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PCLinuxOS 2009.2 Installation Review November 9, 2009

Posted by Nigel Ajay Kumar (NAyK) in Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Linux, Mandriva, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Recommendation, Reviews, Working with Linux.

PCLinuxOSIn the days when Ubuntu 9.10, Mandriva 2010 and openSUSE 11.2 are having their releases, installing PCLinuxOS 2009.2 seems like taking a step backwards. But how could I refuse to try what I had considered to be my favourite Linux distro? In fact, the only reason why I hadn’t tried PCLinuxOS for so long was because I just didn’t have the time. And so I waited for many months with a brand new PCLinux (KDE) ISO image. Not that I found the time. Rather, because all these new distros started emerging, I felt compelled to give the new PCLinux another shot. So, with a toddler running around the house potentially distroying my computer, I took the plunge at 12:22pm, on Sunday.The following is primarily an installation review, though some distribution comments may be included.

A note about my system. I’m still using my VIA Desktop of more than 4 years, though I’ve upgraded to 2 GB RAM. No graphics card (only integrated VIA chipset).

12:22pm, Insert LIVE CD (PCLinux 2009.2 KDE).

12:25 Login as guest, with password guest.

I wonder why this double login persists in a live CD. wouldn’t it suffice to function as guest with the ‘root’ password made known via instruction?

My first goal was to check if my internet was working or not. My internet connection is a DSL ethernet cable run via a Belkin wireless router. Usually, I’ve noticed that some Linux’ esp. Ubuntu, has a problem picking up the Belkin router. So I skeptically tried the internet on PCLinux and shocker! It was working. Without any configuration. Well done, PCLinux!!!The  internet did feel a little slow, but I was amazed that it was working.

At about 12:29pm I decided to install, and was introduced to a new(?) procedure of removing drivers.

I didn’t understand why on a LiveCD did you have to “remove drivers”. Wasn’t it more correct to say “choose not to install drivers” or something like that? Anyway, I went along. But when I chose the advanced options and decided to cancel, the entire procedure was canceled and I had to start again. Hmmm.

12:37 pm, the computer said the installation had begun.

12:47pm I was modified the grub.

(sadly, still making Windows XP my default distro).

At 12:49pm I was restarting the computer and ending the CD session.

(I wonder why can’t the CD ejection be automated).

At 12:53pm, after login details etc, the computer opened to a brand new PCLinuxOS desktop!

Note that’s about 24 minutes! A spectacular speed when you think there was a toddler running around trying to press all the buttons including “delete all partitions!!!” :)

The key test, at this stage, was whether the internet was still working. And… yes it was! Hurray.

Knowing however that the PCLinuxOS was a little outdated, I decided to use Synaptic to run a system update.

I did a reload of the repositories. And then, seeing the huge update backlog (I needed about 400MB and I only get free downloads in the night), I decided to only update Firefox, and do the rest later.

I chose Firefox update, but after updating, Firefox crashed. Couldn’t open.

I realised that perhaps PCLinux needed a full update so decided to wait till 2:00am to do the remaining updates. (that’s when I get free download bandwidth).

I didn’t want to stay up all night, so after starting the download, I went to sleep, waking around 7:00am to see whether the updates were done. It seems there was a problem with two of the repositories, but nothing serious seemed to be the problem.

However, it was waiting for me to say “OK”, to acknowledge that there were problems in the repositories… and only then begin the installation. I wish I had investigated (beforehand) how to set up an automatic update in Synaptic that did not require any intervention on my part. Instead I had to wait a long time till the updates were installed… and then, thankfully Firefox was working.

One thing positive was that PCLinux also recognised my screen-resolution, which is something other distros do not seem to be able to do. Of course, I still think I need to install some VIA graphics driver, because the videos, like from Metacafe/Youtube, are not viewing properly (looks like no graphics card). So I’ll probably have to find that (though I wonder whether I should not have installed all the graphics drivers in the first place!).

On the whole, the installation process is pretty painless. There remain certain imperfections, and one wishes for more flexibility in choice (more possible customization for advanced users). But PCLinux’s installation speed is pretty fast; in fact one of the fastest installations out there. And that must be commendable.

