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9 features I wish Ubuntu had: or why I still prefer PCLinux April 30, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Linux.
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I’ve been using Ubuntu 8.04 for about four days now and I must admit that that I still prefer PCLinuxOS 2007 as my favourite entry-level Linux distribution. However, I’ve compiled a list of 9 features I wish Ubuntu had, which may help me change my mind. (why 9? I couldn’t think of more at the time of writing, but more ideas will come to me)

1. System Restore (yes, like Windows XP)

My latest tryst with Ubuntu once again disappointed me with the lack of a VIA graphics driver (I use a VIA machine). So I had to install an unsupported (on 8.04) openchrome driver. However, after installing it, my system started doing funny things… like whenever I log onto Ubuntu, I get a resolution of 800/600. Then I have to logout, and log back in, and my system preferences are restored to 1024/768. Whaaaat? Exactly. But you may obviously say, “you deserve this, you fool, for installing an unsupported driver” I admit it. I am a sinner. But I want repentance. I want to go back… and I have no easy way of figuring out how. In Windows there’s a neat System Restore button, which works most of the time, why not in Ubuntu.

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? Well PCLinux doesn’t have system restore, but it does recognise my VIA chipset… no need to install unsupported drivers!!!

2. Integrate (non-free) drivers better

This “free” thing is getting a little tiresome. I know there’s a very noble movement to keep Linux “Free” of all “closed” source applications… but in Ubuntu, all non-free drivers are just a button away. While we may think this is liberating, why can’t we just have a non-free Ubuntu (out of the box) and a free Ubuntu. (of course they should both be “free” as in no-mollah). My point is that this installing drivers when needed starts becoming irritating after a while, especially if it doesn’t work out the first time (as my mpg codecs didn’t quite work).

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? The distribution does not pretend to be “free” and has most of the codecs that you need already integrated. It’s so refreshing, especially for beginning users. I think the philosophy to introduce “free” first and then adopt “non-free” after a warning puts of newbies like me, rather than wins us. But then, these are not my decisions, but my wishes/opinions.

3. Better wallpaper and desktop-beautification processes

I’ve griped about this in my previous review, but GNOME is just not as good as KDE when it comes to changing wallpapers, or even making the desktop look more beautiful. Now I admit that I’m quite sick of the Windows Interface, but I know how to make KDE look like KDE and not just some Windows clone. I really feel web-integrated wallpaper selections, as well as more customizability in panels etc, will certainly help.

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? Because PCLinux has the best out of the box implementation of KDE I have so far seen. It even makes the blue look good. I admit that PCLinux still looks like Windows, but it certainly looks better than Ubuntu (Even though Ubuntu’s new wallpaper is kinda funky!). Don’t get me wrong, my favourite desktop colours are green and brown, so it’s not a colour thing… just the power to adapt.

4. More attractive Boot Splash

Now if you’re like me, you’ve chosen Linux because of its overall experience, rather than just its functionality or philosophy. I love the way openSUSE and PCLinux integrate a bootsplash that makes dual booting pretty! I know you can change the Ubuntu bootsplash, but why can’t it be done by default?

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? Because PCLinux’s colourful/beautiful bootsplash is enabled by default.

5. Smaller desktop icons

Now this is a linux gripe, not just against Ubuntu. Somehow, Windows uses its space better. And doesn’t have these scary desktop icons (especially disk mounts, have you seen them????) They really fill up the screen. Windows in contrast, really uses its icons well… they’re small by default, though can be made bigger.

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? Well, PCLinux is just as guilty as Ubuntu (GNOME) here, because they both use desktop managers that like big icons. KDE is particularly irritating with its huuuuuge mouse over effects that are interesting for .3 seconds after which we want to erase the memory of such space invasion! So maybe I don’t really prefer PCLinux here… and oops… Windows wins… (PLEASE DON’T CRUCIFY ME!)

6. Better Implementation of alternative Desktop Managers (in UBUNTU)

After griping about KDE let me say that my preferred desktop environment has been KDE but whenever I’ve tried Kubuntu (Ubuntu with KDE), I’ve faced huge problems… perhaps there’s a jinx. But I’ve also noticed that the Kubuntu KDE implementation is not as good as PCLinux… but that’s not the point. If I was using Ubuntu, I want to be able to integrate other desktop managers like KDE, but I had a difficult time getting that done in Ubuntu. I think Linux’ strength is customizability… and this should be basic and well-done.

