PCLinuxOS 2011 KDE: A Review and Retrospective

tl;dr – PCLinuxOS is a great distro for individuals who favor rolling updates, performance, and a dedicated community. If you’re a first-time Linux user or if you favor aesthetics over technological prowess, better choices are available.

First, a bit of background. (If you want to jump straight to the review, scroll down to where the pictures start.)

In April 2010, I found myself becoming increasingly disgruntled with Ubuntu (my OS of choice since late 2008). There was no one thing that ruined Ubuntu for me; rather, it was a growing list of inconveniences (10.04 had multiple hardware and software issues on my machine) coupled with regular use of Windows 7 at my place of employment. Windows 7 was as easy to use as Ubuntu for most tasks – worse in some ways (updating every piece of software individually), better in other ways (DVRing with Windows Media Center vs MythTV). I had originally switched to Ubuntu because at the time, it provided me a better experience than Windows XP. With the release of Windows 7, this no longer seemed as obvious.

For me, my OS is primarily a tool. I’m willing to fight it on minor issues, but for the most part I want it to stay out of the way so I can get actual work done. The more I used Windows 7, the less I was willing to fight Ubuntu.

I contemplated purchasing a copy of Windows 7, but it’s expensive, and I didn’t think it was fair to leave Linux based only on my experience with Ubuntu (and limited experience with openSUSE and Linux Mint).

So I went hunting for a new distro. My requirements were fairly reasonable:

  • KDE or Gnome was acceptable, though I leaned toward KDE (out of curiosity).
  • Reliability. Updates shouldn’t break software or hardware functionality.
  • Simple install. If 95+% of my needs aren’t met out-of-the-box, I’m not going to fight it. Maybe when I was younger… but now I can’t afford to have a PC out of commission for days at a time.
  • Pleasant community. I deal with enough assholes in real life – I don’t need ’em telling me to RTFM when I post well-researched questions in official forums.
  • Large software repositories. As you can tell from my site, I work in a lot of areas (programming, music, graphic design, writing), each of which requires unique software. Niche distros don’t always support the software I need, so they’re not a good fit.

After a bit of research, I decided to try PCLinuxOS (version 2010.2). Many individuals had good experiences with the distro, and I liked some of the edgier things it had to offer (BFS instead of CFS, for example). I also liked that there was no server remix – this was a desktop-only distro, which is exactly what I needed.

First Impressions

Right off the bat, PCLinuxOS impressed by clearly displaying the guest and root passwords on the liveCD background. NICE. More distros should do this.

PCLinuxOS 2010.11 KDE liveCD default desktop
The PCLinuxOS 2010.11 KDE liveCD default desktop

The installer (based off Mandriva’s) definitely tends toward “powerful” instead of “straightforward.” I had a bit of a heart attack when the drive formatting screen loaded with a blank window titled “resizing…” At first I thought this was blindly resizing some partition… turns out it doesn’t mean anything. Phew. (Someone should do away with that window.) I liked the option to manually specify which drive would receive GRUB… unlike Ubuntu 10.04, which indiscriminately overwrites the Windows bootloader. Besides the brief formatting scare, installation was largely uneventful, as any good installation should be.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend PCLinuxOS for first-time Linux installers. Being able to manually specify bootloaders, mountpoints, and other advanced options are great for individuals who know what they’re doing – but it’s possible to eff up your install if you’re inexperienced. Consider yourself warned.

PCLOS installer GRUB configuration
Screens like this are great for linux veterans, not so great for first-time users

On first boot, some nice touches appear – the themed GRUB is much better than a stock black-and-white one. You’re asked to provide a root password, followed by a “create new user screen.”

PCLinuxOS 2010 KDE default GRUB screen
The PCLinuxOS 2010 default GRUB screen shows off its custom theme
PCLinuxOS create new user screen (first boot)
On first boot, you are presented with this create user screen
PCLinuxOS 2010.11 loading screen
The stock PCLinuxOS KDE load screen

One of my favorite moments from the boot process is the start-up sound; for some reason, it reminds me of the “sleeping” mini-tune from a PS1 era RPG (like Final Fantasy 8 or 9). I laugh every time I hear it.

An interesting PCLOS decision is not including OpenOffice.org by default. Fortunately, a “Get OpenOffice” link appears on the default desktop. This brings up an OO.org installer of sorts, which saves room on the install CD without much inconvenience to the end user.

