Mageia 1 – A new distro and a new DE experience for me.

The one thing that did impress me about Mageia was the low demands on resources, even with multiple packages/processes running.

In 2008 I tried a well known distro called Mandriva, even back then the bar was set pretty high for what you could expect out of the box from Linux.  Suffice to say it failed me, from regular yet apparently random freezes to a bug in its update manager pestering me to “upgrade” to a previous version,  I suffered with it for a few days before replacing  with Ubuntu 8.04 and swore that I would never again look at Mandriva.

Years passed and I stayed with my comfortable Gnome environment, I tried KDE numerous times and couldn’t warm to it, so it seemed fitting that with a new distro on the block and KDE considerably more mature than when I last gave it try, that I dive into both, giving them the OpenBytes treatment.

Mageia is a fork of Mandriva Linux formed in September 2010 by former employees and contributors to the popular French Linux distribution. Unlike Mandriva, which is a commercial entity, the Mageia project is a community project and a non-profit organisation whose goal is to develop a free Linux-based operating system.

Source: http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=mageia

So here is Mageia, the fork of the Mandriva product, three years on the scars are still visable but I’m ready to put aside those dark days and delve into a distro that is not only “new to the market” but also offering me a DE (KDE) which I have to date never really felt at home with.

Installation

I had an “interim” distro on my main rig (Mint 11), so after one last Dent declaring my departure, I burned and booted the 64bit DVD iso for the first time.  As modern distro’s go the installation process was very simple.  This is probably to be expected in today’s Linux, but even so, it offered a punchy installation process which took around 15 minutes to complete.  One thing that did disturb me was the absence of a live boot, which often allays any reservations I have of “throwing my eggs in one basket”.

Everything was detected successful by Mageia and as is par for the course with Linux these days, on first boot my machine was functional and ready to go.

Packages

It would be a time-consuming exercise to list all the packages included in a vanilla install of Mageia and since users will “dilute to taste”, there are a few items of note.  The first would be the sheer number of apps presented to the user upon first boot.  The default browser (as you would expect) was Firefox 4.01, which whilst arguably the most popular browser for Linux users, its not mine.  That would be going if indeed I was to spend any time with Mageia.  LibreOffice 3.3.2 is included as default and certainly an office suite most people cannot do without.  I was pleased (though not surprised) to see K3b present as a default package and even with Gnome, ranks as my favourite disk burning package.

I was disappointed that Thunderbird was not present as default (although obtainable through the repo’s) as I would defend the position vigorously that it’s the best all-in-one mail suite out there.

Bugs/Issues/Conclusions

So where to start? Lets start with KDE and some points which have no relevance to Mageia at all.  Ive decided that KDE is definitely not for me.  I said many years ago that whilst it was very difficult to put into writing what I didn’t like, I said it felt, cheap, plastic and uncontrollable.  The plethora of GUI’s and utils to customize your system (in comparison to say Gnome) is akin to travelling from the UK to America via Saturn.  KDE still for me, goes around the houses to perform the simplest of tasks and I have neither the time nor inclination to flick around in menu’s and sub menu’s to do something I could accomplish in Gnome within about 2 clicks.

KDE also has this silly tradition of sticking a K infront of its native apps, which whilst I’m sure is very “cool” and obvious to seasoned KDE users, to me who has spent his years with Gnome, it makes menus look like I’ve accidentally selected the wrong language setting at install time – its all rather confusing, with a game of “what on earth does that application do?” – Having now been reminded of a KDE desktop, I certainly won’t consider exposing a new Linux user to the complexities of the “K” naming system and Ive yet to see a KDE desktop where the taskbar doesn’t look crowded and cramped.

So lets now look at Mageia, on first impressions it was quite impressive, everything appeared to be working fine and within a few seconds I was proudly sending my first dent to say I had returned with my new distro.

It didn’t take long though for cracks to show and probably the first major one was when I innocently plugged in a USB stick with some bookmarks/newsfeeds that I’d exported out of their respective clients prior to installing Mageia.   As soon as the USB stick was inserted the screen when black (albeit with a few graphical artifacts) and the system completely hung, forcing me (for the first time in many years) to perform a hard reset.  Yes, I can report this bug, yes I’m sure it will be fixed, but with no error message or indeed any clue as to what had just happened, I had no time to perform surgery on the distro.  It should be noted that I have not researched this bug and have no idea if it is widespread or merely unique to me.

As would be expected, the Mageia repo’s are tiny, software that I would have liked to have seen was not present (Mupen,E-UAE) and for example, the emulators section (GUI apps) were little more than Dosbox, Wine and Zsnes.  I know you can add your own, I know Mageia is new, but the level of expectation in today’s distro is far higher than in the past.  If Mageia is to be offered to existing Linux users, I’d ask what is it offering that they don’t already have, if its being offered to new users I would ask what is there here that would make their transition from a Windows lifestyle as painless as possible?  In both cases with Mageia in its current state I’d say very little.

Whilst installing packages of my choice from the repo’s, I noticed a rather annoying “feature”.  Despite specifically selecting an application of my choice from the rather limited repo, I was prompted to put in the Mageia DVD.  I believe this is due to the package already being including on the disk and the package manager is being “helpful”, but this feature was rather annoying since like most people, upon install, the DVD is thrown into some dark corner of the room.  I am sure this feature can be disabled easily, but at this point it became clear Mageia would not be staying on my rig, so I went along with its demands for the sake of time.

On the plus side CPU usage was surprisingly low.  I’ve taken the opportunity over the past few weeks to keep an eye on quite a few distro’s demands on the processor.  I’d say that at present Mageia is the best performer, as when I was going about my daily net activities none of the cores went above 10% and if they did it was for a very short period of time.  Memory wise Mageia held at around the 1gig mark and I was impressed at the low demands a modern distro was putting on my resources.