Now a few comments about usage.

I know I have only briefly been using PCLinux 2009, so I can’t say how everything works, but a few off-the-cuff comments need to be made.

Look and Feel: The graphics, especially the default wallpaper etc. are not as striking as the previous version. PCLinux 2007, or something like that. That was really nice, and made Blue look cool! This time, PCLinux looks like Fedora, or something like that. Not fun at all. Trying to update the wallpaper wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked it to be. KDE is usually better than GNOME in such matters, so I guess I was expecting something a little more smoother. I had to manually select photos on my desktop. And when I had to chose the photos, from the KDE configuration, there was no preview (it wasn’t working). Which  meant that I had to open external viewers to see the photos. The external viewers too don’t seem to have progressed, with the Windows XP, Image-Preview, being probably the best photoviewer, because it allows arrow key navigation. In the current Linux viewers, the arrow keys are not always the way to navigate, and when yes, then the screen image still needs to be manipulated to allow for a viewable size.

Different attempts: I liked the attempt to install an auto-update button in the task bar. Because that was something that was missing in PCLinux earlier. But this one wasn’t intuitive enough for me to figure out. It seemed to give me many options, and when I clicked any, it usually only opened up Synaptic.

Current state of affairs: The audio is working. And the video, once I update the drivers, should work better. All these were done pretty ok, without any fuss. However, currently (and suddenly), none of my Synaptic repositories are working. I was simply trying to install the Wally Wallpaper program. But Synaptic wasn’t working. Not able to reload. The internet was working though, and that continues to be PCLinux’s saving grace! But I must note that the internet is drastically slower here than in Windows. Perhaps I do need to do a little bit of tweeking.

Finally, Recommendations? About a year ago I would not have hesitated to recommend PCLinux to any beginner user of Linux. It was truly a class apart. But right now, it seems to have developed a few quirks that don’t seem to generate as much confidence in the distro as the previous one. Moreso, it doesn’t seem to have moved ahead. It feels like the old one, though not exactly in the best sort of way. It seems “less better”. Maybe I need to try it a little more, but suddenly I’m not too sure about whether PCLinux is the next big thing in Linux.

Sadly, over the weekend I will be looking to install and test Mandriva 2010 and also later try out openSUSE 11.2, as replacement distros.



1. Capnkirby - November 10, 2009

[…] Read the rest […]

2. Archdevil - November 10, 2009

Funny that you wrote that you did not find PCLinuxOS good enough for beginners. In my opinion it is/was one of the easiest distros to start with. Simple installation, no config-file editing, etc.

I have used PCLOS before in the past, and it was good. I am not sure what will happen now a large part of the devs have left the building to form Unity.

3. NAyK - November 10, 2009

to Archdevil: I didn’t say that PCLinuxOS was not good enough for beginners. My exact words were: “About a year ago I would not have hesitated to recommend PCLinux to any beginner user of Linux. It was truly a class apart. But right now, it seems to have developed a few quirks that don’t seem to generate as much confidence in the distro as the previous one.” Which is not to say that PCLinux is not user friendly. See the automated internet configuration for instance; quite outstanding.

I don’t know the consequences of Unity etc. But honestly, this version didn’t feel as spectacular as the PCLinux 2007 version. And I would hesitate (though still continue to do so) to recommend it to beginners.

4. The Doctor - November 10, 2009

Thank you for kind words and honest review. I’ve been using PCLinuxOS for over a year and find it the easiest of all Linux distros. And I highly recommend it to new users who are switching over from Windows.

5. Padma - November 10, 2009

PCLOS 2009 was the product of the devs who then left to form Unity. Since then, Texstar is back at the helm, a new crop of developers is in place, and things are cooking along nicely.

The 2009.2 release was, of course, just the original 2009 plus all updates to that point. A similar 2009.3 was planned (which would have taken care of most of that 400MB of updates) but didn’t quite make it off the ground, and at this date has been pushed off in lieu of getting a 2010 release polished and out.

