Most long time Linux users, when asked their favorite distribution will readily answer either Debian or Slackware. However, these distributions are definitely not geared toward newbie users. Most people would rather point and click than have to edit configuration files manually and do every thing from the command line, which comes naturally to some people. For the widespread acceptance of Linux in the software world, it is easy to see how an easy to use distribution is necessary. Linux is rapidly becoming more of a software commodity than strictly a thing for computer geeks.
Linux Mandrake is by far the most popular distribution among newbies and people for whom /bin/bash is intimidating. The graphical installation is a breeze. It was so easy it almost left me feeling a little guilty, as if I had gotten away with something. The installation can be carried out in a variety of different modes. In the more advanced and expert modes, it asks you more questions. In newbie mode, it just does what generally makes the most sense. The installation requires anywhere from 300MB to nearly 1.5GB.
Once installed, Mandrake Linux greets you with a nice graphical environment. Included software in the 8.0 release includes KDE 2.1.1, GNOME 1.4, Xfree86 4.0.3, Nautilus 1.03, and the Linux kernel 2.4.3. KDE 2.1.1 paired with Xfree86 4.0.3 yieldsone feature that is very pleasant to anyone who spends a great deal of time with their computer: antialiasing. If you need a graphical browser but don't want to deal with the bloat of Mozilla and Netscape, KDE's Konqueror is great: it is quite flexible and very quick. Mandrake comes with over 10 other window managers, including Sawfish, Enlightenment (my personal favorite), and IceWM.
Also included in this distribution are several graphical productivity tools for development and office work. For development, Mandrake comes with Kdevelop 1.4, an IDE for developing graphical and console applications in C and C++ (not better than emacs, IMHO). Also included is Koffice, a clone of MS Office. It is useful when receiving email attachments from people who send you things like an MS PowerPoint presentation or something. Besides all these tools for getting work done, there are plenty of games and multimedia fun programs.
This is all fine for newbies, but what about getting rid of all the memory- hogging graphical software if it isn't needed? Well, as expected, changing a 5 to a 3 in /etc/inittab gives the standard console-based login and text environment. Mandrake is well rounded in this area as well with the latest versions of all our favorite terminal-based tools.
I wouldn't really recommend Linux-Mandrake to long time Linux users. Its ease of use and graphical software can become obnoxious easily. But I would recommend it to newbies. It is also good if one is just starting to initiate another with Linux. While it probably isn't the best for a lot of purposes, Linux-Mandrake 8.0 certainly has its uses.
by Sam Kennedy for Attrition.org