Mandriva Linux 2009.0 First Impressions
This is sort of a first impressions report on both Mandriva Linux 2009.0 Alpha 2 and a bit of a report on what I've discovered about KDE 4 (4.1). I down loaded the iso for Mandriva Linux 2009.0 after going to http://wiki.mandriva.com/en/2009.0_Alpha_2, and selecting from one of the mirrors.
I'm currently running Mandriva Linux 2009.0 Live CD on a Virtual Box virtual machine on my laptop, I've assigned it 1 Gig of RAM and 32 Meg for the video. Mandriva 2009.0 Alpha 2 seems to be remarkably stable.
Mandriva 2009.0 Alpha 2 comes with KDE4 (4.1). Mandriva seem to have listened to the complaints about the new Kickoff menu and have configured the Classic Menu by default, I personally think this was a good decision.
First off, as my laptop has a 1280 bye 800 screen size, I needed to reset the screen size of Mandriva 2009.0 (the default screen size is 1024 by 768) this was actually quite easy. I opened a Konsole and typed drakconf (it's not available from the menu, I'm not sure if that's a new Live CD thing or just an Alpha thing), select hardware, set up graphical server and set the monitor to 1280 by 768. Then I set the Resolution to 1280 by 600, reset the desktop and logged back in. I then did Auto resize guest display, minimized then maximized the VM window and the Mandriva 2009.0 desktop fitted nicely into the area set aside for the guest OS in the Virtual Box window.
However, the KDE4 task bar didn't resize to fit the width. I had to do this manually and this time I found out how to do it. Just right mouse click on the task bar and select panel settings. I noticed that there are several grab handles, a bit like text area resizing grab handles in OpenOffice.org, which allow one to set a maximum and a minimum size for the task bar. So I set the task bar to maximum screen width which is my preference. When I did this the system bar area floated to the left and repositioned itself next to the menu but they were easy enough to move back to the RH side. Just open panel settings and when you hover the mouse over the bits you want to move and a NSEW icon appears, just click and hold the left mouse button and drag. The movable item moves to the new place release and it's done.
The Desktop on Mandriva 2009.0 is empty; no icons in sight and no plasmoids messing it up either. kcontrol has been replaced with a new control centre called systemsettings. I couldn't find this in the menu either, and I stumbled across it by accident (and can't remember how), but typing "systemsettings" into a console will open it. It not being there may possibly be a Live CD thing, I hope so. If not I hope that Mandriva add both it and drakconf to the menu by the time they get around to the final release.
In system settings I changed the Window decorations because I don't like the oxygen ones, they lack contrast to me. I changed them to Plastik, and the widget style to Plastique too. The original colour scheme was blue but while playing around with the I managed to select a default one that is orange.
While looking around in the Desktop area I discovered that there is a General (very basic settings) and an all effects area with lots of advanced and very interesting effects. It was here that I discovered that its possible to layout the virtual desktops in a grid pattern. I set up 9 desktops (I use 9 desktops on my laptop, so I thought this would be a good test) and selected the option "Desktop Grid". You can set it to activate and show the grid when the mouse is in a particular position on the desktop. For example you can set it to top right, but this isn't working for me. Possibly because of a bug; possibly because I'm running in a Virtual Machine. CTRL+F8 will activate the grid and what you get is a view of all your virtual desktops showing the open windows on each, in fact a complete view of each desktop task bar (and contents) and all. A nice bit of compositing.
The Live CD version of Mandriva Linux 2009.0 comes with a nice basic set of Applications. In no particular order, OpenOffice.org, which I;m using to write this report, Firefox, the GIMP, Amarok, Totem, Kopete, Okular the new document viewer, I've opened a PDF in it and there are some nice features available; such as the ability to make notes and pin notes to pages or areas of a page. Mandriva 2009.0 comes with the new PulseAudio but I haven't been able to test it yet to see if the VM it's running on they've gotten the bugs out of yet I've had to disable it on every laptop install 2008.1 I've done, and of course it's disabled on the laptop. I hope they do get it sorted out, the hype about PulseAudio certainly makes it seem like a highly desirable application.
All in all I'm impressed, both with Mandriva 2009.0, and it's only an Alpha release, and KDE4. Never thought I'd say that.
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