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PCLinuxOS 2008 on my ThinkPad T61 January 15, 2008

Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux.
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This is an important update to this review:

A standard feature of mainstream multimedia PCs and laptops has been the ability of being able to record digital sound… if you think that this feature is important to you or someone you know you may want to read this before purchasing a Lenovo Thinkpad.

http://temporaryland.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/consumer-alert-sound-mix-intentionally-crippled-laptops/

A few weeks ago I wrote about my experiences installing several different distributions on my ThinkPad T61. One of the distributions I tested was PCLinuxOS 2007. And, as I wrote, there were a couple of small issues that I had to fiddle with in order to get everything working. With the recent release of the 2008 version of PCLinuxOS (the Mini Me version which comes with a minimal number of applications pre-installed), I thought it would be good to write about how this new version works on my laptop. However, that could be summarized in just one phrase: It just works! That is right, everything worked out-of-the-box, wireless networking, 3D acceleration and Compiz-Fusion, sound, etc. For those of you that didn’t read my previous writeup, let me post the specs of my machine again:

  • ThinkPad T61
  • Intel Core 2 Duo (2.0 GHz 2MBL2)
  • 15.4 WSXGA+ TFT display
  • Intel GMA X3100 GM965 (video card)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 160 GB 7200 rpm hard drive
  • Intel/PRO Wireless 3945ABG

So, instead of boring you with yet another review of the very easy to use installer, lets move on to what it is like to use PCLinuxOS. But, before I do that, let me tell you a little bit about what PCLinuxOS is about and why you should be interested in it.

Why PCLinuxOS

PCLinuxOS is a Linux distribution that aims to provide the best of what free software has to offer in an easy to install, easy to use, and easy to maintain package, especially for the home user. Its developers also seem to care about making it visually attractive because every iteration I have been privileged to use has been strikingly beautiful. This latest incarnation, the 2008 version, is certainly a good example of this.

PCLinuxOS 2008 Desktop

PCLinuxOS has a motto that is very fitting: “Radically Simple”. In this case, the word “simple” refers to how trivial it is to do things in PCLinuxOS when compared to many other Linux distributions. The PCLinuxOS developers try hard to make things this way. And, as you will see latter in this review, they have managed to do this to an admirable degree.

PCLinuxOS Highlights

The “Utilities” folder on the desktop of the 2008 version is a good example of how the PCLinuxOS developers try to make things easy to use. These are its contents:

Utilities

As you can see this folder has several shortcuts. Each of these leads to a “wizard” that aids you in doing the corresponding task. Some of these may not be needed by you (for example, I did not need the ATI-Nvidia Driver Install). ;) But others may prove to be handy. Placing them right on the desktop makes for easy discovery.

PCLinuxOS developers make no secret of the fact that they have benefited from the work done by other distributions, especially Mandriva. Free software makes this legal and completely ethical. In fact, all Linux distributions benefit from the code done by others, and many popular Linux distributions are derived directly from other distributions. One important feature of PCLinuxOS that came from Mandriva is the PCLinuxOS Control Center. The PCLinuxOS Control Center (PCC) is certainly one of the most important features of the distro.

The PCLinuxControl Center

We will take a closer look at the PCC later in this review, but suffice it to say for now that it is a very convenient and polished tool to configure some important operations of the computer.

PCLinuxOS uses a program called Synaptic for package management (add/remove programs).

Synaptic Package Manager

This application has the reputation of being the best package manager available on Linux. People debate the merits of that reputation to no end. Some say that there are other package managers that are just as good, but that it is the quality of the packages being managed that makes the difference. In either case, the PCLinuxOS maintainers have done an excellent job so far in providing a very satisfying experience in this regard – the best I have experienced in Linux. With PCLinuxOS you don’t have to completely reinstall your OS every time a new version comes out. Updates are continuously being added to the package repository. So, as long as you keep up with installing them, your machine will always have the latest and greatest*.

*Note: Every so often the developers have to break the “rolling release” upgrade method due to unavoidable reasons. But that is not a frequent occurrence.

Providing all the software needed to run a computer and its peripherals is no easy task. There are still a lot of devices that will not run on Linux. However, Linux in general is making huge advancements in the hardware compatibility front, and PCLinuxOS in particular does a very good job of taking advantage of this. There are thousands of satisfied PCLinuxOS users that are enthusiastic about finally finding a Linux distribution that “just works” for them. You can read their experiences in the PCLinuxOS forum. No wonder PCLinuxOS has been affectionately called “the distro hopper stopper”.

So, what can we do on PCLinuxOS? We’ll get into that on Part 2 of this review.

Comments»

1. paul - January 18, 2008

I’ve been using PCLinuxOS for about 6 months now on a weak HP Pavilion with a 1GHz AMD and 512MB of RAM.

I give it high marks. It just works.

2. woohoo - January 18, 2008

sounds good, I’ll try it at some point. thank you for the review.