Not including OO.org allows PCLinuxOS to include a LOT of software by default. Some will like this, some will not. I think some trimming down could be done without sacrificing quality, but I imagine someone out there is grateful for the eclectic collection of default programs. There is no real rhyme or reason to the way software is included – for example, Thunderbird is included instead of KMail or Evolution, GIMP appears (but no Krita), Synaptic is the default package manager, Pidgin is the default IM client, TVTime (a simple tv client) is included, XChat appears instead of Konversation, and Clementine is the default audio player instead of amaroK (or even Rhythmbox). This random assortment of applications from different toolkits, desktop environments, and software teams will frustrate those looking for unification… but it probably isn’t new to people coming from a Windows background.

PCLinuxOS 2010 KDE default menu
The default menu is closer to Windows 95 than a modern KDE build... but it's easily changed

One clever feature PCLinuxOS includes is a repository speed test, which will ping a list of repositories and let you select the fastest as your default. The user interface is confusing and unnecessarily terse, but once you figure out what it’s doing, you should be able to shorten your update and installation processes. Clever!

Digging Deeper

By and large, hardware support in PCLinuxOS was good. On my particular hardware, three major problems stood out – I was unable to get my Ralink 802.11n PCI card working (note: several months later, the problem corrected itself…so go figure). I was unable to find and configure a Canon MX340 printer attached to the network via a Windows 7 computer, and I could not get my Hauppauge HVR-1600 TV card working with MythTV.

All three of these issues were not present in Kubuntu 10.04 or 10.10, so I’m not sure what happened in PCLinuxOS. I primarily print and use the TV card in Windows, so I could afford to live without those. The non-functional wi-fi card was a bigger problem, but I solved it by running an ethernet port to a nearby Windows machine and sharing its wireless signal. Inelegant, but functional.

Now for the good news – PCLinuxOS was significantly more responsive than my previous Ubuntu install. (This may be to BFS…idk.) Interestingly, the biggest difference I saw was on full-screen Flash video. Out of curiosity, I also installed PCLinuxOS to my aging Compaq laptop (1.6ghz Celeron processor), which has never been able to play Flash full-screen at more than 4-5 fps in Ubuntu. On PCLinuxOS, full-screen Flash worked at 13-15 fps… so not quite as good as Windows (25-30fps), but significantly better than Ubuntu. This example is purely anecdotal and YMMV, but I was shocked – and impressed! – at the difference.

PCLinuxOS includes Mandriva’s Control Center software, which provides additional control over a variety of system settings. Also included are some handy tools for mixed-OS environments like mine, with a Windows migration tool, a Windows font installer, and a wizard for connecting to shared printers and drives. Some of these worked well (the migration tool), others did not (the printer sharing wizard). Some of the options will be confusing for new users – for example, “Configure 3D Desktop Effects,” which is great for configuring Compiz but useless for KWin (the default window manager). Additionally, many of the tools require you to install various packages before you can utilize them.

This is a prime example of what frustrates desktop Linux users like myself: there are so many great features and great ideas, but the level of polish is often closer to “beta version” than “release candidate.” Some of the tools the Control Center provides are redundant with KDE System Settings, while others are very useful and unique. Also confusing is the branding… “Mandriva” appears instead of “PCLinuxOS” in certain screens, for example.

PCLinuxOS 2010 KDE Control Center
The PCLinuxOS Control Center contains tools ranging from useful to largely irrelevant

That said, it was nice to have so many system settings available in one place, even if not all of them worked as expected.

Some of my favorite things about PCLinuxOS

PCLinuxOS is a rolling release distro, which means you get updates in an incremental manner. These updates include the usual security and bug-fix updates, as well as major updates (KDE 4.5 -> 4.6 or OO.org 2.2 -> 2.3, for example). If you like having the latest software, PCLinuxOS is an excellent choice. I often received KDE-SC updates before the final release announcement got posted to kde.org. How many other distros can claim that?

PCLinuxOS also includes a number of pre-configured kernels for various purposes. If you don’t like BFS, a CFS kernel is available via Synaptic. A PAE kernel is also available, as well as one tuned for AMD processors.

PCLinuxOS sports a very large, very impressive software collection in its supported repositories. Many small and lesser-known apps are available, though packaging can sometimes be unpredictable. (For example, I was unable to locate Rosegarden in the 2010 repositories, though I hear it was added in 2011.) If you’re looking for something not found in the official repositories, folks in the official forum often know where to find a compatible download or an explanation of why the software isn’t included.

Speaking of the forums, the PCLinuxOS crowd was universally friendly during my time with them. Questions were answered swiftly and often correctly. It was also fairly common to get responses from actual developers. Also unique is the monthly PCLinuxOS magazine – a community-run collection of tips, tutorials, testimonials, FOSS humor, and more, with articles dating back to 2006. The formatting would make a graphic designer cry (hehe) but joking aside, it provides a nice collection of information on the distro and other free software. Not many open source projects give rise to community efforts of this size and consistency.

