Linux,  Mandriva

NetworkManager in Mandriva

Already for some time, I experience some annoyances in Mandriva’s wifi configuration tools especially when moving my laptop from one to another location with a different wifi network where I connect to. The list of inaccessible wifi networks is not cleaned up in the network applet when moving the system, the network applet says it connected to network X, while in reality it connects to network Y and it only reconnects automatically to the last SSID you were connected to but not to a previously known SSID.

Other distributions (Fedora, Debian/Ubuntu and also OpenSUSE if I am not mistaken) are using NetworkManager for some time. When working on these other distributions, I always had the feeling that NetworkManager was actually nicer than Mandriva’s tools: not only did not it have these little annoyances, its GUI also looked much less cluttered. Another advantage is that lots of applications can make use of NetworkManager’s status. For example, Evolution will nicely switch to off line mode when there is no connection instead of starting to annoy you with error messages in its status bar. Once NetworkManager reconnects, Evolution will switch back to online mode again.

So I was interested in trying out how well NetworkManager worked in Mandriva. I updated the networkmanager package (which actually was already available in Mandriva), and I created a Mandriva package for networkmanager-applet, the GUI front-end.

To my surprise, the packages were immediately functional in Mandriva. The (known) disadvantage is that NetworkManager does not really work together with the standard network configuration tools, especially not in Mandriva because Mandriva’s configuration tools do not take NetworkManager into account, unlike Fedora’s, which let you choose whether a network interface should be controlled by NeworkManager or not. In practice, this means that it is best to remove Mandriva’s standard network configuration by removing the ifcfg files for the network interfaces you want to control with NetworkManager in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts. I guess removing the connection in Mandriva’s Control Centre might work too, but I have not tested this. If you do not do this, you risk that NetworkManager and Mandriva’s networking tools will both try to configure the same network interface, interfering with each other.

Connecting to my wifi network was dead easy with NetworkManager. I configured it to connect automatically to my wifi network and to make it available for all users. NetworkManager now automatically connects while booting the system.

Its GUI is really a relief. It looks nice and uncluttered. It does not put lots of things in two or three level deep submenus like Mandriva’s applet and does not clutter the menu by trying to show all networks when lots of different APs are available. Also the fact that it does not pop-up another application window when selecting a network to connect to (Mandriva starts up drakroam when selecting an SSID in net_applet) is nice.

I will need do some more testing to really know for sure that there are no new annoyances now, but the first experience is positive. I think that the integration with other applications like Evolution is non-functional in Mandriva however, because these applications need to be build with NetworkManager support. This will most likely not happen, because Mandriva does not want to support this. Also I have not yet packaged the VPN configuration bits for NetworkManager, but I will probably do that in the future.

If you are having problems with the Mandriva network configuration tools, you are welcome to try out NetworkManager and let me know your experience. However, keep in mind that this is totally unsupported in Mandriva and do not expect us to fix bugs you may encounter. It seems useful for me and so it may be for others, but your mileage may vary. But if you do not have any problem with the standard Mandriva configuration tools, do not bother to try this. Especially on desktop systems which are never moved, there does not seem to be any advantage in trying out NetworkManager.

Oh yes, In case you are wondering, I am aware of Mandriva’s criticism on NetworkManager. Honestly, I don not really care about that: I want a tool which works good and looks nice and NetworkManager seems to fulfil this need for me.

NetworkManager's applet in Mandriva 2010.0
NetworkManager's applet in Mandriva 2010.0

6 Comments

  • Fri13

    What is the package for the GUI? I can only find the NetworkManager package and OpenVPN etc packages for it.

    I like too the Mandriva tools, there is no samekind what would work on CLI! MCC is just so great on commandline when there comes problems with Xorg or when you do not have Xorg.

    But Mandriva really should start developing more it’s tools. Start developing them more as backends and then build GTK+ and Qt (KDE4) frontends for them so they would fit to all desktops. Drop all kind depencies to browsers (what I understand they use to draw MCC right side) engines.

    The Mandriva networking tool works, but to be honest, it is not anymore so nice looking. Icons needs updating (like in menu the application group icons as well!) and those could be tried to make up easier to use by the ways what you just told. The WiFi list does not refresh so you end up having “dead” SSID’s there. The list does not refresh fast, even you have the router next to you.

    But I do not like all the NetworkManager functions either. Example, I do not like the icon… the NM (what is nice idea) looks like it does not fit to KDE4. I have used kubuntu 9.10 and OpenSUSE 11.2 and it works fine but it is ugly. And I like a lot the Mandrivas way to show the bars what shows you fast way the status. While NM shows the small bar.

    • Frederik

      The GUI is packaged as networkmanager-applet. If you use 2010.0, you have to get networkmanager and networkmanager-applet from the contrib backports repository.

      For KDE there is a native Plasma applet. As far as I know, it’s part of KDE though, which means some part of KDE itself would need a rebuild with NetworkManager support enabled. As NetworkManager is not supported by Mandriva, this will not happen, unfortunately…

    • Frederik

      It’s quite the opposite here:

      $ ps aux | grep -i -E "net_applet|networkmanager|nm-applet"
      frederik 3942 0.0 0.3 220592 15496 ? S Nov15 0:14 nm-applet --sm-disable
      root 12468 0.0 0.1 83352 4616 ? Ssl Nov16 0:03 NetworkManager --pid-file=/var/run/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.pid
      frederik 15869 1.1 1.0 240152 43520 pts/8 S+ 22:47 0:03 /usr/bin/perl /usr/bin/net_applet --force

      Here net_applet uses 1% of my memory (43M RSS), while NetworkManager uses 0.1% of memory (4.6 MB RSS) and nm-applet uses 0.3% (15.5 MB RSS): NetworkManager uses only half the memory that Mandriva’s net_applet needs! This is not very surprising if you know that NetworkManager and nm-applet are written in C, while net_applet is written in Perl.

      (I think I would even need to add the memory uses of the mandi daemon to net_applet’s calculation to be completely correct, because mandi is required by net_applet if I’m not mistaken.)