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Mandrake Linux 9.0 GPL

I started the Mandrake installation by booting from the CD and selected the recommended install options.
Partitioning was done automatically. It wasn't until later on that I discovered that the installer had formatted the partitions using ext2 rather than anything newer - it is probably the only new release which doesn't use at least ext3 by default.

Package selection is easy with the ability to choose from groups of packages. Available package groups included server utils, which I consider to be out of place in this distribution. Mandrake is clearly a desktop-orientated newbie OS - so who would use it as a server? I wouldn't anyhow. I think that in the next release, it may be a good idea to have seperate releases for both the desktop and servers rather than attempting to do both at once.

If any server packages are selected, the installer gives a security warning about the fact that they are enabled by default and COULD have security holes. I think this is great and more distributions should do this - I'm sure that hundreds of Linux newbies are hacked because they didn't know what servers they are running.

Having just praised a security precaution, I can now complain about something quite worrying. While it may make life easier for a newbie to have no root password, I strongly disagree with that option being available. It could be a serious security risk.

The installer configured all my hardware including graphics, sound and network.
I was now very pleased to find some quite nice features with the printer setup - it will scan for and present a list of all available SMB and LPD print spools on the network! Very nice and convenient, although wouldn't be suitable for a large network.

Unfortunately, the installer then required a reboot to boot into the live system - something I think may be avoidable with a little extra work on Mandrake's part.

Once the system had booted and I attempted to start Gnome 2, Gnome complained that it couldn't lookup the DNS of the machine's hostname - the installer had not added it to the /etc/hosts file.

Anyway, the feature list.... I was quite pleased to find devfs support which for some reason is rare in Linux distros. As I've already mentioned, Gnome 2 is included as is KDE 3.0.3, GCC3 and pretty much everything else you would need on a desktop (or, with another installation option, a server) system.

I do feel that attempting to mix a server system aimed at admins and a desktop system aimed at newbies rarely works. SuSE can just about pull it off, but generally I don't think it works.
You can't keep a system simple AND give admins the control they want.

Generally, I feel this is a good desktop distro - although I did have to hack a config file which kind of let things down from a newbie point of view.
So, apart from the odd hiccup, Mandrake is quite newbie friendly - and in my opinion, one of THE friendliest distros available at the moment, although improvements could be made.

Added:  Friday, October 04, 2002
Reviewer:  David Johnson
Related Link:  Mandrake
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