If the world of Linux distributions has ever had a rising star, it's Mageia. Launched roughly two years ago as a fork of Mandriva Linux by former employees and contributors to that French distro, Mageia sprinted up the page-hit rankings on DistroWatch, where it has sat at No. 2 for many months.
At the end of 2011, Mandriva was No. 10, and Mageia was nowhere to be found. Today, Mageia is behind only Linux Mint; Ubuntu Linux, Fedora, and openSUSE round out the top five. Mandriva, meanwhile, has dropped to No. 36.
Like many popular Linux distributions today, Mageia 2 can be installed traditionally via downloadable .iso file, or previewed first via Live CD or USB. In the latter case, users simply download the Live .iso file, burn it on a CD or USB key, and boot the system for a glimpse of what the distro looks like on their machine. If they like it, they can use the Live media to install Mageia on their hard drive.
KDE Software Compilation is one of the many desktop environments featured in the current Mageia 2 release, and it's renowned for its beauty and polish. This 16-year-old desktop environment was recently updated with major improvements to KDE Plasma Workspaces, KDE Applications, and the KDE Platform, including many new features as well as improved stability and performance.
Part of the KDE desktop is the free and open source Dolphin file manager, which offers features including a navigation bar for URLs, file content previews, an integrated terminal, and support for version control system plug-ins. Dolphin 2.1, the latest version, was released last summer.
OpenOffice.org used to be the office productivity suite most commonly included in Linux distributions, but that distinction has passed to LibreOffice, a fork of the software created in 2010. Mageia is among the many distros to include this popular suite, for which a version 4.0 release candidate recently debuted.
The Mageia Control Center can be used to launch a wide variety of system administration tools, including one for configuring the authentication required to access Mageia hardware, software, and network tools. It's widely acknowledged that Linux in general offers better security than its proprietary competitors do.
Though some still think of free and open source Linux as an operating system that's suitable only for experts, advances in user friendliness have long meant that that is no longer the case. With graphical interfaces and easy-to-use tools, usability is now at least on par with that of the leading proprietary competitors.
Apps for virtually every taste and purpose are available to users of Mageia 2, either bundled with the software or easily downloadable from its repositories. Examples include MPlayer for multimedia (shown here) as well as Firefox, Chromium, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GnuCash, Pidgin for instant messaging, GIMP for graphics, VirtualBox, Wine, and Ekiga for VoIP.
Besides KDE, another choice available to users of Mageia 2 is GNOME 3.4, a modern-style desktop environment from the GNOME project. Launched in late March of last year, GNOME 3.4 brings features such as video calling, a documents search facility, a virtual machine and remote access application, smooth scrolling, new application menus, Windows Live online account integration, and an animated background that adjusts its brightness over the course of the day.
The lightweight LXDE is another desktop option for Mageia 2 users, with packages including PCManFM, LXSession, LXTerminal, Gpicview, and LXRandR. Xfce and E17 are available as well, in addition to KDE, GNOME, and Razor-qt.
Razor-qt is a lightweight desktop environment based on the Qt framework and is “tailored for users who value simplicity, speed, and an intuitive interface,” in the project's own words. This is yet another desktop option available to users of Mageia 2, and it offers a modest footprint along with a variety of tools and plug-ins.