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PCLinuxOS


Recently one of my readers suggested I give the PCLinuxOS distribution a try. I did. Here are my thoughts.

For the longest time my distro of choice for newbies was Ubuntu. Ubuntu was simple to install, easy to configure, and simple to manage. Ubuntu discovered hardware (for the most part) well and had a small footprint.

But then came PCLinuxOS.

I downloaded the live image iso from the PCLinuxOS website, burned it onto CD, inserted the CD into my test machine, and fired it up.

PCLinuxOS is based on Mandrake, er, Mandriva. The installation is very much like Ubuntu. Once the Live CD is finished booting, you click on the install icon, and let the install take care of all the business. It's as simple an installation as they get. Sometimes it's hard to believe installing an entire operating system is now as simple as installing an application!

But once the installation was complete, the fun really began.

I had installed a couple of wireless network cards to see if the OS could handle them. The first was a D-Linux usb dongle card. No luck. This was odd because I had managed to get that usb device working in Fedora with ndiswrapper. Oh well. The next card was a Belkin card not supported by ndiswapper. I had been unsuccessful in every attempt to get that card working. Until PCLinuxOS. After the OS was up and running I opened up the mmc tool (that's the little button labeled "Configure Your Computer") and attempted to add a new wireless ethernet device. After about two minutes I had that card up and running. No installation applications, no compiling drivers or kernels, no nothing! It was fast and simple. ANYONE could have managed to get that card working in PCLinuxOS.

I couldn't believe it. Had the Linux operating system grown wings and started to fly on its own? It looked like it had.

Of course I didn't want to base my entire opinion on the distributions ability to work with a previously unsupported networking card. I wanted to see how far I could take it. So I installed the Beryl desktop support for KDE. Wow! I was amazed at how well these all worked together. The OSs ability to pick up and install the proper support to for the graphics card, the integration of the newest, boldest KDE, and the ability to use all the bells and whistles of Beryl on an older machine.

PCLinuxOS is fast becoming my distribution of choice...even though it seems to be geared toward newbies. It's based on a solid distribution, it offers tons of eye-candy, and it works with more hardware than many other distributions.

I've yet to try it out as a server but my instincts tell me it's far better suited for the desktop.

If you've not given it a go, you should. You will be impressed I'm certain of it. 

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.

20 comments
j-mart
j-mart

I too recently installed PCLinuxOS. As I used Mandrake PowerPac up until about a year ago, before switching to Debian I like the combination of Drax configuration tools with the Debian apt package manager, the tool I most missed from Mandrake with the package management of Debian what more could you ask for as well as ease of installation. Easy to get flash and all the other proprietary web content BS. I still like Debian but on a machine I use for general listening to music, web browsing etc its the definite no mucking around way to go.

kauaian
kauaian

3 desktops and 1 laptop now run on PCLinuxOS 2007. I have all of the prior distros to prove that this is the one for me. Ubuntu is on 5th computer. 6th & 7th computer have windows. But I am blown away even more installing PcLinos Business Edition. It is PCLinux 2007 with ServerConfig tools. Wow Wow Wow. Ubuntu Server replaced MS Small Bus Server 2003 over a year ago. Here's the kicker. All are home machines. An Accountant by day and a PC Tweaker by night. Not a hacker just enjoy learning about networks and web servers. Folks you decide. Thanks and Aloha to all of the Linux programmers for all of your hard work.

selvarhce
selvarhce

I have been using it one of my client system, I liked to work with it because of its multimedia utilities. while i tried to boot/install on a D101Gcc Mother board system no luck, Is there any updade for this....

johnson12
johnson12

Just joking, but I am glad you liked it. I was wondering which version you tested, as test 3 was released last week. There are still some bugs to ironed out, but things are coming along nicely. Make sure to check things out when it goes final. I actually had missed your review until a forum member posted the link. Sorry for the double post, when I posted the first time it seemed to be hung when uploading so I stopped it a reposted. When I checked back here today I saw the two posts.

johnson12
johnson12

Just joking, but I am glad you liked it. I was wondering which version you tested, as test 3 was released last week. There are still some bugs to ironed out, but things are coming along nicely. Make sure to check things out when it goes final. I actually had missed your review until a forum member posted the link.

comsec1
comsec1

Linux distros usually rend to be fairly straight forward up to the point of modem recognition and config. Does PCLinuxOS Recognize and config modems on its own like it does for wireless? Just curious

Jaqui
Jaqui

Actually, PCLinuxOS is a Mandriva front end to Debian. The Mandriva "Drakx Tools" are the GUI "Control Panel". The Drakx based URPMI tools for package management actually work with debian's software repositories and the .deb packages instead of the rpm packages Mandriva uses. It's also the only distro that defaults to using the KDE version of the Aero-glass ui. [ you know, everything transparent making it hard to see where the windows are ]:) ] ( for the 3D effects of Aero, use Beryl with KDE, 100% Aero-Glass UI )

