Saturday, November 30, 2013

OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 Review: Looks awesome but needs to improve functionality and performance

I have been following OpenMandriva for quite sometime, occasionally testing their release candidate distros as well. For those who are not aware of the latest Mandriva spin on the block, OpenMandriva distribution is a full-featured Linux desktop and server, sponsored by the OpenMandriva Association. It is based on ROSA, a Russian Mandriva fork, and hence, the look and feel of OpenMandriva is too similar to ROSA. With Mandriva dead, OpenMandriva joins three of my favorite distros, PCLinuxOS, Mageia and ROSA, as the surviving Mandriva spins. The formal release of OpenMandriva came out on 22 Nov 2013 and like any other Linux enthusiast, I seriously wanted to give it a try.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
I download the 1.6 GB 64-bit ISO for this review. I created a live USB using Linux Mint ImageWriter (works with more distros than Unetbootin), did a live boot and installed it on my favorite two machines:

  • Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 3610QM processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M graphics
  • Asus K54C laptop 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics

I wanted to check the performance of the distro in both hybrid and single graphic card environment. Hence, the dual machine. Further, I installed it in virtualbox to record the installation process.

OpenMandriva is forked from Mandriva and ships with KDE 4.11.2, Linux kernel 3.11.8 and Dolphin 4.11.2 as file manager. Like ROSA, OpenMandriva too ships with the most modern but stable Linux software. Next I take you through step by step my experience of using OpenMandriva for a week.


Aesthetics
OpenMandriva ships with a tweaked KDE interface very similar to ROSA Linux KDE. Similar all blue designed interface with big icons and dash instead of menu.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
It is attractive but to my mind, ships with disadvantages of GNOME 3 dash. Unity dash is more functional in a sense that at least the applications are categorized and easier to find. Once I installed 30-35 applications, browsing apps became a real arduous task when I forgot the exact name. A search option is there to facilitate if you recall the name of the app correctly.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Last week, before starting to use OpenMandriva, I was using OpenSUSE for all my production purposes. And honestly, font rendering in OpenMandriva is much more pleasing to the eyes than the default font rendering in OpenSUSE. Also, OpenMandriva is more aesthetically pleasing. The icons in the dash are quite good to look at and there are quite a few customization options for icons, themes, etc. available as in any other KDE spin. However, I didn't go to tinker with the default theme as it looks really good. Along with the default wallpaper, there are some 5-6 good wallpapers available in OpenMandriva. However, none of them gel better than the default simple wallpaper.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
OpenGL 2.0 worked quite good on both my laptops and I could create desktop cubes and cylinders without any hassle.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Hardware Recognition
OpenMandriva recognized my laptop's hardware (wifi, lan, screen resolution, touchpad and sound card) immediately. But, I had some issues with touchpad functioning. Somehow I couldn't make two finger vertical scroll work but rest of the functions like single, double tap, etc. worked quite well. I checked the touchpad settings but with no avail. May be a bug which I guess the developers need to correct soon. It is uneasy to work on OpenMandriva with vertical scroll not working.

Installation
Installation of OpenMandriva is perhaps the fastest I've ever used. It took me 15 minutes to install it on a couple of computers, one after the other. Questions are pretty basic and except for hard disk partitioning, the rest of the things should not challenge even Linux novices. I guess somewhere I read about OpenMandriva using legacy grub but in my installation it was grub2. So, no qualms there from my side.
From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

Applications
OpenMandriva ships with most of the basic applications pre-installed. For example:
  • Office: Libreoffice 4.1.3.2 Calc, Write, Draw, Impress, Kaddressbook, Kontact, Korganizer, Okular document reader
  • Internet: Firefox 25.0.1, Kget, Kmail, Kopete, KPPP, KrDC, Krfb, Ktorrent, Kvirc
  • Graphics: Gwenview image viewer, Krita, Ksnapshot, X-sane scanning
  • Multimedia: Amarok audio player, AMZ downloader, K3b disc burning, ROSA Media Player, VLC 2.0.7 
  • Accessories: Ark, BlueDevil, Epson Inkjet Printer Manager, HP Device Manager, HP Send Fax, Ktimer, Ktime tracker, Konsole, Knotes, Kalarm, Kcalc, Knotes, Kwallet, Kwriter, Nepomuk backup & cleaner, Regional settings, Root terminal
Multimedia codecs are pre-installed in the distro but Adobe flash plugin requires installation. Otherwise, the software choice is pretty good. They work as expected and I am not going to spend much time in discussing about the applications as there are bigger things to discuss.

