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Mageia 7 Pushes Linux Desktop Boundaries | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jul 8, 2019 11:51 AM PT

Mageia 7 redefines the concept of traditional Linux.

It is a solid operating system well suited to both newcomers and seasoned Linux users alike. The Mageia distro is a powerhouse Linux OS filled with features and options unmatched in other Linux versions.

Mageia Linux is a fork of the now-defunct Mandriva Linux. It was developed by a team of former employees of the France-based commercial software company that folded Mandriva. The first Mageia version was released in September 2010.

Since then, the developers have released one major upgrade each year with support for 18 months. Mageia does not have a long-term support release. Security and bug fixes are available for each new release and the immediately preceding release from the Mageia Control Center.

Based on that schedule, Mageia 7 will be supported until December 30, 2020. Mageia 6 will be supported until September 30th, 2019.

Images for version 7 are available for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures, as well as live DVDs for 64-bit Plasma, GNOME, Xfce and 32-bit Xfce.

Mageia Xfce desktop

The Xfce desktop is one of the most recognizable platforms. It combines a traditional Linux look and feel with modern speed and functionality.

This latest version, released July 1, is a serious contender to replace whatever OS is on your hard drive now. It provides something that most Linux distros fail to achieve.

Mageia is packed with the newest application versions. It also has lots of new features and support for very recent hardware.

Developers made an effort to enhance gaming in Mageia 7. This release has many new upgrades and additions to the game collection.

Popular Go-To distro

I receive a regular influx of reader comments recommending favorite distros to use. Many of the volunteered comments describe Linux distros that are good bets to try because they present little or no hassle.

Mageia is one name that is frequently mentioned. Several writers have shared that they tried Mageia Linux as a replacement for a current distro that was not living up to expectations. Once tried, Mageia became a favorite choice.

I initially tested Mageia when version 2 arrived in 2012. It was surprisingly impressive then for such a newcomer. However, its developer roots grew from Mandriva veterans, so the forked OS started as more than a new distro.

Mageia has a lot going for it. It has lived up to its potential. One reason for Mageia’s solid reputation is its independent status. It is not based on one specific Linux family such as Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora or Arch.

Packaging Provisions

Mageia uses urpmi, a command line tool for managing packages and repositories. It is an ideal method for installing, updating or removing software packages without a graphical user interface, or GUI. It is much like the apt-get tool in Debian-based distros.

Urpmi handles dependencies automatically. For Linux beginners, the included graphical tool rpmdrake is a better option. Drake, a carry over from Mandriva Linux, is also included in Mageia.

The rpmdrake package management system is used by Linux Standard Base (LSB)-compliant distributions for the low-level handling of packages. It can query, install, verify, upgrade and remove software packages.

If you have used Fedora-based distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or CentOS, you no doubt are familiar with RPM packages and the companion YUM (Yellowdog Updater Modified) high-level tool that works with RPM repositories.

You also can use the alternative package manager, DNF (Dandified Yum). The community introduced DNF as an alternative to urpmi since Mageia 6. DNF was forked from YUM several years ago.

DNF has an enhanced problem-reporting feature and advanced tracking of weak dependencies. It also has support for rich dependencies and more detailed transaction information while performing actions.

Independence Plus Choice

The Mageia project is community-based and is maintained by a nonprofit organization (Mageia.org). Its goal is to develop a free Linux-based operating system.

That goal pushes the Paris-based organization toward goals beyond delivering a secure, stable and sustainable operating system. It strives to become a credible and recognized community in the free software world.

Toward that end, the installation process gives users several options in selecting software. Mageia draws from three different repositories or media types. These depend on the type of license applied to each package.

The Core repository includes packages licensed under a free and open source license. The set of the “Core” media along with “Core Release” and “Core Updates” are enabled by default.

The Nonfree repository includes packages that are free-of-charge and free to redistribute. These contain closed-source software.

