Why I Choose PCLinuxOS Over More Heavily Marketed Distros

•September 22, 2008 • 1 Comment

Anyone who has used Linux for any length of time has done the distro hop. And from hopping around, with each distro, we can find things in one distro we like better than another, yet it never seems that one single distro has all the qualities you like. Well, for me, that ended when I tried PCLinuxOS just a couple of years ago. It just seemed to combine all the elements I like from various distros into a very well put together distro. It’s almost like the developers read my mind when I was thinking about what a perfect distro would be like. Spooky…

One thing that completely turns me off of a distro is a lack of a control panel type application. That stops me dead in the water. Yeah, I’ve hacked configuration files and brought up a terminal and entered countless commands to configure things (you couldn’t avoid that back in the 90’s) but why are distros still requiring this? Some distros have automated scripts to setup your system, but many times they get it wrong. I like to have the control that a control panel application gives me. Essentially, there are 2 applications of this type out there: the Mandriva Control Center (MCC) and Suse’s YaST. PCLinuxOS uses the Mandriva Control Center, renamed the PCLinuxOS Control Center and modified for the differences between the two distros. It’s the best application of its type in the land of Linux.

PCLinuxOS gives me all the control, without protecting me from myself, while making everything simple to do. How many distros can claim that? This is accomplished by 3 things: The PCLinuxOS Control Panel, pure lack of heavy handed system scripts, and access to the root account at the login screen. The root account is a personal choice for many. The subject of the root account and sudo and system security has been heavily debated, and both sides have very valid points. Personally, I hate sudo but I can turn it on, as in most distros, if I wish. But, PCLinuxOS is designed from the onset with the complete beginner in mind, so everything is just as simple as it gets.

A lot of comments have been made about RPM based distros and dependency hell. Unfulfilled dependencies are still a problem in Debian and Ubuntu, as well. It didn’t disappear. What is different is that Apt and Synaptic are far more polite about it. What solves the dependency issue is the package installation system, not the type of package. RPM packages are little different than DEB packages. It’s Apt and the repositories that solve the problem. PCLinuxOS uses a modified Apt and Synaptic that allows it to be used on an RPM distro. Not only that, but it goes one step further by providing all the packages you’ll ever need in a single repository and they even simplify that by only having main, extra, nonfree, and KDE sections. There are no universe, multiverse, and whatever else confusing sections. They keep it simple.

I love the fact that PCLinuxOS is a rolling release. What they do is freeze the GCC (Gnu Compiler Collection) version and the supporting libraries for several releases. Therefore, all packages are compiled against the same libraries and are compatible. That means that PCLinuxOS 2009 will be nothing more than PCLinuxOS 2007 with a newer kernel and some new artwork. So, a fully updated 2007 release is the same as the newest release. There’s no reason to wipe your hard drive and reinstall your distro., which is completely different than every major distro out there. Eventually, they have to do a rebase and upgrade GCC and all the development libraries to gain new functionality, so it doesn’t go on forever. But, 2007 was the first rebase since PCLinuxOS started in 2003. It was required to add Compiz to the distro, which required a newer version of GCC.

The developers of PCLinuxOS insist on the highest standards of quality over speed of release. PCLinuxOS is the most rock steady distro I’ve ever used. It always pains me to read about other distros that are so good, but get released so buggy. I’m not going to point my finger at any certain ones, but many of them have this problem. They insist on a rigid release schedule and many bugs, some even show stoppers, make it into the final release. Not PCLinuxOS. It gets released “when it’s ready”. That goes for all the packages they release into the repository, as well. Are there occasional problems? Of course there are. But, it’s not in the same league as some other distros I’ve used over the years. It’s difficult to test for every possible system it’s going to get installed on, but they do an admirable job.

The community at PCLinuxOS is absolutely first rate. The moderators have caught their fair share of criticism over time, but they have done an outstanding job of keeping the forum orderly and void of “RTFM” comments. Also, political discussion is strictly forbidden, keeping it free from angry users. When you want help, its given politely. You don’t get nasty remarks about how you didn’t word your question correctly, or didn’t provide enough info. You get kind, courteous answers and polite requests for more info. Also, when they’re working on getting a new release out, it gets kind of hectic, but when you ask for a package, it’s usually granted rather swiftly. On top of that, you get answers, sometimes, by the very developers of the distro – even Texstar himself. This is something that only a small distro like PCLinuxOS can do. You can even find them in the IRC chatrooms on Freenode, answering questions and just having general conversations about life itself. That kind of intimacy with the very people responsible for the distro is something that just appeals to me, as a user. They get user feedback first hand and it gets considered in the distro.

On the subject of community, in no other distro have I felt compelled to get involved. In this distro, they have community based projects at MyPCLinuxOS, an advanced “hackers” forum at HackMyPCLinuxOS and other areas such as LinFX to contribute graphics to the cause. If you have any talent at all that can be useful, there’s a place for you to contribute, and it’s welcome.

MyPCLinuxOS has launched many community built versions of PCLinuxOS. There’s PCLinuxOS Gnome, which has a Gnome default environment; EeePCLinuxOS for the EeePC; BEL (Business Edition Linux) for server/enterprise needs; TinyMe, which is a very small version sort of like Puppy Linux; MythTVOS that simplifies MythTV setup; and many more. There’s a PCLinuxOS for every need.

Your choice of the distro you use is a personal one. There is no single distro that fits everyone’s needs. Also, many people come from different backgrounds and have different appreciations for the various approaches different distros use. That’s what’s so beautiful about Linux. The choice is there. If you are an Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse, Slackware or any other distro user, and it works for you, great. PCLinuxOS is my choice for the reasons given above, and if any of these traits of the distro appeal to you, I suggest you try it out.