The Absent PCLinuxOS Release Cycle

During distro comparisons, many call a lack of release cycle for PCLinuxOS one of its negative aspects. In my opinion, this is the most attractive and positive aspects of the small distribution. Not to take away from a distribution that sets a release cycle…I understand that normal release cycles are a must with companies and software engineering. However, I think PCLinuxOS has a unique approach to releases and updates. Allow me a bit of time to show you the method in my madness on this one.

PCLinuxOS has a rolling release cycle. With this type of cycle, updates are continuously applied to the software repository so much so that after a bit of time, a snapshot of the repository would constitute a new release…say 2007.01 or something similar. This has always been the way PCLinuxOS is released as many of us that have been with it since the early days can attest to.

The other nice thing about the rolling release cycle is that there are no set dates to releasing. This means that the release is up to the developers. As PCLinuxOS has proven many times over…it’s about perfection. Texstar doesn’t release until he feels everything has been thoroughly tested…so much so that he often times will hold off weeks at a time for a release just to clamp down on the final small bugs that might only effect 5% of the user base. The quality of product the dev team produces is astounding because of this.

The last thing I love about a rolling release is that updates are seamless. For many of us that had Preview .81 or .71 on our boxes in the earlier days of PCLinuxOS, we found that updating all the way to .93a was a snap. That’s right, 3-5 releases could be upated via synaptic without incident. This was a huge draw to me in the early days. PCLinuxOS was originally forked from Mandriva 9.2 and developed away from it…when we rebased this past year for 2007 it was due to glibc/GCC4 updates that our small developer team wouldn’t be able to do. This rebase would prevent a user from updating .71 to 2007 now…but the concept of seamless upgrades is still one that PCLOS developers strive for. It’s going to be quite nice as development continues to be able to do this.

Is PCLinuxOS and the rolling release perfect? No. Do others get it right with a standard release cycle? Yes. Could PCLinuxOS benefit from a standard release cycle? It depends on what your definition of benefit is. If, by benefit, you mean always maintaining a set schedule of releases and giving PCLOS a software development/business type of feel…yes, it would benefit. But if you’re thinking of benefit from the perspective of an active dev team that feels little pressure or deadline…a thriving community of satisfied users that can count on seamless upgrades…I’d say that NO it wouldn’t benefit PCLinuxOS at all.

I’d like to hear what readers think about rolling updates and how they see these as beneficial or not beneficial to a distribution. Thanks for reading!

Author: devnet

devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix and Linux administrator, a Technical Writer, a System Analyst, and a Systems Engineer during his 20+ years working with Technology.

27 thoughts on “The Absent PCLinuxOS Release Cycle”

  1. I was a big PCLInuxOS user until I bought my new Gateway laptop. DVD RW drive didn’t work, card reader didn’t work, couldn’t get the resolution correct with the Intel 945 graphics. The problem I have with this is that if you are in a position like me you need to have a timeframe in which you might consider going back to a distribution. Since PCLinuxOS has no release timeframe, I have no clue when the issues I dealt with might be fixed. Without a release timeframe, how often do I check back? Weekly, monthly, quarterly?

    Distros with a abticipated release schedule allow you to at least check back at a given time to see if progress has been made.

    But now I am hooked on Mandriva 2008, so I have completely abandoned PCLinuxOS.

    Also note, the PCLinuxOS forums were of no help with the issues I had, pretty much fell on deaf ears. On the other hand, the two issues I had with Mandriva were dealt with within 2 days.

  2. In it’s own way Debian also uses rolling updates in the “Unstable” branch.

    Unstable gets updated all the time.
    Many users update daily to get the latest updates.
    After a package has proven itself in Unstable, it will be added to the Testing branch. Once in a while a snapshot of Testing gets frozen and is released as a Stable release.

    Despite the name, Unstable is very reliable most of the time. Once in a while you get bitten by a bug or ugly upgrade procedures, but nothing an experienced user can’t handle.

    Because so many people follow Unstable, and machines are being upgraded from Stable to Testing or Unstable, the update procedures are constantly being tested and approved.
    Therefore updates tend to “just work”, even on installations that are many years old.

  3. Don’t forget all the distros that have a new release every three months or so with NO UPGRADE PATH. You have to reinstall every time. Big pain — and an incentive to not use them as your main distro.

  4. Love the rolling updates.
    PClinuOS is the best distro ive found.. and i’ve tryed them all.. (top 20 at least)

    Easy to update and never have had a issue.

    Love it!

