Vincent Zoonekynd's Blog

Sat, 01 Jun 2013: Mandriva 2006

I have been using Mandriva (formerly known as Mandrake) for several years, but I am less and less happy with it. I usually reinstall the system twice a year, in order to have (the impression to have) a brand new, faster computer each time: here are the notes I took during the latest (last?) install -- and the reasons why I am drifting away from this distribution.

Installing the distribution

The DVD (from a magazine)

No problem. The only non-obvious choice is, as usual, the language selection: if you want several (British English, French and Japanese, in my case), you have to select the "Advanced" option.

Contrary to the previous versions, we do not have to select the screen resolution and the graphics card -- they are directly recognised. Or did it cheat and read the previous configuration file?

Contrary to previous versions, we do not have to disable the servers that were installed and set to run (SMTP) even though we had asked that there be no server.

Missing software

Nothing to watch movies, not even anything to listen to MP3 or OGG Vorbis files (what is wrong with Ogg Vorbis?).


Easyurpmi, PLF

To solve that problem, I use the Penguin Liberation Front (PLF): a repository of (patent-wise) problematic software for Mandrake. Go to and answer the questions.

urpmi.addmedia plf-free with 
urpmi.addmedia plf-nonfree with 
urpmi.addmedia --update updates with media_info/ 
urpmi.addmedia main with media_info/ 
urpmi.addmedia contrib with media_info/ 
urpmi.addmedia jpackage with media_info/ 


Urpmi is the command to install new software: contrary to what people are used with Windows, you do not have to scour the internet for each software and track down its dependencies -- just give the name, the computer will do the rest (download it, check its dependencies, download them, and install everything).

More specifically, I add the following programs.

echo Shell
urpmi zsh 

echo Images 
urpmi gqview 

echo Music, Video
urpmi aumix mplayer transcode real-codecs win32-codecs xanim-codecs xmms unrar xmms-musepack xmms-mac jhead

echo Security
urpmi lsof ethereal sawfish bc ncftp

echo Postscript, PDF
urpmi gv xpdf 

echo Development
urpmi g77
urpmi readline-devel libgraphviz7-devel libgmp3-devel # Needed for R
urpmi perl-HTML-Parser perl-HTML-LinkExtractor

echo LaTeX
urpmi auctex tetex tetex-latex

echo Mathematics
urpmi scilab maxima

echo Filesharing
urpmi unrar lha p7zip
urpmi amule
urpmi bittornado
urpmi azureus   # No...

I will need g77 (to install R, from source), but I have a few qualms.

[root@localhost ~]# urpmi g77
To satisfy dependencies, the following 3 packages are going to be installed (18 MB):

[root@localhost ~]# gcc --version
gcc (GCC) 4.0.1 (4.0.1-5mdk for Mandriva Linux release 2006.0)
Copyright (C) 2005 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO

Well, actually, it is normal: given that Fortran is (should be) a dead language, it is not surprisiong that the development of the compiler is eventually considered finished. For newer versions of the language, check the G95 (stable, almost bug-free) and GFortran (fork of G95, part of GCC, still in development) projects.

Actually, I could have installed gfortran instead.


For those of you who do not know R, it is a (free) statistical programming language, very similar to Matlab -- but for statistics, not engineering. If you needed an excuse to learn statistics:

Since I want the latest version and ALL the packages, I install it from source, as usual.

wget -r -l 1 -np -nc -x -k -K -E -U Mozilla
tar zxvf R*.tar.gz
cd R*/
make test
make install
cd ..
for i in*.tar.gz


There is a cat in the KDE bar (called "kat"): it is a search engine, that will try to index ALL your hard drive (I recently bought a 300GB one...). Disactivate it, otherwise the machine will be unuseable.

I can no longer use Konqueror: for some reason, it wants to take ALL the CPU of the machine. Is it due to some Javascript on some pages? Is it due to its not stopping the animations (you can stop the animations, but not as easily as with Mozilla, where pressing the ESC key suffices)? I fall back to mozilla-firefox.

I have to remove (urpme) k3b: each time I insert a blank CD, the application is lauched and tries to do weird things with the CD -- unfortunately, when it does that, several seconds have passed and I have already run cdrecord, there is a conflict, and the CD ends up in the bin -- three of them tonight.

When I close the lid of the laptop, I am violently logged off. I try to remove all the services that could be the cause of the problem (acpi, laptop, etc.). It works, but the screen saver no longer switches the screen off -- but the computer is always on...

Gimp often "crashes": it completely freezes, as if hit by a "kill -STOP" (I recently went on holiday and I have 1500 photos to process).

Kmail crashes as often as usual, in particular when I delete mails on the server via the web interface while it is still retrieving something.

The kwallet is not as annoying as it used to be: It told me that I could provide an empty password.

There are still font problems: when I ask Mozilla to enlarge the font, it takes ages -- at work, on WIndows, it is very fast.

I am not sure if the trackpad is getting old or if it is a genuine problem with Mandriva 2006, but the mouse cursor often freezes. I switch to another virtual desktop (I configured KDE so that I could do it from the keyboard) and it works again.

I also have a few problems with SCIM (used to input Japanese characters, e.g., in Google) popping up more or less randomly (it should only appear when I type C-Space). It is not as bad as in the previous Mandrake (the only way to have it disappear was to look for the process and to kill it -- but it would reappear a couple of minutes later, so I had to put the "killall" command in an infinite loop -- very cumbersome when you watch videos), but when the popup disappears (after pressing C-Space), the keyboard focus is not where it should be.

I did not try to install the NVidia drivers. Actually, I have not tried for more than one year -- it is too cumbersome, and I would only use it for 3-dimensional stuff such as Blender.


Moving away from Mandriva

With the previous Mandrake distributions, each time I installed a new one (every six months), I had the impression I had a new, faster and more powerful computer. This is no longer the case. The computer appears slower and less useable.

The main reason why I stayed with Mandrake, the PLF (Penguin Liberation Front, a set of "contentious" free software, including audio and video players), is still there, but does it really compensate for the emerging drawbacks of the distribution?

I am a little uneasy about switching to another distribution. I would need to:

1. Save my data, the files (easy), but also the bookmarks, the mails (I often lose them when I switch to another system -- say, Mandrake 9 to Mandrake 10), the configuration files of various software, the passwords that are stored more or less everywhere, the crontab (the normal one and the one in /etc/cron.daily/)

2. Know how to install new software, in particular the "contentious" ones -- the media players and their codecs, as well as Java.

Suse, Ubuntu and Gentoo are on my list.

Suse (not tried yet)

This is reportedly the best and oldest competitor to Mandriva.

The equivalent of the PLF is "Packman".

Yast:  the equivalent of the Mandrake Control Center
To add other software
  Add the following repositories:
  Refresh (all of them)
To read DVDs:
SUSEWatcher: Software Update Monitor

Ubuntu (not tried yet)

This is a Debian-based distribution. Once installed, one should add a few repositories:


and new software can then be installed as

apt-get install mplayer

Gentoo (not tried yet)

Gentoo compiles all the applications from source. Automatically. This is bound to be very fun, but also very long -- I remember waiting hours for X11 to compile back in the 1990s, on SunOS machines...

But as a consequence, you will know your system -- all of its components. This is a major drawback of most distributions (and even operating systems): when you first use them, you know their every nook and cranny, but as years pass, the system get more and more complicated and as you only interact with their top-level layer, remain up-to-date with their inner workings -- even when it has consequences or applications for the end user.

Gentoo gives you back the knowledge of your system.

As a side effect, Gentoo does not have any problem with MP3 files or DVDs.

But be ready to digest the 100-page installation manual.



The installation does not go as smoothly as it should. First, it wants to reformat all the drives -- I have a 300GB external drive that only holds data and that should NOT be reformated. I found it safer to unplug this drive. On the main hard drive it does not even suggest to reuse the existing partitions. Second, It suggests to put everything in a single partition: if you want your data on a second partition, you have to go into expert mode. For someone who really wants to use the system, in the long term, this is a bad choice -- Mandrake used to do that as well.

There are errors during the installation -- I have been installing Linux at least twice a year and it is the first time it happens. Twice. It is an MD5 checksum problem for xorg-x11-fonts-75dpi and xerces-j2.

There are no details during the installation: it says "Remaining > 2:00:00", that is all. We just have to hope it is actually doing something and is not frozen.

On the positive side, since this is not the OSS version, there should be more software, namely Java, some media players and Mono.

The installer sees that I have a modem (it says "unconfigured", but it knows it is a modem).

When I try to download the patches, it hangs while retrieving OpenOffice.Org -- the progree bar remained at 1% for 5 minutes, then switched to 2%, then I lost patience.

Missing software

Since this is not the free version, since I even have Java, you would guess that I should have no problems with audio or video files. Wrong guess. There are no problems with MP3 files -- I even found Amarok useable! --, it cannot read AVI files.

I have to go into Yast , add a couple of repositories (the equivalent of the PLF (Penguin Liberation Front), the repositary that contains software with potential patent concerns, is called Packman).

Even after that, the media player, Kaffeine, still cannot read the videos. But mplayer can (I also use mplayer as an alarm clock, with the crontab and mms://

The NVidia drivers are not there -- since this is nit the free version, I was expecting to see them...

There is no "locate" command...

There is no "Emacs" or "XEmacs". Just Kate (and vim).

LaTeX is not there (this is normal -- I just have to install tetex).

The GET command that should be installed with perl-LWP is nowhere to be seen... Ah, it is in perl-libwww-perl.

No C compiler.

Installing R

tar zxvf R-*gz
cd R*/
su -c make install

Among the error messages:

configure: error: no acceptable C compiler found in $PATH

Do not laugh. I did ask for a developer's machine, with all the compilers, with Java and C#.

Be sure to install gcc, g77, readline-devel.

Then, it becomes more serious (another Fortran problem):

configure: WARNING: I could not determine FPICFLAGS.
configure: error: See the file INSTALL for more information.

