Review: Mandriva Linux 2009 Release Candidate 2 (Gnome) - 27/09/2008 by Andrew
Gaming on the Cutting Edge – Part 7
In this multi part series I've previously looked at the following distributions:
Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 2
Mandriva 2009 Beta 1 (KDE4.1)
Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4
Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4
Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6, and
Xubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6
The aim of these reviews is to give the Linux user (and specifically the Linux gamer) an idea about what distributions are coming up as well as what applications, games and cool features are set to blow your socks off – or in the case of early alphas – what still needs work. There's also a selfish reason for doing these reviews; I'm looking for a new distro to be my main gaming machine. I need something that's relatively bug free, quick to configure and access the latest open source games and applications.
Mandriva Linux 2009 Release Candidate (RC) 2
I've previously reviewed Mandriva 2009 Beta 1 using KDE 4 as the window manager. I didn't like what I saw. I do believe this wasn't Mandriva's fault, as my gripes were the same for Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6 (using KDE 4.1.1). This time, it's the Gnome window manager and this is the last development release before the final version hit the download mirrors on the 9th of October 2008. Hopefully they've got everything right and there won't be many changes between this version and the final one.
I downloaded the Mandriva Linux 'One' version (full filename: mandriva-linux-one-2009-rc2-GNOME-int-cdrom-i586.iso), which acts as a Live CD (this loads the distribution into memory, allowing you to try out the distribution before installing to your hard drive) as well as the installation CD. My unchanging, old, tired, cheap but reliable test rig is made up of the following:
AMD Athlon 3200+ (2.0Ghz)
Gigabyte 939 Motherboard (GA-K8NSC-939)
2x512MB Geil DDR400 Dual Channel
Gigabyte 6600GT 256MB AGP 8x
LG DVD Burner (GSA-4163B)
Seagate 40GB 2MB cache ATA100
Logitech G15 keyboard + G5 mouse
Using the 'Live CD' it's just a simple matter of downloading the iso image, burning to CD and rebooting the PC with this in the DVD drive (so long as the boot order has the DVD drive before any hard drives). During the boot process, you'll be asked some localisation questions regarding timezones and keyboard layouts and a few minutes (YMMV) later you'll be at the desktop of Mandriva 2009 RC2. The fun isn't over yet however, you still need to get this installed on your hard drive. There's an icon on the desktop called 'Live Install' – clicking this kicks off the installation process. For me, having a hard drive with pre-existing linux (Kubuntu and Xubuntu in dual boot format) this brought up a few error messages regarding permissions with my old home folders though it seemed to chug on regardless. At the end, it's just a quick configure of the boot loader and you're rebooting into a freshly installed system (a quick note, for whatever reason, the shutdown I requested didn't actually turn off the machine, had to hold the power button to get it to power off).
First boot I'm quizzed about which country I'm from and then the system downloads plenty of updates from overseas – probably since there's no mirror locally yet. There was a md5sum mismatch and the updates promptly stopped. Oh well, I'm sure it'll get what it needs when it's at the desktop – as soon as I setup the admin (root) password and the first user.
Wait, now there's the optional registration and survey. Sorry guys and gals from Mandriva, but I'm declining just to speed up the processes.
Desktop, Graphics and Games
Ahh the first boot into the new system. Everything looks like the Live CD apart from a few new desktop icons. A quick snoop around showed that the Nvidia proprietary drivers (version 177.70) were automatically installed - good thing I'm not a strict “Open source or DIE” kind of person. Mandriva gets top marks here since you can install the distro and get straight to gaming with minimal fuss.
Speaking of games, the default install comes with none, meaning you'll have to hit the repositories to get your favourites. Unlike Ubuntu, you can't see the popularity of the packages, so you need to have a fair idea what you're looking for. This isn't the end of the world as there's an integrated search so you can at least throw in some keywords and just hope that the package is what you're after.
The game highlights are:
Battle for Wesnoth 1.4.5
Vdrift 0.2 (NOTE: This doesn't work for me, crashes on start)
There are plenty more games available through the repositories. Mandriva has an excellent collection of games, possibly surpassing Ubuntu's repos though it does sort them strangely into genres, making it a bit confusing. Again, you can just use the search, though I'd love to see a new genre being added: OpenGL Games. This way you could group all of the 2D or 3D games that use OpenGL together and possibly split this group up into proper gaming genres (RTS, FPS, Space Shooter, etc). If they did this, as well as using a popularity indicator I believe they'll make trying out new games a bit easier on the new Linux gamer.
As for the applications you have Gimp 2.4.7, OpenOffice 3.0.0 (build 9337), Nautilus 2.24.0, Firefox 3.0.1, Brasero 0.8.2 (K3b is available in the repos – version 1.0.5), Pidgin 2.5.1 as well as many others – all running on Gnome 2.24.0 and Linux kernel 2.6.27.
Any unhappiness I had left over from my Mandriva 2009 KDE4 experience has disappeared. Mandriva 2009 using Gnome is a great distribution. I used the system for a while and I did experience a few application crashes though generally everything worked as it should. The Mandriva Linux Control Center is brilliant and wobbly windows worked without any problems (even wobbling glxgears – though FPS was less than half that when wobbly windows was turned off). To sum up, if you're considering installing a Linux distribution to use on your main machine you won't go wrong with Mandriva Linux 2009 using Gnome.