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? Actually, PCLinux’s KDE implementation is so good that I hadn’t thought of using any other desktop manager… so maybe if I tried I would face a similar struggle… so actually, even here I can’t say whether I prefer PCLinux or not in this feature.

7. Better hibernation (or communication why not)

Recently, in Ubuntu, I tried to hibernate. It allowed me to hibernate when suddenly there was a black screen, with a black message, and then it reached the suspend screen. ie. it didn’t hibernated, and I didn’t know why. I tried again, and same thing. I realised that I had to quickly read the black screen message and the third time I did, in the split second it afforded, and got something like… not enough memory… in what I don’t know. But I wondered why there was such a problem in a simple thing like hibernation… and why I wasn’t told about it more intellegently.

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? I have faced absolutely no problem hibernating my PCLinuxOS in both Laptops and desktops. What’s the problem in Ubuntu, I’m not sure, at least I should be told about it more clearly.

8. Better default font rendition

Ubuntu 8.04 has a much improved font rendition (from its predecessor), I must admit. But it’s still not as good as Windows. I know it’s unfair to compare to Windows, but what to do, I’m a post-Windows user… and the people I recommend Linux to are all Windows users, and such things matter.

Why do I still prefer PCLinux? Even PCLinux has a decent/average default font rendition, that improves when you install non-free fonts (which I think should be installed by default). So I guess, even PCLinux is not much better or worse than Ubuntu in this regard.

9. Let’s get an application/desktop dock (yes like the one on the MACs)

OK, I know the even PClinux does not have a application/desktop application dock. But Dreamlinux does. And Dreamlinux’ docking doesn’t look/work so bad. Why not Ubuntu? If I am to ‘leave’ PCLinux, surely better usability and attractiveness would be one reason, and currently Ubuntu does not have that (it’s not better than PCLinux in this regard, just the same… though it uses GNOME).

Summary

I’m a Linux fan, not a PCLinux or Ubuntu Fan. Ie. I don’t care if Ubuntu is better or PCLinux or openSUSE as long as the overall spread of Linux is achieved. My problem however with Ubuntu is that most beginners hear about it and use it, and get frustrated with its little nagging flaws and difficulties. I have found that PCLinux has less flaws and difficulties (for new, post-Windows, users). Therefore, I will still be encouraging new Linux users to adopt PCLinux (or at least try to LinuxMint, hope that is easier to use?). But Ubuntu, is good, really good, but for a beginner, it disappoints.

Comments»

1. Riverrun - April 30, 2008

I agree with you for the most part, KDE is not only more functional but has better software (K3b, Amarok etc.) and yes, I prefer PCLOS to Ubuntu.

Why am I using Hardy Heron, then?

Well, it’s mainly a question of support, it’s very easy to get useful information about Ubuntu. The Internet is full of bloggers and knowledgable people who write about it and the forums are full of well informed users and friendly users.

The forum in PCLOS is most unhelpful, I have a serious problem with Linux Distros on my laptop, it’s a well known one and it relates to aggressive power management.

In Ubuntu, I can monitor this with the command: sudo smartctl -a /dev/sda | grep Load_Cycle_Count .

A few hours of Googling and I found a hack that works nicely for this problem in Ubuntu, other issues have been solved through the good grace and assistance of the great community.

The PCLOS forums are clicky, elitist and stuffy. They are not very knowledgable nor do they try to be helpful.

When I found out that PCLOS was spinning my disk down at an unacceptable rate, rather than ask the community for a fix and waste my time, I bit the bullet and reluctantly got rid of PC Linux.

I’m still sorry after it because it’s easily the best Distro I have ever used and if I could find a fix for the spin-down question, I’d re-install in a shot.

2. ezsit - May 1, 2008

In your page “which linux?” you state that part of your motivation for moving to Linux was to support the idea of free software. Yet in your reviews of Ubuntu/Kubuntu you constantly complain how Ubuntu adheres too closely to the Free software principles you siad you support. Is this correct? I think you are a bit confused on a number of fronts.

