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DistributionWatch Review: Linux-Mandrake 7.0 - page 2

Perfection, Except for the Documentation

  • April 7, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard
There are two choices of installation procedures: DrakX will install on any system with a clean and open partition, while Lnx4Win will install Linux-Mandrake on a system already containing Windows.

We installed Linux-Mandrake using both methods: on a system with no operating system (booting from CD-ROM) and on a system already containing Windows 98. (We did not create a bootdisk for booting Linux-Mandrake, but the documentation adequately covers how to do so.)

Installing on a clean system was fairly similar to every other Linux installation process, so any prior knowledge of Linux installations will come in handy in installing Linux-Mandrake. The documentation focuses on using fdisk to partition your hard drive (as opposed to cfdisk, which some find easier to use), but the tool that you'll want to use is DiskDrake, which scans a hard drive and presents a graphical interface to disk partitioning. DiskDrake relieves a lot of the tension some may have about partitioning, whether it be solely for Linux use or a mixed-OS environment. (Also included as part of Linux-Mandrake is Partition Magic, a commercial tool for partitioning hard drives for use by multiple operating systems.)

The DrakX program, which automatically runs when you boot a system from the first Linux-Mandrake CD-ROM, is one of the best installation routines we've seen on a Linux distribution, offering a complete yet easy-to-understand installation routine. (The documentation refers both to DrakeX and DrakX; we'll use DrakX in a purely arbitrary choice.) The interface to this program is configurable (you can choose from one of three themes, although under the hood they all work the same way; the differences are purely aesthetic), and it guides you through a multipart installation. You always know where you stand: red denotes an installation step that is not complete, orange denotes the current and green a finished installation step. You also have your choice of language; most people reading this review will choose English, but a wide variety of languages (50 are supported, including multiple Chinese language sets) are available.

There is a choice of how deeply to be involved in specifying components for installation. There's a recommended installation that new Linux users will want to use. There are three customized installations designed for specific uses: normal for everyday use; development, customized for software developers who'll use the system for programming; and a server customized installation. Finally, there is expert mode for those who want to specify each component installed.

Configuring a printer is a matter of selecting the location of the printer (network or local) and asking Linux-Mandrake to figure out its make and model. The make and model of a Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet connected directly to our system correctly divined. Linux-Mandrake gives you a lot of power to configure print jobs, either as traditional UNIX or something closer to PC-style. Also supported, but untested by us, are network, SMB, and Netware print servers.

The installation process requires adding a password for the root user (a root/return setup is discouraged) and an account for a non-privileged user. Generally speaking, you don't want root to be your main account (although many of us do use root on a daily basis), so props to Linux-Mandrake for forcing setup of a nonprivileged account.

LILO is the default loading mechanism when installing on a machine where Linux-Mandrake is either the only operating system or is expected to load directly from disk (as opposed to the Lnx4Win process, where Linux-Mandrake is launched from within Windows). Unfortunately, the process isn't well-documented or covered during the installation process: Linux-Mandrake installs and configures LILO automatically. If you have a system that isn't on the generic side, this process may not work the best for you, but most users will find that the automatic installation of LILO works just fine.

The XFree86 installation was painless: the probing of video devices is done under the hood, and the installation consists of DrakX running through a series of video modes and asking you what mode looks the best. If experienced with X Window configuration, edit the X values after installation. However, DrakX correctly configured the graphics cards on both systems (but, admittedly, both machines featured rather generic and widely supported graphics cards), so there was no need to play with X configuration files.

Past that, the installation procedure does the same thing every other Linux installation procedure does: configures keyboards, specifies mount points, and sets the time zone.

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