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Mandrake Is On The Move - page 2

What's New

  • March 29, 2004
  • By Kurt Wall

The hardware test bed for this review was, by today's standards, a middle-of-the-road system: an AMD 1200 CPU (Via Apollo Pro KT133 chipset) with 512MB RAM; a Realtek 8139 10/100 Ethernet adapter; an NVIDIA GeForce MX 200 framebuffer with 32MB video RAM; an Asus 52x CD-ROM drive; a LiteOn CD-RW drive; and two Western Digital ATA 100 hard disks weighing in at 20GB and 120GB. Attached peripherals included a Lexmark Z53 color inkjet printer, a Hewlett Packard LaserJet 4ML, and an Epson Perfection 1660 scanner.

The installation was smooth, painless, trouble-free, and surprisingly fast. DrakX, the graphical installer, makes a great first impression, as any installer should. The installation process consists of the usual screens:

  • Device detection
  • Language selection
  • License acceptance
  • Security model selection
  • Disk partitioning
  • Package group selection and customization
  • Package installation
  • Post-installation configuration and fine-tuning
  • Update installation (optional)
  • Reboot to newly-installed system
A number of features from the installation process really stood out and deserve specific mention. The Help button was present on almost all of the DrakX screens, and the help text was genuinely helpful, uniformly concise, and refreshingly jargon-free. For example, on the Security model selection screen, I encountered a text box asking for the Security Administrator's login name or email address. Unsure what precisely DrakX wanted, I clicked the Help button, scrolled to the bottom, and learned that the "Security Administrator" is whatever account, person, or email address you want to receive security reports from Mandrakelinux's nightly security audits.

The package group selection screen boasted a richer set of options than I anticipated. Rather than merely selecting a workstation or server installation, you can select the *type* of workstation or server you want to install, and you can mix and match between server- and workstation-class packages groups.

On the workstation side, for example, DrakX offers the following options:

  • Office Workstation: Office and productivity applications and utilities
  • Game station: Games (duh)
  • Multimedia station: Sound and video editing and playing applications
  • Internet station: Clients for typical Internet usage (mail, news, the Web, and FTP)
  • Network Computer (client): Clients for other Internet protocols, such as SSH (Secure Shell)
  • Configuration: System configuration tools and applets
  • Console Tools: Shells, editors, file tools, terminals
For server systems, you can install Web and FTP servers (Apache 2 and ProFTPd); the Postfix mail server; database servers (PostgreSQL or MySQL); firewall and router applications; and so-called Network Computer servers, including NFS, SMB, proxy servers, and SSH.

Additional package groups not associated with either workstation or server installations enable you to add development tools, libraries, and headers; the standard deluge of HOWTOs and FAQs; the desktop GUI of your choice--KDE 3.2, GNOME 2.4, and other (IceWM, WindowMaker, Enlightenment, FVWM, and more); and, interestingly, third-party programs that provide LSB compliance.

In the end, I chose to install everything but the server packages. On the desktop, I opted for KDE 3.2. The total package count came to 1,423 packages, requiring 1.1GB disk space. Installing all of these packages took less than 15 minutes. Yes, you read that right, 15 minutes to install over 1,400 packages weighing in at more than 1GB of disk space! How's that for fast? An equivalent installation of Red Hat, er, Fedora requires something on the order of 45 minutes to one hour.

After everything is installed, DrakX gives you a chance to complete system configuration tasks before you boot the new system. Steps you complete here include setting the root user's password and adding mortal user. This is standard fare, but has the added twist of permitting you to create the root account sans password and to login the added user automatically--I strongly recommend against both practices for hopefully self-evident security reasons.

After completing the minimal post-installation configuration, I booted the newly-installed system.

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