[TriLUG] A description of Mandrake 8.1 installation by one of the Lockergnomies. May explain why people like it!
Tue, 13 Nov 2001 02:42:42 -0500
I think I've fallen in love all over again.
For the first time in nearly two years, my beloved Frankenbox eMachine on
steroids is running something other than RedHat. Mandrake 8.1's the thing,
and it's got me singing the praises of new and improved graphical
installations. Today I'm going to chronicle for you what I found when
installing this blue and yellow star on my machine at home.
In the native language of MandrakeSoft, one sentence can sum up this
distribution. Cette distribution est magnifique!
I've used Mandrake in the past and the experience was, well, rocky. It was
an early version and an install that followed after mostly failed installs
of Debian and Slackware. In fact, that install was nearly the permanent
parting of ways for me and Linux. On the first attempt, I was unable to
configure my video card. When I got that figured out, three nights later, I
still had no sound, no printer, and a very kludgy mouse. Obviously, I was
impressed - impressed enough to go running into the arms of RedHat.
Sunday afternoon was the first day off in two weeks. I dutifully downloaded
the Mandrake install .isos (all 3 of them), opened up cdrecord and, one
after the other, burned the images to CD. I rebooted my system, dropped the
first install disc in the drive, and held my breath. As the BIOS screen
flashed past, I closed my eyes and said a quiet prayer that I hadn't just
destroyed my perfectly configured and warm as home RedHat installation for
What I found when I opened my eyes was a beautiful GUI installation routine.
Each element of the installation was listed along the left side, with the
active element highlighted by an orange star. I could see at a glance
exactly where I was in the installation process.
Mandrake uses a partitioning program that was so fast it reminded me of a
"Quick Format" for floppies in Windows. I clicked on a partition space shown
in a bar at the top of the program and chose the partition type. You should
know that I'd already created Linux partitions (for my RedHat installation)
in Partition Magic. Consequently, I didn't have to lay out the partition
table - just point and click on existing partitions to format them.
Installation of the inital packages was smooth, as well. Mandrake displays a
minimal set of rpms, with the option to expand each subset. As I dug deeper
and deeper into the packages, I found that the descriptions for each package
were detailed enough for even a new Linux user to make an informed decision
as to whether to install the package or not. From appearances, the default
would seem to install a very functional and robust system - a clear sign
that the process was well thought-out by the folks at MandrakeSoft.
Then came configuring the root password and the users. This, too, was quite
easy. Mandrake - taking the graphical element of the OS to the extreme -
presents cute little icons to choose for each user. I thought this was a bit
much, but selected the funny man with the glasses as my icon. OK. I really
picked the Penguin. It's just not as entertaining!
On to the network installation. I'm a long-time ATT@Home user (TCI, ATT,
Mediacomm ... different name, same crummy service). I've actually ignored
their dynamic IP addressing scheme for over a year now, maintaining a static
IP. This element of the install was really the first that required that I
have some information in front of me. But, I've done enough installs to know
by heart my IP, DNS servers, gateway, subnet mask, and domain. Of all of
those items, the only ones I really needed to know to install Mandrake
networking were the IP and DNS info.
My system time was handled by NTP, the Network Time Protocol. This is
crucial to me, as I've often had weirdnesses with Linux system time in a
dual-boot configuration. Again, this information, including my preferred NTP
server, was gathered during the install and dropped into the routine without
Then came the mother of all Linux killers - the X server setup. Making X
Window work in Linux has stopped many a potential user dead in their tracks
and sent them screaming back to Redmond. I know. I was nearly one of them.
But Mandrake stepped up to the task, finding both my video cards: an onboard
Intel i810 and a PCI Voodoo 3. And, yes, it gave me the choice of which I'd
like to use as the default. Refreshing, I say. Refreshing.
There were some other real highlights in this install. PrinterDrake handled
my printer configuration flawlessly (an HP DeskJet 882C - normally well into
the realm of Windows printers.) The bootloader was thorough, allowing me to
include failsafe and floppy boots in the Lilo screen if I so chose. I
removed them, but it was nice to have the option. All boot options were
completely configurable. And Mandrake, recognizing my Philips CDRW 1200,
even configured Lilo to ignore it as a CD-ROM and install the ide-scsi
drivers. This just means that my burner worked as a burner right out of the
This was, all in all, a very nice, very painless installation. I couldn't be
more impressed with the thought and effort given to the process.
MandrakeSoft has made a huge move to draw new users into the Linux fold -
even users who've had a tough ride in previous Linux installs. My RedHat hat
is off to them. There *were* a few gotchas - nothing earth-shaking but
important, nonetheless. I'll talk about those tomorrow, as well as giving
you a rundown on the installed and available applications in this great