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What exactly is happening at Mandriva, the French company that markets a well-known GNU/Linux distribution but seems unable to communicate its position to its users and the public at large?

Given that it makes at least some of its money from selling software and support, the lack of clarity on its position - and subsequent dissemination of that information through the media - could very well affect what prospects it has.

The last official word from the company was on January 30 - a cryptic message that one of the minority shareholders had rejected a proposed financial bailout.

However, it continued, the company's financial situation was better than expected (which tells us exactly nothing) and the search for a solution to keep it alive could thus continue until mid-February.

A post by one of the developers on March 8 said, again in keeping with the best cryptic traditions, "Yes, quick very fresh news: Mandriva still have to solve some complicated problems, but the situation is far more better since yesterday, the main problem is cleared :)

"Atm (at the moment) i'm (sic) asked not to tell too much things, I don't like that, but I uderstand (sic). In a couple of weeks there will be very interesting news. Yeah, i know, you have wait since more than two months, but what I can say is that the future of Mandriva Linux will be really interesting."

But that couple of weeks has gone by and nobody is the wiser. And, in what could be a development either unrelated or related to the blanket of silence hanging over Mandriva, one big user has announced a switch from Mandriva to Ubuntu.

Brazil's National Institute of Information Technology - which is responsible for National Digital Certification, the standard Public Key Infrastructure (ICP-Brazil) - is the organisation that has made the switch.

Brazil is a country that is really big on GNU/Linux. The Ministry of Education had announced a big take-up of Mandriva in December 2010. Whether that will change too is anybody's guess.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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