For example, this repository includes Nvidia and AMD/ATI proprietary graphics card drivers, firmware for various WiFi cards. The Nonfree media set is enabled by default. You can disable it during the installation.

The Tainted repository includes packages released under a free license. Software packages in this repository may infringe on patents and copyright laws in some countries. Examples include multimedia codecs needed to play various audio/video files and packages needed to play a commercial video DVD.

While added by default, the Tainted repository is not enabled by default. You must opt-in during the installation process.

What’s Inside

The Mageia release comes with a variety of desktops and window managers not easily found in other Linux OSes. Included is improved support for
Wayland and hybrid graphics cards.

Wayland is a display protocol slowly replacing X11 video. It enables each program to use the Wayland protocol on its own.

Mageia main menu, Wayland integration

The latest KDE Plasma release displays a modern and clean main menu. Mageia 7’s default Plasma installation is the Wayland integration.

Mageia is a reliable OS for most hardware, including most i586 and x86_64 computer systems. It runs on a reasonably low-powered set of requirements.

It is processor-agnostic. It runs on any AMD, Intel or VIA processor. It will run on a scant 512 MB RAM, although 2 GB is recommended. It has a minimum storage (HDD or SSD) requirement of 5 GB, although 20 GB is ideal.

Mageia is equally forgiving on other hardware configurations. It handles any AMD/ATI, Intel, Matrox, Nvidia, SiS or VIA graphic card. It accepts any AC97, HDA or Sound Blaster sound card.

For some kinds of hardware to work properly, such as WiFi chipsets and 3D graphics cards, specific firmware or software may be needed. You can solve that need by selecting the Nonfree online repository.

Some of the major packages that ship with Mageia 7:

  • kernel 5.1.14
  • Mesa 19.1
  • Plasma 5.15.4
  • GNOME 3.32
  • Xfce 4.14pre
  • Firefox 67
  • Chromium 73
  • LibreOffice 6.2.3

Click here to see the full list of included software.

Welcome Wagon Approach

The Mageia distro comes with something many Linux distros ignore. It has a detailed, updated user guide that eliminates all the confusion and frustration of learning a new operating system. Meet the Mageia Welcome application.

Mageia's Welcome Application, shown in the GNOME desktop edition

Mageia’s Welcome Application, shown in the GNOME desktop edition, eliminates all the confusion and frustration of learning a new operating system.

By default, this Welcome Screen runs at each subsequent boot. You can change that by disabling the auto-run option.

When you need help using Mageia, invoke the application from the main menu.

Choose Your Desktop Flavor

Mageia Linux does not strap you with a take-it-or-leave-it desktop mandate. It comes with a variety of desktops and window managers. This lets you create a computing environment that suits your preferred style.

Three primary desktops are available with their own ISO files. GNOME 3.32, Xfce 4.13 and KDE Plasma 5.15 are among the most popular and productive desktop options in the Linux world.

Pick the KDE Plasma option if you want something a little extra. If you like computing on the edge, install plasma-workspace-wayland to try out the Wayland display manager integration.

If you download the GNOME ISO installation, by default you get the version running on Wayland — but you can opt to install an alternative “GNOME on Xorg” session.

You can opt for the GNOME 2 look and feel, or GNOME 3, which provides a Gnome Classic session.

Xfce 4.13 comes with GTK+3 instead of GTK+2, used in version 4.12. If version 4.14 becomes available in the lifecycle of Mageia 7, it will be updated to 4.14.

Have It Your Way

Beyond those choices, you can install other desktops from a list of alternatives. They are available in Mageia’s online repositories as fully integrated desktop add-ons.

LXDE is a very lightweight GTK+2-based desktop environment. This an interesting option to try, as it is still updated with ongoing improvements from upstream and the Mageia maintainer.

Otherwise, the LX community has refocused in part on the merged LXQt desktop.
LXQt 0.14.1 also is provided as a desktop option in Mageia 7.

