What is PCLinuxOS, commonly referred to as PCLOS, anyways? PCLOS forked from Mandriva a long time ago. The developers of this distribution, with Texstar as a lead, had a different set of applications for Mandriva (that time Mandrake). Some Mandrake users began clamoring for Texstar's custom packages because they were so good. This didn't sit well with some of the Mandrake officials, and people urged Texstar to start his own distro. He did.
Over the years, system components and packages have been adapted and customized specifically for use with PCLinuxOS, even some core ones. Some packages have been created by PCLinuxOS developers, and some have been ported from other distros. There are some from RedHat, Fedora, SuSE, Puppy and, yes, even from Ubuntu.
The latest version of PCLOS saw release on the 2nd of February 2012. It has two options: KDE and KDE MiniME. The latter one is only intended for advanced users. I went for the usual KDE version.
The ISO size of this distribution is very decent for a KDE-based Linux operating system. It is only about 619 MB.
Unfortunately, PCLOS does not have a torrent downloading option, so the only downloading option is to get is from the mirror.
When the image file was downloaded, the Unetbootin tool created the Live USB for me.
This was not the first time when I tried to look at PCLOS. The previous review has been written at the end of December 2010, but that was the LXDE version of the system.
This time I decided to change my usual test environment slightly, and do it on the Toshiba L500-19X laptop. This could increase the complexity of testing, because this laptop has the WiFi card which was not recognised by many distributions so far. Let's see how PCLOS deals with it.
So... My USB stick is in the port. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!
Boot the PCUnetbootin created its usual menu based on the distribution's own. There were options to run in normal Live mode, in safe mode, to start installation and few more. Nothing unexpected or unusual. The only issue was with names of the menu items. For some strange reasons there were pseudo-graphic elements instead of spaces. Was this a Unetbootin or PCLOS glitch? I don't know. But that was a bit confusing. I passed that step.
The splash screen, which you see during the boot, features the PCLOS logo on the grey background. From my perspective, the image was slightly blurred. But that's not that important.
There is a status bar just below the logo which shows the progress of booting. The Esc button switches the splash screen on and off.
The only question during the boot was about the keyboard layout to use. My selection here was for English UK. Nice reverence towards international users, because not all of them have ever seen the English US layout, which comes as default in many distributions.
Welcome to your PCOnce booted, I saw a small window which appeared for a few seconds. This was the information about user IDs and passwords. Unfortunately, the window disappeared without any interaction from my side. Actually, if you need to remember the passwords, there's an icon on the desktop - LiveCD Password Information. Or I can tell you here: user IDs and passwords for the Live system are guest/guest and root/root.
Other than the password reminder, the desktop has about a dozen different icons, like Home, Trash, Installation, Localization, Firewall setup, Network Centre and some more.
The default wallpaper was again in a grey theme with the word pclinuxos (in this spelling) written on it, adjoined by some kind of ECG. It is the only wallpaper available in this distribution. If you don't like it, you're free to get your own from other resources, to use a Mandelbrot image, or to set up Weather monitor on your desktop.
The panel is at its usual place - at the bottom of the screen. The left side of the panel has the PCLOS menu button, followed by buttons Show Desktop, Terminal, Configure Desktop, Configure Computer, Synaptic, Dolphin File Manager and the switch between two virtual desktops. The menu button itself has 2 letters: PC in the circle.
The right side of the panel contains clocks with date, Network Centre, Clipboard tool, volume control, USB device manager and KDE notifications. This set of items is less than the usual set in KDE distributions, but I think it covers all I would need. I'd even say that Clipboard tool could be removed.
The middle part of the panel, as usual, is a taskbar. PCLOS 2012.02 uses not the usual KDE taskbar applet, but Smooth Tasks. For example, it gives you only icons for launched applications without the descriptive name. This saves space on the taskbar and moves the interface closer to a Windows 7 one. Another interesting option in Smooth Tasks is the ability to place application icons in up to three rows.
Desktop effects are disabled by default in PCLOS 2012.02. For test purposes I activated them in Configure Your Desktop, and they worked fine for me. All the standard KDE eye candies are available here.
What I could notice is that all the icons in PCLOS, both desktop and on the panel, are larger than I usually saw in other distributions. Is it out of care for people who need Accessibility tools?
For whatever reason, it set up the display resolution to 1024*786 right after the boot . As a result, the desktop only took about 3/4 of the screen. It was easily fixed in Configure Your Desktop - Display and Monitors. The resolution 1366*768 was available in the list, and it allowed me to use the whole screen.
