Testing Linux II: Mandriva

mandrivaThe next linux to test was Mandriva. I recall to use Mandrake some years ago. First point regarding Mandriva, is that I downloaded the DVD version. That means I was installing with more than 4GB of software on my DVD drive. Why that is relevant? Keep reading.

The installation was easy. The interface is quite good, although not as detailed as OpenSuse installation, but better than Fedora interface. Regarding this installation, my main complain is to have Portugal listed in the secondary countries list, while some strange countries appear in the main countries list. Also, that wouldn’t be bad if it was more intuitive to select.

Regarding the installation, I miss the detailed information about what is going on. Mandriva keeps showing screenshots of their linux desktops. Also, that is a stupid thing to do, as in a small screenshot you can not detect any difference on the image for the different Mandriva distributions. Probably a list of features would be better. Lack of reflection for the Mandriva product managers.

It all went correctly until the wireless configuration. The laptop has a Intel 3945 802.11g Wireless card. It is not that recent, and there are open source drivers available. In fact, it seems that most recent kernels include this driver. But Mandriva does not include it in the 4GB of software. Oh, and I was using the 2010.0 distribution.

Probably to include more drivers and less crap would help users. I do not care if I need to use the internet connection to download gnome or kde widgets. But I really care if I need to use the internet connection to download the wireless driver, that does not let me to connect to the internet to download… yeah… kind of remembers me of BOFH story of sending by email the password to read the email.

Now I am wondering. If I need to install drivers by hand, probably the best is to go back to my predilection linux distributions, like Slackware or Arch Linux. At least these assume they are not for common desktop users. Well, the other option is to test ubuntu or debian.

Testing Linux I: OpenSuse and Fedora

opensuseI got a PC laptop for work with… Windows. Decided to install a Linux on it, and decided to give a look at current distributions. At the moment I was looking for a non-newbie system but with some basic configuration issues automated. For example, I desesperate when I need to configure a wireless manually. I think that is a task that should be easy to perform and not consume much time.

My first option was OpenSuse. I knew Suse for a long time and never tried it for being commercial. Now this was the chance to look and check what they have been doing. First, the installation wizard is really good. Not just good aspect, but also functional. It detects everything and reports the detections to the user. That is great. Also, when installing a boot loader, if it fails, it tries to help the user to correct the configuration and try to install it again.

Also, it lets you to choose between installing a KDE or Gnome based desktop. Also, a XFCE option is there. That is great. I love XFCE. Probably this choice was the reason I did not like OpenSuse, but who knows. So, when booting, the X Login Manager is based on TWM, that sucks. But that is not relevant. Login worked correctly, but when configuring the wireless device, it couldn’t connect to the wireless network. I could not find why. It did not complain with the password. It did not complain about lack of signal (no idea about its power, btw). It just said it configured the network device, and exited the configuration tool. Tried a few minutes to find out what was going on with iwconfig and ifconfig, but decided to try a new distribution.

fedora Next try was Fedora. I know lot of people using Fedora. It is not an old distribution, but given that they use a big base from RedHat, it should be somewhat stable. Booted the live-cd and used the installer available on it. That is good because it lets you use a linux system while you are installing other linux system. That is cool. The installer, itself, is equal to the first fedora installer (at least I did not find big differences). The windows are not well designed (widgets not correctly placed…), but it is enough for the installation task.

But that isn’t my complain. My complain is that, after half hour installing the system, anaconda crashed when installing the Grub bootloader. Instead of an error message I got a Python backtrace. And that sucks. First, because I hate Python. Second, because it crashed the installation, forcing me to restart the installation.

No, I will not retry fedora now, I think. I will download another linux version.

Hope I can find any interesting distro that is not Ubuntu (I have different complains about it… for a future post).

Linux gives too many choices…

Every time I touch a Linux not installed by myself I got to the same feeling. Linux gives too much choices when installing a new operating system and the default options are good just if the only user of the machine is the administrator. If the guy installing the Linux does not have knowledge on what he is doing the result is a mess.

For instance, if you install a fresh Ubuntu you will get no man pages installed.

At the present moment I am in a Fedora 11 installed by a University administrator. If I type ‘cpan’ I get perl complaining about CPAN module not being installed. Then, what is the use of Perl in this situation?

These complains are from a geek, programmer, etc. I know that most desktop users will not have these needs. But I do not think it is a good idea to focus primarily desktop users. Probably the default option should be a sane environment for both worlds.