MATE 1.22.0 is a classic GNOME 2 integration that provides an old school Linux look and feel. For a full MATE Desktop experience, install the task-mate package after initial installation.

Cinnamon 4.0 is a full-featured desktop alternative popularized by the developers of Linux Mint. It offers a GNOME 2 style environment with an expanded feature set and a look and feel that rivals MATE.

The Enlightenment task package comes with E22.4 and Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL). The Enlightenment desktop in Mageia does not install all the specialized Enlightenment-branded applications, but the desktop Enlightenment shell is a nice start. You can add additional application packages.

Light Window Managers Galore

Another option is to keep the Mageia 7 installation very lightweight by using small and efficient window managers instead of a dedicated desktop environment. Install your preferred window manager and enable it in the login menu of your display manager.

Having this collection all in one place is a unique offering. I have not seen such a wide range of options in any other distro.

The choices include afterstep, awesome, dwm, fluxbox, fvwm2, fvwm-crystal, i3, icewm, jwm, matchbox, openbox, pekwm, sugar, swm and windowmaker. Each one of these window manager options brings a unique computing perspective.

Bottom Line

Linux dispels the notion that one universal computing platform must define the features and functionality for all users. That is why so many distributions exist.

The Mageia distro is a prime example of how freedom and choice are the hallmarks of open source operating systems. Mageia 7 pushes the limits of personal choice and usability definitions.

What gives Mageia Linux its edge is its independence. Mageia 7 is not based on a predefined Linux family of distributions.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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Navi 10 Code Lands In Mesa 19.2 For RadeonSI Ahead Of Radeon RX 5700 Series Launch


Last week I wrote about Navi (10) support pending for the RadeonSI OpenGL driver to complement the AMDGPU Linux kernel driver support for the Radeon RX 5700 series currently queued into DRM-Next for Linux 5.3. That OpenGL driver support has been now been merged into Mesa 19.2 for debuting as stable around the end of August for providing open-source OpenGL on these next-gen AMD GPUs.

Now that there was the libdrm 2.4.99 release as a prerequisite for adding the Navi family bits, AMD developers merged the RadeonSI support for these forthcoming graphics cards. The Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT will be launching on 7 July and you will be able to find launch-day Linux benchmarks on Phoronix.

It’s important to note that this Mesa Navi support is just for RadeonSI. The RADV Radeon Vulkan driver continues to be independently maintained by the community and developers from the likes of Red Hat and Google. It will likely be some time after launch before Navi support arrives in RADV as it doesn’t appear AMD seeded those “community” developers with any hardware in advance. AMD also has not yet posted any Navi patches for their official AMDVLK Vulkan driver yet (nor ROCm OpenCL), so for launch day there might just be OpenGL benchmarks, but we’ll see.

The good news now though is that indeed pre-launch there is Navi support within the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver for Mesa 19.2. Mesa 19.2 is expected to enter its feature freeze at the start of August and ideally (but perhaps not realistic, given recent cycles) release as stable around 27 August so there is still a few weeks for potentially seeing Navi RADV support land and optimizations to RadeonSI support. The timing of the Mesa 19.2 release should work out fine considering Linux 5.3 with its Navi support won’t likely debut as stable anyhow until early September. The good news is these key components should make it into the likes of Ubuntu 19.10 and Fedora 31 for out-of-the-box support.

An Initial Look At The IBM POWER9 4-Core / 16-Thread CPU Performance On The Blackbird

A few weeks ago we received a POWER9 Raptor Blackbird for testing that features an IBM POWER9 4-core (16 thread) processor clocked at 3.80GHz. For those curious about the performance potential for low-end POWER9 parts compared to the more common high-core/thread count POWER processors we have benchmarked before like in the Talos II server, here are some initial tests of that petite POWER9 processor.

The Blackbird configuration we have been testing features the single POWER9 4c/16t CPU with Blackbird motherboard, 128GB of RAM, 1TB Samsung NVMe SSD, and onboard ASpeed display (dGPU testing to come). I ran some benchmarks of this POWER9 processor against a few other low and higher-end Intel Core and AMD Ryzen processors for reference perspective.