The INSTALL file tells us to type "./configure && make", nothing more. I install gfortran (and scilab, that appeared on the same package search).

The next error message is:

configure: error: --with-x=yes (default) and X11 headers/libs are not available

I install xorg-x11-devel. I install libpng-devel.

linux:/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0 # make install make[1]: Entering directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/m4' make[1]: Nothing to be done for `install'. make[1]: Leaving directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/m4' make[1]: Entering directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/tools' make[1]: Nothing to be done for `install'. make[1]: Leaving directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/tools' make[1]: Entering directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc' installing doc ... make[2]: Entering directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc/html' make[3]: Entering directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc/manual' creating doc/html/resources.html make[3]: *** [../html/resources.html] Error 1 make[3]: Leaving directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc/manual' installing doc/html ... make[3]: Entering directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc/html/search' installing doc/html/search ... make[3]: Leaving directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc/html/search' /usr/bin/install: cannot stat `resources.html': No such file or directory make[2]: *** [install] Error 1 make[2]: Leaving directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc/html' make[1]: *** [install] Error 1 make[1]: Leaving directory `/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0/doc' make: *** [install] Error 1 linux:/media/ieee1394disk/tmp/R/R-2.2.0 # touch doc/html/resources.html

Then it works...

Now, the packages...

wget -r -l 1 -np -x -k -K -E -U Mozilla
for i in*.tar.gz

More problems

When I plug my external hard drive, it only mounts one of the two (ext3) partitions. I have to mount the others by hand.

There are latency problems with Amarok, the audio player -- I have only rarely had that problem with mplayer, even thoug I systematically got a warning about some latency options in the kernel not being enabled or accessible to the user. When I switch screens or perform some disc operations (e.g., looking for a package in Yast) or even select "Configure Amarok" in the menus, the music stops for half a second. This is not acceptable.

The BitTorrent client, ktorrent, is buggy: first, it does not seem to upload anything, the estimated times it gives are very unstable (it changes every second and can jump from 20 minutes to 40 hours -- but I guess reality will be beyond 2 or 3 days for this YAPC NA 2005 DVD iso image), second, after 5 to 10 minutes, it hangs and takes all the CPU. Apparently, this is a known bug, but it will not be corrected before next month. I end up running it as

while :
  killall ktorrent
  sleep 10
  ktorrent &
  sleep 600

I try mldonkey, that knows about several P2P networks and is split into two part, a deamon and a GUI. The problem is tha Suse only provides the GUI part, kmldonkey (under the name "mldonkey") and not the server itself (mldonkey, more precisely, we are looking for an executable calles "mlnet"). I therefore install it by hand...

Actually, we do NOT need the GUI: one can talk to ther server either via telnet

telnet localhost 4000



Incidentally, mldonkey is written in ocaml.

By default, it runs in ~/.lmdonkey -- I will have to put this on another drive...

cd /media/i3*
cp -a ~/.mldonkey ./mldonkey
rm -rf ~/.mldonkey/
ln -l `pwd`/mkdonkey ~/.mldonkey

If I try to install mldonkey from source:

zoonek@linux:/tmp/MLNET/mldonkey-2.7.1> ./configure
Arguments to configure:
checking build system type... Invalid configuration `i686-pc-linux-': machine `i686-pc-linux' not recognized
configure: error: /bin/sh ./config.sub i686-pc-linux- failed

There are also some acpi problems: I should reboot and give the "noacpi" to the kernel.

The default Konqueror configuration asks about Cookies for almost every site:this is annoying and we do not really know what to do about it (you have to go in the configuration menu to learn that "accpet all cookies" actually means "accept all cookies provided they come from the same site").

When I plug a USB device (say, a digital camera), it is not automatically mounted.

mkdir /media/camera
ls -l /dev/sd*
mount /dev/sdb1 /media/camera

The "df" command does NOT display all the drives that are actually mounted.

zoonek@linux:/media/ieee1394disk> df
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda2             13638744   4238112   9400632  32% /
tmpfs                   387888        12    387876   1% /dev/shm
/dev/hda3             14610620   4333488  10277132  30% /home
/dev/sda5            101887344  30885896  65825848  32% /media/external1
zoonek@linux:/media/ieee1394disk> df .
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda6            186569204 172145064   4946892  98% /media/ieee1394disk

When I copy-paste a few shell commands in a shell window (bash), they do not appear in the history. Zsh does not have this problem.

The subtitles used by mplayer do not always have to right size: I end up with overly small subtitles... I guess it is a font installation problem...

mplayer -identify -aid 1 -sid 0 -font /usr/share/mplayer/fonts/font-arial-28-iso-8859-1/font.desc

The music Amarok plays is not continuous: when I open another window (say, the "Configure" menu in Amarok itself), the music stops for a fraction of a second. With mplayer, I really had to have an overloaded machine (huges disk accesses for a long time) for this to happen.

I also have a few MP3 files that Amarok cannot read -- but good old GUI-less mplayer has never had any problem with them!

posted at: 19:17 | path: /Linux | permanent link to this entry