Reviewed: Mageia 1.0
Mag-ay-a? Ma-jee-a? However you pronounce the name, this distro has proven the nay-sayers wrong and shown that a community supported fork of a commercial distro is possible. So, if you're worried about the future of Mandriva but still want a distro that's polished and newbie-friendly, read on for our full review...
First, a quick history lesson. Mandrake was one of the first Linux distributions you could install without a Computer Science degree. When it merged with Connectiva in 2005, the distribution became Mandriva before running into financial difficulty in 2010. That led to Mageia, a fork run by a group of former employees and community members. Mageia 1.0 comes just weeks ahead of a major Mandriva release. But the efforts haven't been expended on new features, not yet anyway. Version 1.0 is about completing the transformation from a corporate to a community distribution while making sure there's a framework for the future. This is why most of what you see when you install Mageia is careful rebranding.
Ease of installation has always been one of Mandriva's strengths, and Mageia inherits the same mechanisms, albeit with a new image. Everything looks fantastic, and it only takes 30 minutes and a few questions/answers to get to the desktop. We still appreciate being asked for your default desktop choice, rather than the distribution deciding for you, and we plumped for KDE. Mageia 1.0 also ships with the very latest version of KDE, 4.6.3, but plays it safe for Gnome users by sticking with Gnome 2.32. This is a good idea for a first release but there are plans to switch to Gnome 3.0 and we can't wait to see what the developers might do to modify the default Gnome experience.
Despite being based on KDE 4, Mageia's desktop isn't going to send anyone running back to Gnome - or Windows.
Mageia's KDE 4 holds back on some of the desktop's more wayward features. There are no default widgets, and the application launcher menu looks more like KDE 3.x. The desktop background is also pre-configured as a file manager, rather than a widget library, and feels slick, responsive and familiar.
As with other KDE distros, the background search daemon isn't enabled which causes confusion when you click Browse By Date in the Dolphin file manager; enable it with a quick jump to the System Settings window.
You'll also find the old Mandriva control panel, now called the Mageia Control Center. We were able to add users, set up NFS shares, configure the firewall and install Compiz with just a few clicks. But it does need some updating. The global panel could do with a search field, for example, and the GUI is starting to feel out of touch with the background desktop. Another adopted strength is package management, and the Mageia team has done a great job bringing thousands of packages over to their own repositories. You'll find the latest versions of most packages pre-installed, including LibreOffice and Firefox 4.
With the exception of packages updates and the kernel, there's little difference between Mageia and old Mandriva, but it feels great to use a community distribution of such quality, and the whole team should be commended for a fantastic effort. We're really looking forward to seeing what the future of Mageia brings.
Our verdict: A worthy successor to Mandriva that promises to deliver even more in the future. 8/10
First published in Linux Format magazine (issue 147)