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OpenMandriva Rome version 23.03 is out now

Fresh installation image for the rolling-release edition of OpenMandriva

The project known as OpenMandriva has released new installation images for its rolling-release edition, with the latest kernel and the latest KDE Plasma – among many other choices.

OpenMandriva was the last to fork and continue the Mandriva distro when its eponymous parent company went under, meaning that it's one branch of a closely-related family of distros we looked at about a year ago.

It maintains two branches of its distro today: OpenMandriva Rome is a rolling-release distro, continually receiving updates. Its slower-moving stable-release sibling is OpenMandriva Lx, which is currently on version 4.3, with KDE Plasma 5.23 and kernel 5.16.

OpenMandriva Rome 23.03 has cutting-edge components, but it's not yet clear if the team can keep those coming.

OpenMandriva Rome 23.03 has cutting-edge components, but it's not yet clear if the team can keep those coming.

The project and its cousins – Mageia, ROSA Linux, and PCLinuxOS – are all cuttings from the same rootstock: Mandriva. That came out of the merger of the French Mandrake and Brazilian Conectiva companies. Mandrake itself resulted from Red Hat's refusal to incorporate the then-new KDE desktop into Red Hat Linux, because KDE used Qt, which wasn't FOSS by Red Hat's strict criteria. So they're all in the greater Red Hat family: they use RPM packages, for instance. OpenMandriva uses the same DNF package management tool as Fedora and RHEL, and also supports Flatpak.

With the volunteer manpower spread fairly thinly among so many offshoots, the stable-release versions all move quite slowly. OpenMandriva Lx is still on the same version, 4.3, that we looked at a year ago, meaning that it uses what are by now quite old components. So is Mageia: its version 8 was already year old back then.

OpenMandriva Rome is much newer. The first release was only back in January, so the 23.03 release is effectively the second snapshot of this new branch of the distro. It's recognisably the same OpenMandriva, and our comments from last year still apply. It's a smooth, friendly experience, aimed at non-technical users. It offers three desktops: the default KDE Plasma, plus GNOME and LXQt editions.

The new Rome edition has still to fully become its own thing: for instance, the boot-up and shutdown screens still say "OpenMandriva Lx", while the Welcome screen says "Rome". It's a little confusing.

There are also a profusion of versions and editions: there's the standard edition, with KDE Plasma, and also a Slim edition, still with Plasma but fewer bundled components. Alongside this are a GNOME edition and an edition with the lightweight LXQt desktop.

And we're still not done: there are also "Znver" editions, which are the same Plasma and Plasma Slim variants, but optimized for AMD hardware. And headless versions for servers, and Raspberry Pi 4 and 400 versions. This is all much too much for a small project to maintain, in the Reg FOSS desk's humble opinion.

The LXQt edition of OpenMandriva Rome feels a little unfinished and rough in places, and that's not just the desktop.

The LXQt edition of OpenMandriva Rome feels a little unfinished and rough in places, and that's not just the desktop.

We also tried the LXQt edition. As usual, this desktop feels a little unfinished: for instance, we couldn't change the screen resolution, and double-clicking the desktop icon for the installer asks the user what to do with it. The VM couldn't acquire an IP address when in bridged mode, and every time we tried to shut down or reboot the VM, it hung. In general, it felt inadequately debugged and not really ready.

We don't have AMD hardware to test the Znver1 variants, or time to try all the various editions across both Intel and Raspberry Pi variants.

OpenMandriva Rome is an interesting idea, and if the team can keep the updates flowing, the rolling-release plan could work and indeed supplant the steady-release variant. As we mentioned last year, OpenMandriva has adopted the cross-platform Calamares installer, which is a solid tool and reduces the project's maintenance workload.

But we think that there are too many variants, and that the OpenMandriva project should work out what its core strengths are, and focus on them. Better still, as we said last time, settle their differences with Mageia, and combine their efforts. TexStar is doing its own thing with PCLinuxOS, and while the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the chances for cooperation with ROSA Linux seem remote. ®

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