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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
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» Number of reviews : 3 - viewing 10 Per Page
Last Review by dukeinlondon - posted: 10-31-2005 05:03 PM
to me, this is the best distro ever. It is clean, fast, well integrated, reliable and good looking.
Hardware support was no disappointment. Everything works, with nice touches like the HP toolbox thrown in, meaning I can now see the ink level of my printer. My ralink rt2500 based wifi card is fully supported and worked with no fiddling.
Post install configuration
I am a bit disappointed with yast. Although it's clean and works rather well, it failed completely and utterly to configure samba shares. After much struggling, it turns out that the kde control center is the best bet to get it going with a minimum of fuss.
Package install is OK but for a distro product, they have to go down the same root as ubuntu and show apps rather than go down to individual library packages. And dependencies checking is a bit confusing. And the package availability is not great. But a nice touch is that clicking on a rpm in a directory in konkeror offers the option to install with Yast, without dropping to the command line.
Fonts rendering is excellent and nvidia driver installation was done during the install.
Looks are great and menus well organised. Openoffice is very well implemented and starts quickly (8 secs on a 5 year old machine).
It's the first distro I try that comes with nice details like motherboard and cpu sensors modules in the kernel.
Mainstream multimedia is hardly supported at first boot and a little hunt for packages is required to play divx, mp3 and other dvds. Does the commercial distro come with support for that ? No idea.
Conclusion ? I keep it. It's the closest thing I know to what you get with MacOSX (multimedia aside).
I've installed the second installment
of Mandrake 10 Beta and it looks good and bad in the same time :
USB doesn't work during install which
means that the mouse is unusable (so much for the graphical
installer) and that my USB printer doesn't get a chance of being
Fortunately, I use a conventional
keyboard that works fine during the install. The mouse becomes
normally active after the first boot. It's disappointing since the
problem wasn't there on the cooker snapshot that preceeded the Beta1.
Since Mdk has detected my DSL router's
dhcp server (wired) I am on the net immediately after the first boot.
My attempt to configure my printer just
managed to stall printerdrake.
Sound : my audigy card doesn't produce
a sound so far. At kde start-up, arts complains that /dev/dsp doesn't
exist and falls back on /dev/null. Totem media player is unfazed
(probably using arts) and doesn't notice it's not producing any
sound. The right driver appears to be loaded but that doesn't seem to
make a difference. I've checked mixer settings with kmix and all
looks normal. Since alsa is now the default sound transport, I
installed aumix and it crashed on first run.
Maybe a problem with
/etc/security/console.perms. Things look very restricted in there :
only root and the 'audio' group have sound access. That could be an
explanation. I changed the permission on everything in /dev/snd/ and
aumix didn't crash any more but still no sound .... I'll try more
General system feel:
The new menu is ok, kind of looks like
the old one but with more sub menus. I am not sure that I prefer it.
Never mind, it's familiar enough.
The system feels very responsive and
stable. I notice that dma is enabled on my 2 hard drives, which is a
first on mandrake. I always had to do it myself in the past.
Look and feel : dismal and
disappointing: no background picture, a dull colour scheme, let's
hope things will evolve here. Why not contract texstart to take over
that aspect of things ? He would do wonders (and not only on that
Mozilla works flawlessly and boasts
nice looking anti-aliased fonts.
Testing cooker :
An observation : no urpmi cooker
repository is configured in the software manager... I've had to hunt
for a up-to-date mirror and then updating the system failed.
Something that seems stupid to me is
that the wonderfull testzilla-client that registers your harware
configuration and allows to run report accurate hardware bug reports
is not part of the beta distro ! It's in contrib and has quite a few
dependencies so until you've found a urpmi repository, you can't
intstall it easily. It beats the purpose for me. It should be part of
the distro even after release and it should be a choice given to the
users to run it and submit (anonymously if required) their hardware
configuration, alongside their feedback on how well it works. This
would help build a reliable hardware compatibility database that
would be a huge marketing plus for mandrake and Linux in general.
Mandrake could then do a small utility for windows to rate any
machine compatibility.... Ooops, I must have been dreaming for a
Anyway after installing testzilla, I
ran the testzilla_add_system command and it worked until it tried to
scan for printers. Probably linked with the usb problem. I have
nonetheless been able to report the sound problem and report success
for my nvidia card : 3d works ! I don't think they use the nvidia
driver but still, armagetron manages about 40 fps, which enough for
my liking of 3d screen savers.