stress junkie
stress junkie

I was recently evaluating different Linux distributions for use on a notebook computer. The notebook computer would be used by a teenager. I wanted some easy way to configure wireless network cards. It had to be as easy as using Windows and it had to be able to discover networks. All of the distributions that I tried had required me to find this or that file and add entries in a text editor. Worse, I couldn't find any way to discover wireless networks that were within range. I figured that feature was critical because a teenager would be moving around a lot and would want to connect to networks at school, the local library, coffee shops, etc. I felt that the end user would only enjoy using the computer if the wireless network configuration tool could discover networks, just like in Windows. PCLinuxOS is the only distribution that I tested which had this capability built into the system administration GUI application. Configuring the wireless network card is very similar to using the Windows wifi configuration tool. Not the wizard, but the one where you start in the Control Panel to create new or modify existing network connections. I hang out at linuxquestions.org a lot. Questions about configuring wireless network cards makes up a significant percent of the questions. If the person says that they are trying to configure a wireless network card and just installed whatever distribution I will often suggest that they try PCLOS. The wireless network configuration tool makes this distro an excellent choice for use on notebook computers. PCLinuxOS is also great on a full sized desktop computer. It comes with all of the multimedia capability that people want to use on their computers. You don't have to mess around trying to "sneak" a capability into your computer that the vendor explicitly tried to prevent. (Red Hat and Novell SuSE, for example.) I could go on but my fingers are getting tired. :D

josir
josir

To analyse a Linux distribution, you should always mention the most important feature of a Linux distro: the comunity that support it! How much strong is the community and developers, how better the distrib will be! That's why Ubuntu became so popular. It shares values and ideas that tide the virtual community. A curiosity that can be worthy: this PCLinuxOS can use the same Ubuntu or Debian repositories?

jlwallen
jlwallen

I am quickly becoming a fan of beryl. sure it's nothing but eye candy but it's really amazing to see how far the Linux GUI has come. Of course on my desktop I still roll with enlightenment. hopefully i'll get e17 running with some sweet eye candy and the allure of beryl will not be so strong. ;-)

Jaqui
Jaqui

isn't really a desktop environment, it is a window manager. kde and gnome are desktop environments on top of window managers on top of xfree86/xorg. you should be able to put Beryl on top of enlightenment if you want it, since Beryl is a desktop environment, not just a widget set. :)

jlwallen
jlwallen

I have an G3 ibook. It's old and slow but with enlightenment (running Ubuntu) it runs just fine. Granted that's not a 350 Mhz machine but you get the idea.

Jaqui
Jaqui

enlightenment as my gui since I started with linux. [ something about the old startup giving me 129% enlightenment before it started tickled my funny bone :) ] That was on a p2 @233 MHz with only 128 mb ram. yup it's less resource intensive, but then, no widget sets, no gkt, no qt for it. means no Firefox, seamonkey, k3b, xine, mplayer .... no taskbar, only context menus to access everything.

FrStephenS
FrStephenS

Anyone interested in running Enlightenment might take a look at the E-Live distro, which gives a choice of e-16 or e-17, plus a reasonably full set of apps in a live CD format that also installs easily. http://www.elivecd.org/ What experience has anyone had running Enlightenment on ancient hardware? I;ve heard that Enlightenment is less resource-hungry than KDE or Gnome. (My Linux test box is a 500 MHz P3 with 512 M of RAM - which is better than my 350 MHz P2 Win2000 main machine!)

stress junkie
stress junkie

I think that Jaqui and I would agree here that one difference between a simple window manager and a desktop environment is software bloat. The desktop environments add a lot of code compared to a simple window manager. The reason for this is philosophical. A simple window manager is just plain ugly and all it can do is create windows. A desktop environment can be very appealing visually and it can add a lot of functionality such as making file associations for file extensions. Desktop environments add visual appeal by adding a layer of software between the application and the X software (either XFree86 or X.org). The KDE environment uses a system called Qt while Gnome uses a system called GTK. This layer is intended to add widgets to make windows more visually appealing. If you look on forums about Linux you will see that a lot of people really like this sort of thing so it is important. A simple window manager like twm looks like a toy compared to the visual appeal of a desktop environment. Desktop environments also add their own interprocess communication. KDE uses DCOP while Gnome uses Orbit. This is a kernel level function that these desktop environments move into user space. That is probably a bad idea from a security point of view. Both KDE and Gnome create daemons to perform this interprocess communication, they use network sockets to perform local tasks, and they create files in the /tmp directory. All of these things can be seen as being bad from a security point of view. I really hate the fact that they use network sockets to perform local tasks. That is akin to Microsoft Windows' approach to functions that don't require the network yet still use part of the network code to accomplish something. As jlwallen said, when applications are created to use the Qt or GTK widgets provided by these desktop environments then they require the presence of that software to be on the system in order for them to run. It is not enough to simply have XFree86 or X.org base software. You have to include the libraries of the desktop environment for which the application is intended. So many applications are being built for these environments that you will almost certainly find that you want to use one or more of them. That means that you will probably want to install both KDE and Gnome when you first build your Linux system. Both KDE and Gnome are almost as important as having the base X Windows software itself. If you don't have them then you are losing the ability to use the most leading edge and user friendly applications being developed. For example, almost everyone would shy away from using the command line tools to write to CDs and DVDs. Almost everybody would choose to use K3b to do this. So unfortunately the desktop environments add a lot of code to performing your computer tasks. Most people will gladly sacrifice those CPU cycles to have a sophisticated and visually appealing desktop by comparison with simple window managers like mwm and twm.

jdebay
jdebay

Dream Linux has it all and no need to add anything. Try like a LiveCD then install to hard drive if you like it. If you are a Linux Administrator then use grml linux. It work on all system so far that I have tried. Also a LiveCD, but can be install to hard drive.

jlwallen
jlwallen

Windows managers simply manages windows (how they are drawn, what they look like, etc). A complete desktop environment includes a window manager in addition to other programs (which vary by each desktop environment) such as a panel, a desktop manager, applets, and so on. Most desktop environments (such as GNOME, KDE, and XFCE) also have many applications made just for them (like Rhythmbox in GNOME, Amarok in KDE, and Xfmedia in XFCE).

rgilaard
rgilaard

Between a desktop environment and a window manager then?