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Mandrake moves faster with new Linux

MandrakeSoft releases a new version of its Linux software that embraces some technology that rival Red Hat still keeps at arm's length.

MandrakeSoft has released a new version of its Linux software that embraces some technology that rival Red Hat still keeps at arm's length.

Red Hat is becoming more aggressive with its enthusiast version of Linux, adopting open-source technologies more quickly than in the past because the company can satisfy conservative business customers with its slower-moving Enterprise Linux versions. But is still moving more aggressively.

MandrakeSoft, currently under bankruptcy protection, has been jumping to include as rapidly as possible the latest technology, such as AMD's forthcoming Opteron processors. The company, based in Paris but with the largest fraction of its business in North America, also has pleaded for financial help from its users.

Mandrake 9.1, called "Bamboo" and announced Tuesday, includes several features not yet in Red Hat--the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) technology for putting idle computers into hibernation modes to save battery power is one example. Red Hat included ACPI in a recent beta, or test, version of what is now Red Hat Linux 9, but decided it wasn't yet ready for inclusion.

In addition, Mandrake 9.1 can be installed on a computer that has Windows 2000 or Windows XP installed. Those operating systems format hard disks with Microsoft's NTFS file system, which Linux is only beginning to support. Mandrake can carve off a piece of an NTFS, or NT file system, disk partition for its own use and read data from an NTFS partition, said Mandrake co-founder Gael Duval in an e-mail interview. However, it can't yet write files on the NTFS partition.

By contrast, Red Hat must be installed either on a hard disk of its own or on a partition using Microsoft's older FAT, or file allocation table, file system format.

Red Hat said technical and legal issues currently prevent NTFS support. "We need to verify that Microsoft doesn't hold any patents in the area we might be violating. We're still doing investigation in that area," said Matt Wilson, manager of Red Hat's base operating system, in an interview Tuesday. "Realistically, given the level of documentation Microsoft gives for NTFS, I don't know that I'd trust anyone's implementation except for Microsoft's," he added.

Mandrake 9.1 uses some similar components as the latest Red Hat Linux 9, to be released next week, including version 2 of the Apache Software Foundation Web server and the latest graphical desktop interface suites from KDE and GNOME.

The new version of Mandrake also includes a more refined user interface, including the "MandrakeGalaxy" theme for icons and other graphical elements and smoother antialiased fonts. "Browsing the Web or typing a letter in Linux has never been so enjoyable," Mandrake said in a statement.

Prices for Mandrake 9.1 range from $39.90 for a standard version to $199.90 for a full-fledged version designed for small or medium-size businesses.