Configure your computer
OpenMandriva ships with additional setting options than the default KDE settings manager (named here "configure your desktop"). The OpenMandriva Lx Control Center 2013.0 is a great way to integrate and customize software addition/deletion, hardware, network, local disk, security and boot settings. Some of the items are common to the KDE settings and can be accessed and modified from there as well. I did some tinkering around with the control center and all of them worked well. For example, adding repos from ROSA through Configure media sources, changing to default KDE boot splash through boot settings option, etc.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
The control center is a definite handy addition and should appeal to the new users.

Repositories
OpenMandriva 2013.0 version sources it's packages from main, non-free, contrib and restricted repos. I browsed for most common packages I use and they are there. It may not be as rich as a Debian or Ubuntu, but workable never-the-less.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
RPMDrake is the default package manager and it works more or less like synaptic. It is pretty fast and I didn't miss synaptic package manager during my usage.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
I downloaded a whole lot of packages like Chromium browser, Adobe flash plugin, etc. along with several dependencies while installing bumblebee. It worked like a charm.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Further, through root terminal or terminal with root privileges, packages can be downloaded using urpmi command. For new users with experience in Ubuntu / Debian, urpmi is similar to apt-get install command.

No Nvidia support in OpenMandriva but bumblebee can be compiled from source
I was a bit surprised that bumblebee or nvidia support didn't exist much in OpenMandriva. While the distro ran pretty good on my Asus K54C with Intel graphics, it was a mess on my Asus K55VM with hybrid graphics. I did almost everything possible to resolve it, namely:
1. Using XFdrake, I selected Nvidia of my choice of graphics but on reboot, I ended up with the CLI. I had to change it back to intel to be able to see the desktop again. Didn't work.
From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
2. I forgot the sites from where I got the ROSA bumblebee support links. I added those repos but didn't work with OpenMandriva.

So, I decided compiling from the source is the only option. The bumblebee 32 and 64 bit package can be downloaded from the bumblebee site with full instructions to install here. After almost spending 3 hours in resolving dependencies, finally I was able to successfully install and enable bumblebee system wide. I give here step by step instructions:
1. Download bumblebee 3.2.1 (the latest) package from this link http://bumblebee-project.org/bumblebee-3.2.1.tar.gz to the Downloads directory

2. Unzip the bumblebee package by running the following commands from the terminal
$cd ./Downloads
$tar xf bumblebee-3.2.1.tar.gz

3. Now navigate to the directory where bumblebee is unpacked.
$cd ./bumblebee-3.2.1

4. Now run to configure
$ ./configure

I ran into a lot of dependencies being missing. So, I added them one by one.
A. pkgconfig : the configure log showed as pkg-config missing, browsed net to find that it is pkgconfig in OpenMandriva
B. lib64x11-devel : configure log showed x11 being missing, again some research showed that it is actually lib64x11-devel. To be on the safer side, I also installed lib64xorgx11-devel as well.
C. lib64glib2.0-devel: Again log showed glib2.0 being missing.
D. lib64bsd-devel, dkms-bbswitch and virtualgl.
From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
You can search the package manager for all these packages. Once they are all installed, run ./configure again. On my system, finally it ran correctly after couple of hours of effort!

5. Now once the configuration has completed, build the binaries:
$make
To install it system-wide, login as root without closing the terminal or leaving /Downloads/bumblebee-3.2.1 folder:
$su
provide password
#make install

6. Then you must create group bumblebee and add yourself to it
#groupadd bumblebee
#gpasswd -a #user bumblebee
Reboot to apply the changes.

7. Post reboot, open root terminal again and run the following command:
#bumblebeed --daemon

8. I had to change the bumblebee.conf from /usr/local/etc/bumblebee/bumblebee.conf and added nvidia-current as driver and kerneldriver with correct path to the driver files. Also, I blacklisted nouveau.

Thus, I could make bumblebee work for me and the laptop heat came down drastically.

From OpenMandriva Lx 2013.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Sad that OpenMandriva doesn't ship with Nvidia support. I guess almost 50% of the Linux users these days have hybrid graphics and I think the developers should provide hybrid graphics support as a basic requirement.

