In association with heise online

Get with child a mandrake root

Mandrake's bad fortune wasn't limited to problem with its finances, but also grew to embrace the origins of its name.

The sixteenth century poet John Donne had written a song that began: Go and catch a falling star/ Get with child a mandrake root. The shooting star became the logo for Linux Mandrake, and Duval's distro of 1998 was named after the magical properties of the mandrake root, but John Donne had not been the inspiration for either the logo or the name.

In an interview in 2002 Duval claimed that he had "wanted a word that recalled the 'K' in KDE because the first Mandrake was based on KDE. Mandrake was a good option because it's a simple and efficient word, and describes a plant with supernatural properties."

Maybe it was a coincidence or lack of forethought, but the Mandrake developers went on to choose a magician's wand and top hat as emblems for Mandrake's configurability. Unfortunately, Mandrake the Magician was already a well known comic book character created by Lee Falk in the thirties, who was sometimes said to be "the first costumed superhero" because he wore the cape and coat of a stage magician as he went into battle with the forces of evil.

The coincidence of the name of Mandrake and Mandrakesoft's choice of a magician to cast a spell over its users was too much for the Hearst Corporation, the owners of King Features Syndicate, who owned the trademark on Mandrake the Magician, the comic book character. And though Mandrake Linux was not a comic book character nor a wand waving superhero and could not be confused with anything other than a Linux distribution, the coincidence of the name, the wand and top hat, was enough for King Features to contend that Mandrakesoft was infringing its trademark.

Mandrakesoft lost the case in the French courts and appealed the decision, but lost again when it was pointed out that Mandrake's hardware configuration tool was known as Lothar, and Lothar was the name of Mandrake the Magician's closest friend.

As a consequence, Mandrakesoft were forced to change the name of Mandrake Linux, which had once been known as Linux Mandrake, to Mandrakelinux.

Keep off envy's stinging

In April 2005 MandrakeSoft, merged with the Brazilian Linux company Conectiva, and changed its name again. Mandrakelinux became Mandriva, both to signify its merger with Conectiva and to achieve final release from the court case.

In June the same year Mandriva acquired the assets of Lycoris, the Linux distribution formerly known as Redmond Linux, and later purchased EdgeIT, a support and services company with a selection of corporate clients, and Linbox, a French open source enterprise software infrastructure company whose customers include Renault, EADS, Arcelor and multiple French government agencies.

Mandriva has developed relationships with government departments and corporates in the Francophone and Latin American markets, and has thriving OEM partnerships with the likes of Positivo, who at one time were claiming to ship 40,000 Mandriva desktops a month, and with HP.

The company has continued to suffer mishaps and PR failures, such as the dismissal of Gael Duval in 2006, GPL violations over the release of Iris, the Lycoris click and run facility, and an unseemly falling out with its German user group over LinuxTag 2009, but has found some measure of stability after the ups and downs of preceding years.

The dismissal of Duval marked the end of an era, and a change of focus. As he said at the time, "I frankly don't know where the company is going.... It seems that the company is going to address the corporate market more and more.... My opinion is that we should have stuck to the roots (individuals and SOHO)." But although Mandriva may have made a strategic play towards the more robust financial returns that come from fostering services and support to industry and the public sector, this hasn't noticeably affected Mandriva's ease of use or sense of adventure.

By 2008 Mandriva had sales of $6.6 millions sales and 46 employees, down from 70 during its dotcom heyday, and still claims 2 to 3 million downloads for every new release.

Next: Serves to advance an honest mind

Print Version | Permalink:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • submit to slashdot
  • StumbleUpon
  • submit to reddit

  • July's Community Calendar

The H Open

The H Security

The H Developer

The H Internet Toolkit