Review of PCLinuxOS 2007 Test Release 4
I last visited PCLinuxOS when reviewing the beta 2 release in mid-March. This test 4 edition was released only a couple of days ago so it only seems right to give one of the most usable distros around another poke.
A few problems initially
While something that most users shouldn't encounter; because I'm reviewing from a VMWare session PCLOS refused to install on the traditional SCSI virtual drive, instead only working on an IDE. I only find this worth mentioning because the previous release I reviewed had no issues with an SCSI setup - so if you're going to play with it in VMWare this is worth remembering.
So let's get into reviewing PCLinuxOS 2007
PCLinuxOS has always focused on giving a more complete out of the box experience while remaining true to offering an intuitive user experience; suitable for those who aren't confident in the Terminal.
It's always been a handsome release and there's little to say once you've seen the screenshots:
Networking to my current network
Something that has impressed me a lot with recent releases (such as Ubuntu which I covered in my recent review of Feisty Fawn) is the presence of the NTFS R/W driver. In Feisty this meant that you could connect directly to a Samba share and access files directly from there; so I was interested whether PCLOS offers the same functionality.
Unfortunately PCLinuxOS wasn't as easy with it's Samba share access (something I hope gets resolved before the final release); offering me the small consolation of an error message.
This left me to connect to my home network via FTP (as I would normally). Grabbing a video file is nice and simple once I've used Synaptic to download my FTP client of choice (GFTP). Now will PCLOS2007 T4 play the video without issue as the beta2 release did?
Playing the video
Double clicking on my newly downloaded video of Futurama (3x02 Parasites Lost if you're interested) resulted in a flawless playing. PCLOS clearly has popular/common codecs preloaded and this is a fundamental thing for out of the box performance.
I don't want to have to find out what I'm missing, find a download URL and spend an hour faffing around resolving conflicts (as you do in Windows XP). Ubuntu Feisty Fawn has a nice attitude to resolving this by not preloading codecs but supplying them on demand. PCLinuxOS however takes the out-of-the-box experience approach and provides common ones directly post-install. I would love to say what happens when PCLOS stumbles into a video file that it doesn't have codecs for but I've not encountered that situation just yet.
One of my favourite aspects of PCLOS is the comprehensive yet easy Control Centre.
The control centre allows you to change most aspects of the sytem in a very "Windowsy" way. It's all point and click stuff and will go as advanced as you let it. There are options from setting up a web server to modifying the graphical theme you see upon boot. This is one of the nice things about KDE I suppose; there's just so much customisability. To PCLOS' credit it does make the entire process astonishingly easy.
Out of the box software
Another nice feature of out-of-the-box releases such as PCLOS is the functionality that you can get directly after the install. All the familiar faces are here such as OpenOffice.org, GIMP Amarok, Mplayer and more. This means that you could probably install PCLOS and live happily ever after without needing an Internet connection.
That's what really sets PCLOS apart from things like Ubuntu; their radically different approaches to desktop Linux. So here are my conclusions:
It really is shaping up to be a marvelous release. The more time you spend browsing around and just undertaking normal day-to-day tasks you realise how much work has gone into this. It feels polished and adaptable in ways that I probably can't even imagine. Sure KDE isn't as quick or scalable as Gnome or XCFE but it is more customisable than most. I find KDE more intuitive than Gnome too (although many would disagree) and I think that PCLinuxOS2007 is going to put up a hard fight for the most usable Linux 2007 title. Now it's just a case of waiting for the final release and giving it a full critique.
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