After finally trying Mageia 2 I can clearly see why the download numbers appear are skyrocketing. Though only recently introduced, Mageia already has much to offer its users, as you will soon see.
Mageia originally forked from the Mandriva project in 2010, Mageia 1 was then offered for download in 2011. The bugs are out, things are stable, and now is the perfect time to try Mageia!
I expect that Mageia has much growing to do before it reaches the expectations put forth by the developers. I was however extremely impressed to see the level of work that has already been invested.
Users are able to launch the installer while booting, or after the Live Desktop has loaded. New users will surely be thrilled with the conveniently simple installation wizard. More advanced users will love the quantity of available options.
If you plan to install Mageia 2, there are two installation options available. Users can choose to download the Mageia 2 DVD ISO, or the Dual-Arch CD ISO. For this review I decided to try the CD, using the popular KDE desktop edition.
If you are installing from the live desktop, you can double-click the install Mageia 2 icon that sits on the desktop. You can then follow the convenient installation wizard to finish to process. Mageia 2 uses a two stage installation. Personally I find that the two stage installers perform faster than other installation methods.
Due to increased performance of Mageia 2, the minimum installation requirements have been significantly reduced.
Hopefully you all love the Mageia desktop as much as I do. The icon set, theme and wallpaper look shockingly well together. Even the main menu has seen some mild customizations.
Mageia 2 is using KDE SC 4.8.2 which brings a respectable list of improvements as I will explain throughout this review. The user interface is basically the same old KDE that users will remember. Mageia 2 does however present a pleasant new look.
Users will find a panel along the bottom of the screen. This panel contains a main menu, and several important launchers. A system notification area is also located on the right side of the panel. As usual, users can also add widgets to the panel, or the desktop. The interface is highly polished, and very embracing. Everything just seems to go very well together.
Most users should already know what to expect when it comes to the menus, but some may not. The KDE menu is extremely easy to use, and easy to configure.
You will find multiple categories, each containing several useful applications. A simple right-click on any menu item will provide you with the options to un-install the item, or add it to your favorites. You will even find a sub-menu for all of your recently used items.
Now lets look at the panel, which is really a typical configuration for KDE. You can add additional panels to your desktop at any time. The panels are also very easy to customize to your liking.
With KDE users get a delicious set of helpful widget that can be added to the panel or the desktop. A vast number of widgets have already been provided to fulfill your needs.
The panel is easily customized simply by looking inside the right-click menu. Be sure that the lock widgets setting is disabled before trying to customize your panel. Aside from using widgets, panels can also be moved, expanded, auto-hidden, or re-aligned.
Mageia 2 uses the Dolphin file manager which is very popular. This file manager performs the same as many of the other traditional Linux file managers. This file manager is well known for being fully loaded with powerful options.
After opening the Dolphin file manager you will notice a bookmarks panel on the left hand side of the window. This panel can be customized with all of your most frequently used directories.
You will also notice that all of your connected devices become immediately available in the bookmarks panel when they are discovered.
When you are ready to install additional software you can turn to the Rpmdrake tool. This appears to be the primary front-end package management tool for the Mageia distribution.
Rpmdrake will provide users with the ability to install extra software or update existing software. You can also narrow your searches using a variety of helpful options. Rpmdrake can easily be found in the main menu.
The software available for Mageia 2 comes from 3 convenient repositories. These repositories are easily distinguished from one another by their names, and by the software that they provide. First is the Core repository which holds standard free and open source software. A Nonfree repository is also available which is used to contain software which happens to be free of charge, the source code in generally unavailable for the Nonfree repositories however. Lastly you will find the Tainted repository which includes packages which are available under a free license, these packages may unfortunately infringe on patents and copyright laws in some countries.
Users have a variety of tools available for settings and customization. You may choose between the KDE system settings manager, the Mageia control center, or the command line.
The Mageia control center is designed to make this distribution accessible to even the most non-technical users. A vast number of commonly used configuration options have been compiled into a single tool for convenience.
I am actually unfamiliar with the underlying tool used to handle the Mageia control center. This tool is very similar to the control center commonly used by PCLinuxOS. The control center is likely intrinsic to Mandrake, and now Mageia.
For the few users that may be unfamiliar with KDE I will also take a brief look at the window manager which happens to be KWM. This is a very powerful window manager that offers a massive list of customization options.
KWM resembles the famous Compiz window manager in many ways. Many of the advanced graphical effects and animations are available, but the settings interface is really quite different.
The same old KDE pager can be found inside the desktop panel. Users are able to switch through workspaces simply by scrolling on the desktop background, or on the pager icon itself. From the pager settings window users are able to add additional workspaces, you can also display the desktop name or number inside the pager.
I was really thrilled while testing this distribution, mostly because of the hype built-up by the community. Fortunately all of the excitement seems to be well deserved. Considering the project itself is really still in the infancy stages, it already has some advantages over many of its rivals. I wish I had experimented more with Mandriva in previous years, this would help me judge the similarities.
This distribution performed well beyond any of my previous expectations. Performance improvements seem to be a major focus in this release after reviewing the release notes. KDE seems to run very smoothly on Mageia 2 as well. Many effects are disabled in favor of performance, but for those who can handle the impact Mageia 2 is ready to impress!
This distribution appears to be ready for server use as well. Several database tools are available including PostgreSQL and MariaDB which is the replacement for MySQL. Servers are there too, you will find Apache, Cherokee, and Lighttpd. Mail, printer and file servers? Damn right, they are included.
Mageia 2 is easy to use and install, perfect for Linux newcomers. But the highlight really is the well designed system settings manager which makes all of the configuration options very easy to manage.