Mandrake Linux 10: The Future Looks Good - Installation
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Installing Mandrake Linux 10.0 Community edition was easy and straight forward. I personally found it to be the easiest Linux install I have gone through, taking only half an hour on my Pentium 4 2.4 GHz Hyperthreading system with 1 GB of RAM. The installer did ask me if CD 4 was present, and having downloaded Official from the torrent provided by Mandrakesoft, I didn't have it. I wasn't worried -- disk 4 is a CD of software for club members.
Something that I like in Red Hat Linux and Fedora Core installers that is missing from most other installers is the ability to verify that the CD that is used to do the install was created properly. Most users do not know how to verify MD5 sums, and even more are burning their install CDs from Windows. While the verification can take a long time, it has saved me from using a bad CD on a Red Hat 9 install earlier. Downloading from the torrent helps, but the average user doesn't contemplate that 700MB downloads sometimes get corrupted on the way down.
One thing that I have to point out is that Mandrake Linux 10.0 Official simplified the install greatly. It asked me few questions - which is either a boon or a significant hindrance for some - but at the last screen of the install I had the ability to make changes to things like my bootloader at a more advanced level.
DiskDrake, the hard disk partitioning utility, is nice. It has the ability to safely resize NTFS partitions, a feature that is not present in any other Linux installer that I know of. It also allows the use of almost any filesystem, so I could use my favorite of ReiserFS over ext3, which is pushed on you if you want anything other than ext2 in Red Hat. IBM's JFS filesystem and XFS are options as filesystems as well as the ones I mentioned before. It's also available in the Control Center, mentioned below.
A full install amounted to about 2 GB of data. What I found amazing is that those 2 GB installed in less than 25 minutes. I'm not sure what magic Mandrakesoft used to do this, but I was very impressed, since I've managed to install an operating system and supporting software in less time than it takes to install Windows XP. Red Hat normally takes 40 minutes, and depending on what stage of Gentoo I'm using, I'm looking at a few hours.
Mandrake Linux 10 Official did give me the option to upgrade from Community, since I was using that prior to downloading Official. The upgrade was seamless, overwriting existing software with newer versions (for example, the kernel was upgraded to 2.6.3-7 from 2.6.3-4). It did wipe out my wireless configuration, which did take a small amount of time to redo. Again, the upgrade time was impressive - under 20 minutes.
I did try Mandrake 10 Community on a Pentium III-500 MHz laptop with 160 MB RAM that I had to reformat and reinstall Windows 2000 with. While Community was not Official, I do have to say that the install went well, and it was able to detect the Realtek 8139-based PCMCIA card and the Silicon Motion LynxEM video card, which is a really old card that Red Hat was never able to detect properly. I also tried Official on a Pentium II-300 MHz laptop in under 30 minutes. The installer did not configure an SMP kernel or an enterprise kernel for the laptops. This is a good thing - there's no point in putting in a bunch of entries in my boot menu (as is the case for my desktop) when they would provide no benefit at all.
The main reason why this review took so long to write is that the installer ate my bootsector and partition table - forcing a reinstall of Windows and Linux twice. The problem is probably related to the recent and well documented problems with Fedora Core 2 and Windows XP. Mandrakesoft is aware of the problem as well, but it may take some time until it is resolved. In the meantime, dual booters with Windows should have a complete set of backups.
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