This is a quick test of the OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0
(Phosphorus), focusing mostly on desktop and (my) hardware support.
Generally I’m not testing any Linux distribution anymore. I’ve been testing too many in the past, and too often, and testing Linux distros tend to make me stress because I see many things that could be improved.
So during the past years, I’ve only tested a very limited set of Linux distributions: Ulteo Application System (discontinued :-/), Ubuntu and LinuxMint. I have to admit that I have been using Ubuntu Linux 10.04 on a daily basis for… 4 years, since Ulteo pivoted its product offering to an application delivery solution for corporations.
I must say that I’ve been quite pleased with Ubuntu 10.04. Besides its colors that I don’t like and the shame « gnome-power-manager » never fixed bug that eats all the memory on laptops in a few days, it’s solid, well maintained and offers a huge set of applications for (most of) my needs.
Anyway, I never upgraded to more recent versions of Ubuntu because I really dislike their new desktop approach. It’s so ugly and absolutely not designed for workstations in my opinion. (But I tested them as well for family reasons as my parents are both using Linux as well).
So I’m at the crossroads. I’ve started to use Mac OS X but I don’t like it. It’s a false « slick » desktop (I find many actions to be not intuitive at all, compared to iOS for instance). I don’t want to use Ubuntu anymore for the reasons explained above, and have many ideas about how should be a modern Linux distribution, from features to ergonomy.
So before hacking one for my own needs, I’m going to have again a look at what’s available today on the Linux market. It seems we have a huge choice
, don’t we?
Last but not least, I was very interested to see how the community effort that seemed to surge around the OpenMandriva foundation could manage to release a new Linux distribution forked from the ashes of Mandriva Linux.
So when I saw that the new release was available, I decided to go for a quick tour, and as it’s the week-end I’m putting my thoughts online, for those who want to know a bit more about this new Linux distro.
Generally during tests, I’m focusing on what doesn’t work and what could be done better, because that’s the kind of information that is needed when designing and building a software product and try to go towards something that is as much close to the perfection as possible. And that’s what I’ve been doing at my years at Mandrakesoft/Mandriva. So, obviously, this test won’t be an exception. Don’t take it bad, it means that there is a lot that works that I’m not talking about
Additionnally, I don’t have time nor enough disk space to test a full installation, so this test will focus on the liveCD test, and there could be some side-effects of that way of testing.
Last, regarding hardware support: there is a huge variety of hardwares, and Linux generally makes miracles supporting all that, but nothing is perfect so one can only find some unsupported hardware, and in my case, I may be lucky at that because my lap is 4 years old, and therefore has more chance to be well supported.
I’m testing the new OpenMandriva LX on my main laptop, which is a Dell Vostro 1220 with 4GB RAM and a dual-core CPU.
It has an integrated webcam and a fingerprint reader.
It has a second flat screen attached to it, on the same graphics card, so I can use a wide desktop.
It has a second mouse, and second keyboard on USB ports.
I has two Samsung laser printers attached on USB ports, has 100Mbps local network access. On the local network there are two SMB devices that can be accessed easily (even from my iPhone using “TIOD”). The local network is capable of transporting and relaying IPv6 traffic to Internet.
I’m listening to a Radiohead album during the test, OK Computer. Didn’t listen to it for years.
I’ve burned the ISO file to a USB stick and booted on it.
Quickly, the graphical interface comes up and I’m prompted about the language I want to use, keyboard layout etc. Everything seems to work fine, but I wonder why I’m offered two different times to choose from between PC time and real time (who wants the PC time on a personal desktop workstation?). Additionally I provided my timezone in a previous step, therefore ntpdate or similar should be enough to get rid of that step, if the network is available and up of course, which is my case.
This is the desktop screen I get when the boot sequence is complete:
So now, let’s start some critisms…
- main desktop colors are a little « sad » in my taste, and there is a visual lack of consistency between several desktop areas and icons in the system. But overall it’s clean and looks professional. This lack of visual consistency is a common issue in many Linux distribution and difficult goal to achieve.
- there are four visible icons on the main screen: the « JOIN NOW » icon is not very cute, but at least it’s explicit. Now, why a « black dog » icon for the Donate icon? Surprising.
- now I’m trying to click on both these icons and have firefox open on an openmandriva.org URL with a great « 502 Bad Gateway » message Good news: that’s easy to fix.
