How to Perfectly Kill a Perfect Distribution

PCLinuxOS was the perfect distribution in 2007. It had all the bells and whistles to be an excellent Windows XP alternative. Here the things I loved about PCLinuxOS;

  1. Good looking UI ( OK I admit that I love KDE ).
  2. Almost mimicking XP look and Feel ( now many of Linux Purist might not like it, but this acts as an important point to help transition a new user from XP to PCLOS – keyword is less learning curve).
  3. Almost everything working out of Box.
  4. Very fast and responsive.
  5. Ultra stable.
  6. Works on almost every hardware.
  7. Amongst the first to update the repository with updated software, ( Check my blog about GIMP 2.4 release).

When a distribution is able to configure my hardware, is ultra stable, highly updated and provide me with almost all the required software then I think that is the distribution I am looking for. PCLOS had all these abilities and more.

That’s the reason it was called the distro-hopper stopper. People loved it and it rose to the pinnacle of Distrowatch Page hit rankings. Not only reached; it stayed there for a good 6 months.

If we consider that the distribution PCLOS dethroned was mighty Ubuntu, that makes PCLOS achievement even more impressive.

On one hand, Ubuntu had the backing of Canonical – they were sending free CDs, had a tie-up with the likes of Dell, had dozens ( maybe more ) developers working; on another hand, there was PCLOS which had a very small dev team and no corporate backing, no big computer assembler backing them.

Yet PCLOS rose to the top on account of sheer merit. It had the novelty to generate interest and the quality to sustain it. Kudos to Textar and PCLOS 2007. It was almost perfect.

Alas! that was 2007, however, this is 2008 and almost end of 2008. A lot has changed since then.

Especially for me, life has taken an altogether new twist. I have changed my company, changed my job responsibilities and even changed my country of work. 

  • And how much has PCLOS changed since 2007?
  • I know its repositories are updated but the question is how much?
  • Are they having the latest versions?
  • Or are they having the version which most of its peers have?
  • Does it still support almost all latest hardware?

I had all these questions in my mind and tried PCLOS 2007 on my Sony Vaio. For reference:: Mandriva 2008.1 detected all the hardware except for Motion Eye webcam and the Fn+F7 does not work.

Apart from this everything works perfectly. With OpenSUSE 11 and Ubuntu 8.04, additionally, I had to download the drivers to get my Atheros wi-fi working.

Of the three only Ubuntu failed to resume from hibernation; Mandriva and OpenSUSE have no trouble waking from up upto three continuous sleep.

Coming back to my attempt with PCLOS 2007, here are my findings:

  1. LiveCD download was fast.
  2. The initial boot shows too many options which can be confusing for a new user. I like the Mandriva Spring approach which provides a single option or even the slick options of OpenSUSE.
  3. Same old, but still good looking splash screen.
  4. A huge number of clicks before I can reach the desktop. I actually counted the number of the different screen to 18. God, I had to click the mouse at least 12 times before I reached the desktop. Compare this with class-leading Ubuntu where the number of clicks is ZERO and the frustration increases. Let’s see some of the clicks and the stupid reasons behind it
    1. Configure Network: This gives the option to select Ethernet, DSL, etc. Then starts a series of 6 clicks in the end when PCLOS says “Congrats the network is configured”. However, the funny and frustrating part is that I still have to click OK for the LiveCD to proceed. My question is when the LiveCD discovered that I want to go for Auto-DHCP from my router, why does it still require user intervention?
    2. Select keyboard ( Oh yes, what happened to hardware auto-detection ?)
    3. Select Timezone. Come on man this is just a LiveCD boot. We can do with these questions when I actually try to install it on my hard disk.
    4. KDM. Why show KDM in a LiveCD. In a LiveCD all a normal user wants to do is to reach desktop and check the distribution and possibly install. Also, the options are Root and Guest. Luckily they have provided the passwords for both users but would have been handy to have both the user name and password populated when a user is selected. Either way, the password is displayed on the same page so security is not an issue- it just reduces problems to the user.
  5. On the desktop, I found the old customized KDE, which amazingly is still good to look at.
  6. Next was the time to install on the hard disk and again I counted 17 different screens even when I selected to use my entire hard disk. I just hope this is not a deliberate attempt to frustrate users.  
  7. On reboot, I found myself quickly on the KDM, there is no option to auto-login during install. OpenSUSE does a fantastic job in this respect. Now some people might cry security. Let’s remind ourselves PCLOS is intended to be used by home users where there is hardly any risk posed by Auto-login.
  8. OK if auto-login is a risk, then what is the option to login as root? PCLOS gloriously provides the option to login as root.
  9. I quickly came to the desktop and smiled at the familiar and pleasing KDE presented. However, there is no novelty. Nothing new.
  10. Then I tried connecting to my wi-fi. Unfortunately, like Ubuntu, PCLOS also failed where Mandriva worked perfectly. I know that PCLOS 2007 has an old kernel, old everything so an update might bring about some change. I connected to my wired ethernet connection and started the upgrade through Synaptic.
  11. Synaptic told me that some 600 odd packages need to be updated and 700 odd MB needs to be downloaded.  Wow! more than the 2007 iso. Still, I was happy that I’ll get a new and fresh system. Destiny had some other plans for my install. Towards the end of the download, Synaptic gave me an error saying that some package could not be downloaded. I tried and then again tried and finally clicked skip. The same thing happened with three more packages and I clicked skip. After the download Synaptic started upgrading my system and all hell broke loose. All of a sudden my system rebooted and I was brought to a shell saying that “no inittab file found”. I know what this means. This clearly means that some error occurred during the upgrade and now my system is screwed. I have taken a picture of that error as this was the first time the Ultra Stable PCLOS duped me.
  12. I agree that I clicked skip on a few packages, but Synaptic should be intelligent enough to not upgrade packages whose dependencies are not met.

