Linux-Mandrake is Both Easy and Versatile

Robin Miller

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 [ ], 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 [ ], 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 good reasons:

Caldera Systems' OpenLinux [ ] is about as easy to install as Mandrake, but does not offer as many options. No Gnome, for one thing, and the 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. [ ] 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.

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 [ ] 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" [ ], which includes w-a-y more software choices than the official version of Red Hat 6.0 [ ], which usually sells for $70 to $80, either online or at local brick-and-mortar stores.

Copyright 1999