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GENERAL FEATURESUbuntu is an ancient African word meaning "humanity to others". A distribution f(o)unded by Mark Shuttleworth and sponsored by Canonical Ltd. is currently one of the most popular GNU/Linux flavors. It's only for linux n00bs!Mandriva Linux (earlier Mandrakelinux) became extremely popular among novice users of Linux, mainly those switching from MS Windows. The system is known for its ease of use and user-friendliness. Mandriva is a very up-to-date distribution, it consists of the latest software which can occasionally cause stability problems. For desktop use it is acceptable for most users and it's a simple tradeoff for being very up-to-date.
Supported architecturesamd64, i386, ppci586, ppc (unofficial port), x86_64
Minimal hardware requirementsFor text-mode: <192 MB RAM, 450 MB hard drive
For graphical-mode: >256 MB RAM, preferable at least 2 GB HDD
For text mode: 166 MHz Pentium-class, 64MB RAM, 620MB HDD, For graphical mode: 350 MHz Pentium-class, 128MB RAM, 620MB HDD
Software freedom statushave been present in Ubuntu since the very beginning. The idea is to provide non-free drivers only in case that free drivers do not exist or are of significantly of lower quality. Ubuntu provides a monit when enabling proprietary drives, giving users the freedom not to use them.Mostly free, but includes some proprietary drivers
Installer - overall(8) Since Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake), a graphical installer has been available with the Live-CD edition. The installer is fast and asks a small number of questions. It's one of the easiest Linux distributions to set up for a newbie user. Ubuntu's alternative text-based installer is based on Debian's text installer. It adds a few new screens in expert mode, and removes a few in novice mode, making it even simpler to install the system with default setting. The defaults are: latest GNOME with a selection of GTK software. Since Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon), the alternate-CD installer allows for encrypting the hard drive during the installation.(9) Very good, well-designed installer, considered as the easiest installer of all linux-distributions.
Package selection(2) Not available. You can however install additional packages before running the Live-CD installer (graphically or using apt-get). Every package you install before running the main installer will appear in your final installation.(9) Present. It's one of the advanced options during the installation.
Predefined package groups(2) Desktop or server installations are available. No package group selection.(9) Wisely selected groups of packages: 1) Workstation (desktop, games, multimedia, internet, administration tools, programming, LSB), 2) Server (web, ftp, mail, database, firewall, router, 3) Desktop environments (KDE, Gnome, other).
Expert mode install(8) Expert/Beginner and kernel 2.4/2.6 choices.(9) Expert mode switch on/off any time during the installation process.
Graphical installer(6) Available since Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake). The older text (dialog-based) installer is also very simple and is more suitable for custom installations for advanced users.(9) Intuitive yet advanced graphical installer. It offers really lots of basic configuration options. All of them are nicely described and the reasonable defaults are provided.
Installer speed(6) The Live-CD installation is pretty fast. The installer only asks a few questions and then copies the entire Live-CD image to the disk, configuring the hardware and the boot menu. The legacy (alternative) installation process is rather slow. Default installation took 35 minutes on 1.6Ghz, 1GB RAM laptop. On the same machine.(3) Default installation includes many packages so the installation may take some time. Part of the installation is the basic configuration of the system, so this may be a little bit longer than in other distributions. Still, a "Next->Next->Finish" installation is possible as well. A default installation of Mandriva 2007 on an 1,6 GHz computer lasts about 15-20 minutes.
Graphical system management(5) Ubuntu does not provide a disto-specific Control Panel (like in SuSE or Mandriva). Still, a lot of Ubuntu-specific tools have been added to the default GNOME desktop: the update notifier, update and installation manager (similar to Windows' Add/Remove Software application), an applet to mount disks, a NetworkManager (from RedHat) for wifi support, Beagle Search (Tracker since Gutsy Gibbon) integration and more.(9) Lots of useful graphical tools integrated into drakconf AKA "Mandriva Control Center (MCC)". Almost all aspects of the OS may be configured graphically.
Console-based system management(8) Very good package configuration tool - debconf - from Debian project and standard Debian configuration tools are available(6) Lately many graphical tools have become available also in the semi-graphical (ncurses) mode. It's very useful while using console or remote ssh connection.
Number of packages(8) Except for base Ubuntu packages (built and supported by the Ubuntu team), there are official but unsupported repositories: universe and multiverse. It all sums up to over 10,000 of Ubuntu specific packages. Using alternative sources from Debian or its derivatives is not recommended (and usually not useful).(8) Very large repository of packages. Only Debian beats Mandriva in this respect. There is an option to add alternative repository locations.
Package management, automatic dependency resolving(8) Dpkg, APT and aptitude - Debian package management tools are among the leading GNU/Linux tools for software management. Installing software in Ubuntu is simple and troubleless, and certainly much more pleasurable than in most distributions using the RPM format. Only Smart package manager is considered superior to APT (however, it can be used in Ubuntu as well).(8) In most cases software installation is as easy as entering urpmi package_name. Packages are well described and easy to identify. The only drawback are dependency errors occurring from time to time while mixing different package sources. In this case, Smart package manager can be a wise option. It can handle even the most complicated and uncommon repository merges.
