PCLinuxOS has a substantial, and very loyal, following. There is a good reason for that - it is a good, solid Linux distribution. There has been some rumbling about it having been abandoned or dormant, because the last major release was PCLinux 2007, but this new release should put a stop to that. I have installed the new release on all four of my laptop/netbooks, and they all went very smoothly.
Before I get into installation details, what's in PCLinuxOS? Just about everything you might want for a desktop Linux. It is derived from Mandriva Linux, so it has a good heritage, but it also has a lot of significant improvements. Although it uses the same installation process as Mandriva, for example, the number of questions has been reduced, and equally important for my HP 2133 there are a couple more display options on the LiveCD boot.
It still uses KDE 3.5.10, for stability reasons; the release announcement says that they will make KDE 4 available as soon as they are happy with it. For Gnome fans, there is also a community-developed Gnome edition - but I would point out that PCLinuxOS is one of the very few KDE-based distributions that I am able to use reasonably well, so even Gnome die-hards might want to give the KDE version a try first.
There are a LOT of excellent applications and utilities included in this release. OpenOffice 3.0 for word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing and more. Firefox 3.0.7 for web browsing. Thunderbird 220.127.116.11 for email. K3B for CD/DVD burning (one of the really good reasons to keep KDE 3 rather than KDE 4). KPDF for viewing PDF documents. All sorts of audio and media players, including Amarok, Kaffeine, TVTime tv viewer and more. All sorts of camera, photo and image management programs, including digiKam, showFoto, Kalbum, GIMP, and much more. All of these are installed with the base system from the LiveCD. There is a lot more preinstalled, and even more available via the Synaptic Package Manager.
Now, installation. Considering all four of my laptop/netbook systems, this is the easiest I have found yet:
- Fujitsu Lifebook S6510 (Intel): No problems. Just install it. Everything goes smoothly, everything works. My non-standard Intel 5300 WiFi adapter came right up. The Marvell Gigabit wired ethernet likewise. The external display on my port replicator came up at the correct resolution (1290x1024). When I use the laptop standalone, the laptop display is likewise at the correct resolution (1280x800). Sound is just fine, both on the laptop speakers and my Logitech V20 USB speakers. Everything just works.
- Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S2110 (AMD): No problems. Just install it. The ATI Radeon 200 display adapter comes up, using the fglrx driver. Don't like proprietary drivers? The ati driver is also included, you can switch to it and it works just fine. The Atheros 5000 WiFi adapter came right up, as did the Broadcom 5700 wired ethernet. What a pleasure.
- HP 2133 Mini-Note, WXGA (1280x768): When booting the LiveCD, you have to select "VideoSafe VESA" mode. It then comes up at 640x480 resolution, which is ugly but usable for the installation. Once the installation is complete, you have to make a couple of changes to get the display working at the proper resolution, and the Broadcom WiFi adapter working. Both of these are beyond the scope of this short review; I will be posting the details about them later.
- HP 2133 Mini-Note, WSVGA (1024x600): Much to my surprise and amazement, installation goes exactly the same as for the WXGA model. Hooray!
As I said at the beginning, there's a good reason why PCLinuxOS has such a loyal following. It's good. It works. It includes lots of excellent packages. If you give it a try, you are likely to really be pleased - I am.