About a year or so ago, rumors started flying in the Linux community about Mandriva Linux having serious commercial/organizational problems. The facts didn’t take long to catch up with the rumors, and before long Mandriva was cutting back staff, changing development schedules, and generally looking like an organization in trouble. In September some dedicated and very talented Mandriva developers, contributors and users make a fork of Mandriva, which they eventually named Mageia Linux, and they laid out their own plans for independent development.
One should never underestimate the amount of very hard work that goes into producing a complete Linux distribution. It might sound sort of glamorous, and sort of fun, and I’m sure that some parts of it are – but there is a massive amount of drudgery and detail that has to be taken care of. The Mageia group have done an admirable job of sticking to that schedule, and after the typical series of pre-releases, they have now produced their first “official” release, Mageia 1. In the meantime, Mandriva development has kind of sputtered along, sometimes looking like things might eventually turn out ok, and other times looking less promising. At the moment, in my opinion, they are in the “less promising” area, as their Release Candidate and Final Release have been indefinitely postponed.
I have watched all of this with mild interest, as I used to like to keep Mandriva loaded on most of my systems. To be honest, my interest in Mandriva decreased quite sharply after they let Adam Williamson go, in part because that was one of the early symptoms of problems to come, and in part because his departure left a very large gap in their community. I looked at the release announcements of some of the Mageia pre-releases, but I never actually took the time to download and install one, so this final release is entirely new to me. I am quite pleasantly surprised by it – in a lot of
ways, it looks and feels just like a continuation of Mandriva 2010, with the Linux kernal and all the packages brought up to date.
The distribution can be obtained from the Mageia Download web page. It is available as a Live CD image, 32-bit only, in either KDE or Gnome desktops, or a Full Installation DVD image, either 32- or 64-bit, which contains KDE, Gnome, Xfce and LXDE all in each image. There is also a “Dual Arch” CD, which contains both 32- and 64-bit but only the LXDE desktop and limited languages, and for the very experienced and well-connected there is a small “Network Install” image. All of these are “hybrid images”, which means that you can either burn them to a CD/DVD, or copy them directly to a USB flash drive using dd. For purposes of my first look at it, I only downloaded the KDE Live CD image, and dumped that to a USB stick for installation.
The Mageia installer will look familiar to anyone who has previously installed Mandriva. Although it is quite stable and reliable, as it has been around for quite a while, it feels like it is a bit “old” compared to some of the newer and much simpler installers such as Ubuntu’s Ubiquity and Fedora’s Anaconda. In particular it has always seemed to me that it asks questions in a bit of an odd sequence, and there are some fairly long delays when it asks a question, then goes off to do something and then comes back to ask some more. But that is all just minor stuff, because in theory you only run through the installation once and then you don’t have to deal with it any more.