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Mandrakesoft and Conectiva were always known as innovative companies. Synaptic, the package management front end that can be used with .deb or .rpm based systems and is well known to Debian and Ubuntu users, was developed by Conectiva.

Mandrake/Mandriva put out the first Linux ISOs, the first truly user-friendly graphical installation and configuration programs for Linux, developed its own Debian like package manager for use with .rpm based systems, urpmi/rpmdrake, which is still in use on Mandriva, and pioneered the availablity of Linux on USB Flash keys with Mandriva Flash, a pre-installed Mandriva Linux distribution on an 8GB USB key. Mandriva was also the first major distribution to produce a customised netbook distribution, Mandriva Mini, which comes pre-installed on some netbooks,

Mandriva is developed using a collaborative development model, known as the 'Cooker'. The Cooker is a version of the distribution that is continually updated, tested and influenced by its volunteer community, much like Fedora and openSUSE, which it preceded by several years. Each release of Mandriva is a 'freeze' of the Cooker at a given point in time, which is then followed by a thorough debugging period. As a result of this process Mandriva retains a reputation for being on 'the bleeding edge'.

Since 2006 Mandriva has been on a six-monthly release schedule. The latest release 2010.0, comes in 4 primary editions, Mandriva Free which is free 'as in freedom' and comes without proprietary blobs or add-ons, Mandriva One, which is freely downloadable, Mandriva PowerPack which is the full Mandrake distribution with proprietary add-ons, and Mandriva Flash, which comes on a custom USB stick. The last two are packaged and paid for. In addition, there are a range of server editions and training and support services for the enterprise.

Mandriva comes with a choice of GNOME or KDE desktops and a full range of features, and still boasts a control centre and configuration tools that are the equal of any on the market. In recent years, Ubuntu may have stolen much of Mandriva's thunder, helped by Mandriva's mishaps and PR failures, but Ubuntu users may still be surprised by the ease of use and sense of adventure that can be found in using Mandriva.

For other feature articles by Richard Hillesley, please see the archive.

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