Linux

PCLinuxOS: Definitely "Radically Simple"

In his quest to find the simplest Linux distribution, Jack Wallen makes a stop at PCLinuxOS and may have found the holy grail of simple operating systems. Read Jack's take on PCLinuxOS and decide for yourself if PCLinuxOS is your "go-to" Linux distribution.

The slogan for PCLinuxOS is "Radically Simple" and, as far as I can tell, it might be one of the most fitting operating system slogans I have seen. But does it apply across the board? From start to finish? I decided it had been too long since I had tried this distribution so I went about giving it a go. I have to say I was certainly impressed.

With some distributions, along with the claim of being the easiest, comes the stigma of being overly simple, or "dumbed down." Some of these distributions come with "helpful" widgets and graphics that look as if they were targeting an elementary school class. Not PCLinuxOS. PCLinuxOS retains a professional look and feel while remaining one of the easiest to use Linux distributions available. Let's take a look at what PCLinuxOS offers.

Based upon...

PCLinuxOS is based upon Mandriva and uses the Mandriva control center and Draklive installer. Along with Mandriva technology, PCLinuxOS is bolstered by patches from OpenSuSE, Gentoo, Fedora, Ubuntu, and Debian. Let's think about this one. You have available a distribution that benefits from all of the other outstanding distributions. So from the very beginning PCLinuxOS holds much promise.

On top of a strong foundation PCLinuxOS offers KDE 3.5.6 which is one of the more stable and user-friendly of the larger desktop environments.

But it's not what's installed that makes PCLinuxOS so "radically simple." No. What makes PCLinuxOS so radically simple is how it keeps the user from having to do tasks they aren't used to doing. Let's take a look.

Installation

I tested the PCLinuxOS installation on a number of machines (including a laptop). Each machine was comprised of varied hardware and none of the machines were similar. Everything from antiquated video to newly released wireless cards were a part of the equation, and not once did PCLinuxOS falter. The distribution found, and used, everything. Even with the laptop, where I have found some Live CDs to work fine only to have the fully-installed distribution flake out, PCLinuxOS was a hit. The only improvement I could offer would be the inclusion of WICD for wireless connectivity.

Now one possible "gotcha" was that, during the installation, PCLinuxOS allows you to have the root user without a password. I found this a little off putting because (1) Does this mean there will be no root password and "sudo" will be used or (2) Does this mean the root user uses no password? If it's the former I can live with that (because I am a Ubuntu user and am used to sudo). If it is the latter - I can not live with that because that would make for one very unsafe system.

Usage

As I said before, KDE 3.5.6 is installed, so usage is very simple. But PCLinuxOS goes well beyond that. It seems all of their tools were selected for simplicity of use. From the Synaptic package installation system to the SuperKaramba widget system (we have to keep up with OS X after all) every package installed is not only simple to use, but an outstanding addition to any Linux installation.

Bells and whistles

The default desktop is very clean looking. Fortunately PCLinuxOS is shying away (currently) from KDE 4 and KDE 3.5.6 can be (and is, out of the box) set up so that the user is instantly familiar with every aspect of the desktop. Mostly the KDE 3.5.6 desktop isn't terribly flashy. About the only added flash is the aforementioned SuperKaramba. SK adds widgets (of various types) to the desktop. Most of the widgets available for SK are monitor-type widgets which, to be honest, aren't terribly useful to the end user. But there are multimedia controller widgets, dock widgets, application controller widgets (the OpenOffice bar is one of my favs), and calendar widgets. So the desktop can be changed from new-user to power-user pretty quickly.

So Who is PCLinuxOS For?

PCLinuxOS might be one of those distributions that can easily be for everyone. From the new user who has never touched Linux before to the guru, anyone would be hard-pressed to find something to seriously complain about with this distribution.

Final thoughts

What impressed me the most about PCLinuxOS is its lack of pretension. The creators of PCLinuxOS know their audience is a wide cross section and know how to present their wares to that audience without being insulting or coming across as "better than the rest." PCLinuxOS is a simple-to-use operating system that makes the user forget that it's there. And isn't that the whole point of an operating system - to bridge the gap between the user and the hardware and make the work seamless? Well that's exactly what PCLinuxOS does best: Seamless.

I highly recommend this distribution to pretty much anyone. If you have people you're hoping to win over to Linux this might be your go-to OS. If you have hardware that other distributions don't seem to like, again, this might be your OS. Give PCLinuxOS a try. It really is "radically simple."