- when clicking on the icon, I immediately wondered if we were in a single-click environment or a double-click environment. As I know it’s KDE, I was suspecting a single-click environment (and I don’t like it). But on the main desktop, it’s double-click. Now if you go in the desktop main menu->file manager and click on a file, it’s… single click. That’s the lack of UX consistency I really hope can be fixed in modern Linux desktops.
Let’s explore this desktop further…
- there is an icon blinking in the bottom dock, it’s the battery icon. And it’s not exactly blinking, it’s disappearing and re-appearing, and this leads to an permanent, annoying left-right motion of the other icons in the dock.
- now, I’d like to have my desktop display over my two screens, just as usual. I’m looking for a screen configuration icon in the dock, but can’t find any. So let’s go for DrakConf?, and try to see what’s available here. Where is DrakConf… Ah… I can find two icons « configure your desktop » (which is KDE system settings), and « configure your computer » (which I think is DrakConf). Going to KDE system settings->Display and Monitor, I can enable the use of the two screens as a large desktop. Good.
- now trying to have my printers work: in the « configure your printers » part, I can easily see one of the two printers I have, and configure it. But the other doesn’t show up. It’s a bit surprising since usually there are both automatically recognized and configured.
- now the sound: works without configuration needed.
- now WiFi… Doesn’t seem to work: I can’t see the list of available wifi networks in the air. Trying to configure it, I’m prompted for Windows driver with NDISwrapper. OK, maybe I had to to the same with my Ubuntu 10.04, don’t remember.
- let’s explore the network further… I’m having difficulties to see my SMB shares. Actually I was about to give up and tried again a few times in the main file manager Home->Network and could actually see the places I was looking for appear. But I couldn’t browse their content. There is always an error message or strange behavior such as launching firefox to fetch the content. Giving up on that.
- Interesting thing: with my IPv6 local network available, the network interface has been configured on IPv6 by default. And if you disable IPv6 on the network, the network interface is back to IPv4.
- scanner: surprinsingly, I opened XSane and it recognized my scanner (I didn’t say, there is a scanner in one of my two printers). And I could even acquire a preview! But clicking on the Scan button made it segfault, and next time I couldn’t even acquire a preview again I must say it’s the first time I could use that scanner (just a bit!) from a Linux distribution. Maybe the system is running out of memory, since it’s running live on the USB stick, and the memory management is always tricky on that kind of systems. Then I tried Skanlite but it only views my integrated webcam.
- as a consequence of the line above, I know that my webcam seems to work, good
- not spending a lot of time on the set of default apps. They are mostly KDE apps, KApps indeed. I’m noticing some weird default apps icons such as « HP Device Manager », « Epson Inkjet Printer Manager » (but where is the Samsung Printer manager? ^^)
- I’m not fond of having KMail as a default email application… I’ve abandoned KMail eventually in the early 2000s when it trashed my email index because there were too many emails. Since then I’ve been using Thunderbird with GBs of email and several accounts and had 0 issue. So I’m not sure KMail is now better and more convenient than Thunderbird…
- how to install new applications should certainly be more visible on the desktop… Have to go in « Configure Your Computer » . Also, I’m noticing a « (null) » category in « Networking » applications, that includes BSD-utils, Eclipse, and some Java stuff. OK, « null » may be a good name choice for these applications ^^ Using the application management features, I could install some apps without any issue.
- regarding consoles, there is a choice of Konsole and Xterm.
This was a quick tour of the new OpenMandriva LX 2014.0 distribution.
I noticed a few issues and it’s not yet close to my dream Linux system, but nothing very surprising actually. I’d say that, since the kernel & low-level layers seem to be very well handled and solid, the main effort now should go on the UX. Consistency, design… that doesn’t help applications to work, but that helps massive user adoption.
My feeling is that OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0 seems to be quite solid and well finished. It’s a level of quality that can only be achieved when experienced developers and contributors are really engaged in a project. Most hardware devices are supported and configured by default. Certainly a very good root for the next releases.
Congrats to the OpenMandriva team for this release!
PS UPDATE on May 4th, 2014: testing again and installing new apps on the live system, I very soon ended with segfaults that seem to be link with memory exhaustion. Maybe there is an issue here.