Hands-on with PCLinuxOS 2014.05 KDE and LXDE: The Linux with something for everyone

Hands-on with PCLinuxOS 2014.05 KDE and LXDE: The Linux with something for everyone

Summary: With MiniMe, LXDE, MATE, KDE and Full Monty versions, there's a size and style for everyone in this distribution family.


This is something I don't get to do very often, writing about a new release that has not been announced on Distrowatch.

The latest set of PCLinuxOS ISO images were made available last week, in both 32- and 64-bit versions and a variety of desktops. As always, the standard distribution is KDE, and there are community versions with LXDE and MATE, plus a "Full Monty" distribution.

If you are not familiar with the Full Monty version, take a look at the description of it on the download page. It is an interesting concept, as you might assume from the name it includes a lot of packages, applications and drivers which are not in the standard distribution. The really interesting bit, though, is the activity-focused virtual desktop configuration. The intention is to make using PCLinuxOS easy and fun, by providing the following desktops, each with its own specific wallpaper:

  1. Internet — browser, email, chat, IM
  2. Work — Office, kile, scribus
  3. Play — games
  4. Multimedia — music, video, editing and composing
  5. Graphics and Images — scan, edit, draw
  6. Administration — System management tasks

The Full Monty download page includes screen shots of each of these desktops.

For this post I have installed the KDE release on a Lenovo T400, and the LXDE version on a Samsung N150 Plus netbook. It's interesting to note the difference in the ISO image sizes: KDE is 1.6GB while LXDE is only 647MB (so it will still fit on a CD). At the extremes, the Full Monty image is a whopping 4GB, and the MiniMe (stripped-down KDE) is only 547GB.

PCLinuxOS still uses the same installer they have had for as long as I can remember, which was originally derived from the Mandriva/Mandrake installer. The sequence of questions and actions is a bit unusual but in the end it works well, and reliably gets the job done. Oh, there is one other relic lurking in this old installer, it still creates an xorg.conf file which hasn't been necessary for quite a while. 

I haven't seen or heard of any cases where this actually caused a problem, but it bothers me in principle, so I always just delete it. If anyone has an example where it is really necessary or produces some benefit, please let me know in the comments; of course, the same is true if you have a case where it actually caused a problem.

PCLinuxOS 2014.05 KDE Desktop

The last time I wrote about PCLinuxOS I was a bit critical about its Linux kernel version being quite a bit behind most of the other mainstream Linux distributions, so  I was pleased to see that they have really caught up with this release. It has kernel 3.12.18, KDE 4.12.3, X.org X server 1.12.4, LibreOffice and Firefox 29.0.1. Those are all quite good, and that Firefox release is really "hot off the press".

In hopes of encouraging users to be sure to install updates, on the first boot after installation PCLinuxOS brings up a reminder window that basically says "be sure to install updates". Unfortunately on both of my installations this window was maximised to a size greater than the actual screen size so it covered the entire screen, and on the Samsung netbook it was so large that the writing was not even visible, so it looked like a blank white background. That was pretty confusing until I realised what was going on.

Moving on to the LXDE version, I loaded this one on my Samsung N150 Plus netbook. This is one of the oldest systems that I still use regularly, and with an Atom N450 (dual core) CPU, 2GB of memory and 250GB disk, it really needs the lighter weight and reduced disk usage of the LXDE distribution.

The installer is exactly the same as on the KDE version (and every other PCLinuxOS version, for that matter), and it completed with no problem. The installed system uses 2.3GB of disk space, and runs in less than 900MB of memory.

PCLinuxOS LXDE Desktop

The applications and packages included in this distribution are different from those in the version above — they have been chosen (or omitted) with small/lightweight as the first priority. So it has only AbiWord and no spreadsheet at all, but it also includes the LibreOffice Manager which will download and install the latest version of LibreOffice if you decide that want it. It has evince for PDF viewing, GPicView for picture display, and ImageMagick for graphic file manipulation and viewing. 

