Saturday, January 01, 2005

Mandrakelinux 10.1: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mandrakelinux 10.1
Well, it's been over a week now since I installed Mandrakelinux 10.1 on my IBM Think Pad T20— a week largely taken up by the weekend of Christmas, and then several days away on vacation. I've been tinkering with things, reconfiguring my system back to what I'm used to. Not quite there yet. But getting there.

General impressions? Mandrake 10.1 is very slick, noticeably faster than Mandrake 9.1 (which is what I was using before), and, if you're semi-technical to begin with, it's quite user-friendly. There are a few bugs. But overall, it's quite slick.

I did tons of downloads, 50 megs to set me up with the UW-Madison computer science department FTP mirror, 84 megs of security updates, 80 megs for Fluxbox (that's 800K for Fluxbox itself, the rest for dependencies), 30 megs for a real noncrippled version of mplayer, another hundred megs or two of miscellaneous stuff, and 290 megs of bugfix updates. All done over a dialup connection, pretty much around the clock, in those days before I took off on vacation. opens way faster than before. Featurewise, Fluxbox 0.9.10 is just light years ahead of the dinosaur version (0.1.14) I was using under Mandrake 9.1. The GEdit text editor now color-codes HTML tags; The Gimp 2.0, there's no comparison... (Nautilus has regressed, but hey, that's GNOME for you. ;-) Overall the software that comes with Mandrake 10.1 is, well, a year and a half more advanced than what I was using before; and it shows.

I've been reconfiguring things back to the way I'm used to. Am surprised and pleased at how much of that I'm able to do off the top of my head. Experience does add up, and it does make the job much easier, compared to a year ago in September, when I was diving into Linux for the first time, sight unseen.

Problems. There are a few problems. The system often shuts down uncleanly, requiring lengthy file scanning when next you boot up. Worse, the 2.6.8 kernel plays ball only intermittently with peripherals plugged into my USB port: I understand this problem afflicts only some computer chips, evidently including mine. Yes, I've found workarounds, gleaned off the Net; but bugs like these should never have been let out the door in a "final" release.

Oh well, if I wanted to live safely, I shouldn't have settled in Dodge City, out here on the frontier. I'll take the rough-and-ready freedom of the frontier any day, over living sedately in "sivilization" under the thumb of Bill Gates. And meanwhile, step by step and tweak by tweak, Mandrake 10.1 is progressing toward all the Linux goodness I had before, and more.



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