K/Ubuntu 7.10 vs PCLinuxOS 2007 showdown October 22, 2007Posted by NAyK in Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, First Impressions, Linux, PCLinuxOS, Recommendation, Reviews, Ubuntu, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
(updated disclaimer: Any comparison of distro’s can be problematic because each distro has different goals and visions. However, this comparison is written from the point of view of a new (Windows) user who is looking for options to install.)
Due to limited harddisk place, and partly because of my desire to try something new, I erased my PCLinuxOS 2007 to try out the new Ubuntu 7.10 (and also Kubuntu). What I present now are some impressions of my use of both operating systems, and I must say at the onset that even though I do not have any personal stake on either distribution (I am not a fanboy), I am left feeling that PCLinuxOS is by far the best choice for new Linux users available today.
(Because I have previously talked about PCLinuxOS, this article will focus more on my experience with K/Ubuntu in relation to my past PCLinux (basic) experience. Also, since I’ve used both Kubuntu and Ubuntu (or rather I installed KDE from my Ubuntu installation) I will mix both versions together… though being reasonably aware of the look-and-feel differences between KDE and GNOME).
Ubuntu: My personal experience in installing Ubuntu’s 7.10 was quite painful, partly because I first got corrupted files from a Taiwan mirror (even though the MDSUMS were correct!). Furthermore, the installation procedure is quite long, took more than 30 minutes, where today the benchmark for one-CD linux installs must be under 30. What is upsetting however is that there was very little information as to what was actually happening to my computer once the installation started… and worse there was no way of configuring what was being installed and what not. The best thing about the Ubuntu installer is the migration assistant, which while I didn’t use this time round (I now have clear differences between what I do with Windows and what I do with Linux), it was a cool trick. The other really cool thing about Ubuntu is its GRUB installer, which recognizes everything!
PCLinux: PCLinux’s installer is also pretty unhelpful. Going for simplicity, you’re eventually left at the mercy of the machine to do what it is programmed to do. But unlike Ubuntu, PCLinux is much faster, even it’s LiveCD feels faster. The other tweaks of Ubuntu can be missed, and I was particularly unhappy with PClinux’s inability to recognise my openSUSE partition. But still, it was pretty ok.
Verdict: In comparison with openSUSE’s excellent configurability during install, both PCLinux and Ubuntu fall short. Ubuntu has more features, while PCLinux has more speed. Ubuntu = 1 point, PCLOS = 1 point
Ubuntu: I have used Ubuntu since its 5.04 days, and I must say that I am surprised that it “looks” pretty much the same. Of course there have been a world of changes, but I can’t recall the difference being so huge for the beginning user. At least since 2006, there has been no significant changes in Ubuntu to warrant immediate attention, expect perhaps the change in installation; and the bootsplash. This is not to say that the design of Ubuntu is bad. I like it’s simple, brown look. I even like the drum-roll sound, which is a change from the noisy Windows or even the strange KDE music. My only complaint is that Ubuntu doesn’t have that “Wow”.
PCLinuxOS: As mentioned earlier, my first impressions of PCLinux have been “wow”. Especially in its consistent implementation of “blue” a colour I detested before meeting PCLOS. Somehow, PCLOS does a good job visually, and while many design inconsistencies remain (like the installer, which looks very childish/cartoonish), as well as some of the graphics which look too big, PCLOS still it does look good.
Verdict: Ubuntu is more consistent, simple and perhaps even elegant than PCLOS, but PCLOS is really beautiful (esp. if you like blue!). While Ubuntu has many good design implementations, PCLOS seems better thought through and implemented. Particular in comparison with Kubuntu (which uses KDE like PCLOS), PCLOS stands far ahead in terms of visual beauty. Ubuntu = 1 point, PCLOS = 2 points.
Ubuntu: It is here that PCLOS beats Ubuntu thoroughly, but it would be unfair to compare this without mentioning something of the Ubuntu philosophy. It seems that Ubuntu is driven by “free” software, though it does have proprietory software in its repositories. Still, because Linux is limited by law to play DVDs and mp3s… without certain codecs that are not open-source? Ubuntu cannot naturally offer then out of the box. As a result, any user of Ubuntu has to install the relevant codecs before using the media. Of late, Ubuntu has simplified this process by downloading the required codec when needed (ie. if you click an mp3 file, it will ask you to download the codec). But the fact remains that to make Ubuntu fully work, you need to do a little bit of fiddling. Personally, I tried to download the codec but the message I got was that there is an old package information and I needed to reload. I eventually found out that I had to enable the repositories (for software download) and then reload. All that, after installation, took another 20 minutes.
