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PCLinuxOS (PCLOS)

Figure 3

Figure 3 PCLinuxOS desktop

Origin

Red Hat + KDE > Mandriva > PCLOS

The biggest difference between PCLOS and Mandriva is the replacement of the urpmi package manager for rpm with apt and the synaptic GUI. The apt-synaptic combination works well with rpm packages; I was doing that with Fedora Core a few years ago.

Purpose of Distro

It's a live CD intended to be run as such like Knoppix, although (like Knoppix) it can be and frequently is installed to a hard drive as a permanent installation. It is mainly tested here installed to a hard drive because it's sold installed on PCs from some vendors. It also has the tools to customize the liveCD distribution to a new CD or USB drive, making it possible to carry it as a portable environment that's somewhat fuller-featured than Knoppix.

PCLinuxOS Wiki (FAQ and other documentation).

The kernel is 2.6.18.8.tex5 #1 SMP, about a generation behind what's current. Looking at applications: "Inkscape 0.46, built July 18th 2008" looks pretty recent. So while the kernel is behind, the apps look recent enough.

Installation

Download PCLinuxOS here. The primary version has the KDE window manager. While Gnome is available, I chose to go with the default version.

The following is verification for the KDE standard version:

$ md5sum pclinuxos-2007.iso
cf31f44513c9b30caaa1f1d2c382c033 pclinuxos-2007.iso 

During boot, the CDROM puts you through a mini-install wizard to get your time zone and network connection before opening to a standard KDE 3.5.x desktop.

LiveCD Mode

It did find my printer automatically, but like other print systems based on earlier CUPS versions, it lacked the Canon IP3000 version in the database. While this is obviously due to its being a "2007" release, it's a fair complaint because they're distributing it as a current version.

When I opened Firefox, Flash multimedia came right up with sound/video. Formats like avi, wmv, mov, and mp3 worked after I configured mplayer for an X11 video and ALSA audio out.

You should be able to ignore the codec tab. Streaming video failed; this probably requires a RealPlayer install and/or the w32codecs media package. As for applications, it has the usual or maybe slightly enhanced selection you'll see with the average LiveCD. Remember that on the liveCD that the root PW is root, and the guest PW is guest—you'll need this to get to the installer.

The usual install wizard, based on Drak, does things in a slightly different order than most Linux installers, but anyone with previous Linux installation experience should have no trouble.

Desktop

Typical KDE3.5.x.

Software Installation

Toolbar > Synaptics (the stylized circular S icon) works from the user POV just like anywhere else; its RPM backend is not usually a problem for the user. Remember to hit Reload before checking for upgrades. Things broke after the upgrade.

Software Repositories

The PCLOS documentation says you should have only one at a time installed (i.e. no authorized third-party repositories). So if you discover your software choices limited, and other RPM distros have packages or updated packages they don't, don't be surprised.

Multimedia/Peripheral Setup

Given how even office workstations are used, if you can't play back audio and video, and you can't hook up a working printer and scanner to it, it's a brick, not a computer. PCLOS works.

Multimedia

See LiveCD comments.

Printer

See LiveCD comments. After installing and updating, I then tried Start > System > Configuration > Configure Your Computer (which opened PCLinuxOS Control Center) > Hardware > Set up the printers. It found my printer and downloaded files. It then asked me to select my Canon PIXMA IP3000 from a list. So I did. It works.

Virtualbox Setup

Install it as described Part 1 and Part 2 of my "Sun VirtualBox (xVM): A Virtualization Environment for Linux" article. Where the instructions here and the referenced article instructions conflict, use these.

Next: Virtualbox Console > Devices > Install Guest Additions

Click CD icon to open. Drag and drop VboxLinuxAdditions.run to the Home folder in the file manager. Open a terminal from Start > System > Terminals > Konsole.

$ su root
# sh *.run

After rebooting, create a folder via right-clicking the desktop and call it whatever you think will remind you that it points at a file tree in your workstation host.

Open /etc/rc.local as root and insert the following right after the last line:

sudo mount -t vboxsf shared-folder-share-name /home/username/
Desktop/shared-folder -o uid=501,gid=501,exec,rw

Change shared-folder-sharename to the sharename you assigned in Settings; changed shared folder to the name of the new desktop folder you just created.

Note the UID/GID settings in bold; PCLOS puts the original user default in group/userID 501, not 1000.

Reboot and you should have access to the workstation file tree you at which you pointed the shared folder on your desktop.

The Bottom Line

Unremarkable. However, it does meet my basic requirements for a Linux desktop after software update, so it's hardly useless. If you want to create a custom CD/USB flash drive portable Linux installation, it might be worth looking into.

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