28 Feb 2012

Why I Use PCLinuxOS

It was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.
Nevermind. That's a different story.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... No, that's not right, either.

They say the third time's a charm. Here we go. In 2000, I began my Linux journey with baby steps. I was already a bit familiar with UNIX from using limited shell accounts at work. I tried Slackware, Debian, Red Hat and quite a few lesser distros. None seemed to really fit until I tried SuSe 9.1. It was very comfortable, but the SuSe team changed direction with 9.3. Although I was using Linux, it was still playing second fiddle to my WindowsXP and AmigaOS 3.1 computers.

I discovered PCLinuxOS 0.91 in late 2005. It was a new project started by a packager for Mandrake. It seemed similar to SuSe, but somehow better. When PCLinuxOS 0.92 came out, I reinstalled from scratch, even though it was not necessary. I simply wanted to start fresh, minus the cruft I had accumulated. I was still dual booting with WindowsXP, and was still on dialup internet. It was at this point that I began having problems with Windows viruses. No amount of diligence with my virus checker, firewall and spyware guard software seemed to be enough to combat the problem.

The cat and mouse game of zero day exploits eventually became more than I was willing to tolerate. I decided that I would run Linux full time at home, and never use Windows again. I still use nothing but PCLinuxOS on all my home computers. There are several reasons why I stay with it.

Stability

PCLinuxOS is an rpm-based distribution. Much has been said about rpm “circular dependency hell”. Although I have experienced it firsthand, it has never been an issue with PCLinuxOS. I remain convinced it is because of the quality of the distribution's packages. Although there have occasionally been minor glitches down the road, I have never been left with a non-functioning Xwindows session or a non-working desktop after an update or upgrade. That is saying a lot, because PCLinuxOS is a rolling release distribution. Since its inception, there has only been one instance where a reinstall was required to stay current. It was due to a major upgrade in the gcc toolchain. Procedures are now in place to assure a reinstall will no longer be necessary.

DEs

PCLinuxOS has been, traditionally, a KDE-centric distro. This is due to Texstar's preference. There were also Gnome and XFCE desktop environment iso images available. But, when the changeover from KDE3 to KDE4 happened, Texstar did not immediately make the jump. He considered KDE4's first incarnations too unstable and unusable to offer to his users. It wasn't until the KDE4.3 version that he released a beta for testing. With Texstar's customizations, the new desktop looked and felt much like the older 3.5 versions. This made the transition easier, in my opinion. Of course, all the KDE4 features were available. I believe it was the KDE4.4 version that made the final cut for a full release.

At the same time, several community remasters came out sporting different desktop environments. They were Gnome and XFCE, the old mainstays. But, added to the list were LXDE and e17. Later came an Openbox remaster. I had foregone the change to KDE4. Instead, I installed the e17 version. It was better than I remembered during previous forays with the e17 desktop. For one thing, the only time the desktop ever crashed was during KDE software updates. A simple restart of the e17 desktop always cured the problem, without having to restart X.

I now use LXDE and Openbox as the main desktops on my computers. I also use e17, along with IceWM and WindowMaker. There are a few other desktop environments that can be installed in PCLinuxOS, right from the repositories. In addition to the previously mentioned ones, there are Blackbox, Fluxbox, FVWM, AfterStep, Awesome, DWM, Matchbox, PekWM, and, yes, even Ratpoison. Freedom of choice is one of Linux's strong points, and PCLinuxOS offers many choices.

Community

PCLinuxOS is a community based distro. There are no commercial interests sponsoring it, and no one is paid to develop, package or offer support on the forum. As mentioned, individuals regularly produce remastered iso images for a specific desktop. The PCLinuxOS forum is one of the friendliest I've ever been a part of. Newbie questions are treated as any others. The forum moderators have some policies in place that some may consider too restrictive, but they are to ensure that spamming of the boards and flamefests are nipped in the bud early on.

The PCLinuxOS Knowledge Base wiki has undergone a complete change, and is a good help resource. In addition, some forum members provide repository mirrors, and one forum member provides an email service. Another member consolidates the monthly desktop screenshots posted in the forum, and compiles them into a video which is published once a month on YouTube. We also have members who contribute artwork in the form of custom wallpapers and themes.

Not enough can be said about the packagers. Not only are they a presence on the forum to answer questions or help with user problems, they often create new custom packages for the distro. They also create packages for a new distro application if there are user requests for it, and the application is stable enough for everyday use. Many do this in their spare time, in addition to holding down a job and raising a family. That is true dedication, in my book.

Magazine

Since September 2006, the PCLinuxOS magazine has been published almost continuously, every month. Occasionally, an extra edition is published. There was a lull in mid 2009, due to some community changes. Each issue is available online in HTML format or as a downloadable pdf. Besides covering community news and showcasing monthly desktop screenshots, the magazine offers tutorials, as well as a look at changing Linux trends. I am proud to have contributed several articles over the last few months. After all, very few Linux distributions regularly publish their own magazine.

