Archive for the ‘Free Software’ Category

KDE 4.3 vs. Gnome 2.26: Slap fight!

August 21st, 2009 2 comments

Ding!  Let the fight begin.

In one corner, we have the only desktop environment I’ve used in Linux – Gnome 2.26, the standard for Ubuntu (the distribution with which I’ve worked the most so far) and Fedora, the distribution I’ve chosen for this experiment.

The Gnome 2.26 desktop is something I'm familiar with.

The Gnome 2.26 desktop is something I'm familiar with.

In the other corner, we have newly announced heavyweight KDE 4.3, supposedly with all sorts of social networking integration and enough shiny parts to attract a magpie.

Windows 7, is that you?

Windows 7, is that you?

I’m not going to lie.  Both environments look pretty gorgeous, but KDE to me – though I’ve used Gnome more in Linux – looks (from screenshots at least) a little more familiar.  So what do they have to offer me?  Let’s find out!


Both environments have a rich history behind them.  KDE-ONE was released back in 1997,  a little more than twelve years ago today.  Gnome followed not long after, in March of 1999.

Gnome started in response to KDE’s not being completely under the GPL; two projects were started as to address this, and Gnome was born.  Whereas Gnome – and yes, the ‘G’ in there stands for GNU – started as a completely-GPL response to KDE, KDE in itself was started by a university student troubled by parts of the standard Unix desktop.

Long story short?  Both environments got their starts early, and for different reasons.  I respect both of their reasons for why and how they started, but I won’t let those get in the way of what I came her to do.

Functionality and usability

(credit to the main websites of both Gnome and KDE)

As I mentioned before, I’m all ready familiar with the Gnome desktop environment.  To me, as a hardcore Windows user it was easy to use, intuitive and fairly well laid-out.

Gnome’s newest version includes improvements to its disc burning software and file sharing.  File sharing in itself is rather important to me, due to my Windows Home Server containing the vast majority of my digital media.

There are a few other changes – things like the volume manager and Evolution notes client (though I all ready plan on using Thunderbird as I do in Windows), but nothing that particularly caught my eye.

KDE 4.3.0, as a major release, brings home a huge amount of firepower.  Full web integration has been brought straight to the desktop.  Along the lines of file management, Dolphin seems to offer a lot of the nice previews I’ve come to enjoy with my Release Candidate edition of Windows 7 – file previews in a folder, along with video thumbnails to let me know just what I’m going to be watching (VERY YES).

The System Tray has been completely re-vamped, which I understand could be a nice difference from Gnome (whose system tray hasn’t changed much in the last few updates).

The story thus far

Well, given my complete inability to effectively compare two things and document my findings, not much has been told here so far.  Both environments have a rich history and huge amounts of features to offer, and having only used Gnome so far I really can’t say much for KDE other than that ‘it looks nice and sounds nicer’.

…if you have any suggestions on either one, or would like to offer your own experiences here, please do so!  At this point, I think I’m leaning more towards KDE’s major 4.3.0 release.  Mostly for the shiny things, and partly for wanting to try something new.  I’m bored of Gnome.

Categories: Dana H, Free Software, GNOME, KDE, Linux Tags:

The Showdown: Fedora 11 vs Mandriva 2009.1

August 17th, 2009 12 comments

The Final Contenders

Well here we are. After a couple of weeks of research I have finally narrowed down my choice to either Fedora 11 or Mandriva 2009.1 to use during the course of this experiment. The two distros are both very mature and feature rich which makes this choice extraordinarily difficult. To help alleviate some of this I have decided to square them off head to head in a series of different areas. So without further ado let’s start this.


Both distributions have significant communities behind them. A quick jump to their respective websites and you can easily see that they are very comparable. Each sports a community wiki that helps newbies and expert alike get up and running and tweak advanced features.

The Fedora Wiki

The Fedora Wiki

The Mandriva Wiki

The Mandriva Wiki

The Winner: TIE


Again both distributions seem to offer the same amount of customization. Most of the resources I was able to find regarding the manner had more to do with customizing GNOME or KDE then anything distro specific.

The Winner: TIE


Fedora is directed by a community elected board of directors. They then vote internally to make large decisions. Mandriva is directed by the Mandriva company which is a commercial entity.

The difference in setup is quite clear. Fedora’s management can be shaken up at any time if the community feels they are going off track. Mandriva on the other hand is a large company and is not going anywhere. I think this makes Fedora more flexible to take on future challenges and react more quickly.