PCLinuxOS magazine homepage
The official PCLinuxOS magazine isn't much to look at... but it provides a lot of nice information

Finally, PCLinuxOS does a solid job of providing an out-of-the-box multimedia experience. With the exception of DVD playback, most proprietary multimedia tools (including Flash, mp3, and Java) are included in the default install.

Some of my concerns with PCLinuxOS

I believe it’s a fair characterization to say that PCLinuxOS is a distro “for Linux users by Linux users.” I certainly don’t mean this as an insult (or even as a compliment, necessarily): it is what it is. The team behind PCLinuxOS knows Linux well, and they use that knowledge to put together a very unique distro with good ideas from all over the map. Some have called PCLinuxOS a Mandriva derivative, but that isn’t accurate. Recent versions contain elements from every major distro.

Unfortunately, such an approach is both a strength and a weakness. PCLinuxOS is a technical accomplishment and a well-engineered piece of machinery, but it lacks any sort of unifying design aesthetic. A prime example of this is the confusing array of branding in the project:

PCLinuxOS branding
PCLinuxOS branding is all over the place

“Dobie the bull” is the (un?) official PCLinuxOS mascot, but it appears only sporadically across the distro. A circular PC logo is used some places, but an entirely different font is used in each custom application launch screen. The official website suffers from a similar lack of branding, with only a plain text (!!) logo and a cramped, austere layout. Blue seems to be the preferred color choice, but not any particular hue – instead, a recurring gradient from neon blue to navy blue is used. A total lack of secondary colors leaves the desktop with a bleak, uninspired feel.

Making matters worse is the included artwork – for example, notice the horrible photoshopping at the top center of this wallpaper (included with every install):

PCLinuxOS black default wallpaper
Default wallpapers like this (see the photoshopping?) do a real disservice to the distro

It’s difficult to discuss aesthetics objectively, but PCLinuxOS is undoubtedly a project in need of a dedicated designer. The technical aspects of the distro are impressive, but aesthetics are largely ignored. This problem is hardly unique to PCLinuxOS, but it gives off an “amateurish” vibe that’s unfair to its strong technical underpinnings.

Similarly, the name “PCLinuxOS” is… terrible? I guess the random hodgepodge of redundant words/abbreviations mimics the eclectic nature of the distro, but the name is clearly something thought up by an engineer, not a marketer. Again, a lot of people probably don’t care about such a thing – but believe me, it’s embarrassing to share a name like that with my designer and artist colleagues.

One final point, and then I’ll be done with my aesthetics rant. :) As much as its not fair to judge a book by its cover, every Linux distro must accept that people are going to pass judgment based on little things like a name, logo, and color schemes. As a credit to the impressive technical accomplishments PCLinuxOS has achieved, it owes it to itself to package that technical prowess in a handsome package. That’s all I’m saying.

Moving on.

I’ve already mentioned some small technical quirks with PCLinuxOS, but let me add a few more.

First, PCLinuxOS uses Synaptic as its sole package management method. (Raw use of apt-get is actively discouraged.) However, PCLinuxOS is an rpm-based distro, which leaves users stuck with an old, crufty version of Synaptic. It’s well-known in the forums that moving to a new package manager is inevitable; in fact, Texstar – the heart and soul of PCLinuxOS – had the following to say:

The reason for looking at an alternative is because we need to update our rpm package which is quite old now (4.4.6) and has become more buggy resulting in corrupted rpm databases. It won’t recompile against our current gcc/glibc and no bug patches are available. rpm is now at version (4.8.1). apt-get will work with rpm 4.8.1 but Synaptic is in pretty bad shape and crashes out often. Smart gui is not user friendly. packagekit is slower than molasses that last time I looked at it. rpmdrake to me is really not suitable for a distribution that receives daily package updates. The reason I am leaning towards Yumex is it is very close to Synaptic in terms of looks and speed. yum/Yumex works with rpm 4.8.1. The file list generated with apt or yum are compatible with each other. That makes it an easy drop in replacement.

As of this writing (February 2011) no official replacement has been named, but I hope the team settles on something soon. Package management is a core part of the Linux desktop experience, and a grossly outdated, unmaintained version of Synaptic and apt for rpms doesn’t cut it.

Similarly, it is shocking to me that PCLinuxOS doesn’t ship with an update manager. For a distro where regular updates are such a great selling point, this seems like a bizarre choice. It’s trivial to install update-notifier from the repositories, but this is also a poor solution. Update-notifier is unable to update much of anything without throwing the following warning:

PCLinuxOS update notifier error
Get used to this error. You'll see it a lot.

(Thanks to http://www.linuxbsdos.com/2010/07/20/pclinuxos-2010-review/2/ for the screenshot.)