Performance
OpenMandriva consumes a lot of resources, in fact it is 50% higher than any 64 bit KDE I have used this year. May be the tweaking or it may be something else. This is a bit surprising as distros like PCLinuxOS and Mageia, both Mandriva forks, are one of the most efficient distros that I have used. At steady state, OpenMandriva consumed about 600 MB RAM and 1-10% CPU. It won't run at all on any machine with less than 2 GB RAM. On my Asus K54C with Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM, the distro felt a bit heavy to work with. All the RAM CPU usage below are recorded on my Asus K55VM under similar conditions.


Operating System (64 bit) Size of ISO Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU Usage RAM usage Size of installation
Netrunner 13.06 KDE 1.4 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.10.3 3.8.0 1-10% 410 MB 5.7 GB
OpenSUSE 13.1 KDE 4.1 GB OpenSUSE KDE 4.11.2 3.11.6 1-10% 436 MB 4.47 GB
Chakra Fritz 2013.09 1.8 GB Arch KDE 4.11.1 3.10.10 1-10% 499 MB 5.17 GB
Netrunner 12.12 KDE 1.6 GB Ubuntu KDE 4.9.4 3.5.0 1-10% 514 MB
OpenMandriva LX 2013.0 1.6 GB Mandriva KDE 4.11.2 3.11.8 1-10% 599 MB 5.03 GB

Overall
In overall, I expected a bit more from OpenMandriva. It looks totally awesome and the installer is in particular intriguing. OpenMandriva installation is perhaps the fastest I have used. Further, OpenMandriva Control Center is a real handy tool for new users. But, there are a lot of inefficiencies in the distro. First and foremost, the distro consumes a lot more resources than other comparable KDE 4.11 OSs. It won't even run on any machine with less than 2 GB RAM. Further, it is a bit uneasy to work without two finger vertical scroll.

Second, no hybrid graphics support is a bit surprising these days when majority of the machines come with either Nvidia or AMD Radeon graphic cards. Also, the distro is meant for powerful machines and not the low spec ones and yet, the developers didn't provide any hybrid graphics support. What a lame non-techie like me can do sitting at home, I believe the developers could have done it much better.

Hence, I would like to see full fledged hybrid graphics support in the future releases of OpenMandriva. Till then, I will pass and continue using OpenSUSE as my primary distro. Any day, OpenSUSE is more functional and efficient.

Anyway, those interested in trying out OpenMandriva can download it from here

8 comments:

  1. Well i've been using since 2001 Mandrake, then Mandriva and now i decide to use Openmandriva on my newly Laptop, but to be honest i am dissapointed about this first release, since i am not a Kde User i always install Gnome or Xfce, and after i had installed some tools like kolourpaint or xfce strange things happened like, network manager stops functioning, sounds stops too but i could take it back including my user to the audio group, i cannot mount usb as a user, my network manager in xfce does not work either and Gnome is just broken, Oh and the grub2 seems unable to create a new entry for another partition since I am a FreeBSD user too sooo ... :/ ,Looks like it has some bug's regressions and there is very poorly information about issues like that. OpenMandriva just steps in with a lot of problems at least for me, and I feel bad for saying this but I'm gonna have to look for something else like Mageia, I have never feel so obfuscated about insatlling Mandriva, as this. I wish i could help to improve OpenMandriva but anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you. Even I'm a bit disappointed. However this is the first release of openmandriva and I'm hoping of significant improvement by the time second release comes out in 2014.
      Regards,
      Arindam

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah OpenMandriva is my favorite of the mandriva forks distributions, I don't like Mageia, and ROSA is nice, but I think OpenMandriva is taking their base and improving it with newer software, so I will go for it. Anyway, it's still inmature, specially the installer, they have to improve it, for example it won't let install grub!!! I don't know why, but without grub I can't start the system. This happened to me in Rosa Fresh too.

    Also, I like OpenSUSE very much, but I have to admit that OpenMandriva is easiest to configure and seems to have more software available. What's your opinion?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like the stylish interface of openmandriva but lack of nvidia hybrid graphic card support is not allowing me to use it. Hence, Opensuse works better for me though it is not as aesthetically pleasing as openmandriva.

      Regards,
      Arindam

      Delete
  4. I do like openMandriva but it's lack support for ati driver, my pc using radeon HD 4350. And furthermore it doesn't support my canon MP160 printer. So i have to switch to openSUSE 13.1 Anyway i will keep watching how it develop in 2014 and hopefully they can add more hardware support.

    ReplyDelete