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

61 comments
dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

This IS my Linux distro of choice. Texstar and the Ripper Gang worked wonders creating this OS and it's the best implementation of the KDE desktop I've used. I've used three other distros before I settled on PCLOS and I'll probably stick with it as long as its supported. The only bad thing was I couldin't get it to work with my new desktop as the Nvidia chipset was too new to find any Linux driver. It works great on my IBM A20m notebook and my AMD desktop.

penguinibros
penguinibros

My Remastered PCLOS system running on my desktop and laptop utilizing the 2.6.26.4 kernel is fantastic. Everything that I installed from the Live DVDs I created works. Which is interesting because I used the Testing Repository extensively. If people are impressed with PCLinuxOS now, I would guess that they will even be more impressed when the new version is released. Be patient. PCLOS is a 100 percent Community supported project with no paid employees. http://pclinuxisbest.com

alan.schmeelk
alan.schmeelk

I liked PCLOS2007 for the most part, but it stubbornly refuses to use my Belkin wireless G pci card. So I went back to SUSE11.0 which finds my card with no prompting from me at all. It just worked.

dave
dave

PCLinuxOS as a full distribution. But I like Puppy Linux very much as well

walrus
walrus

Definitely! I love PCLinuxOS, the only problem being the availability of software, particularly games. Where available, the choice is sometimes limited as well. I believe everyone will use Linux one day. It's so easy to set up and use, and it works beautifully.

i1-14174
i1-14174

Well, I agree mainly, but I have my slice of problem installing it on old machines. First of all if you install on 128Mb ram (although stated somewhere in the FAQ), it is difficult to succeed, with weird and unclear messages/behaviour. Second, not yet solved, the MiniME version, run on a bigger/newer machine as a testbed for a 10Gb disk, refuses to install GRUB on it. Anyway, I will continue to bang my head because, coming from Debian and Knoppix, I like this distro...!

BobK Linux Noob
BobK Linux Noob

Yup. Radically Simple. User since September 2006. Tried the rest..literally....I went through about 40 distros! Stable, friendly, good forums, worked on a PIII450 with 320M of RAM; now working on a AMD Athlon64 X2 with 2 Gig or RAM. Try it, you'll like it!

Jaqui
Jaqui

older hardware can be an issue, since PCLinuxOS requires 512 MB ram and a p3 @ 500 MHz minimum. [ some of my old hardware is to old and slow for PCLinuxOS to run. ] The no root password is a direct inheritance from Mandriva, and I beleive it's a sudo fallback by default. PCLinuxOS does have one serious flaw, from security viewpoint. With PCLinuxOS you CAN log into the X environment as root. While the livecd / innstaller this is ok, on an installed os this is a severe security issue, root should not be able to login to x in runlevel 5 [ the default ]

lastchip
lastchip

Although Debian is my main go-to Linux OS, I've used PCLinuxOS 2007 on my laptop from the first stable release and updated it since (so I guess I've got 2008 now!). The huge attraction for me, was that it recognised and configured my wireless chip without any intervention from me *and* I could use WAP-PSK out of the box - something at the time that Ubuntu/Kubuntu failed miserably at. I've been perfectly happy with it and have no reason to change, though be aware, that if you choose to use the eye candy, you may end up with a reinstall. It wasn't that stable when I tried it, though it may have improved since. Overall though, a great system.

webwalker_z
webwalker_z

I've been using Xandros since 2.0. It's what got me started on Linux. I now have 4.01 and is very stable. My next choice though is PCLinuxOS. I have it running on another desktop and works flawlessly. Now for the bad part, I tried installing it on my new Lenovo ThinkPad and it would not detect my ethernet card or my wireless. I wasn't happy about that as I really wanted to use PCLinuxOS on it. So for now I had to settle for Kubuntu 8.04. It detected all my hardware without a problem. I keep watching and try PCLinuxOS again later to see if the problems with my ethernet get addressed. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Doug Vitale
Doug Vitale

PCLinuxOS is definitely the easiest and most user-friendly distribution, but Linux Mint is a close second and might be more suitable for those who have had positive experiences with Ubuntu, since Mint is derived from that distro.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

PCLOS is surely my 'Go To' distro. When I was first trying out Linux a couple of years ago, I ran into a small article on PCLOS, at the time I tried SUSE, Fedora, and a few others. SUSE took forever to install, and I didnt like Fedora. PCLOS at first try, got me up and running quickly, quietly, and got my wireless working :) Been a fan ever since. I use SUSE for some tasks, however PCLOS is my favorite!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

My corporate laptop (Latitude 630) crashed Tuesday morning and I attempted to boot to the live CD to recover some data from Monday (backup was taken Sunday! B-) ). PCLOS choked on the USB. Started the USB service but hung while polling. Let it try for an hour, then finally gave up, booted to TrueImage and restored.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The one I'm thinking of is a recently released liveDVD with almost any title available on the platform. Of course, I can't remember the name off hand but I have the disk burnt at home for testing hardware compatability before I put effort into tweaking a game.