This error doesn’t actually mean something is wrong – it just means an update wants to remove outdated packages as part of the update process. Since this happens frequently, expect to spend a lot of time manually checking for updates in the aforementioned crufty old version of Synaptic.

So Do I Still Use PCLinuxOS?

I used PCLinuxOS as my primary desktop OS from April 2010 to November 2010.  In November 2010, my PC died (motherboard failure) and I replaced it with a new Core i5 rig from ASUS.  This was apparently a bad time to use PCLinuxOS on an Intel chipset – my dual-monitor setup failed to work, the window manager disabled all effects (including useful workflow ones, like “Present Windows”), and having a fresh Windows 7 install made this less tolerable than usual.  I kept PCLinuxOS installed on my old Compaq laptop (where it continues to run like a champ), but have not returned to using it on my desktop.  I tried reinstalling it last week to test KDE 4.6 and see if it solved my window manager problems, but PCLinuxOS repositories have been down for most of 2011 (due to ibiblio.org server moves) and I was unable to install needed updates.  Interestingly, other KDE-based distros (including Kubuntu) have worked with my chipset since last November, leaving me to wonder what quirk affects PCLinuxOS.  Perhaps I’ll give it another shot once KDE 4.6 hits the repositories.

Closing Thoughts

I have been working on this review on-and-off since last April.  I don’t like posting a full distro review after using it for only a few weeks – to me, the real measure of a distro is how it performs after months of regular use, updates, and assorted troubleshooting.

An article from last week (Is PCLinuxOS on the Ropes? by Susan Linton) prompted me to finally finish up my thoughts and get this published.

I think PCLinuxOS KDE is a massive accomplishment in many respects.  In terms of technical prowess, it ranks alongside any of the large, commercially-backed distros – no small feat for a volunteer effort.  It amazes me that such a small team can not only produce a very good KDE-based distro, but also LXDE, XFCE, Gnome, “Gnome Zen Mini,” Enlightenment, and OpenBox spins.  Each one of these is a massive undertaking in its own right. PCLinuxOS also stands out as one of the only distros to ship BFS out of the box – a testament to its focus on desktop-oriented technology.

Unfortunately, a good desktop OS requires more than just powerful underlying technology – it requires careful attention to the user interface, aesthetics, and the overall flow and feel of the desktop.  I would love to see PCLinuxOS receive some attention from trained designers who can help eliminate its many inconsistencies.

Finally, I am in no place to offer advice to a group of volunteers working on something they’re passionate about, but I’ll do it anyway.  :)  I think it would serve PCLinuxOS well to focus on a smaller set of desktop environments.  I’d love to see them polish their KDE version into the truly definitive KDE experience it’s capable of being.  With so much of the technical work already in place, it seems a shame to not put in that extra 10% effort necessary to elevate it from “good” to “great.”

I will continue to use PCLinuxOS on older machines, and I strongly encourage any KDE fans out there to give the distro a try.  Many thanks to Texstar and his team for their impressive work.

You can download the latest version of PCLinuxOS at http://www.pclinuxos.com/?page_id=10.

Update 17 Feb 2011:

Several relevant comments have been made by PCLinuxOS users, which I thought I’d point out here:

  • The default software selection is apparently a community decision.  I’m not sure how formal this is… e.g. do they hold a survey, or does whoever complain the loudest get to make the decision…?  idk
  • Minimalist ISOs are available for folks who want to assemble their own software collection.  I was unaware of this when I wrote the original review.
  • PCLinuxOS users certainly come in all shapes and sizes.  :)  Some of the kinder ones have posted comments below, but I was forced to moderate several comments stating nothing more than “you are an idiot, I hope you die, blah blah blah.”  As a warning to future commenters – make a relevant point, or your comment will be deleted.
  • If you want, you can follow the conversation about this review in the official PCLinuxOS forums via this link: http://www.pclinuxos.com/forum/index.php/topic,87235.0.html.  (Note: I will no longer be posting there, so if you want me to see something, submit it in the comments here or use my contact form.)
  • Finally, as the title of this review clearly states, this is only about the KDE version of PCLinuxOS 2011.  I did not use every other spin available, so my comments may or may not relate to the other versions of PCLinuxOS.

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44 thoughts on “PCLinuxOS 2011 KDE: A Review and Retrospective”

  1. great review . Pclinuxos is a very good distro and Texstar is clearly talented .

    Now hold on tight while the pclinuxos cult members come and pull apart your every criticism – “its not a bug , its a FEATURE”

    1. I remember that! The pcspy guy posted a review, changed it and pretended the responses were to the altered review. He started playing dirty by deleting the rebuttals. tannerhelland has more integrity.