For multimedia it has the PCLOS FLV/MP4 player/converter, DeaDBeef music player, QMPlay2 audio/video player and the UMPlayer Universal Media Player. That's a pretty nice selection of multimedia applications.

There's not a lot more to report about the LXDE version, it just works and it is quite pleasant to use even on the Samsung netbook. Boot time is reasonable, graphic performance is good, and the overall impression is pretty snappy.

In summary, this new PCLinuxOS release is very nice. It runs the gamut from very small (MiniMe) to very large (Full Monty). With this release getting them much more up to date with the Linux kernel and X.org version, this is once again a distribution that I am happy to recommend to anyone.

Further reading

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • xorg.conf

    The old xorg.conf can still be useful in rare cases where the automatic display configuration fails. It takes precedence when present, so you can use it to fill it with a manual configuration.

    One more thing (off topic): I've recently found out how to restore Grub for EFI, which can be useful on a multiple boot system with several Linux distro's on the hard drive. I've described it here:

    Maybe this'll come in handy for you, as well. :-)

    Regards from a rainy and chilly Netherlands, Pjotr.
  • The issue of the Short Support Cycle with many Linux distros.

    The issue I throw up with Linux distros. time and again is the relatively Short Support Cycle which can vary from just eighteen months up to three years on LTS releases (five years on LTS server releases).
    Whichever you look at it three years is not that long. Take Ubuntu for example it was more of an operating system four years ago with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS or even further back Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. None of the resource sapping of Unity. Older releases of Ubuntu came with Gnome 2 as the default environment which was lightweight.
    Other desktop environments are less convincing too. KDE 3.5 was a classic but KDE 4 remains to be less than convincing in comparison.
    Yes there will be those that suggest other desktop environments such as Cinnamon to be found on Linux Mint but that again is heavier on system resources than the original Gnome 2 in previous releases. Linux Mint went to the wall upon the release of Linux Mint 12.

    In short "Linux isn't as good as it used to be"
    • Nonsense

      Don't expect your 10 year old computer to be fit for modern times. And do your homework: LTS has been five years for the desktop as well, starting with Ubuntu 12.04 / Linux Mint 13 in 2012.
      • Re: Nonsense....

        To get the point across. I've got an old Dell Pentium 4 Box with 512mb RAM.
        Ubuntu 10.04 LTS is quick and responsive with the default Gnome 2 desktop environment whilst Ubuntu 12.04 LTS with the default Unity desktop environment on the same machine is sluggish.

        Why should you now need to have a computer with higher specifications to successfully run Linux ?
        • Other possibilities

          I see your point about Gnome 2 vs. Unity, but then I have never liked unity since the first time I ever laid eyes on it, and the performance demands are only one part of my dislike. Have you tried any other desktops and/or window managers on your older hardware? The obvious choices would be Xfce or LXDE, either of these would probably work well with your hardware and would have a minimal learning curve when you are coming from Gnome 2.

          Thanks for reading and commenting.

        • Higher specs for Linux now

          So, 10 years ago, a PC with a 32MB video card, a 1GHz processor, and 128MB RAM was great for Windows XP. Windows 7 and 8 will not even boot to those specs. Why should you now need to have a computer with higher specifications to successfully run Windows?

          I am running Linux Mint Maya (13) on an AMD x64 2.2GHz dual core with 2MB of RAM and a GT210 video card. No Unity to mess with, not even Cinnamon. I chose Mate as being the closest to a Windows/Gnome 2 interface as I was going to get.

          For the record, you DON'T need more computer for Linux. You can choose the Linux that will work on your computer. There are a few more options than Ubuntu/Mint :D
          Iman Oldgeek
          • I think you ment 2GB of ram.

            Mate won't run in 2MB, though the base Linux will - but without any GUI.
    • OS support is less a problem

      than the even shorter life cycle for repositories. It goes with the Linux territory th at repos for third party software will be obsolete in a year or so, and to have current versions of the software I want to use (I'm pretty indifferent about OS novelties), I fresh install pretty much annually or whenever a new release of GIMP or LibreOffice, etc. isn't compatible, with all the nuisance of resetting personal preferences for OS and software.

