Eskild Hustvedt

Ubuntu/Mandriva comparison

I know you’re probably sick and tired of these comparisions. If so, don’t continue to read, and definetely don’t troll in the comments :).

I had so many various problems with 2008.0 that I felt it might be prudent to try some alternatives (I’ve upgraded to 2008.0 on 4 boxes so far, with not a single one going smoothly without issues). My choice fell on Ubuntu. Was considering to try out Debian too, but I know Debian is good - but not quite end-user desktop-friendly.

I live on the commandline. So just about all I do is identical on all distros since I just carry my configs with me. However I still see hw-detection and general usability and integration. So, I’m going to just start with a little comparison, and we’ll see where we go from here. The comparison is seperated into positive (+) and negative (-) comments.

This is all my personal opinions.

Ubuntu (7.10):

  • Live installer works very well. Especially nice that it removes unneeded locales and downloads missing ones during installation.
  • GNOME default desktop
  • sudo-only actually works quite well
  • Very well integrated into GNOME (ie. 3d-effects can be set up in the appearance applet in GNOME)
  • Clean, empty GNOME desktop by default
  • apt-get is great and shows how much it needs to download
  • aptitude looks good
  • integrated distribution-upgrade system
  • detected all the HW and worked nicely
  • Quite polished
  • Appears quite stable
  • gnome-app-install is pretty
  • Firefox patched to use native package manager to find plugins
  • Totem automatically finds missing plugins
  • More progress shared with other distros (ie. networkManager)
  • Progressbars when installing software (always in the GUI)
  • Ability to see verbose installation messages in the GUI
  • Missing some translations
  • Some of the translations isn’t of the best quality
  • Synaptic is very ugly
  • For some reason when I removed evolution, the menu item didn’t get removed (not even when using apt-get purge)
  • Uses a white mouse pointer by default (I don’t like it, but luckily that can be easily changed)
  • No profile.d
  • Told me it needed to reboot after installing the nvidia driver

Mandriva (2008.0):

  • urpmi is also good
  • Well translated
  • Good hw detection
  • Has a tool for /everything/
  • PLF
  • RPMDrake is good (better than synaptic, not close to gnome-app-install)
  • Great perl module packaging
  • MP3 playback by default
  • GNOME Live CD not published along with the rest of the distro
  • GNOME Live CD not advertised for new users, they only get the option of KDE
  • No beta of the GNOME Live CD
  • Not as well integrated into the DE
  • The tools aren’t as “polished”. Ie. when a drak* tool needs to install something it pops ups 3-4 small windows informing about what it’s doing - none of them has a progressbar, and sometimes they say the same. Also the windows aren’t refreshed as often, but block and become unresponsive.
  • Although urpmi got improved it still doesn’t say how much it needs to download. Something other distros have had for ages, and that I opened a wishlist bug for in 2005
  • I haven’t installed one 2008.0 machine without various issues (sound stopping to work, performance bad, sound not working properly, X driver not set up properly)
  • Live CD set up autologin by default without asking about it
  • No Mandriva Flash GNOME (except GUADEC edition)

Trolls and flames in the comments will be deleted.

Update: Note that I made no conclusion on which distro was better. I’m simply attempting to write a simple and incomplete comparison. The comparison is also mostly based upon first impressions, and should be treated as such.

I’m also not saying I’m switching camps for those wondering ;).

Concerning GNOME Flash. Well, maybe that isn’t really fair. Flash is good, and GUADEC flash is good. However I did get annoyed that only a KDE was made available. Also, no, the point isn’t /really/ that Mandriva prefers KDE for LiveCDs - it so happens I prefer GNOME and thus see GNOME as a plus.

When I talk about “better” integration, what I mean is basically that Ubuntu is more centered around the desktop environment than Mandriva is (which can be good and bad I guess). In Mandriva to configure stuff you would use drakconf, in Ubuntu most is in the GNOME System menu. Granted, some stuff from Mandriva is available there too, but Ubuntu has everything. However, Mandriva has, like stated, tools for just about everything. Ubuntu does not. They’re quite differently structured. The Ubuntu tools look like they are /made/ for GNOME and part of GNOME (which I guess they are). The Mandriva tools look like a seperate app, which they are, and is probably also good considering the wealth of tools available. It just feels a bit easier to just System -> Administration and select whatever you want to do there. Don’t get me wrong, Mandrivas GNOME is good. Kudos goes to Mandriva for giving a GNOME LiveCD, I’d just like to see it better marketed (not like on right now where you only get the option of KDE. KDE is good but imho you should be able to chose, as Mandriva One now appears to be the preferred version to download).

Concerning autologin, if I recall correctly, the previous versions of Mandriva One did not activate autologin by default, which is why I reacted negatively to that this time.

Update 2: Yes, urpmi displays how much it needs to /install/. But it doesn’t (and can’t, since the information isn’t available in the current hdlist formats) display how much it needs to download. Which is often a good deal less than what it will take when installed.