  2. The branding is what annoys me most in Linux distributions. Nothing ruins a wallpaper more than a great big logo on it.

    I want the OS to get out of the way, heavy branding is a nuisance and it’s what put me off of Linux Mint the most.

    On OS X there’s one logo during booting (this is in EFI, not really the OS per-se), and one small one in the top-left corner on the menu bar and that’s it. It’s very minimal; the branding is more about the computer as a whole—something Linux is lacking.

  3. A perfect article, open minded with your personal touch.
    And yes, I am a PCLinuxOS fanboy, but you discribed the anoyancies from the correct perspective.
    Thanks for this nice reading.

  4. Another pclinuxos ‘cult’ member/’fanboi’ with my hammer: nice review. It seems pretty balanced to me, not promoting or attacking, just evaluating, that’s what reviews should do.

    On the aesthetics issue, I would argue that just about every distro could use a designer. Whether I’m using openSUSE, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or PCLOS, one of the first things I do is customize the look, that’s one of the great things about linux.

  5. Yes, I am another PCLinuxOS fanatic…. I have tried a load of distros and found that it works perfectly for me. The forum is very friendly and knowledgeable, and our head developer works very hard to give his users what they want. Your review is very good, but I don’t agree with everything you said. The discussed program, Update Notifier, was included because the users asked for it, and it can be removed in favor of another update manager available in the repos.

    I’m also wondering what you mean when you say the magazine ‘formatting would make a graphic designer cry’ (since I’m an assistant editor, and I think our formatting is good.) Everyone works very hard to put out a readable, quality magazine every month. Since you said that, what suggestions would you give us to make it better?

    I also feel that we have a great many excellent artists that make our distro shine. Everything works, and looks great. I have used almost all the different desktop environments, and they all work fine. PCLinuxOS is a wonderful distro; one I will be continuing to use.

    1. Hi Meemaw-

      I should apologize for my comment on the magazine formatting… that was uncalled for. If it’s okay, I’ll send you an email with some specific ideas on improving the visual presentation of the magazine. How’s that sound?

  6. Good article. Your warning “If you’re a first-time Linux user or if you favor aesthetics over technological prowess, better choices are available.” was fair and timely.

    I do agree with you on that point. The looks could use some polishing. Most of us will handle that, but to a new user it would be nice to have it look more professionally polish. I really wish I had a “graphic” eye, but I don’t.

    I can’t say anything about the PCLinuxOS magazine since I don’t really “get” all of that artsy stuff. Sorry.

    Onto the name, I like it. I really like it. To me it means an everyday Linux for an everyday PC user. I imagine it is lacking in creativity, but I like it.

    Finally your last comments on wishing PCLinuxOS would focus on less DE’s/WM’s, I agree and disagree. I would love for Tex to focus on the core and KDE solely. The community would then handle the re-spins. The KDE version should only have KDE apps whenever possible. Just one app per task, not 5 web browsers, 3 e-mail clients, etc.

    Tex does try to do just that, but since he does listen to the community, he uses the apps we request. Sort of a blessing and a curse. He does handle it very well, though.

    I did enjoy the article. I thought it was well balanced and fair. I never thought of looking at PCLinuxOS through the eyes of an artist. It made for a very eye opening read.

    Thanks again for the article on my favorite distro.

    1. Thanks for the kind comment, jmirles. I was unaware that software selection is a community decision – I’ll add an “update” to the end of the article that mentions that. Thanks!

  7. I have begun to use PCLinuxOS recently and have done several installations for myself, family, and customers. It has so far performed flawlessly on all systems I have set it up on.

    Things I really like about it:

    1. Rolling Release.
    I am really tired of the whole Ubuntu sytle 6 month update routine. Its long past time for Linux distributions to get away from the whole idea of forcing users to “upgrade” ala Mickeysoft and time to head towards engineering a more “evolutionary” approach to how systems update themselves. The “Rolling Release” idea really strikes a chord with me.

    2. Sane KDE defaults.
    THANK GOD PCLinuxOS sees the importance in setting up KDE to work out of the box WITHOUT all the horrid defaults enabled such as are seen in many KDE based distributions. This saves me a ton of time in removing and resetting all that.

    3. NO MONO!
    Again, THANK YOU PCLinuxOS for leaving Mono out of the default install. This also saves me a huge amount of time in not having to remove all of this after install. This is a real deal breaker for me and I steer away from distros that use Mono based apps as installed defaults.

    4. Decently “stocked” Repositories.
    The repositories have a very good up to date selection of software. The only 2 software apps I have run into problems with are Boxee and XBMC which are non functional on all the systems I have tried so far. Otherwise all else has been fine.

    5. Very solid easy install.
    Again, very much appreciated. Also would agree about the inclusion on the screen of the needed passwords. Hard to believe how many other distros fail to do such obvious perks for users.

