PCLinuxOS 2009.1 Review

Administration: PCLinusOS uses the traditional root or superuser account for access to performing system-level admin tasks. and it packs the same set of graphical admin tools as Mandriva, the distro it was derived from. There is a graphical tool to perform virtually any task on the system without having to use the command line. These tools are available from the Control Center.

Control Center

Browsers and Browser plugins PCLinuxOS comes with a pair of browser – Mozilla Firefox and Konqueror. Once you try both, you will most likely settle for Mozilla Firefox. It will happily render flash, Java applets (JRE is installed), and a few other multimedia content, but not quicktime. It does make a feeble attempt at playing Real Movies using the mplayer-plugin. In any case, it works a lot better than the Ice Weasel installed on Zenwalk 6.

Security tools and Network Manager: Like Mandriva, PCLinuxOS has a fully integrated graphical firewall client, but it is disabled by default. Why? I have no clue. But don’t fret. Enabling the firewall is just a point-and-click operation.

Default firewall settings

The Network Manager applet integrates firewall and VPN configuration features. You could, for example, configure VPN connections by right-clicking on the (Network Manager) applet, and select VPN Connection > Manage VPN Connections. By default, only the Cisco VPN client is installed, but if you opt to configure a VPN connection using the OpenVPN client, the system automatically initiates the download and installation of the OpenVPN client, which is bundled with the OpenVPN server.

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Network Manager applet

SSH, the Secure SHell, server is installed, but inactive by default. You may choose to start the SSH server in standalone mode or via xinetd.

Media and Hardware Detection:
Media and hardware detection works just fine on PCLinuxOS. Insert an audio CD, for example, and you get a dialog box giving you a choice of applications to play the CD. You may choose to use Amarok, considered to be one of the best free and open source music playing applications, or Kaffeine, the versatile multimedia application.

Audio detection

With a DVD video, a dialog box allows you to choose between MPlayer and Kaffeine. Both will play encrypted videos, but MPlayer seems to be more reliable. If neither MPlayer nor Kaffeine appeals to you, you may install VLC, which is available in the default repo.

DVD video detection

What we like about PCLinuxOS Using PCLinuxOS is like using Mandriva Linux Powerpack without paying for it. The main thing missing is that LVM configuration is not supported. Also disk encryption is limited.

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What needs to improve Not a whole lot, but there are key features I think should be supported especially when those features are supported on Mandriva, its parent distro. Here’s a short list:

  • A regular release schedule. PCLinuxOS 2009.1 is the first release since 2007. That wont cut it in the free software operating system arena.
  • LVM configuration. Contrary to the opinions of a few mis-informed people, Linux Logical Volume Manager is important, even on the desktop.
  • The firewall must be enabled by default. There is no good reason to disable the firewall on a networked computer.
  • During the installation and just before the packages are installed, give users one last opportunity to tweak their settings. That the way it is on Mandriva.
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