SubgeniusD
SubgeniusD

Been using continuously since last summer with only a couple hangups quickly cleared up on the forums - one by the great Texstar himself! (our fearless leader) I have VectorLinux and SuSe on other systems but PCLOS is just so easy and practical I stay with it out of habit at this point. And I am a PASS member ($ contributor) and encourage more of you to join and help the cause.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't remember an install of Mandrake/Mandriva that did not make use of the root password. The recent installs I can remember all ask for a root password then a regular user/passwd; just before the "do you want to check for updates" step. Mind you, I've the bad habit of having a root terminal open on the side so i don't think I've ever used sudo on my own Mandriva boxes. (sudo get's a lot of use on my Maemo box but that's a different setup)

clellaja
clellaja

You may want to try the MiniMe 2008; it's pared down; I can't say for sure what the min is - possibly 128MB RAM, maybe even as low as 64. I think 333MHz CPU is the min.

JustinF
JustinF

I use the Gnome version, (I like my GUI un-crashed), and always have to enter a Root password during the installation. I also get a warning when I log on as root with an option to Continue or Quit.

travisn000
travisn000

I think it only requires 256mb ram.. I was even able to run beryl / compiz-fusion with this amount of ram on an old Compaq presario 906US laptop (..until I started changing settings and killed it; default setting worked surprisingly well given such a small amount of ram)

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

after tweaking Beryl out a bit too much. However, I was using a video card that was Beryl was not designed for (and received a warning on it).

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My T60 has no issues with Mandriva right down to supporting the fancy custom buttons but that is my "go to" distro. I'd rather specialize the notebook more with a distro like BT3 but it does not support the T60 wireless. Same thing here, I keep testing BT with each new build incase it picks up support. It goes in my toolbag with a number of other liveCD though so it's no issue to give it a quick boot or check BT's compatability list when updating my tool kit.

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I have found that the PCLinuxOS Mini Me will work with my ethernet card by running modprobe. The full PCLinuxOS will not. I think they are getting close to releasing the next version and that one might cover the later ethernet cards. It is still not my go to distro. I prefer Kubuntu for now and am still trying out a bunch of others. The latest one I am going to eliminate is Fedora. Just cannot get used to that one for some reason although it has worked well for me. Just do not care for it.

shevloff
shevloff

Ubuntu 8.04 works fine with my RA USB wireless but not PCLinuxOS or any other non gnome based distro for that matter. Hope we get this resolver in PCLinuxOS soon as otherwise it is a greaat distro

dondidly
dondidly

I guess I'd have to say Ubuntu has been my fav. I've been trying various OSes on my old 500MHz system to see what works best. I've tried Ubuntu, Freespire, Linux Mint, eLive, Mepis 7.0, OpenSUSE 10.3, PCLOS and now Xubuntu and have not had any problems with getting any of them working correctly, but REALLY notice how much faster system response I get with Ubuntu and Xubuntu. They're all good and when I get a better machine to play with I'll try some of them again...

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've been keeping away from introducing new distros into the discussion but every time I read "easer than any other distro" I gotta wonder if they've tried Mandriva. In the span of freaking technical down to stupid user easy, there are a number of distros providing ease of use. This was a PCLinuxOS article though so it seemed more apropriate to stick with the one brand rather than everyone anouncing there personal favorite.

matthew.balthrop
matthew.balthrop

I have been using Ubuntu on a few Desktops, ill take a closer look at PCLOS though. Sounds like i nice distro. -alias

yschoo1
yschoo1

among all available Linux distribution. However, it doesn't give me Chinese language support like Ubuntu. That's the only reason why I opt for the latter. If you are an English language only user, it is the best one could have expected from a Linus distro.

alxcsby
alxcsby

I'm still testing, but am glad to hear about this. I'm anxious to try it on an old laptop that I have collecting dust. Though, the OCD in me would like to point out: Definately should be "Definitely".

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've had to un-screwed an install with Supergrub liveCD once. It found all bootable partitions then asked which to start up. I got Mandriva back up and running then a quick visit to the draketools and it was fixed. SystemRescue is also a handy disk to have around as I believe it mounts all detectable storage automatically during boot and supports USB storage (data recovery liveCD after all). These days, I tend to just reach for my Backtrack liveCD as it's always handy. The only catch is that the USB flashdrive needs to be plugged in during boot so it can be detected and mounted when the distro mounts all other visible shares. BT.. not just one of my security tools..

