Experiment: Mandrake 10.1 Community Final Rating

Linuxblog Introduction: We took an average windows user, gave her a handful of distributions of Linux, and forced her to use each distro for one week. We gave her alsaconf, email servers, and mounted her windows partition to the fresh install. Then, we faded away and quietly watched her in her new environment. You too can join us by reading on…

Here I am the Average Windows User.I think I’m going to like Linux.That is, if we can work out a few things.I don’t think Mandrake is going to be my favorite—I hope.I hope because I really want to find an OS that is easier to work with.I am purposely not taking a lot of suggestions because most people would not have that luxury.I’m the person who just happened to hear that there was something out there like Windows, but FREE–or at the least a whole heck of a lot cheaper.I am the person who is curious but very limited in knowledge.Please keep this in mind as you proceed.

1)Look /Feel – I stand by my initial impression, it’s okay.I have no complaints with the look and how it works.I do however have a problem finding program files, in windows it is easy, go to program files on my drive and find the files.I can’t find any map like that inmy desktop and believe me I’ve been looking.I think by now I am so tired of looking that I wouldn’t be able to find it if it slapped me in the face.I do like Gnome better than KDE at this point. I can’t really explain why, I just do. (Score – 7)

2)Performance – It seems as fast if not faster than windows, that’s nice.But I have not been able to “tax it since I can hardly get anything to work.I like some of the programs, I am using open office right now for my log. It works nicely.(Score – 8 )

3)Hardware/Software – This part was infuriating. I will explain, patience please. See below in My Criteria(Score – 2)

4)Upgradeability/Security – At this point, I’m not exactly worried about security.I would never get that far with this “distro.Upgrading certain things proved too difficult for me, others were simple.(Score – 3)

5)Documentation – There is plenty of it, many websites out there but most of them are not catering to new users.I gave up on most of them before finding anything I could benefit from.Even though the kind people who visit this blog offered many good suggestions for help sites, it would have probably taken me weeks to find them on my own.(Score – 5)

6)Installation – Was not any more difficult than a Windows install, possibly easier.(Score – 8)

Now we talk about MY criteria:

My Criteria…

1)Mail – This was a fairly easy setup, basically no different than Outlook.Not bad. (Score – 9)

2)Internet – I need to be able to get news, surf my favorite websites and update my own website.They MUST render properly or they are useless to me. This didn’t happen at all. No java, No flash. I had to get help installing Java.There is NO WAY I could have done this on my own since I know NOTHING about shell scripts (or whatever) and I don’t think the average person would know how to execute a shell script.Java still won’t render, something is wrong and I can’t figure out what.I also need to install flash.Yeah right, that’s gonna happen!If I can’t get Java, I’m sure Flash is just as much out of my reach. After some investigation, it really is.This one gets a big fat 0.(Score – 0)

3)Listen to Music – I tried Amarok first and I didn’t like it because I had a hard time adding files from the windows drive.Then I tried Kaffeine, I liked it much better.I do think that new users would have a hard time adding to their library, it took me a few minutes to figure out.I am disappointed that I can’t figure out how to save my library when I close out the application.The sound quaility is really good, I like that a lot.It’s also nice that I am able to access my music files from my windows hard drive with no problems.I am told that this would not be possible the other way around.But I still had to have my husband set it up for me to do this. (Score – 8 )

4)Download Music/Files – I found out that a lot of people use LimeWire for Linux while searching for information on p2p programs, so I downloaded it. Here was another shell script that I could not execute on my own.If I wanted to learn it would not be very difficult.But the fact is that I don’t want to learn.Remember, I am the average Windows user and I want things to work just like they would in Windows. I want to be able to doubleclick and go.While installing LimeWire it said that we did NOT have Java VM installed. Wow, that’s funny, I thought we just did that.Well, maybe that’s why it’s still not displaying.Regardless, I can’t solve this on my own.So no Java, no LimeWire, no downloads, not happy. Pfft . . .(Score – 0)