The Winner: Fedora

Install Media Size

Fedora is offered in both ~690MB Live CD and ~4.5GB DVD configurations for all popular architectures and variations (GNOME, KDE, etc)

Mandriva is offered both ~690MB Live CD and ~4.4GB DVD configurations for all popular architectures and variations (GNOME, KDE, etc)

The major difference seems to be that Mandriva lets you really customize your experience during install, more so than Fedora. It allows you to select what you will be using the computer for and only install that software accordingly.

The Winner: Mandriva

System Requirements

A fast operating system is one that leaves most of the system resources alone so your programs can take full advantage of them.


  • 400MHz Pentium II or better
  • Minimum RAM: 192MB for x86 or 384MB for x64
  • Recommended RAM: 256MB or 512MB for x64
  • Hard Disk Space: 90MB-9GB depending on what is installed


  • Any Intel or AMD processor
  • Minimum RAM: 256MB
  • Recommended RAM: 512MB
  • Hard Disk Space: 3GB-4GB

The Winner: Fedora


Both Fedora and Mandriva support a wide range of free codecs, but neither includes popular codecs like MP3 and DVD in their base installs. This is due to restrictions placed on the distribution of these technologies. Once installed, both of the distros can download support for these making them effectively equal.

The Winner: TIE

New Features

Fedora is known to sit comfortably on the edge of bleeding technology and often supports new code as it becomes stable. Mandriva, on the other hand, seems to adopt new technology in a slower, more methodical way, picking and choosing what will make the schedule.

The Winner: Fedora

Out-Of-Box Experience

A freshly installed distro should have a certain… fresh feel to it. Like you could take on the world with this new piece of software! While, by all accounts, Fedora is a solid distro, this category is where Mandriva really shines. It’s Mandriva One release specializes in giving the best “out-of-box” experience possible.

The Winner: Mandriva

Release Schedule

As the length of this experiment is rather short (4 months) it would be nice to see how these distributions perform during an upgrade. Fedora will be releasing its newest version, Fedora 12, in November of this year. Mandriva is also planning a release of it’s upgrade, Mandriva 2010.0, in October of this year.

Both distributions also follow a regular, roughly, 6 month schedule. This means that every 6 months or so they release an upgrade to the distro.

The Winner: TIE


Fedora implements the very top of the line security features available to Linux, the Security-Enhanced Linux module. This takes specifications from the Department of Defense and implements them in the distro. While Mandriva may support some of these features, Fedora is known far better as the security-oriented distro.

Fedora's website even has a very detailed security response center

Fedora's website even has a very detailed security response center

The Winner: Fedora

Shipped Kernel

From what I can tell Mandriva ships with 2.6.29 of the Linux kernel while Fedora ships with version I can’t tell if those extra 4 (2 stable?) updates are actually in the shipped Mandriva distro or not. Assuming it’s not this gives Fedora an ever so slight edge on Mandriva… at least before any updates are applied.

The Winner: Fedora

Gut Instinct

This one is tricky. I actually wasn’t going to include this category if the distros were close in count after all of the above showdowns. That being said I can now safely say, and the above comparisons thankfully agree, that my gut instinct is telling me to go with Fedora. More than anything else I get the feeling that Fedora offers a better overall foundation than Mandriva. From that foundation I just don’t think Mandriva offers me anything that I couldn’t simply add to Fedora as well.

The Winner: Fedora

The Winner By TKO: Fedora

Score Card

Fedora: | | | | |

Mandriva: | |

Tie: | | | |

Well it’s been a long week since I committed to choosing my distribution, but here we are finally. Come September 1st I am going to plop the Fedora 11 DVD in my computer’s optical drive and embark on a 4 month long journey of Linux discovery. Wish me the best!

Another one bites the dust

August 13th, 2009 6 comments

In the continuing effort to find my perfect distro for this experiment I have set the goal of having finalized my choice by the end of this week. So welcome to another installment of which distro just didn’t cut it!

Looking at the remaining three candidates, Fedora, Mandriva and Linux Mint, it became apparent that the only distro I really knew anything about was Fedora. Setting Fedora aside for a moment I decided to use the power of Google to help me. I searched “Mandriva 2009 review” and “Linux Mint review” and opened the first four tabs (skipping the garbage links of course ;)) for each. This is what was said about the two of them.



While the install went perfectly well for me, other reviews around the internet are claiming some install problem, including a bizarre one where the Gnome is loaded as the default desktop. However, I am inclined to think this is either a rare bug, or something wrong done by the reviewer himself.

My take: Well that doesn’t sound very good. Hopefully that’s just a fluke.