On the technical side, PCLOS uses KDE 4.6.5 on top of Linux kernel 126.96.36.199. This is far from the latest version of the kernel. I believe the developers have proper reasons why they did not move their distribution to newer kernels. I don't know the reasons. Do you?
Connecting your PCPCLinuxOS 2012.02 automatically recognised and configured the network card on my laptop - Realtek 8191SE. Bingo!
Right after the boot, the Network Centre was represented by a red button with a cross on it. But it was not an issue to convert it into the set of green bars. I only needed to select my home wireless network and enter the security passcode.
Firewall is switched off by default in PCLOS, but there are a lot of different checkboxes in the Setup utility to allow different connections. The shortcut to this setup is directly on the desktop.
Type on your PCAs usual for KDE, the keyboard layouts configuration in PCLOS 2012.02 is in the System Settings - Input devices. It was not a big deal for me to add Russian layout to the English UK with Ctrl-Shift as the switch hotkey. This is my usual set of layouts and a hotkey.
However, there is a small annoyance in this configuration tool. Languages are mentioned by their 3-char code, like rus, por or jpn. It would be easier to navigate with full names: Russian, Portuguese, Japanese.
Also, the default layout indicator on the panel is the 2-char label. It has black letters highlighted by dark-grey light. This colour combination does not give proper contrast on the black panel. It was easily fixed by switching to a flag indicator, which is anyway my preferred.
As opposed to the keyboard, where I saw no big annoyances, the touchpad only worked to move the cursor on my laptop. Neither clicking nor scrolling worked. As I understand, this is a common problem in PCLinuxOS. It has several solutions, but all of them require system reboot, which makes no sense in Live mode.
What's in the menu for your PC?The default menu in PCLOS 2012.02 has the "classic" layout. Of course, you can switch to Launcher style. To do so, you need first to “unlock widgets” in the KDE, and then do the switch via right click on the menu button.
Let's now see what PCLOS developers put into their distribution.
As usual, I start with the Internet section of the menu. There are 2 browsers available in PCLOS 2012.02: Firefox 9.0 and Konqueror. Both of them are quick and stable. I tried to run Konqueror for some time and found no instabilities or glitches there. Of course, apart from a message on the Blogger saying that this browser is not supported. Other Internet tools include a set of KDE and non-KDE applications: Pidgin, Chokoq, Thunderbird, KTorrent, Dropbox client and so forth. The list is quite long. For whatever reason, the Internet section of the menu also includes a link to PCLOS documentation portal.
The Documentation section of the menu contains the same link to the PCLOS documentation portal, plus a link to KInfoCentre. The reason these two items are placed together are beyond my understanding.
PCLOS has two separate sections for multimedia applications: Sound and Video.
The Sound section contains Clementine, KMix and KsCD player.
At the same time, Video lists VLC, TVTime and Imagination. Imagination is the tool to create DVD shows from pictures. TVTime pretends to be the Television Viewer. But my test only showed that the camera was activated on my laptop, showing me my own face. Maybe I misunderstand the word “Television”, and now it became a synonym for the word “Narcissism”?
There is no productivity suite in PCLOS 2012.02. Instead, you get "LibreOffice Manager" icon either in the menu and on the desktop. This icon allows you to install the LibreOffice components. I could not check how it works, because it... does not work in a Live session. Other than LO Manager, the Office part of the menu lists KCalc calculator and Okular document viewer.
The Graphics section of the PCLOS menu is much richer than the Office one. To start with, GIMP is here. It is complemented by Okular, KSnapshot, DigiKam, XSane scanning tool and Gwenview image viewer. I think the list is excessive. What someone would wish to add is Inkscape, but this is not the most used tool anyway. At least, for me.
A whole section in PCLOS 2012.02 is dedicated to file managers. Apart from the usual Dolphin, it has file managers Konqueror, Konqueror Root and Midnight Commander. Also, BleachBit and BleachBit Root system cleaning tools are here.
Another rather strange section of the PCLOS menu is Editors. It only has one item: KWrite. I would rather place this application under the Office section, together with KCalc. But developers have their own vision. As you may notice, there is no Kate in the PCLOS. If needed, it can be installed additionally.
The Archiving section contains two applications: Ark and K3B. Quite a logical selection.
You may already have noticed that PCLOS's developers decided to split the contents of usual sections "Accessories" and "Utilities" into smaller groups. As an additional proof for this, PCLOS contains the menu item "More applications", which groups such subcategories as "Finances", "Monitoring", "Printing" and so forth. I am not sure this is the convenient way to see the applications. Too much fragmentation for me.