      My experience of comparative desktop environment performance is dual booting a second-generation Acer netbook with W7 Starter (mildly tweaked for performance, runs tolerably but not well). As noted, back in the Ubuntu 10.x days everything was much faster than W7. Current Ubuntu-based desktops are far more demanding. KDE is even slower than W7, Mate and Cinnamon about the same (tolerable but not good), LXDE and XFCE both run very well and much better than W7 on the Saucy Ubuntu base.
    • PCLinuxOS lifecycle

      In fact PCLinuxOS, the subject of this post, provides a good alternative for those who want a distribution that doesn't have to be reinstalled or replaced very often. It is a classic rolling-release distribution, and exactly the thing I complained about in the previous post (old kernel version) is an example of the fact that they are very cautious about updates because they try very hard to protect their existing users.

      Combine this with the LXDE desktop, which I covered in this post, and you might have just the distribution you are looking for - long-term stability, low resource use, and very well supported with an active and dedicated user community.

    • 5735guy: "The issue of the Short Support Cycle"

      Given that 5735guy is an Apple fanboi, I must ask what the support life-cycle is for both OS X and iOS. Please provide a link to Apple's product life-cycle support duration.

      Note: I will give Apple credit for beating the life-cycle support duration for Ubuntu non-LTS releases which has recently been reduced to 9 months.

      5735guy also wrote:
      "Linux isn't as good as it used to be"

      There's lots of 'light' window managers available for the GNU/Linux and BSD desktops. Here's a short list:

      o JWM (Joe's Windows Manager)
      o BlackBox
      o Openbox
      o Fluxbox
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Apple and OS X....

        Given that I work with OS X has little to do with the conversation. However I will admit the support cycle for OS X can in some circumstances to be found wanting.

        A prime example being OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Still widely used however unsupported whilst the grossly inferior OS X 10.7 Lion still receives security updates.

        Incidentally this is being typed on a Parallels 9 Virtual machine running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server with OS X 10.9 Mavericks as the Host OS.
      • Rolling Releases

        PC-Linux, Linux Mint LMDE, and the Arch family (I know there are others) use a rolling release model with the ability to update the entire install without installing fresh.

        It should be pointed out that it was a recommended practice with older versions of Windows to done a periodic reinstall to cleanup the registry in particular. So if you are reinstalling every 18 to 24 months anyone, how difficult is it to install a new version of the OS?
        • Re: Rolling Releases....

          I was a great fan of LMDE when it was first released with the old Gnome 2 Desktop. However as with all rolling releases as you apply the updates you apply the bloat.

          Cinnamon is full of bloat compared to Gnome 2 and MATE just doesn't cut the mustard.
          • So basically...

            You want a Ferrari on a Smart car budget :D

            If you choose not to stay fairly current with hardware, then it behooves you to choose the OS that works on the hardware, not gripe about the OS that doesn't work.
            Iman Oldgeek
  • Hardware requirements

    OK. Multiple searches and so far I cannot find a list of the hardware requirements for the KDE32 FullMonty (pclinuxos-kde-fullmonty-2014.05.iso)
    • From the Full Monty Detail Page

      It's lurking at the bottom of the Full Monty page:


      • Re: PCLinux OS FullMonty KDE 2014 System requirements....

        4GB Recommended RAM ?

        In 2007 you could run the Ubuntu 7.04 based Linux Mint 3.1 with all the Desktop Effects of Beryl on just 1GB RAM and Nvidia GeForce 128mb Graphics.
        • 4GB recommended, but...

          I have run it on 2GB. Works fine unless you try to run twenty apps at once.
          Iman Oldgeek
        • RAM really inexpensive today.

          RAM cost close to nothing today, so designing for 4+ GB RAM makes sense.
          • RAM should be irrelevent to the design.

            The problem that occurs with lots of RAM is that developers can get very sloppy with their design - papering over issues doesn't fix the problem, just hides them.

            Then you get the bloated crap that has lots of security problems, and doesn't run very well, and can't be fixed either.