Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Brief Look at Mageia 2

Just to briefly explain that for a number of years I have used a Linux distribution, of one sort or another, as my main operating system at home. Before this I used to dual boot between Windows and Linux.

There was a period of time where I would use one Linux distribution and then jump over to another. Sometimes I would use one distribution for about a week, get bored of it and change over to another. Within the past couple of years though I got to the stage of just sticking with Ubuntu. This is because I personally got along with it and found that it worked for me.

Just recently though with the ever changing desktop environments on the other Linux distributions I have wanted to see what they are like to use. One of the first ones I decided to boot up into VirtualBox was Mageia 2.

Mageia, for those who don't know, is forked from Mandriva which was one of the original distributions designed to make Linux friendly for ordinary computer users. Mandriva has had a lot of financial problems and made the OS' future a little uncertain. This is why a large portion of the community decided to break away and develop the distribution they love and give it a secure future. Can I say that they are doing a nice job too.

I found that the whole installation process was very straight forward and there really is nothing difficult about it; especially if you stick to the default settings.

When you boot up Mageia 2 you are presented with a really nice looking splash screen. I personally feel it looks pretty professional.

After this you are presented with the KDE desktop; as can be seen below.

As can be seen the KDE desktop in many senses resembles the Window's desktop environment, except that it is a whole lot more customisable and can handle more than one desktop. Again the community at Mageia have done a really nice job with the desktop.

The KDE 4 desktop has come a long way and is currently on version 4.8.2 in Mageia 2. I can never remember it being so snappy and we must remember that this is being run through a virtual machine. This is pretty impressive for such a nice looking environment.

One thing that I noticed is how much it resembles Windows 7 in functionality. For example when you hover over the icon in the task bar for a program you have opened you are given a preview of the windows.

Also when you drag the windows to the left, right or to the corners the window will shape itself to the screen accordingly. Again this has a Windows feel to it.

By default Mageia 2 comes with an impressive range of default programs and will cater for all your basic needs without needing to install anything extra. Programs such as Firefox, LibreOffice, Gimp, Amarok, VLC and many more. One thing that I was not too keen on was that it uses Firefox 10 ESR which is the long term release of Firefox. I guess if you like stability then this is not a problem.

A program that I forgot was so good was Amarok. This is an excellent audio player and I think I will revisit this program at some point just to look at some of its cool features.

Talking of music I did find that I was able to play media formats that I was not expecting to be able to. Formats such as WMV and MP3 played without any problem in Amarok and this was without me needing to install anything extra. I thought I would test this further and try a closed video format such as MP4, although I did find that Mageia did not have the codecs to play it through VLC. A bit of a shame for me as I do have a number of MP4s; I know I am evil but I cannot help myself.  Not to worry though.

After using Ubuntu for sometime with the Unity desktop you forgot how much you can customise something like the KDE desktop. Looking at the KDE Systems Settings you can pretty much change everything within the KDE Environment. A small glimpse of this can be seen in the screenshot below.

Mageia 2 goes further than this though and provides its own control panel as well. This is a more user friendly interface and it combines the options to install/remove programs too.

I will have to say that this hasn't changed that much, from what I can tell, since the days of Mandriva. This is not a problem and it is still immensely easy to use, although when you compare the 'Install & Remove Software' with Ubuntu's own Software Centre it does look slightly dated. Many would argue that you can see more clearly which packages are being installed, which is true but in the name of simplicity Ubuntu definitely has gained the upper hand. I will have to add though that this is only the second major release for Mageia since it has been forked from Mandriva and I am sure that this will be improved on as time goes along.

So after this brief glimpse I will have to say that I will still be sticking with Ubuntu 12.04 for now but Mageia 2 is a very impressive OS. What is even more impressive is this is only the second major release after it has been forked from Mandriva back in September 2010 and is worked on purely by volunteers. I say keep up the good work.

For a more information about the Mageia project please visit the link below:


For a more comprehsive review of Mageia 2 please visit this second link:


Personally I would happily recommend this to anyone who wishes to try an easy to use Linux distribution that isn't Ubuntu. I think for the classic Windows XP users, they will feel more at home with the KDE desktop as well.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Play Encrypted DVD Formats on Ubuntu Linux

For sometime I thought the only way to play an encrypted DVD in Ubuntu was to use something like Fluendo DVD Player which has the restricted codecs in order to play such DVDs. The only problem with this is that non of my other media players such as VLC could play them. This is a pain because I found that the Fluendo DVD Player is limited and prefer VLC's functionality.

The cool thing is that recently I discovered a way around this. On Ubuntu's website they have posted an article about RestrictedFormats/PlayingDVDs. All that was required was two simple lines of code in the terminal in order to play encrypted DVDs with other programs. Canonical claim that these two lines will work on Ubuntu 9.04 onwards.

In order to do this open your terminal (ctrl+alt+t) and insert the following lines of code:

sudo apt-get install libdvdread4

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh

You may need to reboot your system after doing this. Either way when this is complete you will find that you can play encrypted DVDs in any media player.