PCLinuxOS has consistently featured in the top 20 most popular Linux distributions list, according to DistroWatch.com. The independently developed distro, which was originally forked from Mandriva, has recently released its first version for 2014. All PCLinuxOS releases are named after the month and year of release and the PCLinuxOS 2014.08 release is no exception. The new version uses Linux kernel 3.15.9, KDE 4.13.3 on the desktop, and it includes NVIDIA and ATI fglrx drivers.
PCLinuxOS is available in several flavors. The official build is based on KDE, however there are also LXDE desktop and MATE desktop versions. To download the official KDE version, visit the Get PCLinuxOS page and download the .iso file. Burn it onto a DVD, and reboot your PC from that DVD.
Your PC will boot into the PCLinuxOS Live CD. This gives you a chance to play around with the distro and see if you like it. To install it, double-click on the “Install PCLinuxOS” icon on the desktop. You will then be guided through the installation processes. At each step in the installation, press “Next” to continue.
Once the installation has completed, you will need to reboot your PC, without the DVD in the optical drive. During first boot, the installer will ask you to pick a timezone, set the root password, and add a user. Once you have signed in, you will be presented with a fairly standard KDE desktop.
PCLinuxOS comes with a substantial amount of pre-installed software including Firefox, GIMP, ImageMagick, InkScape, Dropbox, Google Earth, Skype, Calibre, LibreOffice, Thunderbird, and VLC. The list is quite impressive, and it looks like the developers have actually put some thought into what are the most popular packages that the average user might use on a daily basis. I had to think quite hard about what was missing. The only package that I thought I would need other than the default ones was Audacity and Wine. I would also probably install Chrome rather than Firefox, but that is just my personal preference. All three extra packages were available via the PCLinuxOS repository.
For those of you unfamiliar with KDE, it is a fully featured desktop environment that has been part of the Linux ecosystem for almost 20 years. It is flexible and fully customizable. While GNOME and Unity have departed from the “standard” desktop layout made ubiquitous by Windows 95 and its successors, KDE remains familiar to those expecting to find a “Start” button in the bottom-left hand corner.
PCLinuxOS includes a comprehensive control panel application known as “Configure Your Computer.” In it, you can configure how your PC connects to the Internet, manage the localization for your system, configure network sharing, and manage the various network services (like FTP, DHCP, DNS and so on).
Package management is handled by the old “Synaptic Package Manager” that most seasoned Linux users are used to. While the repository is extensive and up to date, the actual package manager itself isn’t that intuitive. Don’t get me wrong; it works, but there seems to be a lack of flow to the UI. For example, to install the latest security updates, you need to click on “Synaptic Package Manager” under the “Software Center” sub-menu. Click the “Reload” icon on Synaptic’s toolbar, click “Mark All Upgrades,” and finally click “Apply.” It seems to be that this process could be streamlined.
The same also applies to installing additional packages. The package needs to be marked for installation, and then this needs to be applied. Although this may be an efficient way to install multiple packages, it isn’t very user-friendly and would likely be off-putting to less technically-minded people. In this respect, the software center found in Ubuntu is better.
My initial impression is that the performance of PCLinuxOS is quite good. My test machine only had 1GB of RAM, and yet I was able to start Firefox and LibreOffice simultaneously with minimal swapping. However, I am sure that if I started opening multiple tabs on Firefox, then the kernel would be forced to do more swapping. If you have a machine with limited resources, then there is also the LXDE version of PCLinuxOS, which will probably give even better results on a low-end PC.
Overall I was impressed with PCLinuxOS. At a time that seems to be dominated by Ubuntu and GNOME-based desktops, PCLinuxOS offers a solid KDE based desktop with a good selection of pre-installed applications.
Let us know what you think of PCLinuxOS.