In less than two weeks time, six months after the great Mandriva 2007.1 Spring release, Mandriva 2008.0 will be ready and published. Currently, Release Candidate 2 is out, it’s your last chance to test it and make sure everything is working before the final release!
There were great ideas at the start of the development phase, and in in those six months that have passed, Mandriva has always been one of the most active projects on CIA.vc. This gives much hope for lots of improvements, so let’s take a look at what can be expected from Mandriva 2008.0.
Update 2 October 2007: The following translations of this article are now available, with thanks to the translators:
Mandriva’s installation is largely unchanged from a user point of view. The most important visible change, is the fact that the user is now asked which desktop he wants to install, KDE or GNOME. After this choice, no more questions are asked, and a default selection of packages based on the chosen desktop is installed. Of course advanced users, can still do a custom selection of packages to install. After the installation, the user gets welcomed in a web based first time wizard.
Improved graphical and sound theme
Mandriva still uses the ia_ora graphical theme like was the case in previous version. There have been several important improvements however. Especially the KDE version, which was of a much lower quality than the GNOME version, has improved a lot. The menus and the window decoration look much nicer, the vertical separators in the toolbars are not ugly anymore,… For the Mandriva One live CDs a new nice blue colour theme has been created. The strong orange theme is not used by default anymore, but is still available for people who like it.
The wallpapers have been renewed, and also the splash screens (bootsplash, and GNOME and KDE splash screens) and screensaver have received a fresh new look. There is a new start-up sound, which will now also be enabled in GNOME.
Mandriva 2008.0 also has improved font rendering, thanks to the new freetype and the inclusion of the Liberation fonts, which improve compatibility with the non-free Microsoft fonts.
Improved and more stable desktop environments
The KDE version which is included is 3.5.7, with a lot of recent patches from the KDE 3.5 branch added. It is definitely the most stable KDE version ever. Especially the KDEPim applications (such as KMail and Korganizer), are a lot more stable now. KPDF is based on the latest version of XPDF now, which should improve rendering of some PDF documents. Konqueror’s rendering engine had a lot of bug fixes and when hovering your mouse over a link, an icon will now be displayed to show if the link will be opened in another window or in your mail client.
Kaffeine is now again the default video player in Mandriva’s free edition. Both the Xine back-end and Kaffeine have been compiled with XCB support, which should greatly improve the stability, especially when viewing embedded movies in Konqueror. In the PowerPack edition users can buy in the Mandriva Store, the default video player is Totem with the GStreamer back-end, because it includes non-free and patented codecs distributed by Fluendo.
The Kickoff menu is now available in Mandriva 2008.0, but not enabled by default, because not everyone likes it. If you want to enable it, you can do so by richt clicking on the menu icon in the Kicker panel at the bottom of your screen. The KDE ioslave sysinfo:/ will give a nice overview of your hardware.
Mandriva 2008.0 includes the brand new GNOME 2.20 which include a lot of improvements. The Evince document viewer now uses the new Poppler 0.6 back-end, which improves PDF rendering and supports interactive forms. Evolution will now warn you before sending if you refer to an attachment in your mail text, but forgot to include it. If you are using the threaded view in Evolution and a new message is received in a mail thread, the whole thread will be moved to the top (or bottom, depending on your ordering settings), so you surely won’t miss the new message. Keyboard users will like the fact that they can read all of their mail with a single key, the space bar. Pressing the space bar, will scroll further in the message, and when you arrive at the end, pressing the space bar, will bring up the next unread e-mail. Corporate users will be happy with the many improvements in the Exchange and Groupwise support.
The Rhythmbox music player now supports gapless playback, synchronizes with more portable media devices (notably via MTP) and its memory usage has been reduced.
The desktop search application Beagle included a lot of bugfixes. It will be more stable now, and thanks to performance improvements it will interfere much less with normal work.
Other GNOME improvements include the usage of notification messages if special events are happening (when e-mail arrives for example), improvements to the picture viewer EOG, a better documentation system,… Pidgin now replaces GAIM as the default instant messaging application. The popular Windows FTP client FileZilla has just made its debut in Linux with the newly released version 3 and it’s now the default FTP client in GNOME.
