Mageia is a Linux distribution forked from Mandriva Linux by former contributors and members of Mandriva, As expected, there was a flurry of activities between the announcement of the fork of the distribution (on September 18, 2010) and the first official (stable) release (June 1, 2011). Teams had to be put together, servers and hosting and the required development environments set up, etc.
In the end, what we have is a community-driven and community-sponsored distribution in contrast to its parent distribution, which is controlled by a commercial entity. This article is a review of this new distribution and also marks its listing in the Desktop/Server Category on this website.
Installer and Installation Process: You can obtain installation images of Mageia as CD, DVD, and network-install ISO images. The CD ISO images are Live CDs, which makes it possible to test the distribution on your hardware before attempting to install it. Most of the screenshots used in this review were obtained from several test installations using the DVD and network-install images in virtual environments and real hardware.
This screenshot shows what you will see if you want to install Mageia using a DVD ISO image. It has a few more options than the CD images, which features just two (options) – “Boot Mageia 1,” “Install Mageia 1” and “Boot from Hard Disk.” The network installation image boots into a text interface. Pressing Enter on the keyboard starts the process that eventually leads to the graphical installation program.
If you have ever installed Mandriva, you will be very familiar with Mageia’s installer – they are the same. And that is a phrase you will get used to throughout this review. Mageia may be a new distribution, but it still shares the same tools as Mandriva. The installer is a point-and-click affair, with the same irritating omission that I have always complained about – the lack of a Back or Previous button at critical steps in the installation process. Shown here are some of the disk partitioning methods available on drakx, the installation program.
The disk partitioning step caters to both guru-level and new users alike. The default view is the “Normal mode.” In that mode, clicking the Auto allocate button prompts the installer to create three partitions. These are for /, the root file system, Swap and /home, with the first partition always configured as a primary partition, and subsequent ones as logical partitions. Thus, Swap and /home are always sda5 and sda6, the first and second logical partitions of an extended partition.
In expert mode (Toggle to expert mode), clicking on Auto allocate gives you the following disk partitioning options:
- with /usr – this creates a separate partition for the /usr file system directory in addition to the defaults configured in Normal mode.
- simple – this configures the same partitions as the defaults in Normal mode
- server – separate partitions are created for /var and /tmp in addition to those created under the first option
The Auto allocate options makes it very easy for all users to configure partitions very fast and easily without going through the steps of creating each partition manually. Debian is the only other distribution that I am aware of whose installer has this same feature.
In normal mode, the journaling file systems available are ext3/4, jfs, xfs, and reiserfs, with ext4 as the default. NTFS and NTFS-3G are also available in this mode. In expert mode, practically all the file systems available on the planet, are supported. I said “practically” because Nilfs is not in the list. Nilfs, a log-structured file system with support for continuous snapshotting, is one of two new file systems in the Linux kernel. The other one is btrfs, and you can see, btrfs is supported. Keep in mind that what you see in this image is just the list of file systems above-the-scroll. There are two more scrolls of file systems. LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, RAID and disk encryption are supported.
At the boot loader configuration step, you have three options – “GRUB with graphical menu,” “GRUB with text menu,” and LILO. GRUB Legacy (version 0.97) is the version of GRUB used. For all three options, you can configure a boot loader password, which by itself does not do a whole lot, but combined with other physical security features, can provide a complete physical security blanket for your computer.
If you use a DVD or network-install image for installation, the installer will give you the desktop options shown in this image. KDE is the default if installation is from a DVD image, while GNOME is the default if a network-install image is used. Do not know why, but that was my observation. LXDE, the third desktop environment supported is available only if you select the “Custom” option. Note: By “default.” I mean the pre-selected option.
About using a network-install image: A network-installation image weighs in at just about 40 MB, significantly less than a CD or DVD image. However, you never know what is going to happen during installation. For example, the first test installation I made on real hardware using this method was successful. A second installation on the same hardware failed because a few packages were missing from the mirror I selected. The mirror I used for the first installation was not listed during the second installation attempt.
Also, on two subsequent, back-to-back installations in a virtual environment using two different mirrors (iblibio and webconquest), the installation failed with the following error message:
So, while a network-installation image offers a reverse-size advantage, it might be better, for an error-free installation, to use either a CD or DVD image. I prefer a DVD image because it offers more customization options that a CD image though at more than 3 GB, it will take a little bit more time to download than a CD image. The benefits, however, outweigh the extra download time involved.
By this last image, drakx gives you the opportunity to make changes to most of your installation settings – before they are committed to disk. And it is only available if you use a DVD or a network-install image.