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

With MiniMe, LXDE, MATE, KDE and Full Monty versions, there's a size and style for everyone in this distribution family.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

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

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