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I have had no USB issues (HP machines) with PCLOS. Several monitor issues, but no USB issues. Oops, and a kvm issue. the kvm works in SUSE, XP, Vista, but the keyboard cannot be found with PCLOS (belkin kvm)

Others don't play well with me
Others don't play well with me

livecd system from Mandriva, used by PCLinuxOS, offers a no root password option during the install. I know Mandriva also had that option, for 2005 and 2006. They removed it in 2007 version.

Jaqui
Jaqui

won't work on a 266MHz pentium-mmx system maxed at 128 MB ram then. :D see, compiz etc are just bloat that shouldn't be required anyway.

Betelgeuse58
Betelgeuse58

I have my PCLOS 2007 installed on a non-modified Compaq Pressario 1800 which uses a PCI card. I simply slid in the card and, voila!!!...I was hooked up to the wireless network in the library I was in! :D You might try going into "Configure Your Computer">Network & Internet>Wireless Connection and see what you can achieve in there. Note: You must know your administrative password to get in there. I hope this helps. Good luck! :D

travisn000
travisn000

I found PCLOS a few years back after being unable to get wireless (and some codec issues) working on ubuntu.. ..if you're still having problems, try the PCLOS mini-me remaster.. It seems to work on some of the more stubborn cases, and is a much "lighter" version (you pick the apps you want from synaptic.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's gear towards low resource systems though. There are also some others you may find worth trying like Damn Small also but if you got something that works; that's really the important part.

Betelgeuse58
Betelgeuse58

I just now went into Synaptic, did a Search for Chinese and came up with a BUNCH of packages to choose from to install concerning the Chinese Language. You might want to try that. ;) As for "Support"; If you're talking about techincal support, you must use the PCLinuxOS Support Forum at: http://www.pclinuxos.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=58 I hope this helps. Good luck! :)

mckenna.terry
mckenna.terry

PCLinuxOS works beautifully with the original ISO packages (only). A bunch of stuff in the repos. are corrupt and remove needed dependencies when installed. Installing MySQL removes the kernel!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Bless HOPE for bringing DeICE into my world. I found DVL about half a year before that and started keeping it on a VM for a target box. They both do the same thing; let me bang a real blackbox without the ethical and legal issues of not owning that box. I'd classify these both as training aids or learning labs. BT is the real toolkit I keep around. It's a good thing I have my bt2 image around still also. Two stumbling blocks slowed me down with DeICE 1: - it's meant to be broken using BT2 because BT3 and BT4 dropped the wordlists for hydra, john and such. (I have the wordlist in my dictionary folder now so it's a non-issue) - cat.. freaking cat.. No problem with the heavy lifting industry security tools but I got hungup on a step because of my habit for more/less rather than cat. DeICE 1.. broken.. now on too DeICE 2. (and a review of my systems to confirm that they are not open to the same things that make the first disk breakable)

seanferd
seanferd

The very black site: offensive-security.com (DUH!) - emoticon not found. I probably was confusing Helix3 with BackTrack 3, as the FAQ clearly states that it will never cost anything. (Which I also remember reading long ago.) This is cool, it doesen't mess with my Feng Shui or Wi Fu. So thanks for returning my brain, O Scummy One. Neon: I'd quite forgotten DVL - I like the new version name. I'm not so heavy into these environments that I spend a lot of time with them, I just use certain tools in some various distros to fix stuff. Never tried to do serious forensics or set up a network to pen test. But I love the stuff, and learn chunks of stuff over time. DeIce looks really cool. Thanks for the info, and priming the memory pump.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's actually only recently that I've added the BT news feed to my daily bookmarks watching for bt4final to come out or a release date anouncement. Before that I always found it through a search though. One link leads to the main page and then links get me to the seporate download and wiki sites. hm.. now I have to go have a look-see about Helix. DVL Infectious Disease is available now also if your looking for target and training distros. I'm going to go back to pounding on it after the DeICE disks.. DeICE 1 75% done. ;)

