Reviewing Mageia 5

A week ago, I saw an announcement for Mageia 5, and I decided to take a closer look.  My first look at Mandrake linux was around 1999, where I installed it for a brief test.  It was later renamed to “Mandriva” to avoid trademark conflicts.  And Mageia was forked from Mandriva.  Recently, Mandriva appears to have closed down, leaving Mageia as what remains from the earlier Mandrake.

Mandrake was originally based on RedHat linux, but Mandriva later diversified that.  And linux has changed a lot since my earlier 1999 test install.

Downloading

I initially downloaded “Mageia-5-LiveDVD-KDE4-x86_64-DVD.iso”.  That was actually an accident.  I had intended to download the DVD installer, but did not look closely at the name.  I had instead downloaded the live KDE iso.  I’ll note that this can be used for installing, though I later downloaded “Mageia-5-x86_64-DVD.iso” and used that for my test install.

I downloaded from the torrent, using “ktorrent” as client.  The download went smoothly.  This actually downloaded a directory with several files.  In particular there was the iso file itself, the md5 checksum and the sha1 checksum, and gpg signatures for those checksum files.  I used gpg to verify the checksum files, then I used sha1sum to verify the download.

The live system

Having downloaded the live KDE system, I decided to test that.  I wrote the iso to a USB using “dd_rescue”.  This copies to the raw USB device.  I then booted the USB on my oldest desktop.  This is a Dell Dimension computer with a Nvidia 6150LE graphics card.

KDE booted up smoothly.  When looking at the KDE desktop, I could see that desktop effects were in use.  The video quality was unexpectedly good.  That seemed impossible unless the live system was using the Nvidia drivers.  A quick check showed that it was, indeed, using the Nvidia 304.125 driver, which is the appropriate driver for this card.  In past experience, most linux distros use the open source nouveau driver, and extra steps are needed to use the proprietary Nvidia driver.

The excellent video quality was a pleasant surprise.  Looking around, the running KDE system seemed to be working pretty well.  So I decided to install to the hard drive for better testing.

Installing

For installing, I used the DVD installer, also downloaded with “ktorrent”.  I again wrote that to a USB and booted the USB.

The installer is a little different from what I usually see.  It did some things very well.  For example, setting the timezone was handled better than in any other distro that I have tried.  It first gave a list of timezones, and I selected US/Chicago.  Next, it gave two different possibilities, depending on whether the hardware clock was set to local time or to UTC.  It showed what the local time should be according to each of those.  I happen to use UTC, and it had the correct time showing for that, so I selected it.

In the partitioning section, I chose to use existing partitions, and selected “/dev/sda8” as the only partition to use.  It did ask me to confirm that I was not configuring any swap.  Note that “/dev/sda8” is a 40G partition, so more than large enough except for the lack of swap.  I planned to deal with swap at a later time.

At one point, I was unsure whether the installer was screwing up, and I tried to bail out.  There was no way to exit that I could find.  The lack of an easy exit (abandoning the install process) was the only serious flaw that I found in the installer.

Unable to bail out, other than with a power-off, I decided to continue.  I was next asked for which software.  There seemed to only be a choice of desktops.  I chose KDE (the default).

It then proceeded to install.  While it was installing, I was wondering about booting because nothing in the install setup had mentioned that.  However, once the install completed, I was prompted for booting information.  One of the possible selections was to boot from “/dev/sda8” (the root partition).  I selected that.  The installer commented that it assumed that I had some other boot manager available (I did), and it proceeded to setup booting as requested.

It later asked if I wanted to install the proprietary nvidia graphics driver.  I agreed to that.

Next it prompted for the root password and for the initial user and password.  The system was now ready for reboot.

Booting

I booted into my opensuse 13.2 system on the same computer.  The Mageia install had not damaged that.  My plan was to add a “configfile” boot entry to its grub2 menu.  But when I looked at the Mageia system, I could see that it was booting with grub1 (sometimes called legacy grub).  I instead added a chain-loader entry to the grub2 menu.  Running grub2-mkconfig on my opensuse system also automatically generated another entry to boot Mageia.

Booting into Mageia went smoothly.

I was surprised that it uses legacy grub, since most distros are now using grub2.  However, some people say that grub2 is over-engineered and unnecessarily complex for what is needed.  I’m inclined to agree with that.  So the decision to use legacy grub is not a bad one.

I also tried booting the live KDE media on a UEFI box.  That also went pretty well, and is using “grub2-efi” for the booting.