  5. PCLos was one of my first distro’s ever. It had many an issue with my Nvidia 7900GT and newer LG Monitor. It didnt like my newer SATA Drives. It didnt like my Bluetooth Adapter. List went on and on. That was during the .93 days, but that experience was enough of a nightmare to scare off even the most experienced of users. The fact was at that time, that there were MANY distro’s, most even, that had no trouble whatever with any of that hardware! This is the problem with the rolling release. Back then, the .93 was using what kernel? What outdated kernel are they using now? How does PCLos handle the bcm chips for wifi, or ATI cards + Compiz-Fusion?.. MANY distro’s now have no trouble at all with any of that because they constantly are upgrading kernels and improving functionality to meet ever-demanding user needs. PCLos falls flat here, along with a few other Distro’s that come to mind. The clear leader in this arena is Debian/Ubuntu; particularly Ubuntu’s latest release, Gutsy Gibbon. Sabayon is also the clear leader in cutting edge releases, yet they lack any form of an easy update utility which completely cripples that Distro for ease of use (although they are working on Entropy, which will solve all that).

    Dont get me wrong, PCLos is Linux, and therfor forever has my unconditional support, but thankfully, none of us are chained to any single distro, and thanks to RMS and Linus, we all have the freedom to choose that which suits our Computer needs best.

  6. I’ve been using Mandriva since 2006 and I was all the time scared whenever I made an update, cause it updtaed me this, but broke me that, grrrr. And than I’ve discovered PCLinuxOS and I was amazed! What a wonderful distro. Everything works! I’m using it on my 7 pc’s (3 of them are laptops) and it’s just ouuouuuu…. And I love they’re rolling release cycle. Just last time I saw at my firend (he uses M$) that Firefox was released. Five days later I had it in my Synaptic too. Amazing. Just great.
    If anyone asks me, this is how mandriva should look (and work) like. Go, Go Texstar and the Gang.
    Thanx for allowing me to write my opinion.
    Have a nice day all.

  7. I like the concept. However does it work? I also like looking forward to features and knowing when to expect them. This could still be done as I don’t need to know the exact day or hour. A list with priorities and expected months would be fine. However does it work? I tried pclos not because I was dissatisfied but out of curiosity. It crashed. It had horrible wireless support. Some features like the automated server setup in the otherwise heavenly control-center didn’t work. Where did this deadlineless perfectionism really lead to? Sorry to say your distro had actually many annoyances. So many that I finally installed ubuntu’s RC earlier this month to stay productive. It works. I’m not into fanboyism and I appreciate pclos, so I’ll stop here.

  8. PCLinuxOS has never crashed on me. It has some of the best wireless support I have found in any distro. It is geared towards the average desktop user. I am not sure about server setup but I was able to install apache, php and had a working website.

  9. You have mentioned many plusses for the rolling release but missed out a big negative. Many new users are coming on board PCLinuxOS due to the reputation it is getting. Not having an upto date install CD means that they have to install an old version and then install hundreds of Mb of updates. That may be fine for broadband users but not so good for most ordinary users. Telling them off for asking for an updated CD does not go down well when we talk of a helpful community.

  10. After the updates hit over 500MB, Texstar always preps a release.

    If we had the resources to print our own updateCD, we would I assure you.

    Don’t judge the entire distribution by the comments of one or two negative people who told that person off…I’ve gotten just as much flak for asking even simpler questions than the one you’re speaking of at almost every community I’ve been a member of. The important part is that I don’t let it influence my use of Linux. Remember, communities can’t be 100% perfect all the time…PCLOS is about the best community I’ve found thus far which is why I became a developer.

  11. I have been a Mandriva user for 3 years.
    I switched to PCLinuxOS after I found out that the update system was much easier.
    Now it is my distro of choice.
    I still try most of the new Mandriva, K/Ubuntus and a few others, but found no compelling reason to dump PCLOS.
    Davemc.., you asked which outdated kernel they use now. If you had bothered to read the forum, you would know they use the ( almost )latest 2.6.22 kernel.

    As for rolling updates, keep on rolling.
    PCLinucOS is tpos.

  12. I love Linux. PCLOS is a very good desktop distro targeted for new users.
    But to me every distribution should have a release cycle no matter how long it is (example- debian, slackware). Lack of proper release-cycle causes confusion and uncertainty for many users.
    It’s true many distro doesn’t allow any upgradation path but it’s also true many distros do offer.

    I can find many shortcomings of PCLOS –
    1. No mailing List
    2. No bug-tracking support
    3. Only 32 bit support

    But still I love this distro and recommend it to many.
    Keep up the good work.

  13. [devnet@amdx2 ~]$ uname -a
    Linux amdx2.lost.lan #1 SMP Thu Oct 11 16:19:22 WST 2007 i686 AMD Athlon(tm) 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 3800+ GNU/Linux

    Yeah, we’re a bit outdated eh? .23 is in testing currently. Firefox hit the repos 2 hours after it was released…guess we’re slacking.

    I think you should give 2007 a go…it’s head and shoulders improved over .93a which is why it gets all this attention

  14. Arijit,

    These are no short comings.
    That was a decision taken long ago
    PCLOS has a small, unpaid, unsupported developer team.

    Texstar has no intentions whats-o-ever to compete with other distros.
    We don’t need a mailing list….go to the forum

    We don’t need a bug tracking support….use the forum to report bugs, and they will work on it.

