Posted on Wednesday 23rd of May 2007 at 13:45 in Linux

Review: PCLinuxOS 2007 Final release

I've lost count how many times I've been here; sitting infront of Kwrite as I review the latest and greatest release from the PCLinuxOS team: PCLOS2007. It's been a long time coming and I've been getting increasingly anxious to see how this highly anticipated release performs. Let's see shall we!

It won't have escaped your attention that it's already been a couple of days since release and yet I've only just managed to review it? Oddly enough I wanted to sit with it for a couple of days and give it a fair review - after all it is a big contender for my most usable Linux 2007 title. While my reviews are quite short and heavily focused on light-intensity, new user use; I wanted to give PCLOS some proper attention for a couple of days to give it a fair hearing.

pclinuxos

Aesthetics
Always the sharp dresser, PCLOS2007 doesn't disappoint. The graphic design team are obviously good at what they do because the entire system has had a lot of thought applied to it. The boot screens, loading icons, desktop icons and even the User Interface is magical. I find PCLOS to have the single best desktop interface out of all the "usable" distros that I toy with. I don't get on well with Ubuntu very well (while I appreciate it's excellence, the interface never amazes me) and some of the other excellent releases (like SimplyMepis) are good but PCLOS just sits right with me. Clearly this is personal preference but I just find everything is where it needs to be - testament to the devs I suppose.

pclinuxos desktop

Networking
As with the test releases the networking side is very strong, seemingly removing some of the "temporary" issues I encountered when reviewing test release 4. My Internet connection was picked up instantly, Samba shares worked directly out of the box and I couldn't fault how it worked. It's empowering to know that whatever I'm trying to do - if I fail there's the massively powerful Administration Centre to fall back on. No quibbles at all with networking - it worked perfectly (as I would have expected).

Media playback
Many don't agree with me, but I consider strong media support to be a crucial element for an "out of the box" distro. New users won't want to faff around sourcing codecs and unless you're going to offer on-demand support (like Ubuntu) then you need to be offering good things post install. Opting to play the normal Family Guy DVD-rip results in flawless media playback (as it has done previously).

family guy on pclinuxos

Another good result for PCLOS; stuff like this really impresses me because first impressions count for so much. If I this release to a non-Linux user and it offered support like this out of the box then it makes an excellent impression. Regular users won't be impressed at the complications behind sourcing codecs on the fly for you to download. Obtaining codecs may be a short and rather trivial task but the psychological benefit of doing it all for the user before they even arrives is something I like. I like it a lot.

Applications
Normal users love applications. They love having plenty of things available and even better; they love it when they're free, so it's important for an "out of the box" focused release to offer a sensible amount of things directly post install. As you would expect you have Firefox, OpenOffice and GIMP to satisfy the most obvious needs of the user. You also have Synaptic to offer one-click-install heaven for those who have more specific needs.

pclinuxos menu

One point worth highlighting is that I find the menu system to be slightly curious (as you can see in the above screenshot). Due to the number of applications on offer directly post install (and there are a LOT), the menu structure has been turned slightly more atomic than I would have preferred. Either way the menu naming is logical and it's no effort to find what you need - I would just prefer a long list of "Multimedia" apps rather than it being broken down into Audio/Video/Graphics.

Overall there are plenty of applications on offer - more than sufficient to ensure that average users won't need Synaptic for the most part and that's another plus point for an "out of the box" release.

Conclusions
As I said at the top: my reviews tend to be short and sweet while the thinking behind them sometimes takes me a while to articulate properly. PCLinuxOS has been difficult to review because I was eager to give it the attention I feel it deserves. Ubuntu has made big waves in this market and while some have complained about comparisons made between these two big players - I welcome them. PCLOS had a lot to do to threaten Ubuntu's position atop the usable pile and I'm happy to conclude that I think it manages superbly.

It feels polished and adheres to it's own slogan of "radically simple". Everything just works in the manner I would expect and that's exactly what it needed to do. Combine that with the advanced features (that I won't get into here, but Java comes preinstalled...) and you've got yourself a winning release.

Unfortunately (and I do feel this is worth mentioning) a good friend of mine recently gave PCLOS2007 a less than shining review; upon reading this review (which wasn't overly negative) the leader of PCLOS instructed loyal fans to "hammer" his site. I'm not impressed with this behaviour and I certainly have more loyalty to a close friend than I do a Linux distro that I enjoy. I'd love to hear what Texstar has to say because I find it hard to believe that this situation ever arose.

Anyway, with that aside PCLOS2007 is a cracking release that lives up to all the promise that the test releases offered. Everything worked and the entire experience was indeed "radically simple".

 

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