Texstar

Bill Reynolds, the founder of and main developer for PCLinuxOS, is the very heart and soul of the distribution. Users who were clamoring for his custom Mandrake packages encouraged him to start his own distribution. It is Texstar's touch that makes the distribution rock-solid dependable and stable. His devotion to quality and stability has been evident ever since he first created PCLinuxOS. As regular users, we owe a lot to Texstar. I will take dependability and reliability over bleeding edge any day of the week.

This is a guest post by Darrel Johnston

20 comments:

  1. I'll second every observation. PCLinuxOS has been my OS of choice since the 0.94 Big Daddy release. I'm an end-user, not a developer. I'm not in IT, not even close. I want something that WORKS for me all the time. PCLinuxOS works....all the time. Texstar and the devs do it right and I'm grateful.

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    1. Maurice George7 March 2012 09:48

      To find the best Linux option for a friend, I recently downloaded and tried a dozen distros.

      It was fascinating to see all these different implementations of the same basic Linux system.

      It was also rather disturbing to find that many well-known distros were so awkward to use, badly organized and lacking in everyday facilities.

      So once again I came back to PCLOS and appreciated its virtues all the more. It's clearly organized, configurable to the nth degree and right up to date with applications which have been tweeked to suit the needs of users.

      The Forum is indeed very active and friendly. After I had done something rather stupid with my set-up, I sent in a question. I was most impressed when Texstar personally helped me to retrieve the situation.

      My thanks to everyone who helps with packaging, documenting and updating this truly excellent distro.

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  2. I'm satisfied user of pclos, very good distro. The Nvidia e ATI video cards works fine without manual config.

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  3. I too am a user of PCLinuxOS. I have tried their different DE's, but mainly LXDE and Openbox. Looks like I am going to hang with Openbox as I am more partial to it. This is not to say anything is wrong with the other DE's, I just prefer it at the moment for what I do. I also like the idea of the rolling release platform, install once and basically forget about it, as opposed to reinstalling most others every 6-18 months unless you are using an LTS version. I am not an IT person, just a very satisfied end user. Thanks to Bill "Texstar" Reynolds and the entire PCLinuxOS community for producing a line of quality products that work right out of the box.

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  4. Another happy PCLinuxOS user.
    Having been with Mandrake/Mandriva for years, I decided to change at a certain point in time.
    After a few months distro hopping, I tried p93 ( and following versions) of PCLinuxOS.
    I was very happy for a few years. Then the distro hopping thing got the better of me. For about 4 months I tried all other distros. Nothing wrong with them, but....I returned to PCLinuxOS and haven't looked back since.
    I am here to stay !

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  5. The article and comments are encouraging, especially if one considers setting up a "long term support" desktop for family or friends. I'll have to re-evaluate PCLinuxOS (I never disliked it, but the bleeding edge distros distracted me). I hope TexStar is doing well health-wise.

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  6. I jumped into the pclos wagon until recently and I must say it's an impressive distro. I have it as my main production distro on a laptop that refused to work with msome more familiar distros for me.

    The work of Tex shows his dedication an passion. I take it it must have been hard on him to stop put on the brakes because of health issues. I hope he is getting better.

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  7. How I wish what you have typed was true for me. Been very much let down by PCLinuxOS a distribution which I thought had many advantages when I first started using it. Some of the main reasons for choosing PCLinuxOS was stability, (I was using Parsix which one day just crashed and refused to start again), and fact that it is supposed to be a rolling releasee. Having spent 9 months in hospital after installing PCLinuxOS e17 (which had lots of graphics related issues causing crashes especially when scrolling up the Menu to start a program) but I still liked it .... until I got out of hospital and discovered that my PCLinuxOS system was no longer a rolling release and I could not upgrade of install programs as some clown at PCLinuxOS had decided to change the update paths. They did issue a program called aptupdate but only made it available for 6 months but I was in hospital during that time. I asked for help but all I got was a "sorry!". Not very good really!

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    1. I had the exact same problem, I spent 10 weeks in the hospital and 4 months at home recuperating. But I saved everything important to me and reinstalled. Problem over. Same scenario as what happens with M$ when they come out with a NEW release. Life with computers is never without problems. Some just more easily resolved.

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    2. When I do a PCLOS install it usually takes me all of about an hour to install and to trick it out to my liking, so what exactly is the big deal here?

      Data is kept on a separate partition so reinstalls are a breeze.

