mandriva, Reviews

Mandriva Linux Powerpack 2009: Gnome Desktop

MandrivaMandriva Linux Powerpack 2009 was first reviewed here on November 4, 2008. As with all the reviews we conduct, we based that review on a default configuration; what you get when you follow all the defualt options of the Mandriva installer.

As part of that review, I wrote – with regards to what I termed responsiveness – that:

… When you connect a digital camera or Web cam to your PC, what do you expect? Or if you insert an audio CD or video DVD, what are your expectations? Most Linux distro are by default configured to launch the appropriate application and await your next move, but Mandriva Linux doesn’t. It has a negative impact on the overall user experience of the system.

Dark_Schneider971 wrote in the Forum that:

unfortunately this is a regression introduced by KDE4. The feature did exist in KDE 3.5 ( default KDE desktop in Mandriva 2008.1, and available as contrib in 2009.0 ). The feature does exist with the GNOME desktop too. To give a try in the GNOME desktop, install the task-gnome package.

So let’s try the Gnome desktop in Mandriva Linux Powerpack 2009. Keep in mind that if you are doing a clean install of Mandriva Linux Powerpack or Mandriva Linux Free, the installer gives you a choice of KDE (default) or Gnome, or a custom installation as shown in the image below. If yoy already have a running system with the default desktop (KDE), you could still install the various components of the Gnome desktop by using the package manager.

Using the Gnome desktop, Mandriva Linux Powerpack responds just like we expected from a modern operating system. Insert an audio CD, for example, and you get the dialog box below. Rhythmbox and Juice Extractor are you options for playing audio media or files.

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And if you chose Rhythmbox, here’s what it looks like in action. Amarok is the audio player of choice in the K Desktop Environment, and it has a slight advantage – feature-wise – over Rhythmbox. It is, however not installed in the Gnome desktop, but you could, if you wanted to, install it using the package manager.

What about playing video DVDs?

Well, inserting a video DVD brings up the dialog box as shown below.

Clicking “Ok” in the dialog box above should launch Totem, but not before you get this other dialog box informing you that Totem cannot play encrypted movies without the appropriate codecs installed. To install the needed codecs, you are presented with two options:

  1. Codeina Codec Service – This is a fee-based multimedia codec service from Fluendo S.A., the same company responsible for Elisa Media Center. Depending on the plugin you choose or that’s required by the application you want to use, you may have to pay from 7 EUR to 28 EUR, or about 9 USD to 36 USD. This is the default option.
  2. Reverse-engineered, open source multimedia plugins – This, of course, is a free set of multimedia plugins
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This is the window you see if you choose the Codeina Codec installation service.

If you do not have an existing account with Fluendo, You will have to create one.

Once the account is created, you are redirected to the Codeina Web shop. Time to spend money! The cheapest Codeina plugin is 7 EUR (about 9 USD) , and the most expensive is 28 EUR (about 36 USD).

If on the other hand you decide against the Codeina service, and instead opt for free and open source multimedia plugins, gstreamer0.10-mpeg and gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg will be installed for you. Note that Mandriva Linux Powerpack is not the only distro that uses the Codeina Codec installer. Fedora 9 also uses it. However, in Fedora 9, it’s, by default, Codeina or nothing. If you opt out of the Codeina service, you’ll have to search for and install the open source multimedia plugins yourself. As you can see from the screenshots in this post, Mandriva makes opting out of the Codeina service real easy.

Whatever option you choose, your system should now play commercial or encrypted DVD after the plugins have been installed. With regards to “responsiveness”, therefore, what we wrote about Mandriva Linux Powerpack applies ONLY if you are using the K Desktop Environment (KDE).

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