Ubuntu ships their CDs with plenty of closed source drivers (video and wireless network card drivers to be precise). Ubuntu does not necessarily support Free Open Source Software principles as such. What Ubuntu does not ship with are codecs that may possibly infringe upon certain patents in certain countries of the world. This decision has little to do with FOSS principles and alot to do with appearing legal and business friendly to large U.S. corporations.

PCLinuxOS ships with many codecs preinstalled and hence seems easier to dive into. However, the Ubuntu approach produces more enlightened users while making the process of acquirring codecs painless.

3. Gray Wolf - May 1, 2008

For a better KDE experience and a great community for the Buntu world, check out Klikit (http://www.klikit-linux.com/). This may give PCLOS a run for their money in all aspects noted.

GW

4. NAyK - May 1, 2008

To ezsit: Thanks for your comment. And thanks for reading more than one article in this space! :) You referenced my “Which Linux?” page and in that I write that one of my strong motivations has been to and I quote “embrace the philosophy of Free Software, read Anti Piracy without supporting the evil globalised Micro$oft regime! :) (The latter reason was not so important, but it still remains a significant incentive)”

Note that free software here was literally “free” as in no money… as opposed to Piracy which is also free, but is illegal. I also say that this reason is not so important, but still is.

I understand the philosophy of “free” which is both no-money and “free” of any restrictions and closed-source applications (which may or may not be free). It is this latter part that I have a problem with, but that’s just my own personal preference.

I don’t think the Ubuntu approach works in producing more enlightened users in this region (where I am). For that Fedora and openSUSE do a better job in being “purely” free (openSUSE you have to get an add-on CD to help make the transition).

My problem with Ubuntu’s dual-approach… is that it claims to support Free movement and at the same time tries to make closed-source drivers more accessible. As a result, as soon as you use it, you’re constantly downloading drivers for this or that… especially if you’re like me and need those darn mpegs to work.

PCLinux on the other hand hardly gives the user that much trouble, though there are still some drivers that need to be installed there as well. But in PCLinux, since most things work out of the box, we have a clear message: the linux must work! For ubuntu, we have to do something to make it work.

I guess my suggestion is not out of line of Ubuntu philosophy… let them make a ‘people-friendly’ non-free Ubuntu and a free Ubuntu, perhaps released out of the US!!! and perhaps that will clearly allow people choose. Or we’re forced to adopt Mint and other derivates that aim to make the transition easier.

5. fs - May 1, 2008

Another lame attempt by PCLinuxOS punks.

6. Shamil - May 1, 2008

If you want the best out of linux. Learn how to do it yourself.
I’m not really going to say pclos or ubuntu is better than each other. They both have features and drawbacks when compared to each other.

If you want a better ubuntu and better experience than pclos, then install linuxmint. However klikit linux looks very cool. Though for me i stay away from them both (ubuntu and pclos). They’re too limiting for me.

7. mellowfury - May 1, 2008

RiverRun-go to http://www.pclinuxos.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=58&topic=34793.0
The post #10 by Gweeper64 has the settings you need to change in your laptopmode.config file to solve the HDD problem.You need to have “laptop-mode-tools” installed[available in Synaptic].This solved the problem of excessive load/cycling on my Acer 5610z laptop.

8. Anurag Panda - May 1, 2008

I agree with most of your points especially the poorly implemented KDE in Kubuntu and I also agree that Linux in general needs a System Restore. However in most other cases you have compared KDE and GNOME which is not entirely a fair comparison.
As for size of icons, well at least in KDE you only have to change a single setting to get icons to a better adaptable style.

Also introducing non-free drivers out-of-the-box is not a good idea because it would leave Linuxers at the mercy of the driver manufacturer, who do not devote same time on Linux drivers as compared to drivers in Windows and have higher chance of failure as compared to say open source drivers.

9. NAyK - May 1, 2008

to anurag: maybe I should state my purpose more clearly. Here it is:

I work with beginner users. And I’ve tried to give them many distributions, and PCLinux has always been the best. Most of them don’t know about KDE or GNOME, so I don’t get into those details with them. My purpose here, in this article, is to see whether the new Ubuntu (8.04) is actually good for giving to the new users I work with. And the answer is, “no”, largely for the 9 reasons I listed above.

