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Distribution Watch: Out of the Box: Mandrake 8.1 Gaming Edition

Out of the Box

  • December 7, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

While most Linux users are quick to tell you the virtues of how cool Linux is and how evil Windows is, they are also very likely to have at least a Windows partition lying around their office or home. There are various reasons they do this, but let's face it--a big reason is to play games.

So when a Linux distro comes out and says, hey come install me, I'll let you install and play all your Windows-based games, you just know a whole lot of Linux users' heads are going to turn so fast their necks will crick. Of course, Linux users being who they are, they'll immediately calm down and tell the distribution company to "prove it."

Such is the case of MandrakeSoft's MandrakeLinux 8.1 Gaming Edition, which arrived on my doorstep this week. Granted, it was a bit late, since this edition hit the store shelves on November 9, but I have to take the blame for the delay this time.

The Gaming Edition is essentially the exact same package as the Standard Edition of MandrakeLinux 8.1. The only thing different is the inclusion of a special version of WineX that is optimized to run with the Electronic Arts game that comes with the Gaming Edition: The Sims.

Before I get to the games, bear with me as I walk though the basic features and installation of MandrakeLinux itself.

Almost Glitch-Free Installation

If there is one thing that is going to make or break the experience for a newcomer to Linux, it's going to be the installation routine. And even an experienced newcomer is not going to appreciate having to deal with a huge rigmarole with installation. I am pleased to report that MandrakeLinux's installation tool DrakX does a pretty good job in pulling everything together and getting the distro installed quickly and easily. There was only one serious glitch to report, actually.

There are two install paths in DrakX: recommended and expert. Choosing recommend guides the beginning user down a safe path that will benignly and helpfully get MandrakeLinux installed. The expert path was not much harder, though I was a little disappointed at the Security settings window, since it only listed Low, Medium, and High options and did not explain what those options meant. I chose Medium and moved on, thinking I could set my services later.

Organizing the file system is simplicity itself, thanks to a nice little GUI for disk partitioning. In fact, this was so easy, I don't know why anyone but the most inexperienced user would ever use the wizard tool that was also available in this section of DrakX. But it's there if you need it.

Package selection was the standard choose the groups first method, with the option to select individual packages on the next screen. I got tickled that the "Games" group was not preselected by default in this particular flavor of MandrakeLinux, but maybe they don't want the arcade and strategy games to distract you from The Sims, which is a whole package group unto itself.

The good news is that with one four CDs (one of which is The Sims CD), the installation of MandrakeLinux went pretty quick. Which was a good thing, too, considering I ended up installing it three times. This would be that glitch I mentioned earlier.

What would happen, after all was said and done with the installation and I rebooted, was that X would start, pop the mouse cursor up on a black screen, and then just stop. Indefinitely.

My first thought was that my X settings were off--even though I took the opportunity to test them in DrakX and they seemed fine. Then I realized that there was one new setting that I'd approved during installation (we reviewers are always pushing buttons and choosing extra options just to see what will happen) that might be the cause. This was the feature that lets the sole user on the machine opt to go straight into X without bothering with the login screen. Since I was not seeing my log in screen, I choose to turn this option off on the next installation run, and lo and behold, there was X, there was my log in screen, and all was right with the world again.

I cannot say 100% why this feature did not work, but if you want to try it on your own machine (providing you are using the automatic login option; other setups don't get this option), be forewarned.

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Linux-Mandrake 8.1 Gaming Edition

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Price
$69.99


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