In addition to the standard KDE 2009 release, there is also a 2009 Gnome edition, PCLOS Phoenix – an official XFCE version, and PCLOS LXDE, a nice lightweight system. Plus, KDE4 is in the repos, and is the sweetest deployment of KDE4 that I have found, reflecting the polish that Tex demands.

6. NAyK - November 10, 2009

To Padma: Thanks for the supplementary information on the progress of PCLinux. I really liked it when I first used it (2007). I was disappointed to see it affected by a split. But PCLinux certainly remains a positive face of open-source computing.

7. mousegun - November 11, 2009

Got the impression more than one repository was selected for the updates. BAD JUJU! Selecting plural repositories introduces sync problems. Not all mirrors update at the same time so libs and dependencies get out of whack. Please don’t ask how I know this!

8. NAyK - November 11, 2009

To mousegun: you’re probably right. Except I never messed with the default settings, so the repositories are exactly what PCLinux would have determined. Is that another sign of things gone bad in this installation?

mousegun - November 11, 2009

Possibly. I found out the hard way about the polyrepository trap ‘way back in PCLOS2007 when I tried to install a new system and then install all updates. Ended up with cybermush.

The topic’s covered in the PCLOS forum.

9. tanclo - December 9, 2009

Novell has broken with basic free software founding principals, so though i find it a stable distro, in principal i avoid using it. Mandriva has many advantages over other distros and i feel comfortable being part of a genuine open source community. Thank you for a great post and i certainly hope to read about your impressions of Mandriva 2010

10. Posted by NAyK, PCLinuxOS 2009.2 Installation Review « The Perfect Desktop - December 9, 2009

[…] by NAyK, PCLinuxOS 2009.2 Installation Review Posted by NAyK, PCLinuxOS 2009.2 Installation Review [Nov 9, 2009]…About a year ago I would not have hesitated to recommend PCLinux to any beginner user of […]

11. Peter Ridgers - December 14, 2009

I have been playing with PCLinux 2010 over this weekend on a 1.6GHz p4 processor with 384MB Ram and 20 GB hard drive. A good distro for low end machines BUT you have to be careful – it is far too easy to make desktop changes that will later freeze the login screen. Only way I have found to recover from that is to re-install from the live cd (256 upgrades and re-install open office again!!!) Sorry guys, this is not a distro I will be introducing my non-pc-literate clients to.

Padma - December 14, 2009

Peter: Have you reported your specific problems on the PCLinuxOS forums? I have never seen such a problem, but if it occurs, you can bet the devs want to know about it, so they can try to reproduce and fix it.

Peter Ridgers - December 18, 2009

Remis of me – you are absolutely right. This weekend I will rebuild a PClinuxos system so I can reproduce the problem and describe it in detail on the PCLinuxOS forums.

If you are interested, what I was tying to do was decide the best Linux variant for making use of old PCs – I see no reason for people throwing away perfectly good hardware.I find that Fedora and Ubuntu bahave well on a 1.6GHz Intel p4 with 384 MB ram and a 20 GB hard drive. For a beginner PCLinuxOS or SimplyMepis should be good choices but I have found that an unwary user can too easily make configuration changes that freeze the PC at the login prompt. YES, of course you can boot to a terminal instead of straight to X and fix anything from there – but I am talking about beginners. I don’t remember the specific configuration settings that caused this specific problem but I am sure that a few moments tinkering with a live system will bring it all back to me …

12. dalfish - February 1, 2010

PCLOS is failure when it come to supporting mobile broadband. I had a huawei ec325 modem which cannot be configured in PCLOS. I posted it in PCLOS official forums. I was not able to solve the problem. I regret my decison to switch to PCLOS. That decision was not a wise one. as my USBmodem worked flawlessly in ubuntu, linux mint and fedora.
if there is a hardware failure with the distro it can be kicked out. now i use ubuntu. i am not blaming any distro by this. i just want my devices to work in a distro.no matter which name it is. for the time being it works well in ubuntu. So naturally Ubuntu is my choice.

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