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November 13, 2002

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Mandrake Linux 9.0, Desktop Magic You Can Use: A First Look

Mike Angelo -- 13 November 2002 (C) -- Page 2

Article Index

Mandrake Desktop Linux v. Microsoft (continued)

Installing and Updating Software

Perhaps installing, configuring, and updating software are the system administration and maintenance tasks that many computer users most often encounter. Installing, configuring, and updating software usually has been a simpler and more user-friendly task with the Microsoft Windows operating system than it has been with the Linux OS. This is another Linux v. Windows gap that is closing.

Mandrake Linux 9.0 has several installing, configuring, and updating software tools that make these tasks just about as easy to do in Mandrake Linux 9.0 as it is to do them in MS Windows. One of these tools is the KDE 3.0.3 desktop-suite tool, KPackage 3.0.2, which is available for most Linux distributions. Two other neat software installation and update tools that are specific to Mandrake Linux are RpmDrake and URPMI.

All three tools require that the to be installed, updated, or un-installed software are distributed in RPM packages. The most interesting of these tools is the URPMI tool.

Note: URPMI can find and install RPMs whether they are on the Mandrake CDs, already on your hard drive, or someplace on the Internet. However, by default, URPMI looks on the installation CDs only. If you want URPMI to look elsewhere, such as on a Mandrake mirror FTP site or your hard drive, you have to adjust URPMI's configuration. Adding additional locations for URPMI to look for RPMs can get tricky. Any not already installed dependencies needed must be located at a place that URPMI has been configured to check.

URPMI is a very easy to use, command-line, front-end for installing, updating, and un-installing RPM files. One nice feature about URPMI is that you do not need to download or find the application you wish to install. In its simplest form, all you need to do is to type urpmi package-name at a command-line prompt. Then Mandrake's URPMI installer locates the RPM package and URPMI usually grabs and installs any other files upon which the program you are installing depends to run (dependencies).

More and Better Free Software

The Mandrake Linux 9.0 Standard edition is much more than a user-friendly desktop operating system. It comes with lots of software -- much more software than what you get with the MS Windows operating system.

Please keep in mind that much of the free software that you get with the Microsoft Windows operating system is pretty darn basic and feature-poor. On the other hand, much of the free software that comes with Mandrake 9.0 is feature-rich and close to, if not as good as, the commercial Windows software that does not come free with the MS Windows operating system -- the stuff for which you have to pay extra in the big-bucks, excessively-commercial, world of Microsoft Windows. All in all, that makes Mandrake Linux 9.0 a much better bang for the bucks than Microsoft Windows.

Note: AbiWord is a very nice, free, MS Word clone for both the Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems. AbiWord does not come with the 3-CD Mandrake Linux 9.0 Standard edition. However, you easily can download and install an AbiWord RPM -- packaged by MandrakeSoft for Mandrake 9.0.

If you use your computer to get work done, the Mandrake 9.0 Standard edition comes with both the KOffice and OpenOffice productivity suites, which include word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and other such applications. As mentioned earlier in this review, overall KOffice and OpenOffice Linux products are not as feature-rich and easy to use as the comparable Microsoft Office for MS Windows products. But, the important point here is that KOffice and OpenOffice come free with the Mandrake 9.0 Linux operating-system distribution. Microsoft Office does not come free with the MS Windows operating-system distribution.

There's lots of other productivity stuff included with the basic Mandrake 9.0 distribution too. There are several e-mail and newsreader clients. Additionally, Mandrake 9.0 includes project management, address book, calendar, and financial programs.

There are lots of Internet applications for work or play too. Mandrake 9.0 Standard offers a nice selection of Web browser, messaging and chat, telnet, SSH, and FTP clients.

Whether you work with and edit photographs for play or profit, Mandrake 9.0 comes with the GIMP, an excellent photo-editing and image-manipulation program. GIMP is just about as good as Adobe PhotoShop -- but it is free and it comes with Mandrake 9.0.

In the amusement category, Mandrake 9.0 comes with more than fifty games including 19 arcade games, 20 board games, 19 card games, and 10 strategy games. Compare that to a measly four games that you get with Microsoft Windows.

There are lots more goodies that come free with Mandrake 9.0. Check the Mandrake Web site for the details. (Link in the Resources section at the end of this article.)

Mandrake Linux for Power and Enterprise Users

Don't let Mandrake Linux 9.0's easy-to-use desktop fool you into thinking that Mandrake 9.0 is not a power-user, server, or enterprise operating system. Mandrake Linux 9.0 is a powerful command-line and server Linux.

The free download edition of Mandrake Linux 9.0 comes with a nice collection of free, powerful servers including the Apache 1.3.26 AdvancedExtranetServer (Web), Bind (DNS), DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), MySQL 3.23.52 (database), PostgreSQL 7.2.2 (database), ProFTP (FTP), Postfix (e-mail), OpenSSH (secure shell protocol), SMB/NMB (Samba), and more.