    All in all quite a positive experience with PCLinuxOS so far. I am still using older versions of Kubuntu on my main systems only because its such a huge ordeal to have to reset up everything. Those versions of Kubuntu are getting long in the tooth and because of the silly 6 month routine, pointless EOL designed in obsolescence and other more recent issues with Ubuntu/Kubuntu I will likely move those systems to PCLinuxOS when I get up enough energy to perform the task.

    So far all the customers, family, friends I have set up with this are liking their installs of PCLinuxOS. Hats off to the PCLinuxOS guys for doing many things way more right than many of the distros out there. Heres hoping they keep it up.

  8. I like PCLOS. And regarding the advice, “I think it would serve PCLinuxOS well to focus on a smaller set of desktop environments.” I completely disagree. I love the ability to use whatever DWM I want, whether it’s KDE, Gnome, E17, Flux, or even ratpoison. One of the best features of Linux is it’s ability to be configured however you want it- please don’t take that away.

  9. I gave PCLinuxOS a try. It was the community that turned me off of a rather decent distro. I was only trying to ask a question. I didn’t need dick responses, even from Texstar.

    I do enjoy the rolling release of Arch Linux. Everything I’ve needed to know has been found in their wiki. I’ve had no reason to post in the forums there.

    Good luck to the PCLinuxOS people but I’ll just stay with Arch.

  10. I use PCLinuxOS. Tried it back in 2007 and liked it a lot compared to Mandriva, which I had been using. Then I wanted to try KDE4, and PCLOS waited really long to get onto that bandwagon (a good idea, I guess, in retrospect).

    Anyhow, I went (back) to Mandriva for KDE4.1-3, and to tell the truth, by then Mandriva had equaled PCLOS in quality. But ulimately, I came back to PCLOS because of its ‘rolling update’ nature. Much easier than installing new releases periodically, and ‘version upgrades’ tend to be messy affairs.

  11. I use several OS’s, Win7 64bit on my gaming PC, the wife is running Ubuntu 10.10 the headless torrent box is running PCLinuxOS kde of all things, and my netbook is running Enlitemnet mini also PCLinuxOS. So that’s the question of fanboy’dom sorted.

    Firstly it’s a good read, I tend to agree with some of what you said. I get the feeling that PCLinuxOS is a more authentic Linux experiences. Reminds me of what it was like before the bigboys came along with their corporate backers. Long before Ubuntu and such, most distro’s were like PCLinuxOS. Build and used by technical people, designed by engineers for engineers is a compliment. So the style is a little cottage industry. I’m not sure if PCLinuxOS should be for first timers to Linux but I think it’s a great place to end up. Ticked off by whatever was your first chose. Some refer to it as the distro hopper stopper! PCLinuxOS, for the authentic Linux experiences.

  12. I’m a long time PCLOS user, for six or seven years now. I didn’t bring a hammer.

    Some of the tools the Control Center provides are redundant with KDE System Settings. Bear in mind that not all PCLOS users choose KDE as their desktop.

    Updated isos are published periodically, to lessen the need for downloading a lot of software updates. The “Get OpenOffice” link appears on the current iso desktops, but the distro has since deprecated the OpenOffice suite in favor of LibreOffice.

    I’m also a contributor to the online magazine, and will be curious to see what suggestions you send to MeeMaw. All constructive criticism is appreciated.

    The fact that you ran the distro for several months puts you head and shoulders above reviewers who try one out for a few days or hours. All in all, I’d say your review is an honest and unbiased one, which can be tough to achieve. You don’t want to come off sounding like a paid advertisement. And you surely don’t want to overlook any flaws, discrepancies or omissions.

    Like they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. One of the advantages of open source is the abundance of choice.

    One point you touched on briefly is Texstar’s lead role of the project. He has made the distro the stable platform it is. What’s unique about him is his willingness to listen to users’ input and actually implement most requests. He’s also a frequent presence on the forum. His leadership over the years has kept PCLinux on a steady path.

  13. Although I don’t use PCLOS I do see where it comes from KDE is not a complete working environment that is why alternative software is used. PCLOS uses the best app for the job that is what makes it a good choice, some distros have huge a repro but over 50% of it does not work what is the point of that. PCLOS does a good job of making software compatible over all wm supported hence the loyal band of users.
    that does not mean I will be converted as I use Arch which is just a core you decide what wm/software you want to use you design you own desktop that to me is the way.