The 4-core POWER9 CPU has a 3.2GHz base frequency with 3.8GHz turbo, 90 Watt TDP, 32KB L1 cache, 512KB L2 cache/core, and 10MB L3 cache/core. This CP9M01 processor is manufactured on a 14nm FinFET process. Raptor Computing Systems sells the 4-core processor for $375 USD.

All of the x86_64 and POWER9 desktop processors tested were done using Ubuntu 19.04 while upgrading to the Linux 5.2 Git kernel and also building the GCC 9.1 release compiler for each platform. The benchmarks were carried out while the CFLAGS/CXXFLAGS were set to “-O3 -march=native” (or “-O3 -mcpu=native”) in the case of POWER). The CPU vulnerability mitigations were at their defaults and in the case of the POWER9 set to the less strict kernel protection only mode (more details in our Blackbird speculative execution testing). Various benchmarks were run via the Phoronix Test Suite for getting an initial idea for the POWER9 4-core performance in open-source workloads that built successfully for POWER9.

Linux 5.2 + Mesa 19.2 Performance With Polaris/Vega/Vega20 vs. NVIDIA On Ubuntu 19.04

With last week having delivered fresh benchmarks of the mid-range NVIDIA/AMD graphics cards using the very latest drivers, particularly the in-development Linux 5.2 and Mesa 19.2 components with the Radeon graphics cards tested, here is a similar comparison when moving up the spectrum and focusing on the higher-end graphics cards. Here’s a look at how the RX 590, RX Vega 56, RX Vega 64, and Radeon VII are performing with the newest open-source AMD driver code compared to the NVIDIA Turing line-up backed by their latest binary driver.

While next month will be Radeon RX 5700 series Linux benchmarking using the newest code (DRM-Next / Linux 5.3), this article is offering a fresh look at how the Linux 5.2 kernel performance is shaping up on the higher-end graphics cards as complementary to last week’s numbers. The four Radeon cards tested were using the Linux 5.2 Git kernel and Mesa 19.2-devel using the Oibaf PPA. The NVIDIA Pascal and Turing cards benchmarked were using their latest driver available, version 430.26.

All tests were done on the Intel Core i9 9900K test system running Ubuntu 19.04. Via the Phoronix Test Suite a wide variety of OpenGL and Vulkan Linux gaming benchmarks were carried out.

Ubuntu Takes A U-Turn with 32-Bit Support » Linux Magazine

Canonical, the maker of the world’s most popular Linux-based distribution Ubuntu, has revived support for 32-bit libraries after feedback from WINE, Ubuntu Studio and Steam communities.

Last week Canonical announced that its engineering teams decided that Ubuntu should not continue to carry i386 forward as an architecture. “Consequently, i386 will not be included as an architecture for the 19.10 release, and we will shortly begin the process of disabling it for the eoan series across Ubuntu infrastructure,” wrote Will Cooke, Director of Ubuntu Desktop at Canonical.

However, the news was not received well. Canonical was criticized for the move. Responding to the uproar, Canonical decided to continue to support 32-bit applications.

That said 32-bit applications must go away. Why do we still have these legacy applications? The problem lies with companies and developers who created these applications ages ago and have not modernized and updated them. Since some of these applications are critical to some users, the onus is on distributions like Ubuntu to continue to support these legacy applications.

As Steve Langasek, a Debian and Ubuntu developer wrote in a mailing list, that maintaining support for 32-bit libraries is “a cost largely paid by Canonical (both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of engineering work to keep the base system working). It’s not very compelling to say that Canonical should continue bearing these costs out of pocket on the grounds that some other companies are unwilling to update their software to an ISA from this millennium :)”

The only problem is that in most cases these legacy applications are either no longer maintained or the developers have no incentive to update them. In any case, desktop Linux users should demand developers of these apps to modernize their applications.

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