A nice thing about Mandrake 9.0 is that system administrators that like to work from the command line have a powerful command-line Linux from which to do that with Mandrake 9.0. On the other hand, system administrators that prefer, or feel more comfortable with, a graphical desktop have that with Mandrake Linux 9.0. Because Mandrake Linux 9.0 is both a powerful command-line Linux and an easy-to-use desktop Linux, system administrators and enterprise IT managers have their choice of using either the Linux desktop or the Linux command-line -- or both for that matter.


So far in our testing, Mandrake Linux 9.0 is very stable and rock solid. Mandrake Linux 9.0 is an operating system that you can run non-stop, twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week (24/7).

Test Equipment

To date, we have tested Mandrake Linux 9.0 on three computers. The most powerful of the three boxes is a multi-boot desktop machine with a 1-GHz Pentium III CPU, PowerLeap Renaissance motherboard using a SiS 630E chipset with integrated everything, 512-MB of RAM, and 100-GB Maxtor D536X hard drive. A Netgear EA101 USB Network Adapter is used to connect this box to a LAN.

The second box is a desktop machine with a 300-MHz AMD K6 CPU on an Amptron motherboard with 128-MB RAM and a 40-GB Maxtor Ultra DMA 66 hard drive. This box is connected to the LAN via an integrated SiS 900 PCI Fast Ethernet Adapter.

A KVM switch let's you connect a single keyboard, monitor, and mouse set to several computers different computers. KVM = Keyboard, plus Video, plus Mouse.

Note: By default, Mandrake 9.0 tries to start the wireless PC Card on the OmniBook 6000 before it starts the PCMCIA services. Thus, the Linux operating system (OS) cannot see the Skyline PC Card when it wants to start Eth1. This also causes a very long pause in the boot process while the operating system searches, and searches, and searches for the missing PC Card.

The solution to this problem is fairly easy. Simply make the boot process start the PCMCIA services before Eth1 is started. Here's how to do that.

Point the Konqueror file manager to the /etc/rc3.d directory. There you will notice the network services link, S10network, and the PCMCIA services link, S11pcmcia. The S10 and S11 parts of those link names specify the order in which those services are started at boot time. So, simply rename S11pcmia to S09pcmia. That will cause the PCMCIA services to start before the network services start.

For more about this problem and a similar solution, please see our article, Adding Wireless to a Linux-Based Laptop or Notebook PC.

Both desktop machines feed display output to a Gateway EV910 19" monitor via a Belkin 4-port KVM switch. This KVM switch takes PS/2 mouse and keyboard input and sends that input to the computers via the USB.

A Hewlett Packard OmniBook 6000 Notebook PC was used to round out our initial tests Mandrake 9.0 tests. This HP 6000 has a 900-MHz Pentium III CPU, Intel 440 BX AGPset chipset, 128-MB RAM, ATI Rage Mobility M1 2xAGP graphics, ESS Maestro PCI Audio, a 20-GB IBM DJSA-220 hard drive, built-in 3-COM 10/100 Mini PCI Ethernet Adapter, and a Proxim Skyline PC Card.

Partition Magic and Partition Commander, non-destructive partition management tools, were used to configure the test machines for multiple booting. Boot Magic is used for boot management and GRUB to load Linux. Please see our articles Dual-Boot Linux & Windows to Get the Best of Both Operating System Worlds and Triple-Boot Caldera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, & MS Windows for Best of Three Worlds for more information about partition and boot management.


All told, the MandrakeSoft technicians and wizards have put together a darn nice, easy-to-use, and user-friendly Linux operating system and collection of software applications. The MandrakeSoft folks give you plenty of choices too. You can use Mandrake 9.0 as an easy, friendly desktop Linux, a powerful command-line Linux, or a very cost-effective enterprise and server Linux -- or all of these. Your choice.

Mandrake 9.0's overall stability, plus the choices of included desktop suites and applications make Mandrake 9.0 a Linux you can run all the time -- and get your work done or have fun too.

If Linux is going to be an effective alternative to the Microsoft Windows operating system(s) it can not merely be as good as MS Windows, it must be better than MS Windows. Linux must be easier to install than MS Windows. It must be easier to use than MS Windows. It must be easier to maintain than MS Windows. It must be more secure and more stable than MS Windows. And Linux must have more and better applications than MS Windows. Moreover, the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a Linux-based system or enterprise deployment must be less than the TCO for an MS Windows-based system or enterprise deployment.

Overall Linux is not quite there yet. But it is getting closer. Moreover, Linux could be there in less than a year.

Mandrake Linux 9.0 is one reason that Linux is getting closer to being as good as, if not better than, Microsoft Windows. In some areas Mandrake 9.0 surpasses MS Windows. Moreover, Mandrake 9.0 and its included software are close enough to MS Windows that unless you need the full-functionality of the Microsoft Office suite products such as MS Word or MS Excel, you can use Mandrake Linux 9.0 as your primary, and perhaps only, operating system


Article Index

Download Mandrake 9.0

Goodies that come free with Mandrake 9.0

Mandrake Web Site

Mandrake Linux 9.0 Editions Comparison Chart

Mandrake Store

Other Products Mentioned in Article

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