First Time Linux

How to get software

Firstly, there is probably lots of software on the Mandriva CDs or DVD, that wasn't installed by default. If you find you need some extra software, it's well worth checking if you've already got it, before you start searching for downloads.

To check what's already available, you can run the install program from the menu (you don't need your CDs / DVD just yet, as the index of available software is stored locally). Just select System - Configuration - Packaging - Install software from the menu, and then enter the root password at the prompt. You can then search for words in the descriptions, or just the names, and see details for each package. To install, simply select the checkbox for the package(s) you want, approve the dependencies, and hit 'Install'. Then you'll need to insert the appropriate CD(s) / DVD to get the code.

If the software isn't already on your install media, you'll need to download the extra packages yourself. Best of all you'll get an rpm package, which should get painlessly installed into your Mandriva system. Worst of all you'll end up having to compile your own binaries from source code, which is probably best avoided if at all possible.


Apparently the absolute best-ever method of getting rpms is via a tool called easyurpmi (I know, catchy name). According to Rob at "Mandrake Tips 4 Free":

"Urpmi combined with is what makes life with Mdv fun."

Once this is all set up correctly (making sure the repositories you've selected correspond exactly to your Mandriva version), you can search for and install new rpms and all their dependencies automatically with a single urpmi command. Easy. See the internet section for details of setting this up, or see the links below for more information.

Manual install

For those without a direct internet connection (but with an indirect one), it's still quite easy to manually download the packages and install them. It only gets a little bit more complicated when the rpms have dependencies, and then you have to search for those packages as well before the one you want will install.

A simple internet search will often yield useful results (eg searching for "dict rpm mandrake"), but there are specialist sites which do the job much better - see and Make sure the URLs correspond to the correct version of the package you want (eg official, 10.2, i586), as there can be several different varieties available.

New Applications

Vector graphics

Mandriva already came with Gimp 2.2, which has better vector support than 2.0 but still surprisingly weak. So, on the hunt for a good vector tool I came across a great one called Inkscape, which was installed straight away with an 10MB rpm from the inkscape download page. Works really well so far, saving the files as XML-based SVG format, although the export to png or gif is producing surprisingly large files. Gimp can reduce them quite a bit but this shouldn't be a two-step process. There's quite possibly an Inkscape option somewhere to help optimise this.


Surely not another browser, on top of Konqueror, Mozilla, Firefox and Lynx? Well, yes. I also installed Opera 8.5, from the 4MB rpm from their site, which was again a painless install. The cost-free version used to display adverts in the browser itself unless you paid to register, but as of version 8.5 this is no longer the case. It is still closed-source, but it works great and allows you to test web pages to see if they display correctly in Opera as well, for those who want to use it.

Dictionaries and Translation

I also wanted to have an English dictionary available offline, and a German<->English lookup as well - and this led me to the tool kdict, which I found was already installed with Mandriva. Perfect, except that's only the client, and connects by default to an internet-based dictionary server. A bit more hunting later, and I found rpms for a server which I can run locally, to look in the locally-downloaded dictionary files. With rpms for dictd, dictd-server, dictd-utils and a few dictionary rpms, I was ready to go, except for an amusing circular dependency problem: you can't install dictd unless dictd-server is already installed. You can't install that unless dictd-dictionaries is already there, and you can't install the dictionaries (which provide the dependency dictd-dictionaries) unless dictd is already installed! Yay!

The solution was eventually found, to run the command urpmi to install all three at once, so the dependencies can be simultaneously satisfied. (Incidentally, I didn't think I had the urpmi tool because unless you're root, it says that the command can't be found! Not "you're not authorised to run this command", but "urpmi: command not found". Confusing. Apparently root has /usr/sbin/ in its $PATH, but my user doesn't.)

Anyway, now as long as the dictionary server is running, which it seems to by default now, and kdict is told to ask localhost instead of the internet, you can look up words in all three dictionaries at once very quickly. The only snag is that the translation dictionary files don't always make sense, for example the word "gehen" gives the following:

gehen [ge##n]
    gone}, to ambulate, to go {went, to walk

where the funny characters in the pronunciation description are undisplayable Unicode and the funny format of the translation is because the entries "gone}" and "to go {went" have found their way into the English dictionary. Hence you can't look up "to go" as an English verb because it's not there, but if you look up "to go went" then it finds the entry for "gehen". I've contacted for advice but not got any reply so far - updates seem to have stalled sometime in 2002.

Update: I found another translation program called ding with its own GUI and its own dictionary (from which the ones were created) - it needs the packages tcl and tk to be installed first but then runs nicely and provides lots of verb conjugations which is much better than just a simple translation.

Both dict and ding both suffer from the Umlaut problem, whereby the German letters ö, ü and ä are all displayed wrongly and you can't lookup any of these words for the same reason.

Photo stitching

hugin is a photo-stitcher application, itself a modest rpm but also requiring libpano12 and a selection of wxgtk libraries. It also says that enblend is optional, but if you want smoothed joins between photos rather than obvious, hard lines, then you need the enblend rpm as well.

The tutorials at the hugin website make things fairly straightforward, although a few things weren't obvious at first. Firstly make sure the 'yaw' settings for each photo are correct- reckon on around 20 degrees of yaw between each shot. Make sure you press the 'Add' button to add the control points, don't just click another pair. The 'Add' button isn't too obvious but very necessary! Make sure the stitching engine is set to "nona", and if you want to use enblend then make sure you output to TIFF format and select the checkbox "Soft Blending".

The real bonus with hugin is the ability to stitch together rectangular panoramas, rather than just linear ones. That means you can take for example 6 photos in a 3x2 grid and get a really effective panoramic picture, rather than one long skinny 6-in-a-row strip.

GPS data management and geotagging photos

GpsPrune is the one-stop point-and-click shop for editing and visualising your GPS data on linux. But of course I would say that because GpsPrune comes from the activityworkshop :) It requires java, and uses gpsbabel to extract data from your GPS receiver, or it loads your data directly from file in text, csv, GPX, KML, KMZ or NMEA format. You can edit your data, step through point by point, delete bits you don't want, visualize in 3d, export for rendering in povray, correlate your photos, save the coordinates into the jpegs using exiftool, export thumbnails to KMZ format, plot charts using gnuplot, and many other fun things.

Recommended apps

Here are some recommended applications which are definitely worth a look:

Other interesting programs / fixes

The following installs were less impressive, or not (yet) so successful: