I installed Mandrake 10.0 RC1 for the first time last week on my work desktop. This is almost heresy for me as I've been pretty much a Red Hat user/advocate/defender/apologist for about 7 years.
My first experience of Mandrake was either 5.1 or 5.2 in 1998 around my friend Beanz' house. Back then it seemed (or was) Red Hat Linux with just newer RPMs (importantly, newer Enlightenment and Perl from what I recall). Nothing to see here.
In 2001 when my friend Simon Windsor and I got identical laptops, I installed Red Hat 7.1 and he installed Mandrake 7.2 or 8.0 (I forget which).
Mandrake at that point had rpmdrake (I think) - which was very much like SGI Irix's swmgr (software manager). Red Hat had, er, f*ck all. Even now with RHEL 3 and FC 1 redhat-config-packages is a coarse, hack (I love cycling 5 times through a set of 3 disks...).
The install is pretty slick, but you to wonder at the duplication of effort between the perl-based Mandrake install and RH's Anaconda.
Which leads me to my next point: why in the name of all that is holy is there so much duplication of effort. Dudes (and I mean Red Hat, Mandrake and others (YDL, even Debian)): stop writing different tools to do identical jobs. RH have a large number of GPL GUI programs to configure everything, as apparently does Mandrake. e.g userdrake vs. redhat-config-users : they're f*cking identical!!!! Yet completely separate implementations... This is insane.
Cons of Mandrake: only one really, and it's not a Mandrake problem, it's a GNOME/whatever problem. Please, oh please, would all apps have a similar look and feel for their icons. Red Hat have done this themselves through Blue Curve. The rest of the GNOME world needs to catch up. Oh, and no GNOME 2.5 (because it isn't quite ready) ;-)
Pros of Mandrake:
1. Galaxy theme is nice.
2. Install was a piece of cake (even easier than Red Hat? Is that possible?).
3. Uses the Frame Buffer. Something Red Hat either fails to do, or they can't be arsed to do.
4. Gnome menu is sane, unlike Red Hat's where it is too tall and logically similar ideas are split across several menus.
5. *drake commands are pretty nice
6. Nicer default fonts.
Basically, today I'd probably recommend Mandrake over Fedora Core to a desktop user, which is something of turnaround for me.
Originally published on 15:46 Tuesday 02 March 2004