Mandriva 2008

June 5, 2008

I’m trying out a new distro on my new laptop and so far, pretty good. This is a Dell Vostro 1500 (1 G RAM Intel 2 core duo) which came preloaded with Windows XP. Yes, I opted away from Vista as I knew that the machine wouldn’t be all that happy with 1G RAM with that OS. I’ve had a chance to play a bit with Vista, and 1 G is a minimum requirement. It runs like an XP system upgraded to 512 Mb RAM.

I’ve had my eye on Mandriva for awhile. I’m not sure why it didn’t work on my work machine (with and Intel Dual core 2.4 Ghz) the last time I blogged it, but it did work on my home machine (an old 1.8 Ghz eMachine) on the live CD. In fact the Compiz feature worked right out of the box and right up front on that machine.

Mandriva and PCLinusOS are forks of Mandrake, so they are either siblings or really close cousins. They both look very similar and work similar enough that moving from one to the other is not a big deal. One thing I like about Mandriva is the option of upgrading to the Power Pack version if I choose.

I began the work of installing by downloading and burning a live CD version of QTParted. Since installing PCLOS on another machine, I’ve gotten better and more comfortable with resizing partitions. QTP made it easy. Installing Mandriva was as easy and painless as any other modern Linux distro. I can’t imagine doing new Windows install nowadays, as the last time I had that done it took PC repair people over 2 days to get it all installed and I still had to call the Mother Ship to reinstall Office XP.

This Dell already had 3 partitions set up. One was the main Windows partition, with two other very small partitions for media and recovery files (I’m guessing). So I was limited to creating one more partition as I was limited to 4 total partitions with this program. With a 250 GB HD, I had plenty of real estate to spread out. I ended up giving the new partition 50 GB of that. If I ever master video creation in Linux, I may need more. But I’m still using Windows to make and edit video.

One issue that crops up with people going to Linux is wireless support. For a desktop hooked with an ethernet cable, internet access is no big deal. For laptops, it is a different story as wireless access is much more critical. One reason why I waited a couple of months to put Linux on this machine was not knowing how to make wireless work. But I persisted with the live CD until I figured it out. Using Ndiswrapper (included in the installation process) was a new experience and there was some trial and error involved. I was able to find my Windows “drivers” folder and found the wireless folder easily enough. But there were two folders and each had a different .inf file for wireless. I tried each, and of course the first one wasn’t the right one, but the second one was. Getting wireless to work was the critical factor for me doing an install, making this a dual-boot machine. Being successful with this and the partitioning were the major concerns of this install. It wasn’t anything about Mandriva or Linux that made these issues, it was my inexperience and nervousness.

Mandriva did give me one major issue right out of the box.  I noticed up front there was some loud speaker hiss that persisted no matter the volume/mute status on volume control.  That was a huge annoyance since I use headphones most of the time.  In fact it was huge enough that even though Mandriva worked better and faster than Windows in most respects, I still booted in Windows much of the time.  I finally found another blogger who had a similar issue.  The fix was not exactly the same but similar: I went to the volume control, clicked mixer, and then went to the input tab.  In this case, turning off the left capture mixer did the trick.  This will be fine as long as I never have to actually input or capture anyting.  But I might want to, someday.

The Grub bootloader works fine, but it did take some fiddling and experimenting to figure out which partition was going to load Windows when I wanted it as the menu choice “Windows” wasn’t the proper one.

But right now, everything else works well so I’m going to stick with it.  However, I need to test it out more before deciding on whether or not I want to pay for an upgrade.  I realize that getting a distro to work properly out of the box on a laptop is trickier that a desktop for some reason, mostly having to do with the wireless issues.



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