PCLinuxOS: Another Look, Plus: Installing MepisJuly 21, 2006
In my short review, I sort of dismissed PCLinux because I was concentrating on some specific goals with my home system, namely getting on the internet using the modem. I’m STILL working on that one.
Now, at work, after everything is finished for the day, I can play for a little bit. Since my work machine does not have a DVD, there is no fooling with either SuSE or Ubuntu so that leaves me with the later release of MEPIS or PCLinux. I chose the later, mainly because the IT guy here at the school gave me an old machine to play with that is currently being loaded with MEPIS 3.3. After 15 minutes, it is 40% into the installation.
Back to PCLinux…
I complained a bit about that Gnome desktop, but after spending more time with it, my whining was not exactly warranted. If you want a desktop looking like XP, PCLinux is a good choice. You have the green start button in the same spot, the taskbar looks similar…everything looks similar. I would say the PCLinux actually has a superior feel to XP, but that could just be because it is new.
The live CD comes with 15 games and 24 applications, 6 of which are part of the office suite. In fact, I am typing this up using Open Office 2.0 right now. It has Firefox, Thunderbird, Gimp….all of the standard stuff that all of the other distributions come with. PCLinux had no problems detecting my hardware or detecting the network. It’s obvious that this distro was developed to look and feel like XP for folks like me coming over and playing with another OS.
One annoying thing I discovered about using Open Office on this distrobution, is that it takes you through a registration process when launching it. Registration is not required to use it, but it is still a needless annoyance.
PCLinux scores higher than other distros in my book for a couple of reasons. First, it does not have the misleading hype that Ubuntu does. It is much easier for a Windows XP user to use because it looks and acts like XP almost exactly. I don’t need a lot of extra directions on using this, because of that quality. If Ubuntu wants to look different, that’s fine, but don’t go around saying that it is a substitute for Windows. It is not.
Secondly, the PCLinux distro beat Ubuntu and SuSE live DVDs because I was able to successfully locate and browse my hard drive, and even open documents using the Office application. I could not even open (or mount) my hard drive with Ubuntu or SuSE live DVDs. This feature makes the live CD version of PCLinux a likely candidate for rescuing data from a hard drive where Windows has crashed or become corrupted or excessively crippled.
This is the OS you might give to someone with extra simple needs, mainly email, internet and a few basic office applications. There is nothing terribly complicated or sophisticated here. For $1.95 from www.Linuxcd.org it is a fair distribution. For some people, this could be a suitable substitute for Windows with a minimum of fuss as long as they are not using a modem to get online. That one single snag seems to trip up almost all distros. PCLinux is #10 on Distrowatch, but I think it warrants being a bit higher simply because of the ease of use factor.
Having said all of these nice things, PCLinux still does not beat MEPIS (#4 on the DistroWatch list). PCLinux does look more like XP than MEPIS, and runs more like it. However it does not have as robust of a group of applications. I have a number of needs, and PCLinux meets only part of the list. MEPIS meets more of them than anyone else I have tried so far. It is the only one, for instance, that includes personal finance software with the distrobution. Okay, so there are only a few games, who cares? I can always boot up a live CD of the others and play all the games I want!
Mepis took about 30 minutes to install on a machine running less than 800 Mhz with a 10 gig hard drive. I began counting applications, and lost count. There are over 100 with 14 games. Many of these applications (probably over half) are Linux geek tools for tweaking the system, programming, compiling and using the command line so you propeller heads might want to give this distro a serious look.
So now I do have a machine that is 100% committed to Linux since I went ahead and reformatted over Windows. So far, I’m liking it but I haven’t actually tried to do anything constructive with it. One of the things I’m going to work on is getting it up on the network in order to download and install some more applications. WINE is at the top of my list, as I’m intensely curious as to how it works and behaves with various windows applications.