Linux Mandrake 7.1 review

The latest release of one of the most popular and user-friendly Linux distributions - Linux Mandrake 7.1 - comes in two editions, a Complete and a Deluxe pack. The seven-CD Deluxe set contains just about everything you need for a complete production level Linux machine. Also included is free installation technical support and a user guide for both editions.


Installing Linux Mandrake is a smooth process. The installation boots from the CD-ROM when you start your computer and launches the graphical installation program, DrakX. DrakX walks you through the required steps to install Linux Mandrake. After selecting your preferred language, you have the choice of either an Automated, Customised or Expert installation. You are also given the option to upgrade an existing Linux Mandrake installation.

The Automated installation does a good job of detecting the mouse, keyboard, IDE hard drives and other common PC hardware. File system configuration is just as smooth. If you select an Automated Installation, and a Windows partition, you shouldn't have to change the partition table - DrakX takes care of it for you, creating and formatting both Linux and swap partitions. Alternatively, any pre-existing Windows or Linux partitions will be shown as a bar chart. It is very easy to create, resize and label partitions using the graphical tool DiskDrake. With partition tables set up, DrakX then moves to the installation of software.

Interestingly, Linux Mandrake uses its own program to boot Linux, called Grub. This allows users to run a single or dual boot system on the one computer.

The final step in the installation procedure is the X configuration and is very straightforward: unlike many other Linux distributions, this step is done automatically and does not require any information about the monitor.

When the installation is complete, the system reboots to the graphical login screen. When you log in you have the choice of a KDE or GNOME workstation along with other Window Managers such as Enlightenment and Sawmill.

What do you get?

Linux Mandrake 7.1 comes with an impressive list of third-party software such as StarOffice 5.2, Interbase (a database program), Civilisation: Call to Power, and a 30-day trial version of VMWare. See the Web site ( for details on which programs are included with which edition. The release also includes all the programs you would expect from a Linux distribution, such as development tools and other essentials like Netscape Navigator. Improved hardware compatibility has not been overlooked, and there is enhanced USB support (limited to keyboards, mice and ZIP drives) and support for i810 video cards.

Administering Linux Mandrake

Configuring Linux Mandrake has been simplified with DrakConf, a graphical configuration manager. This allows you to alter settings for your hardware devices as well as perform administrative tasks such as manage user accounts and packages. Additionally, the handy update feature on the desktop makes it easy to keep your system current with the latest software.

Overall, Linux Mandrake 7.1 represents a positive step forward for Linux installation, configuration and general ease of use. It is ideally suited to those using Linux for the first time, but will also please more experienced users. Linux Mandrake is produced by MandrakeSoft and is available from major software retailers and directly from the Web site at


All Linux distributions are continuously improving, and Linux Mandrake is no exception. The next Linux Mandrake release will be 7.2 and work on it is already underway. The 7.2 beta release contains new installation and configuration options, including improved hardware and Internet access tools. Also included are the latest desktop environments such as KDE 2 beta 4 and GNOME 1.2, which use XFree86 4.01 as the default X server. For configuration, DrakConf has been redesigned to make it easier to use, along with RPMDrake, the package management utility.

Other additions include Aurora, a graphical boot manager, and the latest open source games. Overall, over 250 additional packages are set to be included with the 7.2 release.

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Rodney Gedda

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