Graeme’s

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Bye, Mandriva. Unity, PCLOS, Mint or Debian?

Posted by Graeme in Software at 8:19 pm on Thursday, 23 September 2010

With Mandriva Linux looking to have a few rough months, its a good time for me to look at alternatives. I am a bit of a distro-hopper (jumping from one LInux distribution to another), but I keep coming back to Mandriva

I do not think Mandriva’s latest problems are the end. Switching development to Brazil will save money; given that Connective (merged with the French Mandrake to form Mandriva) was Brazilian, the country has the right people.

The non-commercial Mageia fork of Linux, set up by disgruntled, and laid off, European developers, also has a good chance of succeeding.

Both these will have good stuff from Mandriva, including the Mandriva Control Centre, which is the most capable and easiest to use control panel on any OS I have used (including MacOS, WIndows, and multiple Linux distributions).

Why switch now? I have switched from KDE to XFCE, which takes away one of Mandriva’s attractions (fast and polished KDE). I also fear the transition to new developers will be disruptive, while Mageia will take time to organise.

The alternatives

Linux Mint XFCE

This comes close: the vast Debian/Ubuntu software repositories (like an “app store”, but better and all free), fast, looks beautiful, and has helpful forums.

I found a lot of irritating bugs. The start up hard drive check sometimes gets stuck, I needed to change things to be able to switch user without unlocking the screen saver, etc. Nothing terrible, but time wasting and annoying.

Archlinux

Arch is fast, very configurable, and that it is a “rolling release” — so rather than a big upgrade to the next version you get lots of incremental changes that are fairly painlessly added on.

However, it is far too much work to install and maintain. Maybe one day if I am feeling geeky and have time to spare.

Debian stable

Debian is a bit of work to install, but not to maintain. Fast and highly reliable.

The cost of extreme reliability is that the “stable” version ends up with fairly dated software available after a while. The “testing” version gets new software fast, but loses the excellent security and stability. A great choice for a server, but I want the new stuff on my desktop.

Zenwalk

Fast, good XFCE, but tiny repositories, and fairly basic. It does run most Slackware packages, but some are hard to install. Anyway, if I wanted to search for and download stuff from the internet with no signing or security measures, I would use Windows.

PCLinuxOS

A stupid name (a bit like calling your dog “Barking Canine Animal”), but a rolling release with the advantage of being Mandriva derived. I get that lovely control centre, but it uses the superior Debian derived software installer (Synaptic). The only real negative is that the download of the XFCE version is 750MB (almost a full CD). Too big for small and light XFCE because it contains a lot of software I do not want.

Unity Linux

This was actually designed as a base distribution from which developers could create their own distributions (“branches”) from it. This means that it is a small download and does not install much I do not want.

It looks as though XFCE support will be good as two XFCE based branches are being developed. Questions in the forums are answered very fast. It uses the SMART package manager (software installer/app store for WIndows/Mac folks) which looks like it might be even better than Synaptic. Its Mandriva derived so I even get my precious control centre!

I am downloading it, and will be post an update on how well it works. I also need to blog sometime about by great conversion to light-weight, simple, software (of which the switch to XFCE I mentioned is part).

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