Surprisingly, even the internet took some time to configure (I’ve never had this problem with Ubuntu), as even though I gave my correct IP address, still it didn’t recognise my internet connection. Then suddenly while doing something else, it started to work. A bit of a mystery.
PCLinux: I can’t emphasise it enough that for beginners of Linux, for those who don’t know much about the philosophical or legal hassles regarding codecs etc… PCLinux comes as a breath of fresh air. Everything works! Of course I have to enter the IP address of the internet connection (and the network needs to be configured, something that I remember I didn’t need to do in Xandros!), but all the multimedia codecs I need, even the graphics driver, are all enabled. It even recognised my home wi-fi connection without any additional drivers (it was easier to connect than in Windows!). For beginners, it can’t get simpler than PCLinux! (latest update: Please note however that “PCLinuxOS does not ship with Win32codes or DVD decryption software.” While these, like on Ubuntu can be added if you need them, I’ve marvelled at PCLOS being able to play a lot of media (even mp3) right out of the box. So I’m not saying that PCLOS is perfect, but in comparison with Ubuntu, and even Windows for that matter, it is a breath of fresh air).
Verdict: Since this is a beginner user oriented post, I must say that Ubuntu is pretty unfriendly to the beginner. It is better than it was before, but in comparison with PCLinux, it’s far far behind. Ubuntu = 0 points, PCLinux = 2 points.
Ubuntu: Both Ubuntu and PCLinux have a good set of software tools, most of what one would need. However, here my preference for KDE is shown where I need (prefer) K3B than Ubuntu’s CD burner… so I have to install a few things here and there. Ubuntu also has (some good) games, which PCLinux doesn’t (Why?). And because Ubuntu is more recent, some of its software packages (like openoffice 2.3) are more recent/updated than PCLinux. Ubuntu also has an excellent update feature, that automatically checks when a software/feature needs updating.
PCLinux: It has good packages, but not games, and in comparison with Ubuntu, some older packages. And sadly, for updates, you have to go to the package manager and find updates by reloading and then applying (a bit of a pain, really).
Verdict: Of course people may argue that I’m not being fair in my comparison. PCLinuxOS is older so obviously it’s packages will be older. But one thing really good about Ubuntu is its regular update cycle. It is dependable and worth looking forward to. It keeps itself up-to-date to the latest in offering, as a result, Ubuntu keeps improving. PCLinuxOS, on the other hand, while an excellent distro, does not have that kind of release cycle (I have no idea when the next one is coming) and as a result, it will obviously fall behind. Also the update tool is excellent in Ubuntu, and much needed in PCLinusOS. Ubuntu = 2 points, PCLinux = 0 points (latest update: After some comments about the efficiency of the upgrade system, I’m upping PCLinux’s package score to 1, still below Ubuntu for now).
Ubuntu: I must say that because of its terrible out-of-the-box experience, a lot needs to be done to Ubuntu before you actually use it. And because of its preference for GNOME, it’s a bit of a culture-shock for KDE or Windows users. Using Ubuntu, therefore is not much of a pleasure, until after a few days when everything is configured, then, it’s fun to use an updated distro and keep it in step with the latest.
PCLinux: As said earlier, PCLinux is almost fully ready out of the box. We can pretty much start working on it as soon as it’s installed. Also, there’s not much configuration needed either.
Verdict: While both are eventually good products to use, PCLinux gets you (you being the beginning linux user) working faster than on Ubuntu. Plus, with Ubuntu, I suspect there is more tweaking needed in the command line than in PCLinux, and there again, PCLinux has the edge. Ubuntu = 1 point, PCLinux 2 points.
Overall summary: Obviously, if your mathematics is good, PCLinux wins the basic feature by feature impression point. Of course I’m subjective, but focusing on the new user (and some not-so-new users), the experience of PCLinux is more of a relief. I must say that PCLinux is really that good; and I’m surprised that Ubuntu has so much to catch up. Of course, Ubuntu has many great features, and the best being that it is constantly improving. Still, I’m going to be deleting my Ubuntu/Kubuntu soon and reinstalling PCLinux. Ubuntu doesn’t match up to it fully, yet.