Of Mandrake and Men
I finally found a few minutes to setup a new computer I've had sitting around here for the last month. I built it to speed up REBOL compiles and to work on other development projects like REBOL/Services. It's a 2.8 GHz P4 with 1024 MB interleaved fast RAM, etc. Running www.rebol.com/speed.r computes it to be:
do http://www.rebol.com/speed.r ... Console: 0:00:01.5 - 337 KC/S Processor: 0:00:00.391 - 2209 RHz (REBOL-Hertz) Memory: 0:00:00.703 - 67 MB/S Disk/File: 0:00:00.265 - 115 MB/S
When it came time to install an OS on this hardware, I decided to do something a little different. We've had many requests in recent years to provide better support for Mandrake Linux, so I actually purchased a copy (to help support alternative software), and after a few weeks the CDROM finally arrived (a bit odd that it took so long to get here because it was sent from California, where I live). Yesterday, I decided to take a few minutes to install it.
Mandrake V10 is a very "pretty" Linux - from the time you insert the install disk and on. Really nice GUI features. That's the positive side, but unfortunately, I have to say that there was a huge negative with Mandrake: this is the most disfunctional Linux system I've ever used. Normally when you install Linux, you get GCC (CNU C compiler), CVS (source control), SSH (secure shell), and other features as the default. That's because most people that use Linux are going to use those packages. Afterall, that's what Linux is all about: compiling stuff. Unfortunately, it appears that Mandrake does not install those as the default. So, what you end up with is a system that has a very nice GUI, has OpenOffice installed, but does not do the normal things you need in Linux. You can't even open terminals to other systems on your net, because there is no telnet, ssh, nor rsh.
There were a few other small things, like the fact that the system crashed during the registration process, getting the proper screen resolution and refresh rates is a pain (and not easy to switch... I'm about to the point were I'm going to start editing the X86config file), and their main package installer is horribly broken (making it harder than necessary to install the missing software that should have been installed in the first place.)
So, I decided to contact Mandrakesoft... especially since as a software company ourselves, I knew they would really want to know about these small problems. I can relate.
That is where Mandrake fails in a huge way. Try finding a reasonable way to contact them about these kinds of problems. I suppose some of this is due to the "open source" nature of Linux... it is a fuzzy open company. There is no "the buck stops here" person who's in charge. No one is going to get fired. It reminded me of trying to contact a big corporation. It's too difficult. Most users are not going to bother with it. I have yet to find a simple "report a problem" web form like REBOL Feedback, and what they provide for "bug reports" in their configuration app requires that you have deeper knowledge about the executable and rpm package name. (Compared to the simple and fast feedback built into AltME, the Mandrake method is far too complex.)
All of this was rather disappointing to me. I started down the Mandrake path to save myself time and hassle, but in the end, it has cost me too much time. Also, I'm disappointed because deep down I was secretly hoping to find a nice low cost alternative to MS Windows for general purpose GUI-oriented client computing. Unfortunately, Mandrake is so very close, but it is not there yet. They need to clean up these last few problems, and the need to make it really easy for users to contact them about problems.
Sorry if this seems like a flame. I'm just really annoyed right now. These silly operating system problems make me crazy. "Where's Amiga when you really need it?"
By the way, I should note: I'm perfectly willing to remove this blog if someone can show me the "error in my ways". Just don't send me the generic email addresses for Mandrakesoft.com. I already know them.