The DistRogue

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Review: PCLinuxOS 0.93a "Big Daddy"

Sorry for the late review. Xubuntu 6.10's out, and I'm trying to upgrade it, and failed miserably for a while, until I got the hang of it. According to Slashdot, I'm not the only one... But I'm still not dead yet.
In any event, I can think of a lot of words to describe PCLinuxOS 0.93a:
Free Image Hosting at
Yeah, that too. It's still not quite in the same league as Ubuntu, but it's got enough features for the common user. Like Knoppix, it uses compression to squeeze 2 gigs of software on one ordinary CD, including KDE. However, it boots faster than Knoppix, and is much friendlier and easier to use. You can install software on the live CD (but Texstar's repository is dwarfed by Ubuntu's...) using an odd combination of Synaptic and RPM, and even play a few games. PCLOS also recognized my wireless card out of the box, like Ubuntu (a Belkin F5D7010), so I could do some browsing as well.
Like I said, PCLinuxOS also uses the ever-popular Synaptic, but with a twist: instead of opting for Debian's DPKG system to install stuff, it uses Red Hat's package manager, RPM, and a hacked Synaptic to do that. This shouldn't mean much to you. I installed SuperTux as one package (instead of two, which is what Ubuntu uses), which might explain why their archives are so small (less that 1000 packages last time I checked). Also, you can download RPM files and install them with "rpm -i"- most people who put up RPM files don't offer Debian's equivalent DEB files. It's the best of both worlds.
I installed PCLOS without any hitches (and the install included the copy of SuperTux that I Synaptic'ed), but the boot loader didn't notice my Ubuntu partition. A GRUB transplant fixed it, but still... Minor nuisance. The K>Configuration>KDE menu has an obscene number of options, but most of them are straightforward. A Windows user should be at home in PCLOS. One odd thing was performance. On the live CD, SuperTux scored up to 65 FPS, which dropped to 45 FPS when installed. I also kept getting tiny, brief freezes (fraction of a second) on both of them, but they weren't like the game-stopping brain cramps [warning: adult humor in the link] that Mepis kept tossing out. (Yes, I'm a Steelers fan. Got a problem with that?) The rates were a bit higher when I turned off some Panel effects, and the lag was low enough for me to get through IcyIsland without lag killing me (it happens!).
In my mind, PCLOS kicked out Mepis and Kubuntu as a KDE desktop/workstation. It's not the "poor man's Windows", it's stable, friendly, and flexible. As far is performance, it's not a born-to-frag l33t machine, but hey, it uses KDE. What do you expect?
Friendliness: 4.5/5- Helpful, but not search-companion-and-paperclip smarmy.
Performance: 3.5/5- Gamers, stick with Sabayon. Not horrible, but milinag is annoying.
Features: 5/5- A ton of apps and config utilities.
Packaging: 4/5- Synaptic and RPM, but limited repository size.
Overall: 4.25/5- Solid, helpful... Serious newb-magnet.
I made a comment about Sabayon. That was supposed to be next, but the copy I ordered (from refused to boot. Instead, I'll take a more newb-friendly route with Mandriva One 2007, KDE edition. I tried the CD, and the 3D effects (which are easily enabled at boot) are AWESOME. I'll probably remember it as the first distro I used with a working copy of Compiz on it. It also comes with a ton of non-free components, like 3D drivers and MP3 playback. Best of all, it's still free, unless you pick up one of their "PowerPack" editions, which cost big bucks. Screenshots ahead!
After that, it's on to Xubuntu Edgy. My upgrade worked by hacking the sources.list file, instead of following the "official" method, which broke the system. More on that later, and @the "officials": So much for the method I used being less stable than yours, eh?


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