5)Burning CDS – I like music a lot. I burn CDs quite often.I did a search for cd burning software; I found a rather nice looking site to download from.The download went smoothly and it AUTOMATICALLY installed, imagine that!But guess what?I don’t know WHERE it installed, so I spend God knows how long searching for it and I eventually give up.Later I was trying out the Gnome desktop (I had been using KDE up to that point) and through dumb luck I ran across K3B, the burning program that I had been searching for.BTW, I found it in the System menu under Archiving.Who thought that one up??Yes I know, some really smart person who uses their burning software for exactly that archiving.Well what about what about the rest of us no-so-smart people?HELLOOO, most of us don’t know you use your burner for anything other than burning that phat new mix cd!!Well now that I found it, burning is a breeze.I have no qualms with this feature.K3B is easier to use than many other burning programs that I have tried before.(9)

In conclusion, Mandrake has made a dummy out of me and I don’t like it one bit.An experience like this is enough to wound any new user’s pride.Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this is a really great OS for someone who knows a lot about Linux or computers in general.It’s probably really good for someone who has a desire to explore and learn more.It would probably be really great (eventually) for me since I have a husband who can magically make everything work the way I like.But right now I am playing the part of the lone windows user trying to make sense of Mandrake and it’s just not going to happen without a WHOLE LOTTA research.I don’t think most people are willing to put forth such an effort.I think the big problem with this OS is that they just expect you to know things that the average user simply would not have a grasp of.I’m not saying it’s really difficult to figure out (some things) on your own, but I am saying that most people would give up before they realized what the benefits were of using it.Consider the saying “You get what you pay for”.In this case, I think some people might see it that way unfortunately, “It’s free, I didn’t pay anything for it, this is just too much work, I’m going to give up and take my lazy butt down to Staples and buy that Windows update I’ve been too cheap to shell out for.”Sad but true.

Therefore I give Mandrake an overall score of 6 out of 10, slightly above average.


Mandrake Linux Scores: 6 out of 10

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15 thoughts on “Experiment: Mandrake 10.1 Community Final Rating”

  1. Very interesting review. It’s nice to see this from a “average windows user” point of view. The only bad news is that the installation of software issues you had are not Mandrake issues…. but Linux issues for the most part. One exception. If you use FireFox as your your web browser, then installing Flash is VERY easy. When you visit a site that requires Flash, it will ask if you want to get it, and just a few clicks of “OK” later it is installed and running. Pretty cool.

    I look forward to the remaining reviews.

  2. Hi Mrs. Devnet

    I just want to say that I have a lot fun reading your impressions about Linux/Mandrake. Like you, I had the same experince when I started working with Linux. I think for the average user Linux is not easy. However, the thing I like is that there is another alternative in the OS market for my PC. I wish you would have the time to learn Linux and you will end up noticing how reliable, fast and secure Linux is. In my case, I run at home Debian and I hope you can give it a try like you did with Mandrake.


  3. i can remember exactly how you fell while trying these out.
    it is very frustrating but i was very frustrated with winodws at the time also.i had reformatted 4 times in 3 days .was on a monday and i was supposed to teach a class online on sat.it was a nitemare trying to get that box going again.i promised myself that something/anything had to be better than that.
    sound is a major problem in some cases for linux and in other cases it goes so easy .java and flash arent high on my priority list so can say the one time i tried to install java a symlink made me frustrated.
    i finally had to get help for that.
    one advantage i have is irc channels to ask for suggestions on what app to try.
    most know my skill level and direct with that in mind also.
    good luck tho i have enjoyed reading your comments.

  4. My SO and myself are following this with great interest, as we happen to be in a similar situation: I’m a (fairly recent) Linux convert whose computer has only one MicroSoft product on it (the mouse). She’s a longtime user of MS-DOS/Windows, who will happily switch…if it’s not too complicated.

    I’m aided in my role by the fact that she’s already transitioned to OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird and other dual-OS open source titles. This was by chance, but I now feel it an advantageous move in helping and motivating a person to transition from Windows to Linux.

  5. My wife and I are following your adventure like it was american idol. We are excited to see how you react to a specific distro in a few days…won’t mention it because this is supposed to be on your own. I smiled when I read some of your comments about the “average user”. I too was “average” until a nasty variation of sasser wiped out my business network. It was then I took the time to learn how to use Linux. I despise MS. We await your golden words Mrs Devnet…you would be suprised how important your findings are to a great number of people.


  6. I have to agree that Linux simply isn’t easy to set up initially. Most people can get through an install assuming they could manage a windows install, but after the initial setup getting things like java working isn’t simple.

    I like mandrake because it does a lot of things automatically through the control centre (mounting shares in particular) and generally picks up all my hardware fine (had sound problems in Fedora and mouse trouble in SuSE) plus the great software management once you’ve gotten the repositories sorted out. I wouldn’t say it was particularly pretty though, I prefer the look of Fedora, but then it’s easily customised.

    All in all, I’d say your review as a new user is spot on, but when you’ve finished testing all of these distros I hope you’ll pick one to keep.

    Looking forward to the next review 🙂

  7. It certainly felt very familiar reading your experiences with Linux. I am also just getting my feet wet with Linux. I installed Mandrake 10.1 about one month ago and at times it feels like I am fighting a loosing battle.
    Now I am not inexperienced with installing, setting-up and most of all, using different OS. I have been using OS/2 for many years (since 1996, after a lot of frustrations with WIN95) and had done all sorts if installations, networking, servers, workstations etc under OS/2. I also still have to use, install and configure MS-Windows of all flavourers starting from 98, ME, 2K right up to XP Pro. OS/2 has, after all, been my preference – and to be honest, at this stage, it still is – although it is getting rather old and support is dwindling fast.
    I had read lots about Linux and was actually looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into it. Well it has been an experience I must confess. Not necessary a positive one, and not one I was expecting at all. I have never been so frustrated with any other operating systems as I have with Linux. There is just no consistency – or should I rephrase this – the only consistency with Linux is, that it is inconsistent.
    Fonts size and style will vary from one application to another. You can spend hours (or days in may case) just to get most applications (based on X11, XFree86, GTK or QT, just to name a few) to have some consistency in font style and size, but there will always be one application where the fonts are just plain ugly – almost unreadable – and there is nothing one can do to change that. Yet the MS-Windows version of that very same application, running under MS-Windows, no matter what version, will have the correct font style and size, just like all the other Windows applications.
    Installing new programs is a nightmare. There are as many different ways to install and setting up (ie. compile) a program as there are programmers out there. Setting up applications is just the same – inconsistent all the way.
    Now having voiced my humble opinion about Linux. I should also mention that I am also impressed by it. It does look really good and in spite of all the differences it is rock solid! I have not managed to crash it once. Even though I must have done some of the dumbest things possible in trying to get programs to work. Sure one or the other program would not install/compile, crash or stop responding, but most important, the underlying OS never crashed! I am very impressed by that and I am also convinced that if I had pocked around in XP or WIN-2K as much as I have in Linux I would have seen the blue screen of death many a times if not caused corruptions beyond repair. But then, I don’t really have to do all this pocking around under MS-Windows do I?
    I will keep the Linux partition on my system though and will keep trying to get the hang of it and maybe one of these days I will set it up as my default boot partition. But as for now when it comes to my business applications, I will still boot into OS/2 (which is my default boot partition) and when it comes to picture/photo editing and processing I will still boot into WIN-2K.
    Looking forward to the day where I can use just ONE OS!

  8. Hi! I found this interesting – it baffles me how something someone else found easy, I found difficult and vice-versa. Most of my PC using experience is with Linux (what I use at home). My early computer experience includes being a user with an account on a mainframe running under UNIX, and so the fact that Linux has the same editors, shell prompt, etc. makes it comfortable and familiar in ways that Windows (on most PC’s I’ve used at work – not by choice, believe me) is not. I am trying to get all the features of our new computer, which has Mandrake 10.1 on it, to work. Some things are okay, but I now have an expensive new set of coasters because K3b does not work properly! At least with floppies you can erase them and write on them several times. My K3b was already there when I installed Mandrake. I would like to know if you had to change any settings or permissions to get K3b to work properly. I will now go back to scouring the web for posts on K3b problems. At this point I would rate K3b a 3, not a 9, but I hope that soon changes.

  9. That is just so odd. Herein lies the inconsistancies mentioned above. k3b has been one of the most solid apps I have used in linux….stellar as a matter of fact. In windows, I used nero and roxio products but preferred stomp and a couple of others. k3b has out-performed every one of them in features and ease of use. Go figure. But one thing I have noticed in my Linux travels…app x might work like a champ in distro X but be buggy in distro Y.

  10. I realize this may be archived.. but, the issues are wth Mandrake.. the whole purpose of a distro is to create a package which makes it easier for the user.. Linux is just a kernel. Mandrake is a distribution. We all need Flash, Real, and Xine/MPlayer (w/ ALL codecs) working. Even if Mandrake cannot legally include these in a distro, they CAN give us an installation script which retrieves these from the net & installs them for us. Most of us are users.. NOT programmers/hacks. We just want to use our computer. Until Linux Distros figure this out, they will Not take the desktop from MS, no matter how bad MS may or may not be.