I don’t pretend to be a linux guru myself. As you can see, I can’t fix my own problems. But that’s the point, because I’m not so well versed with Linux, I can understand the problems other beginners can face.

My final evaluation, whether PCLinux or not, is basically an assessment of which distribution is good for the first-timer…. and my own, personal answer is, PCLinux.

10. The Handyguys - May 1, 2008

Its been 10 years since I made the linux plunge and I haven’t really touched it since. I cant believe its been that long. I was attempting to go without windoze for a month. I was using RedHat version 1 probably with KDE and Gmome both. Anyway, I may go to it again on a laptop and was considering Ubuntu. You say Ubuntu is not for beginners. Would you consider me a beginner? I’m fairly techie but haven’t installed any linux distro in quite a while. Thanks for the post.

11. Andrei - May 1, 2008

Don’t listen to this ramble, install Ubuntu, try it yourselft.

You will be pleasantly surprised.

With half a million of http://www.ubuntuforums.org users, you will also get the best help for Newbies yourself

12. Zoltan - May 1, 2008

Well, I have red this blog entry – but I don’t belive in ubuntu’s hype, or fighting witch one is better. Each distro has its own target, and people. Canonical doin’ this in corporate ways, with lot of money behind it. Of couse you get for this better hw support, and and more users. PCLOS is an community distro, witch has only support from their donations, and the fan’s free time… It sounds a bit unfair to such comparison, but favorizing “the new kid on the block”, well it’s like adware…. But try to compare KDE based KUbuntu with PCLOS, or Mint with PCLOS – to get clearer picture both of them.
However, I don’t care such writings – I will use that linux witch serves my needs, fills it fastest.

PS: I use Fedora, and PCLOS…

13. NAyK - May 1, 2008

To Handyguys (and a few other people who think I’m trying to make this a war between Ubuntu and PCLinux):

It depends what you want to do with your linux. If you’re like me, and want to use Linux to do the multimedia thing, then you’re probably a beginner like me… our priorities are pretty basic. However, if you want to do server work and coding and development etc, then I would consider you a heavy (non) beginner user. And would recommend something more robust. For you, Fedora might be more familiar, since it comes from the Red Hat stable. However, I would recommend openSUSE. It’s an excellent distribution, though I had a bad experience with its latest 10.3 release (I personally am waiting for its 11.0 release).

Ubuntu is not the best distribution to do heavy work, because it’s only a one-CD install. An distribution like openSUSE has 5/6 CDs worth of stuff in one DVD and will give you everything that you need; plus you can install more.

This PCLinux and Ubuntu thing is not a war as people are making it out to be. If I said Ubuntu was better, a bunch of PCLinux people would be cursing me as a Ubuntu-fan. These people are not understanding that Ubuntu (according to me) is not as friendly as they think. I’ve already busted my Ubuntu installation and don’t know how to fix it… I have to go to a community page to find an answer; which according to me defeates the purpose. I want a distribution that just works (because that’s what my friends need), and so far only PCLinux has achieved that.

If you really want to get your hands dirty with Linux, without going fully into code, I really feel Fedora or openSUSE is the best bet for you.

But that doesn’t meant that Ubuntu is bad. Try it, it’s quite a good distribution… just not for me.

14. NAyK - May 1, 2008

to Shamil (number 6 above): You said, “If you want the best out of linux. Learn how to do it yourself.” That’s pretty hypocritical unless you are a Gentoo user. Now that’s a distribution (Gentoo) that you do by yourself; and you would have earned my respect. Everything else is a simpler/easier solution. The question is how easy do you want it?

To say that Ubuntu gets you to know/understand Linux and PCLInux does not, is not true. It just brings you to Linux from a different point. I personally learned the basics about Linux through Ubuntu (as the first distro I really tried). Yet I think I learned more than the basics about Linux through openSUSE. However, I think I really learned to use Linux through PCLinuxOS.

15. Riverrun - May 1, 2008

To Mellowfury,
This is just what I needed to know. Thanks very much. I can re-install PCLOS now which is the Distro I like best.

16. ubuntucat - May 2, 2008

If you want a nonfree Ubuntu, use Linux Mint. LM has no qualms about including proprietary crap. LM is what I always recommend to Windows migrants.