XFCE also received some attention in this Mandriva release. Mandriva now includes many typical XFCE applications, like Ristretto and Squeeze. Thanks to the task-xfce RPM package, you can easily install a complete XFCE desktop on systems with less powerful hardware. Compositing is now enabled in the XFCE packages. It’s possible there will be a Mandriva One version which uses XFCE as its default desktop later.
Improved applications menu
One year ago, I wrote a proposal for a new menu structure. I dedicated a long time to write this proposal, and in the end I got a bit fed up with it, as I did not knew if actually it would lead to something. So as you’ll probably notice if you read the document, I’ve actually never proofread the whole document :-) Anyway, Mandriva apparently found my proposal very interesting, and decided to implement it for 2008.0. The menu structure is much less nested now: all important applications can now be found directly under the main categories, while before they were nested two levels deep. This will make applications easier to find. If you have both GNOME and KDE installed, the menus will now make a difference between desktop native applications, and applications of the other desktop. The desktop native ones will always be on a higher level, to indicate to users that they should rather use that ones for reasons of integration.
New cool desktop effects with Compiz Fusion
Mandriva 2008.0 includes Compiz 0.5.2 with the Compiz Fusion plug-ins. These are a merge of the old Compiz and Beryl effects. Compiz is generally faster than before, and there are lots of nice new effects, like the Shift Switcher plug-in, giving you Apple Coverflow or Vista window flip effects.
Better hardware support
Mandriva 2008.0 will ship with a Linux 18.104.22.168 based kernel. It supports much more hardware than the kernel which was shipping with Mandriva 2007.1 Spring: support for all the newest SATA and SAS controllers, support for more DVB devices, improvements to the audio and networking support (for example important improvements to popular sky2, forcedeth, skge drivers and e1000 drivers) and much more.
Especially wifi support should be a lot better now. Linux 2.6.22 includes the new wifi stack mac80211, contributed originally by the company Devicescape. Mandriva has included many new drivers based on this stack, such as the b43 driver for Broadcom based devices, iwlwifi for Intel devices, Ralink drivers, etc…
Mandriva now also ships the pata drivers, which are a new replacement for the old IDE drivers. If you use these pata drivers, your IDE devices will now also be recognised like SCSI devices (sda, sdb, sr0,sr1,…). Because there are still some problems with these drivers, they are not used by default. The old, proven IDE drivers are still preferred for now.
Video card drivers
Mandriva 2008.0 ships xorg xserver 1.3 with many bug fixes included. It is a very stable basis. All latest xorg drivers are shipped, supporting all the newest graphical cards. Intel users will enjoy the randr 1.2 support, giving them the possibility to hotplug a second display. The 915resolution utility, which was needed to set the correct resolution on some laptop systems, is not needed anymore in Mandriva 2008.0.
Mandriva 2008.0 also includes the brand new Avivo driver for ATI r500 based chipsets (ATI X1xxx graphics cards, amongst others). Because the driver is in its early stages of development, it will only be enabled on cards on which this driver has already proven to be stable.
The ATI and NVidia binary drivers can now be downloaded from the non-free repositories. All the latest versions are available.
Laptops: suspend and resume
Suspend and resume support should be much better in Mandriva 2008.0, thanks to the new kernel and also the many improvements in Hal, which now includes more quirks for different laptop models.
Printer support has been greatly improved in Mandriva 2008.0. Mandriva ships with the latest Cups 1.3, and the latest PPD files from OpenPrinting. The new HPLIP drivers are included for HP devices, and Gutenprint has been updated to version 5.0.1, also adding support for new printer models. Printer drivers have been split, so the printing configuration utility will not need to install all different printer drivers on your system. GPL Ghostscript 8.60 is now included. It is the result of the merge between the AFPL Ghostscript which became GPL’ed, and the ESP Ghostscript systems.
Digital cameras and portable audio players
New versions of libgphoto2 which supports new digital cameras, and a new libmtp version supports new portable audio players, which can be accessed from Amarok and from Rhythmbox. Photographers taking RAW images, will be happy with the inclusion of Rawstudio, a graphical application to import and convert RAW images. Of course UFraw, with full colour profile support, wavelet noise reduction and a Gimp plug-in is included too.
