Linux-Mandrake is Both Easy and Versatile
The Andover News Network
I have been a Red Hat Linux user from the beginning. I like the RPM [Red Hat
Package Manager] that makes it almost as easy to install software on a Linux box
as on a Windows PC, and I've grown used to Red Hat's quirks. But now I've discovered
Linux-Mandrake, which is almost exactly like Red Hat except that it's slightly easier
to install, includes more applications on the CDs included in the retail distribution,
and costs less. So I have switched from Red Hat to Mandrake, and if you are new
to Linux (and even if you're not), you may find that Mandrake suits you, too.
The "Mandrake suits you" line is a direct crib from the Linux-Mandrake Web site
[ http://linux-mandrake.com/ ], which says, right in the middle, "This linux
distribution is user friendly. This distribution is powerful. This distribution
is low-risk. This distribution is free. This distribution suits you."
I don't mind cribbing from Mandrake, because Mandrake has cribbed from Red Hat.
In fact, Mandrake 6.0 is Red Hat 6.0 with only a few features added to differentiate
it from the original product. If I worked for Red Hat [ http://redhat.com/ ], I'd
grind my teeth every time I saw a Mandrake CD, but under the rules of Open Source
software, there is nothing the Red Hat people can do to stop Mandrake from reusing
their work as long as they don't infringe on any Red Hat copyrights.
So why bother to choose Mandrake 6.0 over better-established Red Hat 6.0? Several
Caldera Systems' OpenLinux [ http://www.calderasystems.com/products/openlinux/ ]
is about as easy to install as Mandrake, but does not offer as many options. No
Gnome, for one thing, and the Gnumeric [ http://www.gnome.org/gnumeric/ ] spreadsheet,
which is part of Gnome, is one of the simplest and most intuitive spreadsheets I
have ever used in any operating system. And let's not forget RPM. S.u.S.E.
[ http://suse.com/ ] uses it, Mandrake uses it, and Red Hat invented it, but OpenLinux
uses a different system which hasn't had nearly as many applications adapted to
work with it. If you are a command line person who enjoys typing things like
gunzip -9c newprogram.tar.gz | tar xvf - every time you want to install a new
piece of software, this makes no difference. But for pointy-clicky people like me
(and most new Linux users) it is a major thing.
- Mandrake installs directly into the latest version of the workmanlike KDE
[ http://www.kde.org/ ] desktop, while Red Hat 6.0 gives you a choice between
less-tested (but prettier) Gnome [ http://www.gnome.org/ ] and an old
version of KDE. If you prefer Gnome to KDE, this may not matter to you. I happen
to prefer KDE. But Mandrake also comes with Gnome, so you still have a choice.
- There are more, and more up-to-date, applications included in the Mandrake
distribution than in Red Hat's. Part of the reason for this is that Red Hat
likes to stick with "pure" Open Source software as much as possible, while Mandrake
puts in software that may be free for individuals but not for businesses, or
has some other sort of license restriction attached to it. Since I am not a
rigid free software person, this doesn't bother me. I don't mind paying reasonable
license fees for software that works well, an attitude I believe is shared by
most PC users who have grown up in the Age of Microsoft.
- This is a subtle technical thing, but one I feel is important: Mandrake
scans the RPM file each time you boot up, which (at least by default) Red Hat
does not. If you have not used Linux or if you have used Linux but have never
needed to use RPM after your RPM database has gotten corrupted for some reason,
you will not notice this feature. But the day you do need it, you will
appreciate it more than you can imagine.
- Mandrake installs straight into the GUI. Yes, I know, all real he-man and
she-woman Linuxites glory in their ability to control their computers by typing
long strings of memorized text commands instead of doing pointy-clicky mouse
things. I can do command line work too, if I must. I know how to change a tire
at night in a thunderstorm, too, but I'd rather not deal with command lines
or flat tires unless there's no other choice. I am a person of very little brain,
and I forget text commands easily, so I like to do as much PC control stuff
as I can through a GUI [Graphical User Interface]. And Mandrake can be installed,
and a wide range of software can be added, without ever seeing anything other
than the Mac-like (or Windows-like; you can set it up either way) KDE GUI.
One of the big OpenLinux pitches is that it includes a utility that automatically
partitions your hard drive for Linux. This is a marvelous feature. Partitioning
was a total mystery to me when I first tried Linux, as it is to most people who
have gotten used to Windows. But now Mandrake has an automatic partition utility
too, which I (admittedly) have not tried because I now have enough Linux experience
to create my own partitions, and I would just as soon make them myself.
Linux-Mandrake is not as widely-distributed as some of the alternatives, but
it is not hard to find; there's a list of resellers [ http://www.linux-mandrake.com/en/fsinglecd.php3
] on the Mandrake Web site. As far as the price, this is variable. If you have the
patience (or a fast 'net connection) you can download it free, the same way you
can download most Linux distributions. But I personally prefer installing from CDs
because it's easier and faster, and I also like manuals, and lots and lots of applications
from which to choose, so I'm willing to pay the current "street" price of about
$45 for the complete Linux Mandrake PowerPack Edition" [ http://www.linux-mandrake.com/en/fpowerpack.php3
], which includes w-a-y more software choices than the official version of Red Hat
6.0 [ http://store.redhat.com/commerce/ ], which usually sells for $70 to $80, either
online or at local brick-and-mortar stores.