    As for 64 bit, ….not in the immediat future, as I see things

  15. Give pclinuxos paid developpers and a budget and you will see release cycle. Everything the pclinuxos team does is for free during their free time. Whatever money they can get goes toward the upkeep of the sites. I help with some of the development and it costs me about $200 per month for that pleasure. There is simply not enough time and resources available to keep apps up to date and have regular releases. Also there is a user mailing list for bug report.

  16. As always, YMMV.

    I own a Gateway m675prr laptop.

    3D and Beryl on ati radeon 9600, stereo dolby sound, usb, sd, dvd+rw/cd+rw, mouse, wireless, eth0, … everything works. Through the usb ports I also run a floppy and a webcam.

    I used to run MEPIS 6.5 until I found PCLinuxOS. Last night I was installing PCLinuxOS on a friends Toshiba A135-S2356 laptop and had problems with the cdrom cycling too rapidly. I switched to MEPIS 6.5 and it was an excellent install.

    The point is that there is sufficient choice in Linux distros that 99.99999% of all users can get Linux installed satisfactorily on their box. Only a couple commercial distros are trying to create a monopoly and hopefully will never succeed.

  17. Rolling updates are basically a trade-off between simple and fresh updating and the importance of a reliable base system. I think rolling updates make sense for PCLOS given the user base you guys have: enthusiast desktop users.

  18. Well,

    thats all fine if PCLOS would update packages at the pace that lets say for example ARCH another rolling release distro.

    I prefer rolling release myself, I feel the release every 6 months model is old and mostly used to get hype. Even Mandriva’s adam said as much on DW.

    PCLOS suffers from not updating quick enough, I imagine thats just due to its size and total user base. As this grows I think the updates will be quicker to roll out.

    Also to get the quickest updates the est/beta updates you have to pay for. Really shows how PCLOS is still using the old and broken Madrake/Mandriva club model. Its a bad model – it doesn’t work and if you want money there are other ways to do it.

    Small distro getting better, I like PCLOS just wish it was a tad faster but everything works. Great new user distro for sure.

  19. I use pclinuxos on a amd athlon 64 3700+ sandiego core and it is rocket fast.I dont know what your hardware is but you want it a tad faster?.I could not stand a tad faster.Look pclinuxos is not for everyone.If you want a uber stable,well balanced,beautiful looking,solid user desktop then pclinuxos is for you.If not there are plenty of distro’s out there that will fit your needs.The bottom line is whatever distro you use its all good.It’s linux.The choice is yours.

  20. Just happy using!

    I’m stop looking another distro 🙂 Just use PCLinuxOS and let get work now.

    Thanks to texstar and the ripper gang. God bless you all.

  21. Just shifted to PCLinux as its based on RPMs, was very disappointed to know there is no Yum and Yumex installed by default, atleast the package should have been available/included as optional so users can install if they want to.

    Hope Tester takes note of it.


  22. FYI – there’s a number of other distros that have been using rolling release cycles for quite some time, such as Arch Linux (the distro I use and love).

    And yes I agree – rolling releases are a great thing. No worries about how to “upgrade” to the next “version” of the OS.

    It’s funny too – rolling releases turn the concept of “version” on its head. The current “version” of distros like PCLOS and Arch is whatever state the package library happened to be in at the moment the CD was cut! lol!

  23. I’ve appreciated PClinuxOS since I’ve come across this year.

    I tried a few different flavours since my initial experimentation. Some of the ones I tried were:

    *and a few others

    When i came across PClinuxOS… it worked like a charm for me. Now I am even happier that I don’t have to keep an eye out for the latest distro like the other flavours. It is just a matter of updates. Especially being so new to linux.

    Lhlalyam – Charles

  24. I have to agree that the rolling updates are a nice way to go. Steven is quite right about the real pain of having to upgrade your system with a clean install with many distributions. I have used the ‘buntus and Suse. The upgrades are always a problem.

    My favorite distribution used to be Suse, now opensuse, but everytime they came out with a new release and I would upgrade to it, the whole system would crash in about 1-2 months after some more updates. Three other people I know using Suse had the same problem. So it quickly became a clean install situation everytime and that was hours of work to get all the files transferred, fonts installed, settings tweaked… pulled out. The same story for the ‘buntus and for other distributions I have tried.

    PC’s rolling system spares me this. I would be happy with a new release every few years if there is some major thing that needs to be remastered or recompiled or whatever, but if it is not necessary and can be done with an update, DO IT!

  25. I found PCLinux around a year ago – mainly because we’d finally discovered that windoze was slowly killing us all – and the main thing i love about pclos is that the repositories are full of everything you need.
    My brother got Fedora 8 6 months ago, because the pclos kernel was too old for his nvidia chipset, but next holidays when he came back from uni – he was sick of it, it was just so buggy. In my opinion the packages may be a little dated (wine and the kernel) but at least they’re full and working, i also found texstar seems to be putting together gits from compiz-fusion and packaging them. 😀

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