By the way, I chose Ubuntu because PCLinuxOS couldn’t detect my sound card or screen resolution, and Ubuntu could. I didn’t want to have to troubleshoot issues; I just wanted things to work. That’s also why I’ve now (at least temporarily) abandoned Ubuntu for Xandros on my Eee. The preinstalled Xandros on Eee works well with the wireless, multimedia keys, suspend, sound, screen resolution, boot time, battery life reporting, etc.

17. mellowfury - May 2, 2008

Hope it works for you.I think you need to reboot after you edit the laptop-mode.conf file for the new settings to take effect.As for the pclos forums they are usually pretty friendly and helpful,but they do prefer that you use the search function before posting a question,in case it’s already been answered,And some of the moderators will come down hard on “stupid” questions like “Why does’nt my webcam work?”[with zero details about the hardware,etc.].But PCLinuxOS works so well on all of my machines that I seldom have to resort to the forums anyways.

18. Heavy D - May 2, 2008

I think most of your critique is in the cosmetic. That being said, Ubuntu Gnome is totally configurable in what colors, etc. you choose to use. Wallpaper??? It is called http://www.interfacelift.com. Regardless of your OS, you can right click it and use it as yours. Whatever, fanboy.

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20. redhand8888 - May 2, 2008

points number 1,2,3,4,5,6,8 and 9 are all a result of your lack of knowledge not an ubuntu problem. The solutions to those “problems” take less than a minute to solve. Just because you are a self proclaimed newbie doesn’t mean that you have to stay that way. Honestly, how hard is it to go to synaptic and install emerald(theme manager), or kiba-dock(dock app),or automatix(nonfree codecs and drivers) ,etc.

21. linuxcanuck - May 3, 2008

I won’t knock another Linux distro just because I happen to prefer one over the other. I have five distros installed on my computer at any one time. I use one as my main distro and the others are my sandbox.

One of the distros frequently in my sandbox is PCLOS, but it never makes it to my main distro for various reasons. It is the only RPM distro that I can tolerate because RPMs generally suck compared to DEBs. I got my start on Mandrake and used it for year. Believe me I hav ebeen around the block and RPM and I just don’t go well together. Too many dependency problems in comparison to DEB. I install lots of applications so it is a real issue with me.

The chief reasons for using something other than PCLOS are that I don’t have any hardware issues and have the skill to troubleshoot any that might crop up, I install lots of applications and many cannot be found in PCLOS, and I like the herd (a large community of users and developers).

I recommend PCLOS to lots of people, even though it is not my main distro. It and SimplyMEPIS are two small distros that stand out for the same reasons: great hardware detection, great look, KDE, and great tools. Both are small distros nurtured by individuals (Texstar and Warren who I think know each other) with as similar philosophy. The big difference is that one is Debian (MEPIS) and the other is RPM (PCLOS).

While I may have issues with RPM, I have no serious ones with PCLOS. In head to head comparisons it often comes down to personal preference. I am just thankful that Linux can offer such different choices and people still feel passionate about computing.

22. how do i change what starts up in windows xp - May 15, 2008

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23. Gweeper64 - May 22, 2008

mellowfury and riverrun,
glad I could help. ;-)

24. BarVader - February 13, 2009

Hi! I am just thinking about moving from Ubuntu to (maybe) PCLOS. I have been using Ubuntu in my laptop for three years, and I am tired of fighting the hardware configuration, the never-ending updates, and recently some wireless problems which appear or dissapear after each distro update. (I was told yesterday that it is a matter of kernel modules… but I don’t dare facing the kernel).

I consider myself a beginner, so I just want Linux to work well and let me be able to learn. I don’t want (and cannot!) spend too much time getting it ready. I think that setting up your hardware is not a job for a newbie. Thus, PCLOS may be a good choice, and your blog points to that direction. I will tell you when I try it.

BarVader - December 31, 2009

Hi! It’s me again. I tried PCLOS some time ago, but I did not succeed in setting the wi-fi up. Then, I tried Mandriva, and all worked at the first trial (graphic effects, wireless connection, etc.)

I don’t want to throw a flaw, I am sure that PCLOS is a good distro, but it did not fit my needs (or maybe my hardware).


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