PCLinux OS – Minime 2008February 12, 2008
It’s been awhile since I’ve played with and reviewed any distros, so I’m overdue. I do have a need for something I can use other than Windows as there are legions of viral and malware attacks that are attecking my XP everyday. I recently cleaned off over 20 infections thanks to the Spydoctor downloaded from Google. Now that I have a high speed connection, my rate of infections also seem to increase.
I also wanted to try something portable as I do work with and from different machines frequently. I had a 1 G thumb drive just waiting for a linux install but this is still not a lot of room for most full-sized releases. It has been awhile since I looked at PCLinuxOS so I was anxious to see how they had progressed and the Minime version seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Plus it is relatively new, so I’m early to this particular party for once.
I landed at the Pendrive Linux site and was wooed by that screen shot and wanted that snazzy desktop. So I followed the direction given for downloading and installing the Minime distro found here. Things went very smoothly getting my pen drive all set up and ready to go following the directions given. However, I was not able to boot to the machine I really wanted and needed to use it on because this was an aging Celeron 1.8 GHz that must be at least 7 years old. I have over 512 MB RAM and have tricked it out as much as can be done. But when it came to the BIOS, there was no option for booting from a USB flash drive. I tried the USB HDD option but that got me nowhere so I tried it on my laptop. Success!
When installing to a flashdrive, it does divide it into various partitions and I never did get to adjusting those sizes. Minime is a 296 MB distro, so it is not as big as most full-sized linux releases. I figured I would have room to spare for some documents and fun stuff. But I was mistaken.
I was seduced by that snazzy 3D desktop screen shot but I never did get it to work like you see in the picture. But it is still attractive and modern looking all the same. PCLinux looks better and more modern since way back in the day when I last reviewed it. I had no troubles getting it to pick up my wireless connection. But later on when I tried it on my work computer, it seemed to not be able to find the ethernet connection, which I still find odd.
PCLinuxOS apparently has a KDE desktop, but I wouldn’t call it a pure KDE interface. I noticed there were many gnome files on it as well as in the Synaptec repository. In my earlier review, someone had corrected me by saying that PCLinux used KDE but my particular live CD at the time had Gnome. The fact is that it looks and works a lot more like Ubuntu 6.06 than a Mepis 6.0 so I can see why there would be confusion. But that really was not an issue for me, because I just wanted it to work.
There’s a reason why this thing is so light. For web browsing, you get Konquerer and nothing else. I did end up going to the repository to get Firefox. Hint to other newbies; make sure to refresh the repository list to get more download choices. I was generally pleased with the repository choices as there were a lot of them. I even managed to find Stepmania 4.0 CVS, which was something I wanted with my Linux. However as I began downloading a few choices, I kept getting a message indicating that my disk space was too limited or the drive was full. Downloading in several bites instead of trying to get many packages at once seemed to help overcome that.
Minime is a bare bones distro. It does not come with any office software to speak of, nor does it have any CD burning software or DVD watching software. In fact it had no multimedia programs at all except on for sound that I didn’t recognize. I didn’t even see any email clients, although I’m sure there was something affiliated with KDE and Konquerer. Since I like Gmail, that’s not a huge issue. But Google kept reminding me that my browser might not be compatible with all of their features which is what prompted me to go get Firefox.
My laptop is a 1.8G Pentium 4 with 512 MB RAM and it was the machine that I spent the bulk of my time trying Minime. As I said, I went looking to see if I could get that nifty 3D box desktop thing working but I never did. While that’s not the deal-breaker, it would have made the experience more fun. As it was, there were times when I managed to get the program to stutter and almost freeze up. It seemed sluggish and slow to me which could have something to do with the flashdrive, but anything that small should be able to use the RAM efficiently enough to have some speed.
The deal breaker is that as it came out of the box it wouldn’t do much more than surf the web. It has some modem tools, which thankfully is no longer an issue for me. But the lack of anything productive would drive a modem user bonkers because they would have to download several packages. So for someone looking to actually do something with a distro on a flash drive is going to be disappointed with PCLinuxOS Minime. Having to download things to make it work is simply going to make it bigger and you might as well get the regular-sized distro with all the stuff.
I liked the look and feel of it, and the full version would be something I might recommend to someone just starting out with Linux with a full install on a machine. The interface was highly intuitive and those programs that I did install were installed in the right places with no fuss. However, this is not the distro or the version of choice for me at the present time. The distro has matured since my last review and will be comfortable on any desktop. And perhaps it might be more comfortable on a larger thumb drive. But for the present time Minime is an interesting toy but not a terribly useful one. I learned a thing or two getting it installed on the flashdrive and that was useful. But I don’t think it will be staying there for very long.