Distributions January 2008

I was getting very frustrated with SUSE recently. Mainly because of the slow and flaky package management but also due to my scanning difficulties.

So I decided to do a quick test of a couple more Linux distributions. Here are a few quick notes.

MEPIS 7.0 Release 3

  • There is a password on the Live CD login with no information on what it is (guessed demo)
  • Install to disk has to run as root – it silently logged when run as demo with no indication as to why
  • In the disk partitioner, there were no partition names or labels to give a guide to existing partitions – both SUSE and Mandriva give better information
  • No wizard to help install my Wacom graphics tablet (this works great under SUSE)
  • THERE IS NO SETTINGS WIZARD FOR NVIDIA! Any configuration has to be done by hand on the xorg.conf file – this alone discounts it as a Windows replacement (there wasn’t one for download either that I could find)
  • Installation does not set the time zone correctly according to the chosen location. The keyboard layout is left incorrect as well so that it has to be changed manually – lazy
  • The auto-mounting of existing partitions is DREADFULL. It labels them as hd1, etc. rather than using labels. Worse, you have to automount them from Konqueror as a standard user but then you cannot access them as a standard user, only as root (which wont auto-mount them)

Good points are:

  • It’s Debian based
  • Package management is faster than SUSE (by a loooooong way)
  • Theres a nice NVIDIA driver installation wizard (but how daft that there is then no way of configuring it!)

My conclusion is – give it a miss, stick with SUSE or Ubuntu.

Mandriva 2008 One KDE

  • I had several crashes with the configuration wizards. Once crashed, they will not run without a reboot but there is no indication as to why
  • There was no automatic access to existing partitions from the Live CD. I had to manually mount them using the partition tool
  • After installing/configuring the NVIDIA drivers and setting up a second monitor. I could not get Mandriva configured so that windows did not maximise to BOTH monitors. None of the other distributions I’ve tried have done this and I couldn’t find any GUI way of stopping X from treating the two monitors as a single large one (at least without turning off TwinView altogether)
  • In the Mandriva configuration wizards, the OK and Cancel buttons have a very nasty habit of swapping places. Normally you would expect the confirm action to be on one side and the cancel on the other – not to swap around randomly
  • You seem to have to manually set up repository sources – not helpful
  • The printer installation wizard does not parse the manufacturer. It told me what my printer was and who it was made by and then didn’t bother to pre-select the Canon drivers in the list
  • I couldn’t find Kate on the application menus only KWrite
  • There is no file manager listed in the menus only on the desktop
  • In the package manager, almost no packages had a description against them, just a title
  • Existing partitions are auto-mounted without their names/labels making it extremely hard to know which is which

Good points are:

  • There is a UPS setup wizard
  • The menu is nice, much better than a standard one

So, again, I really cannot recommend this distribution.

Conclusions

After this exercise, I even booted back to my Windows Vista partition thinking I might give up with Linux altogether!

Thankfully, a few minutes trying to run failing updates and using the relatively slow interface convinced me otherwise and I am back with SUSE 10.3 again. The grass may look green in those other OS’s and distributions, but it isn’t really.