Written by Chips B Malroy
Welcome to my review of PCLinuxOS 2009.2. This is a 32 bit KDE desktop based on Mandriva, and as some like to call it, the better Mandriva. Myself, I cannot say that, because I have not had the pleasure of testing Mandriva of late. PCLinuxOS is also a live CD which makes testing easy to check to see if all your hardware works with it, before installing. Myself, distro’s like this with their Live CD’s, have spoiled me, and I resist trying anything that is not a Live Cd.
PCLinuxOS is currently at number 7 on the Distrowatch list, which means its a very popular distro indeed. Being based on Mandriva it uses RPM’s, but still has Synaptic Package Manager to install software post-install. This is one of the features that, in my opinion, that new users need, not that more advanced users would not use it also. Texstar and the Ripper gang, are the ones who put out PCLinuxOS. Texstar, can sometimes be found actually commenting on the forum, and answering questions. Which is unusual for a distro’s maker, or founder, to do often, but I find it refreshing. The users forum is one of the most friendly around, with lots of good advice. They the PCLinuxOS community have done a great job of documentation. User forum is at:
One nice small feature that I noticed right away during the live cd bootup, was the graphical log-in screen. Unlike some distros, PCLinuxOS actually has the usernames and passwords for the live cd log-in on the upper left hand corner. Now most distro’s usually use the same password as the user name, but occasionally I have found some that I had to go hunt it down in their forums, so this small feature, is a nice feature for New Users. PCLinuxOS uses su instead of sudo, which is effident on the log-in screen. My preference is su, yours may not be.
Abiword is what is installed, although with most distro’s you can post install OpenOffice or Koffice. While I can use any of these, I actually like Abiword as its quicker to bring up and does 99% of what I want to do. There is even an “get OpenOffice” item on the menu. KDE 3.5.10 is the default window manager, which will be the last version to use this before 4x. Its just my personal preference he, but I prefer KDE version 3.5.10 at this point in time, and can wait for the next version of PCLinuxOS to come out with the KDE4x then. Again, just my opinion, but I think Tex did it right to keep KDE3 with this release, for now.
Setting up the wireless card was not as straight forward as I would have liked it. But then I did not read the documentation or visit the user forum. I still muddled through it, and soon had it working. It was a combination of right clicking on the network icon on the task bar, and somehow detecting the card, and then scanning for the available network. It wasn’t really hard, just different than the ways I have done on the distro I use. After being a dummy and going through that, I later found a folder on the desktop called Utilities, that had a very simple to use “network setup” in it that practically would have held my hand and walked me through the setup. I just wasn’t expecting it to be this easy. So I had to try it again, and can confirm it was that easy to setup. The install to hard disk, another easy setup.
Firefox 3.0.11 web browser came installed as well as Konqueror. I liked the default selection of programs on the live cd, Gimp, Kaffeine, KMPlayer, DeVeDe, K3B to name a few. But what impressed me the most was Make LiveCD menu selection. While I don’t have time to try this right now, I do have plans to try it later. It also has a Make LiveUSB menu selection as well. It also had a nice video driver for ATI and Nvidia cards in the Utilities folder as well. Mostly, this distro would hold your hand at each and every step of the way, truly impressive, and it does everything but bark and fetch for you. Its also a nice looking distro, very easy on the eyes.
In the past I have actually used PCLinuxOS version 93a for while on a spare laptop. So its been awhile since I used it. Back then there was about 5000 packages that could be post installed, now there is 11,000. While this number might not compare with what is in the Debain repo’s, its still an impressive amount, and even back in the 93a version days, I noticed that Tex and the community did a great job of getting the best programs in the repo’s. Also, they all seemed to just install was what I noticed back then too.
Final Opinion on PCLinuxOS
This might actually be the very best distro available for new users, and has features that make it a great distro for the rest of us as well. Another distro that is similar to PCLinuxOS, are Mepis even though its Debian based. Really, I can’t say I liked this distro, but I would say I loved it, that it exceeded what I thought possible that a Linux could do. I would recommend PCLinuxOS to anyone, its made me a fan. Now, on a negative note, what did I find that was wrong with PCLinuxOS? You know I have to find something, even if its picky. So don’t take it wrong PCLinuxOS community, but the number one thing I found wrong, is no 64 bit version. Other than that its truly an outstanding job folks, please continue the hard work! The polish and attention to detail in this distro is the best I have ever seen.
This article was written by Chips B Malroy who will hopefully be a regular contributor to Openbytes!