Adding swap

I wanted to add swap that I was using for 13.2.  The swap that I use with 13.2 is part of an encrypted LVM.  I checked, and “cryptsetup” was available.  So I added the appropriate entry to “/etc/crypttab” and rebooted.  On reboot, I was asked for the encryption key.  Once the system was up and running, I could see that encrypted partition was visible.  But the LVM volumes were not to be found.  It turned out that the LVM software was not installed.

I opened the Mageia control center, and went to software management.  There I did a search for “lvm”.  It did not find anything.  Then I noticed that it was set to search only for GUI applications.  I changed that to search for all.  It then found “lvm2”.  I installed it, then rebooted again.

When the system came up after this reboot, and after supplying the encryption key, I could see that the LVM volumes were visible.  So I edited a couple of entries into “/etc/fstab” to mount the swap volume as swap, and to mount the home volume as “/xhome”.  I did not want to mount my home volume as “/home”, as that could cause conflicts is settings files.  Mounting as “/xhome” makes it available, and I could use symbolic links for parts of that file system that I wanted to use under my home directory.

A test with “mount” to mount “/xhome” and with “swapon -a” to mount swap showed that the “fstab” entries were good.

One more reboot, and this time the system came up with everything mounted as I wanted it.

What I didn’t like

Looking around, this seemed be mostly a fairly standard KDE 4.14 setup.  Most of what I tested worked as expected.  There were a couple of exceptions.

The first one I noticed, was that I had to double-click on an icon to get anything to happen.  That’s not what I am used to with KDE, though it is the way that Windows does things.  This was easy enough to fix.  I went to the desktop configuration, input devices and set the mouse settings for a single click.

The other problem that I noticed was with the panel.  I like to set it for auto-hide mode.  I was unable to do that.  There did not seem to be any panel settings available.

What’s broken

I only ran into one case of brokenness.  I opened the Mageia control center (requires root password).  Then I selected “local disks” –> “Manage disk partitions”.  And that gives me an error message “This program has exited abnormally”.  It seems to be some sort of packaging bug.  When I boot the live KDE media on the same computer, then “Manage disk partitions” opens correctly without error.

Summary

Overall, a pretty good linux system.  I’ll continue to use opensuse, but I could do most of what I want with Mageia.  It might be a particularly convenient choice for those with Nvidia graphics who are looking for a suitable distro.

 

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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

4 responses to “Reviewing Mageia 5”

  1. Florian Hubold says :

    At first, thanks for the positive review 🙂

    Regarding the things you didn’t like, the double-click is one setting where we deliberately deviate from the KDE defaults, as most users like it that way. As long as I can remember, this was always the default with Mandrake/Mandriva and nowadays with Mageia. One other such thing is that we offer an alternate classic panel layout by default, and also use the classic KDE (“kicker”) menu instead of the newer kickoff one, but that’s only two clicks away.

    Regarding the panel settings, plasmoids are locked by default, so you have to unlock them to access the panel settings. Panel auto-hide can then easily be enabled. This is also shown in the last bullet in https://wiki.mageia.org/en/First_step_with_KDE#Plasma_Desktop_workspace

    For the issue about diskdrake (“local disks” in MCC) it would be appreciated if you could run that from a terminal and open a bugreport at https://bugs.mageia.org with the error message.

    Like

    • Neil Rickert says :

      Regarding the panel settings, plasmoids are locked by default, so you have to unlock them to access the panel settings.

      I should have thought of that. I normally do lock them, but only after I have finished with panel settings. So I never noticed the connection.

      For the issue about diskdrake (“local disks” in MCC) it would be appreciated if you could run that from a terminal and open a bugreport at https://bugs.mageia.org with the error message.

      I did run in a terminal, and after that it now works.

      I’m not inclined to file a bug report, because that would mean that I have to keep engaged. But I can explain it to you.

      The error message was a complaint about “mapper/cr_shared”. And yes, that is surely a bug.

      I added two lines to “/etc/crypttab”. One of them was for “cr_shared”. But I set that to “noauto” in the last column. So the encrypted partition was never opened and the device “/dev/mapper/cr_shared” was never created. So it looks as if the software was looking in “/etc/crypttab” and mistakenly expecting a device. That seems wrong. In any case, I changed the “noauto” to “none” and rebooted, which opened the LUKS partition. And with that change, the software works (or at least it doesn’t crash).

      Like

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