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DistributionWatch Review: Linux-Mandrake 7.0
Perfection, Except for the Documentation
April 7, 2000
Linux-Mandrake comes this close to being the perfect Linux distribution. It certainly is one of the easiest Linux packages to install and configure: DrakX is state of the art when it comes to streamlined installations, while DrakConfig is certainly an impressive tool for configuring a Linux system on the fly. And Linux-Mandrake includes all of the latest and greatest versions of everything, so anyone installing the shrink-wrap version--as we did--won't need to spend a lot of time cruising the Web looking to immediately upgrade.
So why aren't we jumping up and down, proclaiming that Linux-Mandrake 7.0 is the best Linux distribution ever? For one reason: the poor quality of the documentation in the shrink-wrap version. Much of what's great in Linux-Mandrake 7.0 is simply undocumented or misdocumented, and the lack of accurate documentation will only serve to deter the casual or beginning Linux user, which in terms of marketing seems to be a prime audience for the product. The omissions are actually startling; there are three tools specific to Linux-Mandrake that are truly noteworthy (DrakX, DiskDrake, and DrakConfig), and only one of them (DrakX) is discussed at length. In fact, there were so many disparities between the documentation and the actual product that we hesitate in recommending the product to pure newbies who really rely on accurate documentation.
Despite the problems with the documentation, we would highly recommend Linux-Mandrake 7.0 to an experienced Linux user who can eschew the documentation and install on their own. Any Linux user who has done a few installs of any Linux distribution will have no problem making their way around Linux-Mandrake and will appreciate what a fine job MandrakeSoft has done in pushing the state of the art in Linux distributions. (If you're in doubt, we would highly recommend going to the MandrakeSoft Web site and checking out a download for creating your own Linux-Mandrake installation CD. It's well worth the time and serves as an excellent Linux tool.)
The Linux-Mandrake 7.0 PowerPack is built around Linux kernel 2.2.14, XFree86 3.3.6, glibc 2.1.2, RPM 3.0.3, bash 2.02, and KDE 1.1.2; also included is GNOME 1.0.55, Qt 1.44 and 2.0.1, Wine 991212, and gcc 2.95.2. (A list of what's on the main CD can be found here.) Included on two accompanying CDs is a wide variety of applications, including StarOffice 5.1a, the download edition of WordPerfect 8, Netscape Communicator 4.70, GIMP 1.0.4, Blender 1.71, Apache 1.3.9, XEmacs 21.1.8, MySQL 3.20, CommuniGate Pro, FreeWebPhone, IBM DB2, IBM JDK 1.1.8, Lotus Notes client, IBM ViaVoice, IBM VisualAge for Java, Open Sound System, Sun NetBeans Developer, VariCAD, and Kpilot 3.1b9 (used for connecting your Linux system with a Palm Pilot). There are also demos of VMWare 1.1.2, Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, and Myth II.
All in all, Linux-Mandrake 7.0 PowerPack comes with six CDs, a User Guide, and an Install Guide. (One of the CDs contain a series of PDF-formatted books covering GIMP, KDE, and other Linux topics. These books were good, as far as they went, but they were generic.) The suggested retail price is $55 in the United States and 55 Euros in Europe.