There has been much work put into Mageia but in today’s computing world your product has to be far more than merely functional  With so many other distro’s competing for your attention, I think Mageia is not yet ready to become a player at the top of the league for Linux distro’s with the RC seeming more like a beta. My requirements of an OS are not satisfied with Mageia and should I remain with this distro, I would not be as productive.  That is not acceptable and so for me its goodbye, with an appreciation that KDE is not for me either.  I will certainly be looking at the Gnome flavour of Mageia on a secondary rig and I would expect a more favourable opinion since I do love Gnome.

On a positive note, I have already spoken to some members of the Mageia team.  They are certainly open to all comments and very keen to continually improve Mageia, for many people I expect the improvements will be exciting to watch as they are part of the Mageia user base and it is nice to see a distro in its infancy, with the last one I covered at this stage being Peppermint.   I wish the Mageia team all the best for the future.

You can visit the homepage of Mageia here: http://www.mageia.org/en/

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Mail: bytes4free@googlemail.com
Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on freenode.net.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Raidensub says:

    I tried Mageia. I liked allot. The repo’s aren’t tiny. You didn’t update the repo’s information. You can remove the DVD from the install sources a think .
    Sorry for my English.

    1. openbytes says:

      Hi there!

      I did update the repo’s and as I said in my review the DVD was insisted on being used even when the package I was after was in the repo. My main area of criticism was on the emulation section, but as I said in the review, by the time I got to that stage it was already coming off my machine.

      Let me ask you this question since you liked Mageia:

      What does it offer you that you cannot already get (and more) from an established distro?

      This was my issue with Mageia in its current state, neither having enough to appeal to the new user nor enough to move established users from others.

      Maybe you can provide an answer that I can not see.

      Thanks very much for your feedback.

  2. Andre says:

    What I personally don’t understand are the differences of rpm based distributions such as Open SuSe, Fedora and Mageia.

  3. Raidensub says:

    Mageia 1 is almost identical to Mandriva 2010 for the time being but with less packages. If you liked Mandriva 2010 you will like Mageia 1. But Mageia is still in very early stages of development. Allot of things are going to change for the next releases. For me Mageia 1 is very stable and i liked allot but for the moment i am not going to use because some things i didn’t like in Mandriva are still present in Mageia. I am going to watch the development and try the next release.

  4. TeaAge says:

    Here are my 2 cents:
    The author is right with the annoying “insert DVD prompt . The DVD is set up as a repo and (as it is set up first) it has the highest priority. Therefore you’ll always get prompted to insert the DVD.

    What makes Mageia special?
    That is an often asked Question and is easy and difficult to answer at the same time. The reason for creating Mageia was the aim to establish a distribution like Mandriva but completely community driven (as the Company Mandriva S.A. did a lot of mistakes, because they have to earn money).
    Mageia 1 in special doesn’t yet offer something special. It’s aim was to build a stable and reliable base for further releases and to make the shift from Mandriva to Mageia as easy and flawless as possible.
    But right now, Mageia is in a very interesting phase. The community has to make some hard decision: What will the release model be like? How long will the releases be supported? Will Mageia make the switch to rpm5, systemd, GNOME3 ,…? What editions are needed? …

    Just as an example. Bring to your mind, Mageia will become a distribution with a “light rolling” release. A new release every year. The core (kernel, glib, xserver, …) will get the normal updates and security fixes (like in the normal release model) and the applications (firefox, thunderbird, libreoffice, …) will always be up to date (like in a rolling release).

    This would be something very new and special. But this is up to the community to decide and all of us can influence this, can discuss about this. The community is the only institution that can govern the distribution.

    So, right now, for the normal user, there might be nothing special. But if one is not really happy with all the current distributions. Mageia is the place to come and get involved. The community aspect is special. Become the “debian” of the rpm-driven distributions.

    Regards,
    TeaAge

  5. Andre says:

    Again, why don’t you share the base with OpenSuse or Fedora and still provide the Mandriva experience? In mean, in case that there are no Mandriva packages provided you can use the ones from the other distributions, you can focus on the unique Mandriva experience and make is rock-solid.

    1. openbytes says:

      I would certainly like to see Mageia offering more to the migrating user. I do think it would be a little unreasonable to expect everything on a plate from the first release, however in todays mature distro’s “market” a new distro is quickly overshadowed.

      What I can say about Mageia is in most other aspects it was a professional and polished release in its presentation, thats got to be a good sign and a strong base for the future.

      Sort of off-topic – I was just looking at Fedora 15 and I think very shortly I’ll be moving away from even Gnome completely in favour of Xfce.

    2. TeaAge says:

      We can’t use the base of OpenSUSE or Fedora. We can use Mandriva as a base for a first shot and that’s what we did. How can we (the community and the distribution) be independent, when we build on a base of company-driven distribution?

      Best example is the situation right now. Mandriva S.A. decided to switch Mandriva to rpm5. Noone else did that switch and it’s really a hard one. If we set up Mageia on Mandriva, we were forced to do this switch too. But maybe we don’t want to?

      We can only be independent, when our distribution is independent. But we can use the src-Packages of Mandriva (Fedora and OpenSuSE are not thatt easy to use also). And we used them but cleaned the dependencies etc. For further details (as I’m not a packager) see http://www.zarb.org/~pterjan/blog/?date=20110601#p01

      Regards,
      TeaAge

  6. ramon hsu says:

    very good base system I like it, beter than mandriva maybe multimedia codec but you can use plf less cpu, only one thing I need do know howto use drakelive to make a livecd

    ramon
    the best for mageia

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