The Software Centre section of the menu lists Dupleclean system cleaner, LibreOffice Manager and Synaptic Package Manager.
Yes, PCLinuxOS uses Synaptic for managing the packets! If you are used to seeing Synaptic as a package manager in Debian and its descendants, you may think that PCLOS also uses DEB packages. But that is not right. PCLOS uses RPM packages. Synaptic works as a GUI wrapper for apt4rpm. It means, in particular, that Synaptics tracks dependencies for RPM packages, and does it better than RPM-standard tools do.
PCLOS 2012.02 comes with a reduced list of packages in Synaptic. I had to update the list to get it full, and it only took me a few seconds to process.
The list of repositories in Synaptic includes lots of different mirrors for PCLOS, so you always have a choice of the one nearest to you.
What does Synaptic list as available?
- Kate - of course! I even tried to install it. Successfully.
- Skype - yes.
- Qutim - no
- Chrome - no
- Chromium - yes
- Transmission - yes
- Inkscape - yes
- Qemu - yes
- GNOME3 - yes, under the name gnome-shell.
So, you can see that list of available packages is rich enough.
Configure your PC and DesktopThere are two separate configuration centres in PCLOS: Configure Your Desktop and Configure Your Computer. The first one is dedicated to user-specific configuration: keyboard, display, network, power management etc. The second one lists more risky tools, thus requires root password for security purposes: disk management, user management, localization and so on.
You are right if you see the Mandriva/Mandrake roots here. Yes, this the the approach to split the core and non-core configuration activities, which PCLOS inherited from Mandrake. As usual, there is some confusion between those two utilities. For example, the default keyboard layout can be configured in both sections, but only Configure Your Desktop allows one to configure several alternative layouts.
Network partitionSmb4K is one of many applications listed in the Internet section of the menu in PCLOS. It is intended for working with external Samba (CIFS) partitions. In other words, it seemed to be just what I would need to get my external network drive connected. Unfortunately, Sbm4K failed to find my external network drive.
That's why I had to mount my external drive manually. At this stage I understood that there is no sudo in PCLOS. At least, command sudo mkdir /fnd returned
bash: sudo: command not foundThat's not a big deal, and I switched my Terminal into root mode by the su command. Then command mount -t cifs... did the expected mounting. This time it required the parameter iocharset=utf8 in order to display Russian characters correctly in the filenames.
Entertain your PCOnce the external partition was mounted, I was able to test MP3 playback from it. Clementine is the default music player in PCLOS. It started fine. But I could not hear any sounds until I called up the volume level regulator and slightly moved it. Of course, VLC was able to play back MP3 files too, without any issues.
PCLOS desktop with Firefox.
Flash works out of the box.
Flash is also included in the distribution. I was able to see it working on YouTube and some other sites.
As you can see, PCLOS includes the necessary codecs for multimedia out of the box.
My Toshiba laptop has quite unusual hardware volume control – it is an old-style disk, which you can turn left or right, like on old radios. This volume regulator also worked fine.
Shutting down your PCThat was almost the end of my adventures in PCLinuxOS 2012.02. I started to close all the windows I opened, and there were quite a few of them. And here I faced the first and the only crash during my Live run. One of the KDE Plasma components crashed and asked me to file a bug report. It, honestly, slightly spoiled my overall positive impression about the PCLOS 2012.02.
Moreover, just few minutes later I had to switch off my computer with... the Power button! The Shutdown process did not finish successfully. I hanged for a few minutes. It can possibly be the same issue with KDE as I saw in Kubuntu earlier, but I can't guarantee. And I also decided not to test it any more.
General impressionPCLOS 2012.02 is pretty good distribution. It honestly deserved high place in the poll I ran for best KDE-based distribution.
All the time that I spent using it, apart from the last few moments, I experienced a stable and responsive system. No delays, no unexpected behaviour. Everything worked as it should. It was quick and speedy even when I opened a lot of windows and tabs for resource-hungry applications like Firefox with GMail, YouTube and Blogger pages, VLC, GIMP.
Yes, there are some minor issues here and there. The most serious would be the issue at system shutdown. Next one would be the absence of a productivity suite. But I don't think any of these issues can seriously spoil the overall positive picture.
That's why from now on I decided to include PC Linux OS in the assortment of the sister site Buy Linux CDs.
And what would be your thoughts about PCLinuxOS? Is it good or bad for you?
Video featured in this review: