OpenMandriva | Review from an openSUSE User

OpenMandriva review title

My beginnings of using Linux started in 2002 on Mandrake Linux. I transitioned to full time Linux for my home computer in November of 2003 with Mandrake Linux on a Sony Vaio Laptop. This was my first serious attempt and getting the Winmodem going was… challenging. This is where I really learned to start documenting how I did things because nothing seemed as simple and straight forward as they were on the Amiga platform. This Sony didn’t last long as it did have a hardware failure, twice so I purchased a Dell 5100. It had the same Winmodem troubles but was quite solvable.

This is my biased review of OpenMandriva as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user using Plasma Desktop that once used Mandriva as a daily driver. I have a soft spot for Mandriva and consequently OpenMandriva, just on name sake.

To give you the option to bail here, I like OpenMandriva and think it’s a great distribution to use. At no point did I have a bad experience when installing and using it and would have no problem recommending it to anyone.

Installation

Good bad or otherwise, OpenMandriva will boot to a live media before you are able to install it. I can see the benefit of this but this is not my preference. Regardless, this is your only option. The installation system is the Calemares Universal Installation Framework to install the operating system to the computer, or in this case, a Virtual Machine (VM).

The installation is straight forward. You start out by providing your Language and Location details. I haven’t noted this before but just clicking near where you live will select the correct time zone so the drop down is not really necessary but I don’t think it would be a good idea to remove that feature.

Next, select your keyboard layout. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to use a Dvorak keyboard… someday perhaps. The partition setup on this VM was to use the entire Virtual Disk so I selected Erase Disk. If I were going too use Manual partitioning, I would have likely set a separate root and home partition. For the purpose of this level of testing, it was not necessary to set it up for long term use.

You will then be required to enter your user information, select whether or not you want to log in automatically and if you want Root (Administrator user) to have a separate password.

The summary gives a nice brief look at the system changes.

You are given one final sanity check and when you commit, the installer goes through the rolling slideshow about OpenMandriva and upon completion will reboot the system.

Overall, the Installation process is painless. It should be noted, that I don’t use any proprietary drivers on most of my systems so I have no problems with OpenMandriva.

First Run and Impressions

The first run of OpenMandriva is a pleasant experience. It is a great implementation of the KDE Plasma desktop. The login splash screen presents itself in a kind of springtime freshness to it. Not that flowers are my preference on my desktop but most certainly around my home, especially in the spring and early summer is very welcoming.

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I really appreciate the OpenMandriva Welcome screen. It gives a great introduction to the project. It is 100% community driven, uses KDE Plasma by default and what I find interesting is the Automated Build Farm.

The OpenMandriva Control center is a nice callback to the days of Mandriva. This has been at least, on the surface, a visual rewrite of the original control center. It has a more “welcome mat” feel to it. Rather than having the purpose hidden away, it is presented very clearly what the OpenMandriva Control Center is.

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The package manager for OpenMandriva was familiar yet a bit different from what I remember during my Mandriva days. It seemed to function similarly and presented the necessary information for doing what needed to be done.

The update application, dnfdragora-updater, was a bit of a departure from what I was expecting on the desktop. openSUSE uses the KDE Plasma native Software Updates tool, which is what I was expecting for OpenMandriva. I really don’t care what tool they use as long as it works. My issue here was that this just opened up the Software Manager from the Control Center and in order to do the updates, you have to Select all packages and select Apply to begin the updates. I can see some benefits to tweaking installation applications as they come in but on the other side this is a somewhat tedious addition to the update process. The jury is out on this one for me. I see the utility in it, I just don’t think it is what I am used to.

For additional software availability, I selected the OpenMandriva repo-picker and added the 64-bit repositories and later, the 32-bit repositories because, I wanted to see if there were more options of applications to install.

Unfortunately, I was not able to install Discord or Telegram one was not available for installation and the other had some dependencies.

The default multimedia applications are a real nice mix and also highlights what is of project importance to the OpenMandriva community. Installed by default are Kdenlive, a very fine professional level video editor, Kwave Sound Editor and Simple Screen Recorder. I can’t recall any other distros that install that by default but my memory can be lacking.

I played around with OpenMandriva for quite some time. Not all of the tools, time in a day and week makes that somewhat prohibitive but I like a lot of what I saw. Unfortunately I was not able to install Telegram for the Desktop as there was a missing dependency.

Overall, I like what I see and I could be very comfortable here.

What I Like

OpenMandriva has a simple installer that is used by many distributions called Calemares. It works well on many distributions and this is no exception. A quick setup and off to the OpenMandriva races you go.

The OpenMandriva Welcome Screen and introduction is simply fantastic. I think all distributions should have something like this as a part of the on-boarding process into the project. It could be argued that there is almost too much information but in some ways, more is better.

The OpenMandriva Control Center is a fantastic centralized configuration system for the operating system. Like the Mandriva Control Center before it and not far off from the power of YaST, these Control Center tools are essentially a requirement for me to consider a Linux Distribution.

What I Don’t Like

The software selection is not as large as many other distributions but with enough effort, I could get what I want. There is the Automated Build Farm that would allow me to build whatever applications I see as necessary.

The initial layout of the desktop has a large taskbar on the bottom. Since it is Plasma, it is easily modified. The color theme of OpenMandriva is not a more comfortable dark theme. This is of course also easily adjusted.

It looks like at some point, OpenMandriva went from URPMI as the package manager to DNF. I realize that URPMI is in a kind of maintenance mode at this point and isn’t getting any more love. I would have preferred OpenMandriva had switched to using Zypper instead of DNF as I think Zypper is more mature and DNF doesn’t quite yet have feature parity with YUM. I must also say that DNF is great, I just happen to think Zypper is greater.

Final Thoughts

OpenMandriva is a fine Linux distribution with a fantastic history and strong roots. It is a very approachable distribution that feels well polished. I am will continue to watch this distribution with great interest and hope that they continue to progress and develop the distribution. The community has done a fine job up to this point.

I am not exactly sure where OpenMandriva sits in the spectrum of Linux Distributions. I don’t know who their target audience is. I am not sure if they are going after the “new to Linux” users or the more advanced users looking for something else.

I am very happy with openSUSE, the community and the supporting technology. If all of that were to disappear on me, OpenMandriva looks like a very welcoming and comfortable home for my personal computing life.

I would highly recommend giving OpenMandriva a spin. Check out the tools see how they work for you. It has a fine implementation of Plasma and the project very much appears focused. I truly wish this project great success.

References

OpenMandriva Home

OpenMandriva Automated Build Farm

Calamares Project