I really enjoyed the fact that unlike most distros that seem to bundle smaller DE like LXDE and xfce in a haphazard manner on a second thought, Mageia seems to have integrated LXDE well (better than it treats GNOME). What’s more! The order in which the packages appear in the menu is determined by the DE. So if you’re using GNOME, you’ll see gedit, and kWrite will be hidden under ‘More’ in Tools Menu. And if you’re on LXDE, you’ll see Leafpad above the other two (assuming you’ve installed all three text editors). This lends the menu an organized look.

Mageia 1 doesn’t quite look targeted at any particular group; it best serves the purpose for desktop users. While it can handle MP3 files, not many codecs are there out of the box and you’ll have to do the cumbersome task manually. Also, it refused to take my network adapters on Acer laptop and I had to download few repos for the same. I didn’t experience any other hardware issues as such. I connected my old Sony Ericsson mobile phone (notorious for not supporting most UNIX/Linux operating systems, including Fedora), and it detected it as a camera-cum-modem. I was able to transfer files to and fro, as well as connect to the internet using the phone.

So, the bottom line? Should you use Mageia? Well, if you’re a Linux lover and use your distro for general desktop usage, you really should give it a spin! Not that it’ll eliminate Ubuntu and the others from the competition, but it surely looks to be a worthy option. All in all, using Mageia 1 is a wonderful experience indeed.

Note for Mandriva 2010 users: If you so desire, you can update your Mandriva installation directly to Mageia, instead of performing a clean install altogether. For more info, check http://mageia.org/en/1/migrate

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Links:
Mageia Homepage: www.mageia.org
Download Links: http://mageia.org/downloads/
Release Notes: mageia.org/en/1/notes/

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