This was the end of my date with PCLOS. Then I checked that PCLOS repositories are not updated to the latest version of the software.

For instance, KDE 4.1 is still not the default KDE desktop. Yeah, yeah some might say that KDE 4.1 is not suitable for normal use.

Unfortunately for those, the distribution managers of major distributions like OpenSUSE, Mandriva and Kubuntu think otherwise. Guys if KDE 4.1 was really that bad, these high profile distributions would not include them as the default desktop.

Not just KDE 4.1, even the Linux kernel version in PCLOS repos is 2.6.22 whereas the latest version is 2.6.26.

To summarize PCLOS lost on the exact points where it scored in 2007.

  1. It does have a good looking UI, but there is nothing new in it. There is no novelty.
  2. It is not Ultra Stable.
  3. The repos do not have updated software.
  4. The hardware detected is exactly the same as Ubuntu.
  5. Speed-wise it pales in comparison to OpenSUSE and Mandriva.
  6. It is not class-leading in any respect. There is no compelling reason to use it.

I would anytime choose Mandriva over it. For someone who does mind pre-installed binary software, OpenSUSE and Kubuntu are better choices.

I know that Tex ( the main person behind PCLOS ), was not well recently and could not devote time to PCLOS.

However, isn’t PCLOS supposed to be a community distribution?

PCLOS 2007 was released on May 2007, since then all major distributions including Fedora, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, and Mandriva have done at least two releases. However, PCLOS still prides itself on the successful 2007 release.

The only OS I know can easily sustain a Looooong period between releases is Windows XP. Unfortunately, PCLOS is not XP.

Guys PCLOS was the perfect distribution in 2007, but times have changed. 2007 is history, wake up now. Wake up before its too late.

EDIT: I know very well that a PCLOS MiniMe is release, also we have a PCLOS Gnome edition. However, please do let me know in which respect are they class-leading? Why should I choose PCLOS to say over Ubuntu?

  1. Minime and PCLOS 2007 share the same repos, Hence, stability wise Minime cannot be more stable. 
  2. With Minime, I have to download a hell lot of software to make a working system. I guess I’ll have to download a lot less with Ubuntu. Also, Ubuntu has the ability to tell which driver/software we are missing in order to get anything working. Like if I type “gcc” in the terminal, I get a message that GCC is not installed and can be installed using “apt-get install gcc”, similarly I play a video, Totem tells me the required codecs and pops a UI to download and install it. This is also there is Mandriva. I think that this makes life simpler. 
  3. MiniMe is good but does it has documentation to work on Vaio. Luckily Ubuntu has, though not official. A google search for “VCC6 Linux” ( the Vaio webcam), immediately takes me to Ubuntu Forums. 
  4. Ubuntu has more recent software in the repositories. The 8.10 version of Kubuntu will have KDE 4.1. 

OK, let’s leave Ubuntu, Does PCLOS even compare to Mandriva? I find the latest Mandriva 2009 RC1 with KDE 4.1 to be very stable.

I easily recognize my wi-fi and is much faster than PCLOS. 

One thing in PCLOS favor is the rolling release, Hence it need not make a 6 monthly release like Mandriva/Ubuntu. A user fo 2007 release will still have all the updated software as a user of PCLOS 2008 will have ( if they release PCLOS 2016).

However, my point is that the software version in repos is not the very latest, for instance, Firefox 9.01 was released on  July 16, 2016 today is September 4 and PCLOS still has 3.0?

All the three – Mandriva, OpenSUSE, and Ubuntu will have it in their next release which is due in October/Nov. Another rolling release distribution “Arch Linux” has Firefox 3.01 in their Current repositories. Why is PCLOS slow in packaging it? This is the same PCLOS which release Gimp 4.0 in no time. It’s just that the quality is degrading. 

My simple question is why should I try PCLOS when there are much better distributions already available free. 

Please suggest me the reasons. Merely saying PCLOS rocks has no merit.

NOTE: I am not trying to degrade PCLOS, I just want the devs to take a note of the other distributions and do catchup.

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