  11. First, I would say that at least you were willing to TRY a linux distro. One thing I would comment on would be this, I promise, you didn’t learn windows in 3 days. Yes, linux can be quite a bit more complicated than a MS product, but oohh oh oh (best Tim Allen Grunt) The power.. Trust me on this, running a shell script is easier than you think. http://www.google.com/linux and http://www.linuxquestions.org will be your best friends. Stick with it, there WILL be times where you want to format and give up, but the end result is worth the effort. Keep it up!

  12. I’m somewhat of a computer expert, but Unix/Linux has never really been my forte until lately. I’m a network admin for a small part of a large organization; I’m responsible for all hardware, software, and networking problems. I’m, I guess, a M$ Windows expert. Pretty competent with PDCs, SQL servers, Exchange, Domino, even AS/400; you get the picture.

    My point is, I know a thing or two about servers, operating systems, and connectivity. I started toying with Linux using Mandrake, and I didn’t like it. I tried a few other distros, decided they sucked even harder, and went back to Mandrakelinux 10.1. The learning curve was pretty steep, and I didn’t think it should be for me. I used to use BeOS for my alternative OS (the Developer’s Edition, http://www.beosonline.com, rocks), but I decided I wanted to use a non M$ OS with a mature USB stack, among other things. So it was time to move on. I do still keep an old box around with the BeOS on it just to show it off.

    To answer a few of the problems I’ve seen brought up here: Mrs. Devnet, if you can’t find your installed apps break out a command line and use the locate command. You may have to do an updatedb as root to keep it up to date, but this is how I track down elusive program files when they don’t install to the typical location. It took me quite a while to find locate too; much to my displeasure in the meantime.

    A lot of my browser plugins like java have required some manual symlinking to my firefox plugins folder to get them operational; not too much trouble once I figured it out. Frustrating until then, though.

    Those of you who think Mandrakelinux software is hard to install need to check out http://easyurpmi.zarb.org/ to get your sources set up right. For probably the first month, maybe more, I used Mandrake I would spend hours wallowing around through dep hell trying to get this and that app to install. With urpmi configured right, often installing a linux app is as easy as typing “urpmi NewApp” at your friendly neighborhood root console. That’s even easier than your typical Next -> Next -> Next -> Next -> Finish Windows installation.

    I’ve abandoned my BeOS because of hardware issues. My new mobo/processor don’t get along with Be at all. Mandrakelinux set up my whole system like a champ. Not even any issues with my Mad Dog Predator sound card that even required a third party driver with Windows!

    If you just want everything to point, click, work, TaDa, you could try out Linspire and pay as you go, but why not just pay to evil empire for Windows 2000 (because XP is bloat of the worst kind) if you want to pay for everything or have that “it should just work” attitude. I find that most people who are willing to try out a linux distro are willing to “roll up their sleeves” and muck around with their system a bit.

    My point is that there is definitely a learning curve to working with linux; even the “friendly” distros like Mandrake, excuse me, Mandriva. It will take a while to overcome some obstacles, even for (possibly self-proclaimed) experts. The benefits, for me, after about three months, not one week, of learning Mandrakelinux far outweighed the costs. Audio and video playback are better with Kaffeine/Xine, the system is WAY more stable, apps are free, system is free, etc, etc, etc.

    My computer just plain runs better with linux. Don’t get discouraged newbies (can I actually call someone else that yet?). Forge onward!

  13. Thanks for your comments! However, I do think you missed the main point of the experiment. The experiment is being done to address ALL aspects of Linux…not to solve them…out of the box.

  14. What do you get when you take 1 new Linux user with zero Linux experience, add 5 distros and stir? You get the Linux Blog experiment, that’s what. What makes these reviews different from all other reviews is that they are done by an avid Windows user.

  15. the funny thing about java & flash (among others) is they are on the install disks.. but to install them, you have to choose “pick individual pkgs” and then, you have to tell it to show ALL pkgs, not just the Mandrake ‘recommended’ ones.. Where the #@#$ do they get their ‘recommended’ list??

    this presumes you used 10.1 power..
    beginner has no choices..

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