Mandriva vs. Ubuntu

30 November -0001

So I’ve been struggling with a problem recently. I have two main workstation machines. One is a custom built tower with dual 256 MB graphics accelerators, 1 GB of RAM and a 2 GHz Celeron. The other is a HP nx6125 notebook with an AMD Turion 64 1.6 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM. Obviously you can see my problem. The desktop is built as a gaming machine (not that I really have time play games any more) and supports dual monitors. The laptop is mobile and a bit more ‘fun’ to play with. So I set up the laptop with two partitions, one for Windows XP and the other for Linux. Now, Linux has come an awful long way in the last few years, but laptops are always notorious. However, I’ve tried both Ubuntu 6.06 and Mandriva Free 2007 and neither has worked out very well. Ubuntu’s installer is _painfully_ slow and doesn’t recognize my wireless device. Mandriva installs nice and fast, but prompts me that I’ll have to pay to get the drivers for my wireless card. The Broadcom 5700 that I have even comes with Linux drivers, but they’re far from adequate. You have to build the rpm’s yourself, which is something I’m not new to, but the build scripts have typos in them, so you have to edit them, and even after that it seems something is missing (bottom line I can’t get them to compile). I’d love to use Linux, but I have to say I’m running into another one of those situations where you become painfully aware just exactly why it will never get mainstream adoption, or even serious consideration as a business operating system. I can’t even get through the installer and have all my hardware functioning correctly!

Many people decry Linux for it’s lack of software, but I think hardware support is a much more significant challenge. If you can’t install the operating system to your specifications in the first place, then why even bother with software.

Of course, it could possible that with a commercial distribution the installation would have gone more smoothly. I may end up giving Mandriva 2007 Power Pack a shot to test it out.

I had hoped that Ubuntu would work. Ubuntu is gaining a lot of traction in the community. I have to say Ubuntu has some of the best support forums I’ve ever seen (second only to Gentoo’s support forums). With a widespread and numerous user base Ubuntu has also earned the right to their own O’Reilly book. Based on Debian, Ubuntu is built on a solid core. Also, the fact that Ubuntu only uses completely free (GPL) open source software makes it attractive to me. This philosophy even extends to their desktop environment (they only use Gnome).

I have to say I’m impressed with Mandriva 2007 Power Pack offerings though. The fact that they include some value add softare (such as Cedega (formerly Transgaming) to play games for MS systems and Intervideo’s LinDVD (the linux version of WinDVD)) as well as native support for 3D desktop, makes it an attractive offering. The price is a little steep (almost $100 US for a download) which disinclines me towards it, but it is the flavor of Linux I’ve been using for years and I’ve never had any serious problems with it.

Well, I’ll keep at it and report back on my progress. In the meantime the Chinese Remainder Theorem has been haunting my dreams and taking up the free time I’d otherwise be spending playing with computers.