Using PCLinux2007: A good-bad report August 30, 2007Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Linux, OpenOffice, OpenSUSE, Other Distros, PCLinuxOS, Reviews, Ubuntu, Windows, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
This is a brief report on my usage-experience with PCLinux2007 (or PCLOS for short). It’s just an op-ed piece, and some of the comments would reflect my ignorance rather than the ability of the operating system. However, considering I am still a linux beginner, a post like this documents the kind of positive experiences and challenges a user can face once he/she is actually using PCLOS.
History: For a while, after my extended tryst with openSUSE 10.2 I started reverting back to Windows XP, because I needed Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Also, since I was in the middle of academic research, I couldn’t shift too much between operating systems, so I settled back to XP. Going back to XP was partly a relief because I didn’t have to struggle to make things work… because I still am not that proficient with Linux… and the major Windows irritants were vanquished by past experience.
But of late I had the opportunity to install PC Linux 2007 on my laptop, my primary work tool. (The story of why I did that is coming soon.) However as I installed PCLOS, I discovered that many of the irritants of Linux were not gone, yet I was enjoying my computing more again.
Still, this is a USAGE REPORT of my recent experience of working with PCLOS and my personal experiences in living with the OS-specific, or Linux specific, quirkiness.
1. Virus Free! Believe it or not, there is a virus roaming around in our college that affects USB thumb/pen drives. So when you enter the USB drive on your machine it crashes your firefox, orkut and youtube (more information here). Since I go through a reasonable amount of file exchange with USB drive, I found that booting through PCLOS was worth the extra-minute and a half; because it not only allowed for clean file exchange but allowed me to heal the USB drive from the virus! Of course this I could have done through openSUSE as well, but considering openSUSE’s horrific boot-up time, and PCLOS’s good start-up time, this has become my normal modus-operandi even if I am working in Windows.
2. Wi-Fi works. One thing that impressed me about openSUSE, and did NOT impress me about Ubuntu, was the the wireless network just worked. Of course I had to configure it etc. but with Ubuntu it was a nightmare… but openSUSE was just easy. PCLOS, surprisingly, has also, “just worked”. And that’s two-thumbs up!
3. 3D desktop. Yes, yes, I’m cheesy. I’m using the 3D desktop effects. There’s no real point to it. And no one has seen my machine and oohed or aahed, but I like the bouncy feel to it… for now at least. Another pointer to the enjoyable user experience. The only problem I had with the 3D desktop enabled was that it messed up my Pager settings… and wouldn’t allow me to name my own Pagers. So, I’m down to the default Desk-space 1-2-3-4!
4. Synaptic… for those who work with openSUSE know that it’s YAST updates are a pain. Really, while I like openSUSE’s power, it takes just toooo long to install anything new on it. In contrast, PCLOS has done a good job to stick with Synaptic and it’s quite fast in implementing software uploads etc. The only thing I would wish is that like Ubuntu, I wish it would tell me when I had to update my system, rather than me having to “Reload” and “mark upgrades” everytime through synaptic just to make sure.
5. K3B CD burning: Even in my defection to Windows days I used to use Linux for CD/DVD burning. I now use PCLOS and openSUSE depending on my mood, because somehow I trust it more than the Windows variants.
6. Playing DVDs with errors: This is a new one. But a few of my DVDs have gotten errors because of over-use or something, and they crash my windows. But I’m able to manage the player better in PCLOS. Of course I prefer the Windows Player (powerdvd is quite flexible and comfortable to use), but so far using PCLOS my DVDs have not crashed my PCLOS.
1. Network quirkiness: There’s something I don’t understand. When I connect to network, and sometimes a link is placed on a folder to the network. When I restart and try to install network, it says timed-out server and its impossible to connect to the network using that link again. I don’t know why, but that is a pain. I usually solve that problem by going to Remote Places and set up the network again, but somehow it has been a pain to keep having to do that.
2. External keyboard/mouse: One of the most irritating things about PCLOS and sometimes openSUSE is their handing of the external keyboard and mouse. I have a USB to serial connector which allows me to connect to both Keyboard and Mouse through one port. In Windows, everytime I return from Hibernation or Suspend, I have to pull the USB cable out and then put it in, to allow me to use the cable. However, when I am unable to use the keyboard/mouse in PCLOS, I try to remove/restore the USB cable and I am only allowed to use the mouse and not the keyboard. That is, unless I restart my machine, then it works fine. Very very irritating.
4. Hiberation/suspend: I was surprised that PCLOS had issues with standby and hiberation and I had to actually install some software or tools to enable me to do it. worse, since it was trial technology, there were no real guarantees. I must say that while I’ve got PCLOS to hibernate and system (I’ve forgotten how I did), I have avoided it. At least, when I shut the monitor of my laptop it suspends, so that’s fine.
5. Printing is still a challenge (for me): There’s something about CUPS I don’t understand. Partly because my newbie attitude has just led me to attempt to print like a bull-in-a-china-shop, rather than actually gather data of how to work it. So I managed to print (and print well) through openSUSE, but PCLOS, I’ve had to struggle a little more. I managed somehow to configure it to print, but after I did, I wasn’t able to add any more printers to it. I know this does not mean that PCLOS is not good, just that I am too “dumb” too know how to use it… but I must admit that I’ve found it difficult to work around the CUPS programme. My current status is that my printer is now disabled… and when I try to install a new printer, the computer just hangs. Anyway… I like the new Ubuntu’s promise of default printing to pdf… perhaps there’s some sense in that. Wish it was as easy for me to do, as in Windows or openSUSE
6. File sharing between PCLOS and Windows: This used to happen with openSUSE as well… and now here… that sometimes (not all the time!) when I work on a file using openoffice and save it… I can’t access it through windows. yes, I have a file-sharing tool that allows me to access linux partitions through windows, but this happens even if I save the file to a FAT drive. I never understood why this happened in openSUSE and it also happens in PCLOS. How I solve it is that when I need to retrieve a linux file, I go back to Linux, save it in multiple locations, hoping that at least in one place I’ll be able to read it, and then it usually works.
7. Keyboard shortcuts… : I’m sure if we were to do a survey of favourite Linux short cuts, ALT F2 would make it to no. 1! But sadly, the ALT F2 does not work on my laptop. I don’t know why (because it works on my desktop), so after a lot of hassles I changed changed the custom shortcut to ATL 2, which is a little irritating since I keep pressing the wrong one now and then, but it is a little quirky. The number 2 keyboard shortcut would probably be CTRL ALT ESC… to shut down programmes. But that also doesn’t work on my laptop. (it does on my desktop). But regardless, CTRL ALT ESC is one of the things I miss most when using Windows. Too often going to CTL ALT DEL and then choosing to close a programme or process is not as effective as the Linux variant!
Anyway… I think I could add to this list, but no time. I have to head back to work. To summarise. I have enjoyed working with PCLOS. I has not replaced my need for Windows, but it once again reminds me that Windows is not that great. I have strangely found using PCLOS better than openSUSE, except on a few issues here and there… so the quest for the perfect distro continues.