Recent versions of Mandrake Linux have not changed much from the user’s perspective, as stability and software updates have been the focus of releases over the last year. Mandrake Linux 9.1 is the first significant update to the popular Linux distribution in some time. New features of the distribution include a revised user interface, tighter integration with Windows and improved networking support.
Mandrake Linux 9.1 Download Edition consists of three CDs. The first two CDs contain the main distribution and the third contains many miscellaneous and less important packages.
As Mandrake Linux is targeted mostly at a desktop and small/medium server market, I chose to install the distribution on a fairly standard modern PC containing an AMD Athlon 2000+ CPU and 256MB of DDR SDRAM.
The Mandrake Linux installer has undergone a major facelift, with a new, much cleaner GUI layout and a process that now requires less user input. Initially, I encountered some problems as Mandrake did not detect my PS/2 wheel mouse correctly. After overcoming this by restarting the installation and selecting a standard PS/2 mouse, the install process went without a hitch.
Mandrake claims to be the first Linux distribution to support resizing of NTFS partitions, used by Windows NT, 2000 and XP. Before the installation I created a test partition and resized it to create space for Mandrake Linux to be installed. There were no problems with the newly resized partition after installing Mandrake. This great feature will save users from needing software such as PartitionMagic to create the space to install Linux.
Mandrake flawlessly detected my hardware, including a TV card and dual-head video card. After about 20 minutes the Mandrake installer had rebooted my computer and I was staring at the login screen for Mandrake Linux 9.1.
The most obvious new feature is the significant visual overhaul that has taken place. Both GNOME and KDE by default use a new, very attractive, theme called Galaxy. The visual overhaul has also been extended to Mandrake’s Drakconf configuration tools. The Mandrake Control Center now features a new layout and lengthy explanations of each of its functions, making it much easier to configure most hardware devices.
The distribution is one of the first to include software updates, among which are GNOME 2.2, KDE 3.1, XFree86 4.3.0, Mozilla 1.3 and Kernel 2.4.20. The distribution includes a large number of applications and servers appropriate for the home/office market.
Windows integration has been tightened with the NTFS partition resizing tool. The Mandrake Control Center is now able to search for and install fonts from any Windows partition, a great feature for graphic designers with large font collections.
Mandrake Linux is optimised for Pentium processors. This means many applications in the distribution perform noticeably better than identical applications included with other distributions optimised for 386 processors, such as Red Hat Linux.
The Zeroconf networking protocol has been included with Mandrake 9.1 for the first time. This new protocol allows computers to detect each other over a network without the need to configure IP addresses or use a DHCP server. Zeroconf will make configuring networks much easier.
Room for improvement
I thought it was very strange that Mandrake correctly identified my video card as offering dual head support, but did not enable this support in XFree86 or provide a way to enable it using the DrakXFree configuration tool.
The distribution suffers from the large number of applications included. Red Hat Linux has made significant usability improvements by including only one or two applications of each function in its distribution. In contrast, it is not uncommon to find three or four functionally identical applications within Mandrake’s menus. New users unfamiliar with Linux applications could benefit from Mandrake trimming some of the duplication from its distribution.
Mandrake Linux 9.1 is a major step forward for the distribution and is one of the most cutting edge Linux distributions available. However, there is still room to tighten its focus in order to improve usability.
CPU — Pentium II 300MHz or equivalent
Memory (RAM) — 64MB
Hard disk space — 2GB
Video card — SVGA capable card
|Red Hat Linux 8.1
A new version of Red Hat Linux is also available. This release is a stability and bug fix release that tweaks the major updates introduced in version 8.0. Red Hat Linux 9.0 includes new and updated software such as GNOME 2.2, KDE 3.1 and XFree86 4.3.0.