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  8. Hi,
    I just feel like talking. The wife is out, the cat sleeping, the kids playing games and so on.
    >>>I was using Parsix which one day just crashed and refused to start again
    Well, you could just have put your backup there, isn't it.
    What? You didn't have a backup ?
    >>>and fact that it is supposed to be a rolling releasee.
    Well, not only is it supposed to be one, it actually is one !
    >>>....after installing PCLinuxOS e17......
    Yes, unfortunately you were probably not informed that e17 is not an official release from PCLinuxOS, but put together and maintainded by volunteers of the PCLinuxOS community. Sorry about that !
    >>>and discovered that my PCLinuxOS system was no longer a rolling release
    See above....it is still a rolling release ( just that now they are rolling a little slower )
    >>>as some clown at PCLinuxOS had decided to change the update paths.
    I wonder who that clown was. Really ! We have a few of them !
    >>>They did issue a program called aptupdate but only made it available for 6 months
    Yes, there was a program like that, and if you had read the 3 line instruction with it, you probably would not had a problem. But then, yes, maybe things could have gone wrong. Happens to me too sometime.
    >>>I asked for help but all I got was a "sorry!". Not very good really!
    Well, I can't argue with that.
    The sorry thing is common on many forums

    Sorry to hear you had bad experiences.
    But remember, no matter which distro you use, there always will be one or other thing happening.
    A backup is the only way to ensure that you sail every day of the week.
    If you don't make one...well...cry alone then!

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  9. Okay, you've grabbed my interest. As a long time user of Linux (more than 20 years), I've been a fan of minimal desktops. Nice to see they have a spin for LXDE and Openbox. I'm downloading the Openbox version right now via torrent. I want to see how it will run on one of my laptops, the older ThinkPad T42.

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    1. LXDE us running very well right now on my T30 with 512M of memory. KDE4 had some slowness. My machine has some memory problems of its own, I said 512, but it ignores the other 256M stick in it, machine problem, if I swap them I have 256M.

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  10. I worked with PCLinuxOS LXDE on my production desktop machine, but had to switch back to Linux Mint Debian Edition XFCE because:

    1) Poor hardware support for my Lenovo SL510 notebook (no brightness keys, no mute, only poorly scaled graphics on 1366px)

    2) Compared to the Debian repository, many speciality packages are missing (e.g. amateur radio, medical imaging, etc.)

    3) Concerns about the long-term future of PCLinuxOS.

    Notwithstanding, PCLinuxOS LXDE is very stable and probably the best LXDE rolling release distro around. If you need nothing special, it is a viable option. However, I will stick to "mothership" Debian testing via Linux Mint and the sane XFCE desktop. Add to that Double Commander to replace the stupid Thunar file manager and you are all set!

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  11. About PCLinuxOS having the friendliest forums, let's just say that I beg to differ. They're the reason (most notably "Old Polack") I will NEVER use PCLinuxOS again -- EVER.

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    1. Well, I am not going to argue with you about that,
      I have been considering switching too a few times for the very same reason. But then I decided that it was less trouble to learn to ignore him and if necessary talk back, than switching to something which was new and would take years to learn the inns and outs of the system.
      But yes, he is..., but other times he also can go absolutely out of his way to accommodate you. Let's be honest, every body has his bad days, and some people more than other.

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    2. Ridiculous. In certain areas Old Polack is one of the most knowledgeable people you'll find on the internet. If you ask a question that has just been answered he may tell you so, and if you don't give enough information when you ask your question he may tell you that he needs facts before he can answer, not stories or theories about what could possibly be wrong. But on the whole he is one of the most helpful people you'll find anywhere. With a wonderful sense of humour.

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  12. PCLOS is indeed a fine distro with a warm if sometimes eccentric community. The level of enthusiasm in said community can sometimes border on "cult-like", but they are a friendly and knowledgable group by and large. I've been a user for a few years, and with minor exceptions have never had a problem. I particularly love the use of apt for rpm package management. Seems faster than even standard apt in many respects.

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  13. PCLOS was my first distro when I broke into linux and I still have it installed on my multi boot setup (8 distros at the moment). I consider it 'safe and stable' if something goes wrong with my other distros.

    Currently use arch & chakra as my main distros because they are more interesting and challenging.

    I haven't followed the pclos forums for quite some time but has there been any official explanation as to why it remains so far behind in the kernel and version of kde used? I know Texstar likes safe and stable is it really necessary to not update to more current versions?

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  14. [quote/Old Polack is one of the most knowledgeable people you'll find on the internet. If you ask a question that has just been answered he may tell you so[/quote]

    couldnt agree more , i been using KDE pclos for almost 1 year and it is by far the best distro out there, and i have found the community to be very forthcoming and helpful to a linux novice like me , to the dude complaining that our community is not friendly all i can say is "you reap what you sow" long live pclos , and get well soon tex (who truly is a star)

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