I know, I know, it's been a while since the latest release of PCLOS, but I didn't have the chance to test it up until now. Did I enjoy it? Will it find a permanent place in my CD Wallet-of-Fame? Embark on this new epic edition of Distro Hoppin' and find out!
PCLOS 2009.2 is shipped to you as a 690 MB ISO via worldwide servers, ready to be burnt on a single CD. The main edition comes with the not-so-recent-but-oh-so-responsive KDE 3.5.10 so I went with that. The Live environment booted in about 1 minute and 30 seconds - a decent wait - and, happily, the resolution was set at my monitor's native: 1440x900. I immediately reached for the "Install" shortcut on the Desktop and, a few moments later, I was asked to remove any unused video drivers (PCLOS comes with out-of-the-box support for a bunch of GPUs), an automated process once you accept. The rest of the installation is identical to Mandriva's, meaning you won't have any trouble going through the steps. It took about 15 to 20 minutes to get PCLOS on my HDD, after which I restarted the system, removed the disc and chose to boot the new system from the beautifully designed GRUB. Before taking the plunge, have a look at the Crash Test Dummy I call computer.
- Pentium 4 @ 2.4 GhZ
- 2 GB of RAM
- NVIDIA GeForce FX5200 with 128 NVRAM
- Samsung WriteMaster DVD-RW
The desktop presents itself with an elegant, out-of-your-way wallpaper and a single, thick panel on the bottom. There are initially six shortcuts icons on that panel: the Main Menu, Home, Control Center, Administration Center, Synaptic Package Manager and Firefox. Next to those, workspace selection, the application switcher and the notification area, featuring a nice, easy-readable digital clock + calendar, the Klipper clipboard tool, volume control, network manager and a nifty little arrow that allows you to pull the whole panel off the screen in case you ever need more vertical space.
The theme itself looks good enough, what I don't like is the Vista-like window control buttons. They are nice and all, but come on, why copy? Anyway, that's not a reason to diss PCLOS, so let's carry on, shall we? Who would've thought that KDE 3.5.10 will still be used so late after the 4 series was released... But here it is, boldly setting a solid bridge between the user and the OS. The sheer speed of it, the responsiveness and stability still manages to surpass KDE 4.3.0, at least on older machines.
One of the first things I've tried was my multimedia keys on the very basic (cheap) A4Tech KL-23 keyboard that I have. I was so sure they would work, but my certainty was shattered when realizing the harsh truth: they DON'T work. I've tried configuring the keyboard shortcuts but PCLOS wouldn't want to pick the signals from the keys. I did a bit of digging with the help of my good friend, Google, and stumbled upon this post from Yet Another Linux Blog. (). So I opened Synaptic, looked for KeyTouch and there it was. Once installed, I had to choose the keyboard model and lo and behold, the (approximately) exact same model was in the list! Yuppi! Still, I could only use Play/Pause, Next and Previous, the volume keys were still dead. Fortunately I found a plugin for controlling KMix, downloaded it, expanded the archive, ran the "make" command and imported the .so file into KeyTouch, allowing me to configure the volume keys the way I wanted. Certainly not an out-of-the-box experience, but it wasn't too hard to figure out either.
Speaking of sound and music, the version of Amarok included is 1.4.10. As I am more of a Rhythmbox fan, I fired up Synaptic yet again and was amazed to see the LATEST version of Rhythmbox (0.12.5) available. But, upon downloading the packages, a few errors led me to think there was a problem with the server hosting the repositories, so I went into Synaptic's settings and chose another one from the large stack. Sure enough, everything returned to normal after that. Seeing such an up-to-date application, I wondered what a full system update would do, as Firefox was a bit lagging behind. As expected, there was a large quantity of updates waiting, so half an hour later it was done. And, again, total satisfaction as I launched the brand new Firefox 3.5.3 with all its goodies.
Kopete did a pretty good job at handling my Yahoo account but I was tired of seeing the old version notification from Yahoo whenever I would connect, so I did yet another search for my good ol' friend, Pidgin. Bam! another pleasant surprise: Pidgin 2.6.2. I was starting to really like this distro.
Another application that I use a LOT is Dropbox (awesome online storage service with sync and share capabilities), but I knew that support for KDE was problematic. Fortunately, before trying out the complicated tutorials around the web, I remembered seeing something about Dropbox on the PCLOS homepage. What? Dropbox available in the repositories? You HAVE to be kidding. Nope, they were not. I installed Dropbox with just a few mouse clicks and the app got its entry in the Internet --> Remote Access category. Nice!
Among the bookmarks set by the team in Firefox, one especially caught my attention: App Store. Hmm... sounds interesting. This place allows you to easily install different programs through a nifty little feature recently implemented in PCLOS: apt-url. Sure, the "store" is still rather empty but it works as advertised. Click Install, type in the root password and let Click2Install do the rest.
One of the icons that are present on the Desktop is a folder called "Utilities", that contains a handful of useful... err utilities. :) One can add various locales to the system, create Live Remasters, install PCLOS on an USB drive, repair the bootloader, install the latest OpenOffice.org suite (you have Abiword on the default installation), etc.; overall, a great collection designed to ease some of the tasks that need to be performed on a fresh install. Flash and Java come pre-installed for a complete WWW experience, while MP3s and popular video formats will also play just fine, no extra work involved.
My Canon A550 digital camera was picked up by DigiKam and, though the first few times I couldn't access the pictures on it, once the system was fully updated, it was all working fine. The HP Deskjet 3845 printer is also fully functional (within the limitations that seem to come with every Linux OS) and the HP 2100C scanner scans flawlessly with the help of Xsane. Even the Huawei 3G modem was detected by PCLOS. For a bit of a more interactive fun, PCLOS has a lot of small, casual games but you can also look for and install some of the "big" titles like OpenArena, which worked great on my low-end graphics card.
I've always felt that PCLOS was receiving too much hype for what it was worth, but man was I mistaken. I love living on the bleeding-edge of software and PCLinuxOS 2009.2 certainly caters to that. This distro deserves its own CD-R. :)
Pick a mirror and download PCLinuxOS 2009.2 from here.