That's it for now. More later if I
manage to keep the install updated. I will try more apps.
It's not really beta level imho.
Everything should be in place, especially sound and usb.
I was already running mdk 9.1 which thanks to the cntributions of mainly texstar and plf, is a great set-up.
I kept a free partition on my hd, to do a fresh install of the new distro when available.
I got the 3 CDs from the club bittorent download. That was easy and fast for me so
----- Distribuition system : 10/10
Athlon XP 1900+
512 MB RAM
Nvidia graphics (not sure which one)
Audigy sound card
Alcatel speed touch DSL
PSC 2210 printer scanner.
Installation was easy. I got presented with the option of upgrading from a previous version or doing a fresh install . I went for the latter as I always do. In fact, I have 2 partitions: when a new distro comes up, I install it on the unused partition, configure and test it, copy some set-up from the production partition where applicable and when everything is fine, I copy my personal data to the new home directory and declare the previous production partition, the new test area. Promise, when I've finished tweaking 9.2, I'll try an upgrade from the deserted 9.1 set-up.
Until then here is the account so far :
During installation, you get to configure your mouse, language, keyboard layout, mount points, and package selection.
Everything is nice and easy. My package selection was everything desktop related.
You also get to create users and set a root password.
Just before the install finishes, you get a nice screen with a kind of set-up summary. You can check and modify things like sound drivers, screen, printers. I checked the sound drivers to make sure to use the alsa driver for my card (emu10k1) rather than the oss. It was useful to see that my machine had 2 sound cards, since that caused my subsequent sound problems. My PSC2210 appeared to have been configured and since 9.1 had done an amazing job at setting up that all-in-one, I decided to call it a day and boot the new system. I chose to use a floppy to install the boot loader, not to upset my current set-up.
Boot screen looks really nice, and is non-verbose by default. Pressing shows the background messages. and I was soon faced with the kdm login prompt
----- Install 9/10
I am a KDE user so don't expect any account on the Gnome experience.
The user I had set-up already had a home directory that existed before the installation so I didn't get to see the mandrake first time wizard.
The first things first, I fired the Mdk Control Center. It's hard to tell what's changed. It all looks the same as 9.1. So much for the exitment of novelty. But as long as it works, fine. I went on to configure my internet acces (I am nothing without my drip). I have an evil Alcatel speedtouch and expected the worst.
The network set-up window is still as confusing as ever. I clicked on the wizard button and things got a bit better. The speedtouch was amongst the options, so I clicked it. The system requested one of the CDs to install the necessary packages, and then a good looking dialog box asked me for the account details. I mounted the 9.1 root partition and extracted the information from my /etc/ppp/chap-secrets file. Next it asked the mgmt.o microcode, offering to go and get it from my windows partition or leave it for later.
It never found it. Anyway, I copied it from my previous set-up, and as root went :
/etc/rc.d/init.d/internet start and I was connected !
Thumbs up for that !
Now that I was connected to my lifeline, I started looking at the apps.
But before looking at the apps, I had to try to get the NVidia driver for my card. The nvidia installer, not finding any precompiled kernel module for the mdk kernel attempts to compile one on the fly and surprise : no kernel source is available. It is not on the download CDs either. It is not before I connected to the distro ftp repository that I could install it. Anyway, I've left it for later, since not being a big gamer, I can do without 3D for a while, especially given the X problems I've had with 9.1 and Nvidia drivers.
Now about the applications....
I created a new user with a new home directory to see how it would look.
After login the new user, I got mandrake first time asking me personal details like my club membership and root password, to set-up the club sources. Sounded like a good idea. The dialog box then went blank. Seeing no network or disk activity, I pressed enter and it exited, not doing the promised set-up. Missed opportunity.
First impression : where is everyone ? The kde panel is almost empty, the menu as well and the desktop is boring blue. None of KDE's eye candy is enabled (menu shadow and animation and the like) so that all looks VERY dull. The start menu doesn't show the recent used apps (go to the menu section of the kde panel to enable it)
I noticed that the menus were REALLY slim. I suspected a problem when I noticed that Open office was not in the menu but appeared installed. I started the menu editor and a reload of the system menus immediately fixed the problem. Good luck for any newbie to figure that one out.