seanferd
seanferd

I couldn't find the pages I originally downloaded 3 from. (It was black. How much more black could it get? The answer is "none".) I was just there a day or two ago, and it made noises about training and whatnot, but that it was not available for download. And perhaps I'm confusing it with Helix somehow. This is freaking me out. I feel like something hacked my brain.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's great to be able to just boot a liveCD and copy off what I'm after. Going the other way is equally nice. I've had a few cases where an old version of Flash gets stuck on a machine; even booting in minimal "safe mode" leave the file locked. In a few cases it's been so bad that I've tried utilities to move/rename/delete files during the boot process before things get locked and somehow that Fing flashplayer plugin is already "file locked unable to delete". A reboot with a liveCD and rm -rf /mnt/sda1/Windows/System32/Macrmedia/* I think it's around Flash7a or Flash9.. One outstanding case was a laptop encrypted before I got my liveCD too it. The flash plugin file is far outside of the default location yet still locked from boot onward. The liveCD can't mount the drive in any usable way though; Truecrypt works. I started with SuperGrub only encase it was a booting issue rather than a broken OS issue.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I needed the laptop [u]now[/u] and had been putting off the reimage in the hopes of recovering those files. If I'd had time to think about it, I'd have broken out the UBCD, gone to a prompt and cp'ed or mv'ed onto the USB drive.

seanferd
seanferd

As BackTrack is no longer freely available. (I'm sure it haunts P2P, but you never know what you are going to get.)

Betelgeuse58
Betelgeuse58

I agree with your point of view for John/Jane Q. Public who don't even know that they need to keep their anti-malware programs up-to-date. ...That is, *if* they know that they need them to *begin* with! :| However, the type of user I'm referencing is one "[i]who is [u]to the point of installing Linux[/u] [/i]*and*[i] [u]should[/u] know enough about security in general as well as the security[/i] [features] [i]in Linux.[/i]" These types of users *should* already know that they need those password[b]s[/b] and *may* even have their Windoze machines set up with them as well. ;) I do. On both my Windoze and PCLOS systems. B-)

Jaqui
Jaqui

Windows doesn't require any passwords, and people run as administrator more often than not, they are not used to the concept that admin login is only needed for admin tasks.

Betelgeuse58
Betelgeuse58

When I installed PCLOS 2007 on my Compaq Presario 1800 I was prompted to use both a "Root" AND "Login" password. I did enter a separate password for both options! Now, anyone who is to the point of installing Linux should know enough about security in general as well as the security in Linux. ***QUESTION: Why would such a person *not* utilize all security options at their disposal? ?:|

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Fork a distro if you really think your idea is that much better but don't casturate the security of the system by it. PCLinuxOS is still on my list of distros to try though so I've no idea how it's install goes. I just thought it odd that Mandriva was not prompting for root credentials.

lastchip
lastchip

works really well from a USB stick too. I carry it around with me as a spare operating system. Ideal for recovering data, (providing it's not huge GB's) and even then, you may be able to burn to a DVD.

travisn000
travisn000

I would (and so would the makers of PLCOS) agree that PCLOS in its native form is a desktop distribution. Having said that though, one of it's greatest spin-offs is the "Business Edition" series, which in my opinion is one of the best server distro's out there for your average (non- enterprise) user.. Here is it's list of features: System to 2-16-2008 (kernel 2.6.22.17) Additional kernel for older computers (2.6.18.8.tex5) is still available at boot time from the LiveCD! Webmin to 1.390 Webmin Filesystem Backup Module Modifed remasterme > remastersbk .xsession for fusesmb grub,boot,kde and desktop graphics eGroupWare (Replaces GroupOffice - still in XFCE version) AjaxExplorer NolaPro fusesmb MediaWiki Wordpress Coppermine Photo Gallery Sugar CRM Awstats Mambo CMS phpBB3 Bastille Freeway htop Opengradebook snort Amanda htdig ..Website is: http://www.pclosbe.org/

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

Its main design is the desktop OS market, and to help move people off of Windows. For a server OS, I dont have much exp. with server Linux boxes, but I would expect SUSE/Red Hat/or the like. However, the free SUS is missing some commands for administration

JustinF
JustinF

I've been using it for about 6 months now. I started with PC Linux 2007 Gnome & then upgraded to the 2008 version, (NB. there's no real "upgrade" option - if you update your packages through Synaptic you will always have the latest version. I had hosed my original install with a failed VPN client install & wanted to start afresh - I backed up my home directory, reinstalled, copied my home directory back again and was up & running with everything working in less than an hour). I tried Fedora, SUSE, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, BSD & Solaris and ended up choosing PC Linux OS mainly because of the codec support - the other distros don't have support for audio and video codecs out of the box, it's a long and painful process to install codecs and get them working. PC Linux OS already had them installed by default. I'm not AS impressed with it when it is used as a server OS, I will probably switch to Open SUSE 11, as I tried to set up a LAMP server after the initial install and Synaptic tried to remove some critical packages, but it works well as a NFS/Samba server on my home network.

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