  14. I am very surprised that you actually went to the PCLinuxOS forums. I noticed that the majority agreed with your review. I think a lot of us not having the artist background, simply can’t make full sense of the artsy arguments but generally agree that it can be better.
    Tex focuses on the technical aspects and I feel he does a fantastic job at it. The community handles the artsy stuff. I have noticed that some of the tools say Mandriva. I believe Tex is cleaning that up already. I think I know what you mean about the fonts/look mismatch. Some of the tools are written in GTK while others are QT.
    It would look better if they all were the same. Maybe we Tex wins the Lotto he can hire folks to do that! Ha-ha-ha, just kidding, I know Tex would be in Tahiti!
    I just wanted to again thank you for a very fair and balanced article.

  15. I think the video issues with desktop effects are due to the very old version of xserver being used on PCLinuxOS. The complaints have mounted since Intel released the first Core i chips, but nothing has changed to support the integrated GPU, rendering 3D effects inoperable on PCLinusOS. Texstar is well aware and may upgrade xserver to a newer version sometime in 2011, but as of now that has not been done.

    Most other distros have backported support for the newer chips since kernel version 2.6.32, but anyone who doesn’t mind the lack of eye candy can still enjoy the distro otherwise.

    I find your comments about the appearance issues spot on. It feels unfinished, as if the desktop, icons, wallpapers and other items are a work in progress without any push to complete them. Functionally it’s a fast distro that is easy to maintain for any user, but visually, which is how we interact with the desktop, some graphic enhancements and improvements could well serve the distro. Click and hold the “PC” menu button down and you’ll see just one simple example, although this is an unimportant visual element and is just a single example.

    I keep trying it as time passes on, but it is missing that special something that grabs you and holds you there, along with the occasionally abrubt comments from Texstar on the forums to sometimes well presented questions or concerns.

  16. I’m a Linux user since Mandrake 8, almost ten years, but I dropped Mandriva when they made the ill-advised decision to use KDE4 long before it was ready. I changed to PCLinuxOS which still had 3.5 and have never had any reason to use any other even though I have looked at most of the ‘fashionable’ distros. Coming from industry, I am a great believer in ‘corporate image’ and I am sure PCLinuxOS would benefit from tightening up this area, but it has to be done by one single minded person, just the same as Texstar is ultimately in charge of everything overall. (You can’t have two Chefs in a kitchen, or Gardeners in a garden, only assistants.)
    For my purpose, nothing, repeat, nothing compares with PCLinuxOS.

  17. Good review. Honest and straightforward.

    In its heyday Pclos was the distro to have. It was basically an enhanced Mandrake install with multimedia/codec/non-free support. It took Mandrake to new levels of user-friendly. Mandrake was the premiere linux operating system in the day much like Ubuntu is today. I loved it(Pclos) and I was a fanboy.
    I suspect Pclos has suffered from the decline of Mandriva. I know Pclos says their distro follows no one but we know the roots.
    Pclos needs a strong leader just like Mint needs Ubuntu.

  18. Yes, another arse kissing comment. Your review was right on the money.
    I’ve used pclinuxos on and off over the years and its always been simple yet powerful. Sure the art work looks like a high school cut and
    paste job but that is thankfully adjustable in Linux. Even Red Hat has crap aesthetics, good help is so hard to find.
    I don’t know why they don’t just call it Tex or Texstar instead of Pclinuos, just let ‘x’ refer to linux if they really must.
    That said, a great review on a great distro, now if I could just get my eeepc sound card to work with it I won’t be forced to move elsewhere.

  19. May I suggest that you give openSUSE a try? Its a great desktop OS that boots up fast and has a good mix of software apps. I did a search on your site and I found a post from ’08 in which you’ve dismissed openSUSE out of hand. I suggest you reconsider and try it out. There is a reason why SUSE has been around for so long. Its not perfect. Yast sucks for instance. But its pretty well optimized.

  20. pclinuxos is very good. I switched from xubuntu to lxde pclinuxos version half a year ago and iam very happy about it. reliable distro. aesthetics is not important

  21. I’m a long-time PCLOS user, about five or six years now; I have never found anything better (and I have looked :). I thought your review was very good and fair, though I strongly disagree with your comments re the esthetics and the magazine.

    But that’s OK. You have your opinion and I have mine.

    Be well,


  22. I found your review fair enough. I’ll say, it is a very favorable review! I am a PCLOS user for several years already, and I agree with you that the Synaptic package manager may be improved, definitely! What else? Ah, the aestethics… Right, that can be always improved, but really why bother whith that ugly black bull when you end up putting your favorite playmate, the artistic sunset you took in your last visit to the beach, or your newborn puppy as wallpaper ?

    Other than that, congrats for your review!