The best part I have liked about Mandriva is that it is the only Linux distro to date… that actually runs my graphics card out of the box. Not even openSUSE or Ubuntu do that.

My take: This is excellent news, especially because my machine is also using an ATi card.

I have by now done a lot of testing, and my current impressions are slightly less positive. The hang consisted of a screen freeze when I opened five windows of Firefox. What I did not realize is that this recurred for me. I am not sure if it is the same case for others. There were also two more crashes, from unidentified causes.

My take: As a novice user who doesn’t know how to just “kill and restart X Server” this could be an issue for me…

But more so, the desktop, and plasma improvements are great. Take the time to experiment with each, they are worth it. They too, are stable.

My take: I’m not really sold on the plasma paradigm but this is still good news!

One of the most important parts of any distribution is the package management. I had not had a chance to test this earlier, but this was a big let down. I was expecting something exceptional here. What I got was an almost exact replica of the management system of the previous Mandriva, which was, let’s face it, slow and cumbersome… I had a difficult time downloading packages from online repositories – Mandriva’s package management apparently did not like my slow, albeit passable, internet connection.

My take: Installing software easily and efficiently will be key during this experiment. This person’s take on Mandriva’s package management is worrisome.


Mandriva is one of the few distributions that lets you have the  XFS file system on /boot with GRUB as your bootloader, so all you really need is SWAP and one / partition with XFS if that’s all you want.

My take: Can someone in the Linux community explain to me why GRUB isn’t able to just use all of the filesystems?

You do have to edit your Timezone and monitor/video card settings or else it may reboot with the wrong resolution and using the unaccelerated VESA driver (And set for New York’s timezone), I selected 1680 x 1050 Generic Monitor with Nvidia 6100 or later, this brings the system up with the 2d accelerated NV driver until you can get around to installing the Nvidia binary module.

My take: This seems like a lot of messing around just to set up the system time and video card!

Mandriva saw my Windows shares out of the box, and could browse them through Nautilus immediately.

My take: Playing nicely with Windows is going to be one of the things I test during this experiment so this news is promising.


Mandriva One has everything that a home PC user should require, including a graphics suite (GIMP), document viewer (Gwenview), Office suite ( 3.0), audio player (Amarok), Movie player (Totem) and latest version of Firefox web browser. Of course, I need not say that Mandriva 2009 comes bundled with KDE 4.1.2 or GNOME 2.24 depending upon the live CD you downloaded. So you get all the applications that are part of these fabulous desktop environments.

My take: Something that  I will certainly be writing about is the ‘out-of-box’ experience of the distro. How it looks, works and feels before I add additional software.

If you have any of the NVIDIA or ATI graphics cards, you are in luck as Mandriva One 2009 bundles with it the proprietary drivers for these cards and you can use the 3D acceleration capabilities out of the box without any further tinkering.

My take: Again, by the sounds of things Mandriva has all of the graphics drivers I’ll need built right in!

Linux Mint


Linux mint offer number of applications that are not available in Ubuntu. There are many pre-installed applications like multimedia codecs, drivers for Wi-fi cards etc. Moreover as Ubuntu and Linux Mint use the same software repositories, so any software that can be installed on Ubuntu is compatible with Linux Mint, hence it provides users access to a huge collection of packages and software.

My take: My experience with Ubuntu is that it supports most things right away. If Mint can improve upon that it is a welcome enhancement.

It is a Debian-based distribution and as such it is very solid and it comes with one of the greatest package managers.

My take: Debian is an excellent, stable distro and this bonus was inherited into Mint through Ubuntu.

Ubuntu as compared to Linux Mint have got very larger support community but at the same time every advice and help is also applicable to Linux Mint.

My take: Having support to fall back on is going to be key so let’s hope this statement rings true.

“It’s one of the most community driven distributions. You could literally post an idea in the forums today and see it implemented the week after in the “current” release. Of course this has pros and cons and compared to distributions with road maps, feature boards and fixed release cycles we miss a lot of structure and potentially a lot of quality, but it allows us to react quickly, implement more innovations and make the whole experience for us and for the users extremely exciting” –Linux Mint Team

My take: While this sounds like a neat idea I think I would much prefer a solid roadmap over feature creep.