Graphical package management tools(8) Synaptic - a graphical frontend to APT - a software installation and update tool, very useful if someone likes to click rather than type. Also, an "Add/Remove applications" program is delivered, which is much simpler and more straightforward than Synaptic, but allows to install only the most typical desktop applications. Clicking on DEB package invokes a GNOME installation tool which resembles InstallShield known from MS Windows.(8) Very convenient tab in Mandriva Control Center. The only drawback is that downloading (updating) data about available packages which can take up to couple of minutes when using the full file. Significantly faster with the file, which contains less package information. Also Smart, the alternative package manager has a nice GUI, very similar to the well-known Synaptic.
System boot-up speed(6) Thoughtful selection of services and default configuration make Ubuntu boot usually a bit faster than Debian. It's getting better with each release, but there is still some room for improvement.(8) Fast bootup speed (comparable to Debian or Archlinux) due to use of pinit since Mdv 2007. Older versions are significantly slower at bootup.
System responsiveness(7) Fair responsiveness of the system. Working with Ubuntu seems faster than with the default Debian installation, but not as fast as with one of the performance-optimized systems like PLD, KateOS or Zenwalk. Technically, packages (except for the kernel and libc) are compiled for 486, but with Pentium III (or higher) optimizations.(5) Average system speed. Mandriva has not been optimized for responsiveness.This is just the price to pay for convenience and lots of automatization.
Popularity(9) Ubuntu got extremely popular during the last couple of years and currently occupies the first place in the DistroWatch rank. The creators claim that it has over 8 million users worldwide.(7) Most popular Linux single distribution during the period of last couple of years. Lately Ubuntu seems to get more attention, but Mandriva is still doing very well and is probably one of the top 5 distributions, based on the number of users.
Security focus(8) All of the key security packages (including kernel packages) are being updated on a daily basis, so if you update the system frequently, you should not have to worry about security much. Additional security tools (like SELinux or AppArmour) are not installed by default, though. There is no graphical firewall and almost no security tools in the default installation either.(7) Just after installation there is an option to turn the firewall on and download the latest patches. It's equally simple afterwards. Still, the security is not the primary goal of Mandriva (which tend to be rather usability and user-friendliness) therefore it is not as secure by default as Debian, Fedora or BSD systems.
Stability and maturity(7) Ubuntu is based on Debian, which is one of the most stable and mature distributions available. Still, Ubuntu comes with fresh software and instabilities may occur. Kubuntu on the other hand is considered a bit worse in terms of stability since recent versions of KDE usually break more often that fresh GNOME.(4) Mandriva usually keeps very up to date. This causes stability issues, especially in the old Community Editions. Some previous versions were known to behave very unstably, such as the Mandrakelinux 10.1. Inclusion of some experimental technologies in the mainstream edition is also questionable (such as Kat search tool in Mandriva 2006).
Does the installer support multiple languages?(8) Ubuntu installer is translated into 40 languages which makes it one of the leaders in this area. Internationalization is one of the Ubuntu project priorities.(8) Installer is very international, but still still supports fewer languages than Debian. Lots of package descriptions are available in a localized version as well — and this is an exception in the distro world. Usually the descriptions are English-only.
Is the system localized after installation?(7) The installed system is localized. The only problems may occur with QT-based applications. QtConfig app can fix this problem when installed.(9) Default system is fully localized in all areas.
Is manual system localization easy?(5) If something does not work, we should make friends with dpkg-reconfigure tool which makes it easier to change the package configuration without the need to mess up with the configuration files.(9) If something is not localized it means you have to translate it (localize it) yourself. In other words, Mandriva is *really* well localized.
Support for restricted formats(5) You can install all the non-free packages from the multiverse repository (no officially supported but hosted at The Restricted Formats wiki entry describes the Ubuntu policy and the multiple ways of getting support for non-free packages. Using EasyUbuntu — a graphical non-free software installer is another good option here.(8) Mandriva supports some patented codecs out-of-the-box. This applies for MP3 support. Other codecs and applications can be easily installed by using the PLF repository (it can be done following the step-by-step guide at Easy Urpmi).
Sagem DSL modem support(6) Eagle-USB has been available as a Debian package since version 4.11 (Warty Warthhog). Unfortunately, the support for Thompson modems got worse and worse with every release. Now, it's not possible to install the modem without kernel recompilation.(7) Clickable installation of the Sagem modem. Theoretically, it could not be easier than that. In practice, autoconfiguration fails for unknown reason every now and then.
Alcatel DSL modem support(6) Speedtouch modem installation is not fully automatic. Package "speedtouch" is responsible for firmware loading. Still, we have to copy the driver manually. Manual configuration is also a must.(7) Most of the installation process is automatic. The only manual thing to do is downloading a driver.
Wireless support(8) System automatically detects the common supported wireless cards and looks for the wireless connections using NetworkManager (adequate icon appears on the desktop appears if WiFi is available). Of course, standard Debian tools for dealing with wireless cards are also available, so is Ndiswrapper for Windows-only cards.(7) Clickable installation of most of the wireless cards.

Each system gets a mark from 0 (min) to 9 (max). In most cases the description precises the mark. A question mark (?) means that we do not have any information about certain feature.