Mandriva Linux (formerly known as Mandrake Linux) is an operating system that had so much recognition that various forks were made out of it to further make Linux accessible to enthusiasts and newbies while at the same time overcoming some of its weaknesses.
PCLinuxOS was among these forks and opened up in 2007 with a lot of potential because of its easier installation process and best preserved features of the original OS. From there, a community made 2008 version surfaced having code that is more diverse than Mandriva and Live Install features and then only minor updates were seen.
Now after a couple years of development, PCLinuxOS 2009 arrives and since the previous versions had high success, this latest version had to raise the bar even more and it surely did thanks to the improvements.
PCLinuxOS on a Live CD
Like the 2008 version, PCLinuxOS comes on a standard compact disc and has Live CD capabilities to allow people to preview the OS before installing it. Just from booting from the CD, the biggest changes include the updated KDE desktop environment to 3.5.10, Linux Kernel to 126.96.36.199, and Xorg version to 1.4.
As you may have noticed KDE is still on the 3.x version, not the newer 4.x. The decision was made in the light of the fact that KDE had some more polish to make on the 4.x series before it could be ready for general use.
The default desktop is very nice with some good artwork and theme matching. It is pretty much enough for the average user to keep without customising the different settings if he or she happens to be a futuristic type of person. Regarding the KDE interface, you will notice some positive changes to the speedy KDE 3.5 environment including the new PCLinuxOS logo and better organised menu.
There are five categories that serve as the gateway to the different applications that are available which are "Internet", "Multimedia", "System", "Office", and "More Applications". Each item has other subcategories attached to it. There is also a Gnome version as well, but the KDE deserves a better look and a full look is recommended by going through the installation process.
The installation process of PCLinuxOS continues the simple approach and adds a few perks to ensure that the operating system installs with no major issues. The first step involves a dialog asking if you wish to remove any unneeded drivers from the installation to quicken the install time and save disk space. It is best to say no if you plan to change hardware components.
The partitioning step isn't the most newbie-friendly out of the popular Linux distros, mostly because it only knows how to use all the free space or custom partition, but making a mistake is highly unlikely if you know the basics on disk partitioning.
There are a few warnings that tell you to backup your data before any changes take place. If you install this on a clean system, you should be able to get through this process in just two clicks. After that, the rest of the installation will proceed and it should last 15 minutes in the average modern system.
The startup time is pretty quick and a bit quicker without the drivers and the password setup is pretty straightforward.
In fact, the environment is just like the Live CD save for a few icons, but the login screen does away with the old-fashioned KDE loading process and greets the user instead with some attractive icons that span the PCLinuxOS timeline. The good news is that all the modern hardware components should be detected including wireless devices as well.
Getting around the KDE control center is rather simple as it sticks to the standards making it easily accessible for new users to jump onto. The Kmenu sees some worthy improvements in the way the items are sorted, but it doesn't change too many things to make the control center complicated. Other improvements include better network, firewall, and proxy handling as well as shared folder management.
The KDE environment packs a lot of multimedia power as well as it includes Synaptic, which is excellent for installing any new programs with ease. Firefox is included as well, which isn't a surprise, but the welcome page turned out to be different by showing its confidence that it is the distro that is worth keeping.
Other applications include the highly receptive OpenOffice 3, popular graphics program Gimp 2.6.4, Amarok 1.4.10 as its audio player, and familiar K applications K3B 1.0.5, Kopete 0.12.7, and Kaffeine 0.8.7 for burning media, instant messaging, and media playing respectfully. Compiz is also included, which is perfect for desktop window management, multitasking and getting around the OS much easier.
The performances of each of the applications were decent and didn't take too long to open on the average system. All of the applications integrate fairly well and the KDE 3.5, which is very old for a 2009 distro, gives it better handling on both older and newer systems.
The only hurdle in mastering this operating system involves you familiarising yourself with the PCLinuxOS Control Center. Fortunately, the menus are organised and lots of practice can be done on the Live CD mode anyway. It is completely easy to setup from the start and all the applications mentioned earlier are all ready for launch. The overall environment makes it very appealing to Windows users that never used Linux before thanks to the friendly environment that the KDE 3.5 brings.
Actually, none of the individual features make a huge impact because they are present in many of the other distros. What separates PCLinuxOS from the rest, however, is how well all of the features are packaged, combined with the sleek desktop look. The overall performance doesn't disappoint either even when it is on Live CD mode. It certainly took awhile for this version to come out, but all of the improvements make this worth another look if 2007 and 2008 versions weren't so appealing.
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