23 Jul 2001 khazad   » (Journeyer)

I'm back to Campinas for another round of job interviews.

Mandrake "Usability"
Last weekend I was in my mother's house. I took one of the Mandrake 7.2 shrink-wrap boxes Mandrake gave me on New York's Linux World Expo. The only time I tried to install one of these on a friend's computer here in Campinas it failed completely to detect the partition table on the hard drive (while RH 6.2 and FreeBSD 4.2 detected it fine, same computer).

Here goes a report of the epopea:
After deciding that repartitioning was a bad idea (no backup media around), and as Mandrake's manual said the Linux4Win install was a bit slower, I decided for it. I boot from CD 1, start installing... the progress indicator starts saying "34 minutes total, 34 minutes left". It just keeps increasing. 40. 55. 1h20. 1h40. I came in later and it was reading '2h09 total, 4 minutes left'. Those must have been the longest 4 minutes ever, they lasted like half an hour, after which I started hitting the Cancel button on screen. The button went 'down' and 'up'. I must have hit it about 50 times. Nothing happens. I peruse the VTs, RPM says it's working. Reboot, remove C:\lnx4win, try again with less packages... I notice also that you can't go back and forth in the installation.

After another 2 hours, installing only the basic, it's done. GRUB fails to load the newly installed Mandrake system. fdisk /MBR to restore it, and start it from the .exe in Windows. It takes eons to load. It was a K6-2 500 MHz/64MB machine and it took like 6 minutes to get past the green OKs part of the boot process. X, which worked so cute during the install, comes in without mouse. DrakXConf uses a non-standard widget to present the 'clones of Control Panel items', making it impossible to select the 'Configure Mouse' item with the keyboard. All in all, it was too sluggish to use.

Now, the most funny thing is that I hear lots of people saying Slackware is not well suited for newbies and that Mandrake is the most 'user-friendly' Linux distro around. I'm using Slackware since late 1996, have tried RH and Conectiva just to come back crying to Slackware. Some comparisons:

1. Slack seems to use a regular, unmodified kernel. It never failed to detect the partition tables on me.

2. Slack uses text mode. It's not so cute, but when I 'hit' a button, it works (unlike Mandrake's Cancel button).

3. Slack never lied about the time left to finish for me.

4. I can go back and forth in Slack's installation.

(Everything I say about Slack above applies to FreeBSD's install too)

Not to mention that I had to manually edit /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 to configure the mouse on this experience. Recommending Mandrake for newbies looks offensive.

It's been some weeks since I last touched the code, better work a little on it tonight.

...currently brainstorming some interesting way to protest against Adobe (first PDF (Pifious Document Format), then KIllustrator, now this...), send suggestions if you have any :-)

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