Could have been a better start.
Mozilla is missing ! How can it be ?
Install is simple through the software manager. Mozilla is now installed.
In the MCC, it is disapointing to see that there is no automated way to connect to a main distro and contrib mirror. Loads of apps are already available for 9.2 but, if you don't have a clue, the distro looks a bit thin on the ground package wise.
I configured the compulsory plf repository (How can anyone survive without these guys ?) and the contrib. For plf, I used the easy urpmi web page (google will take you there). For contrib, I did have the address so I used the graphical source configurator. A tip : don't specify the hdlist.cz file relative location : it never found it when I filled that field. However, if you leave it blank, it immediately find it and configures the source. Another hassle that could have been avoided: I tried a good 10 times before trying without the hdlist path......
I installed all my multimedia gear (xmms, xine, kino etc.....)
Next problem was to get the sound working. As said before, there are 2 sound systems on my machine : an onboard sound chip (detected and configured by mdk) and and audigy card with a firewire port (the latter also detected and configured)
The problem was to disable the onboard chip. No way to do that using draksound. The option "disable" is just not there. I tried to modify the /etc/modules.conf file in an attempt to stop the snd-cmi module to load and take the sound slot 0 but the entry got regenerated at the next boot.
Someone on this forum suggested to disable it at bios level. Thanks a lot ! That did the trick. Now sound works
Something else that I had to check was ide configuration. Although the boot message warns that dma is not enabled on my drives, I've found no option to do so in hardrake. Never mind, hdparm is installed, so I enabled dma and all is well. A newbie would be very bewildered by the system almost freezing during heavy disk activity like a sofware install. Not a good point. I understand distros try to be prudent with this set-up but why not enable dma if the system is able to detect that the drive supports it ?
Next step was for me to get the minimal (which happens to be the maximal as well) plugin configuration for mozilla, since my powerpack dvd is at best a couple of weeks away from my mail box.
Most important I find is flash. macromedia site kindly detects my system and I am soon downloading the linux flash player. Install is still as 4 years ago, untar, run the script, that doesn't even detect where mozilla is installed and check that the libflash.so file is in the /usr/lib/mozilla-1.4/plugins directory. Flash didn't work. I found later, running mozilla 1.5 downloaded from the mozilla.org that it was trying to link to a standard c++ library file, not available on the system.
a symbolic link fixes it (instruction on the mandrake forum) but, that's another unintuitive one. And like it or not, an average net user needs flash.
Real player was no problem at all. The most difficult part is to find it on Real's page. Gone are the links to the linux version from the main download page. Talk about supporting open source.....
Installed java and acrobat reader is much the same way. These guys don't even attempt to install their plugins in the right place. more sym links.
Now it all works, just flash is a bit slow.
FONTS : THEY ARE NICE ! out of the box, without any windows fonts, they are really nice.
I still fired the MCC to install my windows fonts. I steered clear from the fully automated button, which froze the MCC is 9.1. Instead I chose to hand pick them from the windows partition that mandrake conviniently mounts by default.
No problem there, fonts installed within seconds and were visibly available immediately afterwards.
Finally, testing printing. No problem. The HP drivers work great and Mandrake makes a great job at configuring that AllInOne device (PSC2210) : Scanning is just a matter of starting Xsane. Scanner is there and ready to scan.
------- Post-install config : 7/10. Way too many things to figure out before the system is usable by someone eager to start with an easy linux distro. For me though it was OK, and I am perticularly grateful for the speedtouch and the printer. Did I mention that X config was fine ?
My main regret is that mandrake has decided to go for a new version. It looks very much like a service release to 9.1 but given how unreliable upgrades have proved to be in the past, I doubt anyone goes will go down that route. So you get all the hassle of a new install, when all you want and wish is updated system utilities and core packages ahead of the next major release. Open Office is RC4, mozilla is 1.4 (not 1.4.1 or 1.5) kde is 3.1.3 (.4 brings good fixes) and given the recent past, there is no point hoping that mandrake will shortly bring updates to these nevertheless crucial components.
So for the moment, I run 9.1 and play with 9.2 from time to time. When I've finished the migration though, I'll try to upgrade 9.1. I will post the report here.
Hope this helps