I booted into it via LiveCD. Yikes! Gripes. Dunno why, but it didn’t boot at first. It just showed me a nice black wallpaper, and my cursor. GNOME was not starting. Reboot! Again, but this time, I saw the GNOME bottom panel, but blank, and no icons! WTF! REBOOT! Poof! This time, for a weird reason, everything loaded fine, and I got my desktop and all icons and all. Strange…

My take: This… doesn’t sound good

From the menu, I could see a whole bunch of applications already installed, most notably Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, GIMP, Totem, Mplayer, Amarok, Open-Office 2.3 and Serpentine

My take: Sounds as though the basics are covered.

Regarding drivers, I was amazed. My WiFi (Intel Pro Wireless 4965) worked directly, prompting me for ESSID and the other usual settings, and minutes later, I was on Google. Same for my graphics driver (Intel GMA 965), giving me my 1280×800 native resolution. Sweet!

My take: Just like the Mandriva review this seems to point to Linux Mint being an excellent experience right from the start.

What I want to say is that Linux Mint is really great for users that want a simple and clean system, that is fast and efficient, and that works without hours of configuration.

My take: While this sounds nice for the beginning I’m not sure how well the lack of configuration options will play out as the experiment goes on.


The install was painless, as usual, and the theme was just as elegant and smooth as ever.

My take: Maybe I’m a spoiled Windows user but if the install isn’t painless why are we even bothering?

One of my biggest complaints with Linux Mint in the past was the mintMenu application. While I loved its functionality of allowing you to search for programs and documents all right when the menu is open, it never had the ability to open with a hotkey, until now. I found out by accident. I pushed the “Super” key and started typing Firefox because that is what I usually do in Vista.

My take: This is a very nice feature and one that I use on Vista all of the time.

The only other surprising feature to find was that Evolution was not the default mail client and instead Thunderbird still held that title. While I still do like Thunderbird I feel like Evolution is a step in the right direction and I love that it can not only manage all of my personal email addresses but it can also painlessly get my works Exchange email.

My take: I currently use Thunderbird so that’s a plus. However in order to get the true Linux experience perhaps I should install Evolution even if it is not the default?

Conclusion: It seems that no matter which of these two is chosen to stay on, the other could have been equally qualified. With that in mind I will have to base my decision on some other factors.

The Sweet Taste of Mint Just Isn’t Enough

This was a tough call but I am going to allow Mandriva the honour of staying in the race. While Linux Mint seems like a solid distro it also feels a lot like it’s just Ubuntu with a different theme. True there are the mintTools and other features but if the goal of this experiment is to truly dive deep into the guts of Linux and learn something new I shouldn’t be hidden from them. The small community for Mint only features and tools is also kind of troubling because they may not react as quickly to an issue, for example a Mint specific security flaw, as one of the big name distros would.

Well that’s all for now. I hope you made it through this giant post. When I wake up in the morning I’ll try and fix the spelling mistakes that are bound to be there :P. Don’t forget to tune in next time for the showdown between Fedora and Mandriva!

I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).

Narrowing it down…

August 9th, 2009 2 comments

Two posts in one day!

I am learning quite a bit in my continued research of which Linux distro will be right for me. So far I think I have knocked out a lot of the more… exotic Linux distros and have come up with a bit of a short list with a few pros and cons to go along with them.

The Short List

  • Debian
    • Pros: Very stable, lots of support, lost of software, one of the oldest distros.
    • Cons: The distro prioritizes stability over new technology which sometimes seems kind of dull, only F/OSS software.
    • Why I am considering it: This distribution has widespread use and serves as sort of a gold standard and I know using this would be a very practical choice.
  • Fedora
    • Pros: Stable, very secure, a lot of support, constantly adding brand new technology.
    • Cons: Using bleeding edge technology can sometimes be a bad thing (I hear KDE 4.0 didn’t go over so well for example), I don’t know a lot about it, not sure what the software situation is like for example.
    • Why I am considering it: To be honest it intrigues me. It seems like a distro that can have a lot of customization done to it and it has a focus on security which I’m a bit of a nut about.
  • Linux Mint
    • Pros: Ubuntu as a starting point, tried to make the best desktop experience possible, simplified a lot of the UI and made great improvements in the usability.
    • Cons: It’s a relatively new distro and doesn’t quite have the community behind it yet. I’m worried that updates for Mint specific problems might not come frequently enough.
    • Why I am considering it: I am familiar with Ubuntu and this seems like an improved version of that.
  • Mandriva
    • Pros: Mandriva One sounds like it includes everything I could possibly ask for.
    • Cons: It seems to try and push a full computing experience on the user, which for most would be great but for this experiment maybe not so much.
    • Why I am considering it: It seems like an easy out.

Hopefully I can make my decision shortly and read up some more about it before the start of the experiment!