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DistributionWatch Review: Linux-Mandrake 8.0 - page 2

The Exciting and the Disturbing

  • May 10, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

Within LM 8.0 is GNOME 1.4, which was wonderful to see in action. I had not seen it yet, due to time constraints, so it was a real pleasure to poke around. I was also excited to get to see a working version of Nautilus and Evolution in action. I had not seen Eazel's Nautilus since the early conceptual versions I'd never actually tried Ximian's Evolution.

The version of Nautilus released with LM 8.0 is 1.0.1.1, so clearly it is early in its lifecycle. You could not tell this by me. I found a robust and very cool file manager in Nautilus, much snazzier than KDE's Konqueror and certainly a more unique interface. But while it can load up Web pages like Konqueror, it sure could not render them as well, so these two file managers are in a dead heat in my opinion. (One pleasant surprise was the inclusion of the Mozilla-based Galeon browser that acts as backup for displaying Web pages with Nautilus, though.)

What really interested me was the prerelease of Evolution that was included in the LM 8.0 shipment. In terms of interface (though not security), I have long regarded Microsoft's Outlook as one of the best personal information management (PIM) applications around. For those few of you who have not heard of Evolution, it can be described as the GNOME version of Outlook, without all the annoying overhead and security holes.

Speaking for the geek in me, I loved it. I have been waiting for something like this for a long time, and Ximian clearly will be delivering a powerful PIM for the Linux desktop. I used future tense there because "will be delivering" is the right thing to say. The version of Evolution here is 0.9. Almost gold but not quite. Speaking for the consumer critic in me, I am wondering why this is a good idea.

This is a common occurrence in releasing Linux distributions, and it follows the open-source creed "release early, release often." The theory holds that by releasing early, you let the users find glitches and errors to report back to the development team or fix themselves, if they know how. But I question this kind of thing for boxed distributions being sold to consumers who may not find using a prerelease version of anything all that fun.

If you are a beginning Linux user and have just shelled out money for Linux-Mandrake 8.0, how happy are you going to be when you discover that this Evolution that MandrakeSoft is touting (in the press releases, in the installation splash screen and, I'm betting, on the LM boxes) is actually a beta that you are warned to use at your own risk?

You can't have it both ways--either the distribution is aimed at beginners or it isn't. Linux-Mandrake tires to straddle the line and for the most part it succeeds and delivers an good, solid product. But this continuing notion of releasing bleeding-edge technology may need to be reevaluated in future releases.

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