  23. I usually don’t see how a reviewer set criteria for his review. Yours is not. You set clearly, what you are looking into. I hope many other reviewers show some criteria, even if it is stupid. Good review.
    I used PCLOS it is more responsive than others. I didn’t face any hardware problems like wireless or netconnection both went fine for me. Regarding graphic designer part, they need to learn more from Mint or they have to allow more graphic designers to take part.
    The problem I face is due to the Lenovo netbook ideapad s10, which is atom based, it frequently breaks on linux compares to Windows. I hope somebody will provide more tips on my Lenovo ideapad s10 to fine tune.

    Good review style. Keep it up.

  24. I’m a moderator and tester at PCLinuxOS. One of the reasons you don’t get “RTFM” and other wise-guy comments at PCLinuxOS is that we don’t allow them.

    The biggest problem anyone can have at the installation stage with any Linux is how to partition. I would expect that more “savvy” Windows users who want to switch will know about partitioning, and that they can get good advice at the forum. That is a stage you have to get through, but there are always going to be choices that will make things difficult for some. For me, not knowing what a distro is about to do with the stuff on my hard drive is the scariest thing! I like to be in control of that. The rest of the install is pretty straightforward.

    Overall a good review. I do appreciate the speed of PCLinuxOS since Tex started using the BFS kernels and new scripts for bootup and shutdown, it starts fast, runs fast and closes down fast!

    I tend to use my own wallpapers. Some are photos I took myself. Nothings perfect, but for me the distro tends to keep out of the way and let my use my computer.

  25. People!

    The primary purpose of this distro is to make Linux EASY, and it does that beautifully.

    When M$ suddenly sunsetted Win98 about 5 years ago, I went looking. I tried Ubuntu, but as a Linux newb I was totally buffaloed. When I did get it installed as a dual boot, every 6 months a major reinstall happened and all was wiped out.

    Come along PCLOS. I still dual boot (am a windows community troubleshooter for a living) but absolutely love this distro. Every one of my machines and my teen daughter’s laptop runs PCLOS.

    I’ve become a Linux evangelist, not a Linux technophile who dabbles with this distro and then that, but someone who actively recruits disgruntled Windows users to give Linux a try. It’s because of this distro, because of Tex and the loyal forum admins and developers, that I stayed with Linux at all. And they are the reason I promote it.

    I steer all newcomers to PCLOS or load it on their machines myself.

  26. I have been a PCLOS user continuously since 0.92a was released. I believe that was 7 or 8 years ago now, and I have used every version since then. I had tried a lot of distros previous, and quite a few have been tried since, but I always have PCLinuxOS running my machine.

    Do I think it’s perfect? No. But it’s hands down the best, most consistent, stable, logically constructed, sane and reliable Linux I have found. No linux gets everything right, but PCLOS gets more right than any other distro, in my experience.

    The highest compliment that I can give it is this: I run my business on it. Even though I also have Vista and XP. That should tell you something.

  27. I started using linux from Ubuntu, then switched to Linux Mint and now from last two month I am using pclinux kde 2011.06 and linux mint. To tell you I installed it on intel i7. Uptill now it is working flawlessly. I tried other KDE destros as well. In my opinion pclinux has the best kde.

  28. I run windows XP Pro on PcLinuxOS LXDE. With 4Gb ram I can have a very reasonable Virtual Box windows. This has proved more stable than using Windows in a dual partition and backing up Windows as a DVI file is something I only used to dream about.

    PClinuxOS works: I prefer functional utility to eye candy and repositories that can break a working system. I have been working with computers now for 40 years and PClinuxOS is about as stable as it gets.
    Well done Textstar and team.

  29. Good well written article even though I don’t agree on some points. I feel the artwork is just fine and so is the name.

    Been using PCLinuxOS for about a year now and just upgraded to the 2011 version. Never had any problems till now but I know it’s just my lack of knowledge that’s causing the problems. The OS worked so well that it’s worth taking the time to set things up. I just never had any problems with it all this time and am thankful to the folks that put it out.

    I use other flavors of Linux on other computers but for some reason I feel more at home with this OS and use it as my daily runner.
    To say I love it would be an understatement.
    Thank you.

  30. As a person who uses an older computer (xw8200 dual Xeon), I am very happy with the initial feel of PCLinuxOS. So far I have encountered only one minor bug but everything else has worked as I expected it to. I had used Fedora on and off for a number of years and only switched to this OS because of my daughter. She uses PCLinuxOS because it supports a drawing tablet she depends on.I didn’t like the install interface during partitioning but figured it out anyway. The installer actually wanted to add a NTFS storage partition to the boot list.
    As a whole though I am enjoying the experience and will update this post in a few months.

  31. PCLOS is a perfect distro for anyone coming from windows development and wants to get off windows altogether. It does everything seamlessly with no hassles. What more could you want? 10 out of 10 for Tex and the guys there.

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