OS Sunday – When a Fork, is More than Just a Fork!

When I first started using Linux back in 2004-2005 there were not nearly the number of choices out there to sink your teeth into.  The community while already established and growing, did not have the capacity to build new versions of existing Operating Systems at the scale or complexity that we see today.  Distrowatch.com monitors and shares the world of Linux very well and with more than 750 Active Linux Distribution, the choice can be at times daunting especially when most of these Distributions are Forks, Remixes and Reformats of other base Operating Systems.  Open Mandriva is one of those “Forks” but as I was about to find out, it has become much more than just a re-hash of the glory days of Mandriva Linux (before the near collapse in 2010).

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I departed from my usual download, install and test philosophy this week and did some pre-emptive looking at some other reviews.  Back in 2013, Matt Hartley over at DataMation.com said at the time:

So what about OpenMandriva then? Is this distribution even a factor at this point? To be brutally honest, it’s not really worth bothering with. Perhaps in a year or two, it will be worth looking into, but as it stands today, it’s simply an alpha quality distribution not yet ready for the masses.

So, 10 months later and a new release, is OpenMandriva ready for the masses?  Should it be considered a real alternative to Mageia and PCLinuxOS to hold onto the reigns of the Mandriva Linux past?

The Download Media is definitely not light weight but is comparable to most other modern Distributions coming in at about 1.5 GB and the speed of the download was about what I expected.  What I didn’t expect was how easily it was to install the OS in the Oracle VirtualBox with 4 GB of RAM and 20 GB of HDD space.  It asks to install right at the outset, has a solid look and feel and does not over complicate the installation which are definitely strong points to look at as all it takes is a confusing install and you have forever turned away a potential user (I know, I have given up on more than one Linux Flavour because I needed to consult Forums and Wikis just to get it to install correctly).

What I really like is that the install sets up and installs without a user and the only problem was that I had to “eject” the installation media before the first start as it did not prompt me to do so upon completion of the installation.

Setting up both the Root Password and the Primary User only added about 45 seconds to the initial boot time and I was off to the races and the look and feel of OpenMandriva was a pleasant surprise.

Diving into what comes with the 1.5 GB install media I was pleasantly surprised at the completeness of the choices:

Graphics:

  • Krita (Standard, Gemeni and Sketch)
  • Kamoso (Webcam)
  • ScanLite and XSane

Internet

  • Firefox (Browser)
  • Kopete and Konversation (Chat Utilities)
  • KMail (email)
  • Ktorrent (downloads)

Office

  • LibreOffice (Full Office Suite)
  • Kontact (Contact Manager)
  • Okular (Universal Document Viewer)

Sound & Video

  • Amarok (Music Player)
  • Plasma Media Center – I had not heard of this…see below for more
  • VLC Media Player (Video and Music)

So as you can see, out of the box most of what a new user needs is there and ready to use but I was intrigued by the inclusion of the Plasma Media Center.  I had never heard of this app before so I figured I would dive a little deeper into it and boy was I surprised, with a simple interface I was able to quickly connect into my Samba Share and access all of my video files that are available on the network, it also acts as a YouTube connector that sits nicely on a default Linux Channel when you open it up.

One of the true tests of the usability of an OS for me is how easy is it to add additional software to the installation once complete.  Personally I use Google Chrome as my preferred Browser and I also like to install a few other apps when ever I start fresh.  OpenMandriva keeps all this under the Configure Your Computer icon, this also allows users to configure the Hardware of their PC as well.

Within the Lx Control Center I was able to quickly add in the Chromium Browser but was disappointed when Apps like Inkscape and Blender would not install because of a configuration issue with the 64 bit OS that I installed.  The mirrors that the OS uses to install additional software is dramatically faster than that used for the install medium and I was able to add in almost a GB of extra Apps in less than 5 minutes, and I then had the Desktop OS that I wanted!

So are there some challenges…sure but the one thing that I have learned in the decade of installing and using Linux is that no OS is perfect, it is all in how easy it is to find the help and if need be find the documentation to assist with the challenges that will without question arise through the normal use of the OS.  OpenMandriva is worth a look if you are in the market for a truly modern, sleek feeling OS that leverages the KDE Desktop (personally I am not a super fan of KDE and one of the packages that I would install soon after the install was complete was Gnome but again…there seems to be some problems with the mirrors as it would not allow me to install it).

So going back to the quote by Matt Hartley…is OpenMandriva ready for the mainstream…yes and no.  The installation process is as easy as they come, no doubt about it, the selection of initial apps is right on point…but if you are not going to have apps available in your Control Panel…just don’t let them be seen, there is nothing more frustrating than wanting something you can’t have because someone else holds the keys!

Well that is it for me, have a great week and see you in 7 days for another look into the Operating Systems that make the world…just a little better!

Cheers,

Krispy

 

Posted on April 20, 2014 in Linux, OS Sunday

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