PCLinuxOS has been around since 2003, and is one of the distributions of Linux that are termed “rolling distributions”. What this means is that once you install it, it should constantly receive updates and you won’t need to install a “newer” version six months or a year later. Just recently, Texstar and his team have put up more current installation images (for people who are just now trying out this interesting Linux distribution). I used this particular distribution for a year or two about 8 or 9 years back. I got started in Linux with Mandrake 8.0, and this was a very familiar and newbie-friendly version of Linux to use.
As best I can tell from the website, the primary edition of PCLinuxOS is termed “KDE Full” and is a 1.6 GB iso file. There is also a KDE MiniMe, a MATE edition, one with the LXDE Desktop, and finally one called “Fully Monty” which is KDE again, but really large (> 4 GB).
In this review, I’m going to look at both the KDE Full edition and the KDE MiniMe one. I’m using the old Gateway M460 laptop for this review, with 2 GB of RAM and an integrated graphics card.
As should be no surprise these days, installation was fairly simple and took under half an hour. The LiveDVD asks you to provide your preferred keyboard layout, and the draklive installer will ask one main question – what kind of installation you want. It provides a warning about wiping your information to confirm you are ready to proceed, then installs all of its stuff. After installation you are asked about timezone and UTC/local time, you set a root password, and then set up at least one user. When setting passwords for root and any users, there is no strength check provided. The value of providing a “password strength” check is questioned by some people, but it’s a useful feature in my opinion – especially for the less-savvy folks who I think are the main target audience for PCLinuxOS.
Your wireless security password is carried through to post-installation, which is nice. Like many other rpm-based Linux distributions, PCLinuxOS doesn’t disable the root password and use “sudo”; to carry out administrative tasks you switch from a regular user to root.
One issue is that my resolution initially was set too low, to 1024×768. This is because PCLinuxOS retains the “xorg.conf” settings file in the /etc/X11 directory. Once I removed it, my resolution became 1400×1050 – a little high, but easier to deal with.
The KDE Full edition is LOADED. There are about 40 games and over 80 other programs installed, in categories from Archiving and File Tools. to Graphics, Office, Sound, and Video.
If you are in school, or have a child who is, you will be pleased to find that PCLinuxOS apparently installs the entire KDE-edu package – about 20 specialized math and science applicationss!
PCLinuxOS uses the Synaptic package manager to install and remove programs; they use an rpm version of apt-get on the backend. Java and most media codecs come installed out of the box; you can watch YouTube, Hulu, or Apple movie trailers.
The default desktop looks like this:
Along the bottom are the Application Launcher Menu, Show Desktop, Configure Desktop, Configure Computer, Synaptic Package Manager, and File Manager (Dolphin). Two virtual desktops are accessible. Over on the right are the Update notifier, the network manager, clipboard, volume control, and time/date. The Launcher menu is a customized version of the Classic menu, and is not switchable with Kickoff like in a stock KDE install. The update notifier needs to be right-clicked to bring up a menu of choices.
The main menu feels cluttered, honestly. I haven’t used PCLinuxOS in years, and I can only assume that Texstar and other fans like the organization, but for someone new it doesn’t always make sense. For instance, there’s no “Administration” section. There’s a “More Applications” area which leads to ten OTHER categories, including some that seem to be administrative. Education (with Sciences) deserves to be in the main menu. KMyMoney could easily be put in the “Office” category”
Some of the programs installed include: Skype, Calibre, TVTime, VLC, Juk music player, a radio station player, GIMP, Hugin, Inkscape, ImageMagick, Choqok (aTwitter client), KMyMoney, and the entire LibreOffice suite (6 programs). There’s a link to install Oracle’s Virtualbox if you want. Surprisingly, only one editor seems to be installed (Kwrite).
The repositories contain over 13,000 programs, files and libraries.
Printer support, especially for HP printers, is ready “out of the box.” My printer was no trouble to detect and add to the list.
If your goal is software development, the repositories include IDEs and files to work on Haskell, the latest Python and Perl releases, Java, Lisp, mono and gtk#, PostgreSQL, MySQL, REALbasic, and of course C and C++.
This main edition contains about 40 games and a few toy apps installed right out of the box. Among them are MahJongg, Breakout, Mines, a Tetris clone, Go (but not Chess, surprisingly), Sudoku, a Risk clone, Breakout, Reversi, and 2 Solitaire applications (PySolFC and KPat). Plenty of casual ways to waste time!
Although the repositories are smaller than the ones for Debian or Ubuntu, the most popular games can be found and installed. MegaGlest, Freeciv, Battle for Wesnoth, Widelands, OpenTTD, and many more await you.
DBGL (for playing DOS games) seemed to work well once you installed the 2 prerequisite libraries and unpacked it. PlayOnLinux and Wine are in the repositories.
Help and Support
PCLinuxOS has documentation built right in – one of the 3 entries in the “Documentation” menu slot brings up this window:
For additional help, the forums are a useful starting point. Also, PCLinuxOS is unique in that they produce a monthly free e-magazine, which can be obtained in several formats or viewable online. The links are on the lower left-hand side of the main website.
- Runs fine on older hardware
- LOTS of programs installed.
- virtual desktops shown by default
- the menu could be a bit more sensibly organized.
On the next page, I’ll take a brief look at the MiniMe edition and then reveal my final thoughts.