Originally Published: Friday, 26 October 2001 Author: David Mckee
Published to: enhance_articles_sysadmin/Sysadmin Page: 2/3 - [Printable]

First Impressions of Mandrake 8.1

Those of us with few other skills are always thinking about: "what will be the next big hot thing?" Well, here's a clue, two Mandrake 8.1 reviews in a single week on Linux.com. Is that an astonishing development, or what? Is this distro as hot as these tantalizing statistical indicators would lead us to believe? Read on for the exciting conclusions.

Networking  << Page 2 of 3  >>


Networking install also went like a charm. I was using the @home service with an external Terayon modem, and DEC chipset ethernet card. The card was detected without a hitch, and when I choose "use DHCP" the needed packages where installed. One thing that may confuses a user is that in this scenario " LAN/Ethernet" was chosen for me though there is a selection higher up that says "CABLE". I can only assume this is for users with Internal cable modems. ISDN, and ADSL support has also greatly improved when it comes to detection. One thing that at this time Mandrake has that I have not seen in any other release of Linux is USB modem support. Alcatel speedtouch USB modems are fully supported. While Alcatel did release kernel-side drivers for their modems, their as no easy way to configure them. Mandrakes coders have written their own interface in either console, or in a GUI to configure these modems. The base CD's contain the drivers and config tools, but if you purchase the Powerpack Mandrake includes the microcode for these modems too. Mandrake is the only distro at this time I know that does this, and has worked hard on getting these popular modems to run correctly with Linux.

X-Server Setup

The setup for Xfree86 is much unchanged, from 8.0 to now. Those who have not used Mandrake since 7.* will notice a few changes. Most notable is that XFdrake can now handle configuring multiple Video cards in the same machine. Also Mandrake 8.1, like 8.0, has support for cards that can run Xfree86 4.1.0 with or without 3D hardware support as well as 3.3.6 version of Xfree. Of special note to users who tried Mandrake 8.0 is that the apparent bug that caused havoc with Intel I810 and I815e chipsets has been fixed. This includes the bug that prevented these same chipset boards from having sound in KDE. This may have been a Bug in KDE, or the kernel that shipped with Mandrake 8.0 and subsequent Beta releases. Mandrake 8.1 uses kernel 2.4.8-24mdk, a welcome plus from some of the earlier kernels shipped. On the downside, when choosing your resolutions, it no longer asks if you wish to test if this setting will work. Now I am not sure it is because Mandrake just knew my chip could or if this is an omission. Either way, I would still prefer the old option of testing first.

Before the Re-Boot

Once all this has been set, the rest of it is pretty straight-forward, with one exception. For some reason like in all previous releases of Mandrake. Unless you choose a Expert install, while the list on the left side says "Make Bootdisk" it flys right past it, and never offers you the actual option to make one. This only seems to happen if you choose recommended install. I think has to be fixed, a new OS without a bootdisk can be a nightmare, and should not be an option. Also, when it shows you the services that will be started by default, there is still to many in this reviewers opinion. Though hardly a Mandrake only thing, why portmapper, APMD to name just a few should be enabled by default is beyond me. Especially as this machine is a Desktop, not a laptop. So having apmd enabled makes no sense to me at all. Also, by default, both Linuxconf, and HardDrake are enabled. Both do somewhat the same thing, and can always be invoked from the command line by ROOT.

Post Configuration

This is where seasoned Mandrake users are going to be in for some surprises. Don't expect your normal boot into KDE or Gnome. You are going to be greeted by a First-Time Wizard screen. Here is where you will decide what Window manager or Desktop manager to use. Now that is fine in itself, however it also asks for personal Information. Like your name, where you live, your email address, and phone number. Now you can leave all that information out, and Mandrake will carry on. The fact that it is asked for at all I find rather diss-concerting. While it does have a few benefits, like offering to create a username for you on the Mandrake Forums and such this reviewer found it very intrusive to even be asked these things for whatever commercial reason.

On a more positive note lest jump back to the choosing your desktop a big new plus is you can select the Theme for the Window/Desktop manager. It also will offer to create a profile for your mail client though at present only Netscape messenger, or Kmail are supported. Which is rather a shame as Mandrake 8.1 is one of the First Distributions to install Sylpheed mail client. Hopefully in 8.2 this MTA will be added as an option for users to also configure, and set up a profile for. Now a big, big KUDOS to Mandrake and their setup: when you log in as root, gone are all the clutter on the desktop of icons, also the screen DEFAULTS to a Bright RED. A splash screen still tells you your root status. I know some seasoned veterans of Linux will say "Man RED, that's annoying" and yes it is. But I think a good move on their part, so you think before you do anything. Run out of Cola one night trying to finish something and you log in as root and don't know it. You will thank them in the long run.

First Moves

I highly suggest logging in as root, then as a user and then reboot the machine after each. While not needed at all, the first time you boot a lot of configuration files are tweaked and written to disk. It will seem your boot time is very slow. Boot time on the second boot into either account I found to be far quicker then the first one. This is true of most distributions so is not unique to Mandrake. The software manager has been re-done while maintaining the same interface. The bugs in previous releases are now gone. Installing new RPM'S from almost any source you can imagine works flawlessly.

Networking  << Page 2 of 3  >>