informa
/
Feature

Review: Mandrake 10 Looks To Be On Track For A Great Release

We looked at early code for desktop Mandrakelinux 10.0, and found that it's close to prime time, but not quite ready to bet the enterprise. Oh, and the performance? It screams.
A medieval legend claims that when a mandrake plant is uprooted, it emits an ear-piercing scream and begins to sweat blood. According to legend, the mandrake root is powerful: it cures impotence, and confers virility and great wealth.

The latest version of Mandrakelinux, Version 10, now in pre-release, won't do anything for you in the virility department, or bring you great wealth. It is, however, looking like it will shape up to be a great desktop operating system.

And, like the mandrake root, Mandrakelinux 10.0 screams. But that's a good thing when it comes to software.

Frankly, it's close to prime-time, but not quite ready for a corporation to bet the enterprise on yet. My advice: wait a few months for the official release, then grab it and install it.

Playing with pre-release copies of Mandrakelinux 10.0, I must give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. It's a sweet release, looking like it will be as much at home in the corporate enterprise as on the gamer's PC. Assuming the actual release of Mandrakelinux 10.0 doesn't really hold any surprises (although that's never a safe bet) here's what to expect:

The software is fast, even on slow hardware. My test system was a real clunker, an AMD K2/500 MHz/384 MB/40 GB/7200 RPM disk. But despite the underpowered hardware, Mandrakelinux 10.0 screamed. This PC is so slow and unresponsive under Windows XP that I had to keep checking to be sure it hadn't crashed, but under Mandrakelinux 10.0 it was so responsive it felt like it was reading my mind.

I installed OpenOffice, and it worked fine, although it apparently used too much overhead, as it seemed a little slow when opening up true Microsoft Office files. I didn't have any problem opening and modifying a Microsoft Word document under Mandrake, saving it, and opening it under Microsoft Word. The network install was virtually problem-free, considerably easier than my problem-plagued install on Red Hat Linux 9's Samba. I had no problem using Word files across the Samba network.

Even though I couldn't find any problems, I'm sure some Word guru will find some esoteric incompatibility in some feature, which will be completely inconsequential to everyone in the world - except for the people who need that feature.

I found KDE a little buggy, and the desktop icons still had an "under construction" look to them. The desktop crashed now and then.

If the Mandrake release of 9 is any indication, all known bugs will be fixed and rendered obsolete before the actual release - the amount of progress between the beta and this release candidate, still not frozen as of this writing, is astounding. It's quite usable, but not as stable as a "standard" Mandrake release. Mandrake is normally rock-solid.

It's currently available in "cooker" format - MandrakeSoft's fancy name for a release that complies with the International Standards Organization standard for bootable CDs. Download it from one of the Mandrake mirrors, and run and install it either from a burned CD, or directly off the hard disk. Burning the image onto a CD takes little longer, but it's worth the slight extra effort.

Mandrake10 includes Kernel 2.6, KDE 3.2 and XFree86 4.4, both of the latter still in beta.

The final version of Mandrake10, the company says, will include support for more users and apps per server, better installation and configuration procedures, more recognized hardware, better Office compatibility, and more bundled applications. Many of these enhancements can be seen in the latest release of the Cooker,. The Cooker has been renamed to the "Mandrake 10 Community" release, with support for more powerful hardware: including up to 4 GB of memory, and 16-processor systems.

But wait, there's more: better Samba, MySQL, PHP, PostgreSQL, security, network printing and development tools. All of this is expected in the official release.

Or so MandrakeSoft claims.

When the product is officially released, we'll know. We'll review it. We'll let you know.

Ross M. Greenberg is a programmer, writer, consultant, and web page designer with experience in Linux, Unix and Windows. He started working on Unix-based systems in the early 1980s. Lately, he's been concentrating on PHP and ASP database programming.