3. col critchett - January 19, 2008

Hi, Thanks for your review. I reckon PCLINUXOS is the best out there for people like me – iterate on Windows but not Linux yet. One comments though: I tried to produce a live cd after I’d configured mimime and learned to my disappointment that I have to be familiar with a particularb software program (which I’m not) and use the console which I’ve never successfully managed. Sadly, “Radically Simple” is disappointingly not an appropriate description. However, I do tell everybody how wonderful this OS is after using MS Windows for 15 years

4. rm42 - January 19, 2008

col,

I am not sure what your problem was, but did you check the forums? Eventually you will realize that when you run into a snag searching the PCLinuxOS forums usually gives you the missing info needed. I used the Make Live CD once and it worked. I don’t remember having had to use the command line. But, I agree that it is still an immature feature. From what I understand, there are several preconditions that need to be met (like the size of your swap partition, amount of free disk space, etc.). Unfortunately, instead of checking and informing you what you are missing if something is wrong, I believe that it just fails with a not very informative message. But, if all the conditions are met, I believe it just goes about its business and completes with no more intervention on your part. I am not very familiar with it, so check the forums!

5. Diego - January 19, 2008

Has anyone tried PCLOS on a Dell Inspiron 1300? I have a Dell wireless 1370 WLAN Mini-PCI card and would like to avoid the ndiswrapper thing…

6. baturmalang - February 3, 2008

this is a great information i’ve been looking for… thanks you very muchi’

7. Goth Mneph - February 4, 2008

A year ago i learned about the ease of Linux but and found it in Mepis6.0. then i found out about beryl and moved up but was sadly disappointed that with the newer kernels i had no sound. i did the distro hopping thing for about 6 months always coming back to PCLOS but still with no sound. this weekend i finally poked around the Synaptic and accidentaly stumbled upon a fix. i still don’t know what it is but i did the make live CD by command line following someone elses example and it went off without a hitch. Now everything except my printer works but i need to get a new one anyways. I think I’ll be in the PCLOS camp for quite a while.

8. Geir - March 17, 2008

Installed it in 2007, already loved it then. Will install the 2008 distro any day now..
Thanks for a great review.

9. chris101010 - March 24, 2008

Great distro PCLinuxOS, without a doubt. I recommend it to people who have never used Linux before, and they even manage to install and use it without any help.
I installed the Mini Me 2008 distro on a USB key, so I can boot my work-laptop (T43) without needing the (encrypted) disks in the laptop. It’s great, I can install extra software, save files and settings, and still use it as a live distribution with hardware detection in any pc. If anyone is interested, just Google for Pendrive Linux ;-) One word of warning, you might have to manually alter some of the instructions and config-scripts to suit your machine, so not that simple… but worth it!

10. jprovostla - April 15, 2008

I just tried the Live PCLOS 2008 install on my Thinkpad T60p and it wont recognize my video card [ATI Radeon 5250] altho PCLOS 2007 did and I have been working with it for a year??? I´m going to try editing the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and see if I get anywhere… I know I need the FRLGX driver…

11. rm42 - April 15, 2008

jprovostla,

I am not too familiar with ATI cards. I do know that the “Utilities” folder on the desktop has a wizard for installing the drivers for it, but I don’t know if more is needed. I recommend that you head on over the PCLinuxOS Forums for more specific help.

http://www.pclinuxos.com/forum/index.php

12. Shannon - June 11, 2008

I am posting this from my brand new T51p, which I ordered in part due to this review. Thanks for the review!

I am running PCLinuxOS on it, as I have been a user of PCLinuxOS exclusively for the last 4 years now. It took all of about an hour to get everything installed and set up, after doing some research before ordering. Now it works great!

PCLinuxOS isn’t perfect, but it sure does make more sense (IMHO) than a lot of other flavors. In any case, it is a great combination!

13. scribe - January 5, 2009

One of the things I enjoy seeing on all these “demo” blogs, where someone tries a distribution and comments on the pros and cons. Well, as a Linux veteran, being one whose used the OS for over ten years, I have to comment on the whioney-esque babble they ALL start out with, usually something along these lines: “Well, I started out and had to configure x, y, and/or z to get app A working, other than that, I only had trouble uploading blah, blah, bl;ah……”. L

What all these writers fail to realize is that Windows makes one do so many more things to get an operating system in a workable and secure fashion than ANY Linux system. As a networ admin, it takes me over an hour to image, set the security settings, down load all of the updates, etc…. to get something ready to put on our LAN than ANY Linux distro, with the small exception of Gentoo, whose Portage system runs quite awhile initially updating the ports (and BSDs take much longer).

For the future, quit the complaining and tell folks what works and if comparing it to Windows maikes sense, then do it: you won’t be slamming Windows, just informing readers already familiar with one operating system.

NOTHING works 100% out of the box. Nothing. And if it’s marketed as such, it must be a Mac: stay away!

14. PCLinuxOS Minime 09.1 on my Thinkpad T61 « An alien’s viewpoint - July 10, 2009

[...] I particularly like that, when updates are available, it offers the option of using aptget for installing them. When selecting this option, aptget opens in a terminal, prompts for the root password, and shows you all the available options for you to accept. This is very fast, and yet it shows all the details of what is being done. If you want to read a little more about why I like PCLinuxOS in general, take a look at my review of PCLinuxOS 2008. [...]

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