The kernel in Mandriva 2008.0 now uses the CFQ (Complete Fair Queuing) I/O scheduler by default, while it was using the AS (Anticipatory Scheduler) in previous releases. On most systems, the CFQ scheduler will perform better. It tries to prevent disk intensive applications from slowing down other applications too much. It also takes into account the nice levels to determine the read priority. With the ionice command, I/O scheduling priorities can be tuned in yet more detail. If CFQ would cause performance regressions for you (possible with certain workloads, especially on laptops with slower hard drives), you can change the I/O scheduler back to AS by adding elevator=as to the append lines /boot/grub/menu.list.
The new CFS (Completely Fair Scheduler) process scheduler by Ingo Molnar has also been included in Mandriva’s kernel. This process scheduler will give all concurrently running tasks a fair deal of CPU time, so that one CPU intensive application cannot prevent other processes from getting the CPU time they need to work correctly. This is for example an advantage for multimedia applications, as it will make audio and video skipping much less likely.
The swap prefetch patch will preload swapped out pages in RAM if enough memory became free again. This way, the system will be much faster responsive after a “swap storm”.
The whole system has been built with the latest Glibc 2.6.1 libraries and the GCC 4.2.2 RC compiler. Together with many improvements in the different applications all over the board, this gives us a nice overall performance.
Better battery uptime for laptop computers
Mandriva 2008.0 will install a specially adapted kernel for laptop computers. This kernel uses 100 Hz resolution timers, and has the NO_HZ option set, so that timers will only be fired when an interrupt is waiting. USB suspend is enabled on this kernel, and when you install Mandriva 2008.0 on a laptop computer, also AC97 sound driver suspend will be activated.
Thanks to the Powertop application developed by Intel, a lot of other problems were detected and finally fixed in both the kernel and different applications. Most of the system is now tuned to not prevent the processor from entering the power consuming C3 state. The Beagle indexer will not be activated if you are running on battery power.
Improvements to the Mandriva Control Center
In the Mandriva Control Center, the different tools in the main categories, are now subdivided in subcategories, which will make it easier to find the right tool.
The network settings are now consolidated in the Network Center. In this tool, you will see an overview of the different network interfaces in your system (both wired and wireless), you can easily activate and disactivate them, and change their configuration or start a monitoring tool.
Another new tools is the Migration Wizard which helps users migrating from Windows to Linux. It can copy their documents from the Windows partition to the Linux home partition, import Outlook Express’ e-mail client settings, and configure the same wallpaper as in Windows.
Speaking of Windows, Mandriva will now mount the Windows NTFS partition with the ntfs-3g driver, giving stable write support.
Improvements to the package manager and packaging
The packgage manager urpmi has been greatly enhanced in Mandriva 2008.0. Its dependency resolution algorithm has been improved and a lot of performance enhancements were implemented. Urpmi will now show a much nicer list of the packages which will be installed. It also supports the “Suggests” tag for RPM packages: using this tag, a package can be recommended for installation together with another package, without defining it as a real dependency which the user cannot remove anymore afterwards. Thanks to the new devel packages policy, the user won’t have problems anymore with conflicting -devel packages, like was the case in the past when upgrading your Mandriva distribution.
The graphical package management applications in Mandriva benefit from similar performance enhancements.
Servers and security
Mandriva 2008.0 includes the latest server packages, which offer the best security: Apache 2.2.6, PHP 5.2.4 with the latest Suhosin patch protecting your PHP applications from attacks,… The Kolab groupware server package is supported again in 2008.0, and has been updated to version 2.1.
All services which are remotely accessible will not be started anymore and all security sensitive applicatons have been built with strong stack protection compilation flags, to prevent damage in case of a trivial buffer overflow. Like before, a firewall is activated by default. For the first time, Novell’s AppArmor is included in Mandriva. It will prevent further damage if one service (for example a web application) gets cracked.
Users can take fully advantage of the hardware virtualisation support included in the new AMD and Intel processors thanks to the latest KVM and QEmu. Virtualbox is now updated to version 1.5, enhancing its performance and fixing bugs. The Xen packages finally received some needed attention, and should now be usable.