There’s been quite a few postings and articles on new users and Linux flourishing during the past year. The reason I believe this to be is that desktop Linux is approaching or has arrived at the tipping point where it can gain mainstream adoption. People are seeing Linux as a viable alternative to Microsoft. My wife recently had me nuke the dual boot computer and go with Linux due to Windows Media Player 11 restrictions set to come out when it is released. Her main concern is being told by companies how she should be able to listen to her music after she’s bought it…kinda like buying a car and the dealer tells you where you can drive it and how you can. She’s in the process of converting all her mp3’s to ogg’s to 1) save space and 2) because they sound better and are in a free format. Thus far, she’s not missing Windows.
Many blogs also have taken up this topic and, when determining the best Linux desktop, gushed about Xandros, Freespire, Ubuntu, and MEPIS. The thing I find odd is that they forget the little guy that’s outpacing all the others…and that little guy is PCLinuxOS. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why PCLinuxOS is, IMHO, the best Linux flavor for new users.
1. Hardware Versatility & Compatibility
PCLinuxOS comes in three flavors for the current .93a release. Those three are minime, Junior, and Big Daddy. Minime is a minimal 299MB iso with a functional KDE desktop. I’ve seen postings in the forum that this runs nicely on a 350Mhz PII and I’ve successfully had it running on a Celeron 900 with 256MB PC100 RAM. So I know that it works for older computers. If you don’t want a speedy desktop that you can custom build with synaptic and would rather have a few default applications installed right away…try Junior. You can also get the whole she-bang using “Big Daddy”. It’s really up to you…I dig this concept as well since it allows you to build from the ground up or hit the ground running right away.
Hardware detection with PCLinuxOS is fantastic. Wireless and ndiswrapper are configured through a central control center (see #4). PCLinuxOS is compatible with many old computers as well as new ones. PCLinuxOS will detect just about anything you throw at it. Most Linux does now but with the LiveCD project at berlios, PCLOS has an ace in it’s hand…it’s a fantastic project that allows great hardware detection. I’ve seen so many people have operational PCLOS desktops immediately after install…no tweaking needed. I’m amazed at this aspect of this distro.
If you want the solid performance of PCLinuxOS with full access to all repositories and software updates on a speedier desktop, you might try SAM Linux. SAM is PCLinuxOS as a base with XFCE for a desktop. SAM worked quite nicely on my Celeron 900 as well with even more speed than minime…which is understandable since XFCE is notibly faster due to less bloat.
PCLinuxOS has been nothing but solid for all my computing needs, whether XFCE, Gnome, or KDE. In all, hardware on PCLinuxOS is just as much a no brainer as it is on Ubuntu, MEPIS, Xandros, and Freespire…with three flavors to choose from.
PCLinuxOS is meant for the desktop. It’s meant to be used for your day to day operation. It’s user-centric, not developer-centric. Since PCLOS is geared toward every day users and for desktop operation it contains access to thousands of programs that desktop users find useful. With less emphasys on maintaining packages for the server, the lead developer is able to concentrate on the desktop and actually listen to us, the users…and listen he does. PCLinuxOS is one of the only distros out there that I know of where I got a response from the head developer when I asked him a question or wanted a program added to the repository. That sets it apart from other distros. Texstar (the head developer) takes pride in his product and listens to his intended audience for direction…he doesn’t just hear them…he listens. 5,000+ software packages (and counting) in the official repository speak volumes for this fact.
3. It Just Works
Many new users go distro hopping, trying to find something that ‘just works’ for them. People often say in the official forums that PCLinuxOS is “The Distro Hopper Stopper“. It does seem to fill what is missing for so many new users. There’s a reason it has raced into the top ten distros at distrowatch.com this year…for so many users, it just works. ATI and Nvidia drivers are only a synaptic intall away…everything works right out of the box. This is one of the reasons new users should consider PCLinuxOS.
If one were to compare shopping for any product out there with shopping for a Linux distro…would you want the product that required you to ‘fix it’ before you could use it? You just order XYZ mp3 player from Amazon…but when it arrives, you have to configure it, tweak it, and hack it until it’s usable. To me, this doesn’t make sense. If I find a distro that requires less configuring and tweaking to get me up and running and one that provides the best experience…I’d stick with it.
For me, there is no other choice. I use PCLinuxOS because it requires me to invest the least amount of time (and since my wife uses it as well, the least amount of worry) spent configuring, compiling, and setting things up. PCLinuxOS users’ needs are no different than other Linux distro users. They need to edit, listen to, and organize their music. They need to design the layout of that web page. They need to develop programs and write code. They need to slice and dice all aspects of their desktop experience. If you are one of those other distro users, I commend you for using Linux since it puts you in the drivers seat. Keep at it and keep at using and spreading Open Source software and Linux. If you’ve made the switch to desktop Linux and haven’t tried PCLinuxOS in the past month, I recommend you do so…you’re missing out on a gem of a distro made for you, the desktop Linux user.
I also commend PCLinuxOS for providing the users with the “desktop experience” it provides which allows those users to do this fluidly and with the greatest amount of efficiency. People that try and use PCLinuxOS know right away that something is different. It’s the attention to detail and fluid design that combine together give the user that “desktop experience” that no other distro can. For me, it made using Linux fun.
4. PCLinuxOS Control Center
When I first switched to Desktop Linux, I immediately noticed that there wasn’t a control panel where I could go for a ‘one stop shopping place’ to control my applications and running services. Having been a slackware user for about 4 years at the time, it didn’t matter much to me…but when I thought of new users coming in as Windows refugees or having no computer experience…it made me cringe. How could Linux not provide a central place to control their system? Sure, KDE has the control panel to control appearance, layout, and behavior…but what about network interfaces? Can everyone use ifconfig? Does everyone know how to modprobe? Most likely not.
PCLinuxOS makes a fantastic effort in this realm. With the PCLinuxOS Control Center, you are in the drivers seat of your operating system…not along for the ride. You control boot options, hardware, mount points, networking, security, system configurations, sharing, network services, authentication, and groupware; all from a handy control center that is point-click easy. The Control Center is the single greatest reason I’ve converted more users to PCLinuxOS than any other distro. It’s also the single greatest reason that new users should consider PCLinuxOS first before all other flavors of Linux.
5. The Community
Sometimes, smaller is better. Go with me on this and get your minds out of the gutter. PCLinuxOS has quite a bit smaller community than Ubuntu, MEPIS, Mandriva, and Fedora Core. All of those distros have quite a huge following. So how is it that such a small distro can march into the top ten at distrowatch and hold its own? The community is a huge reason. This small community has produced some of the greatest tools for their users: The wiki, the New User Guides, PCLinuxOS Magazine, Kids Safe PCLinuxOS, and countless other projects and startups. There are so many things happening within the community right now, there’s always a place to become involved or to stand back and watch things happen (politely tagging along for the ride). I really feel great about the directions that PCLOS is moving in and the future of this desktop. The thing I take most heart in is that the developers listen to their community.
As a Slackware user, I remember getting flamed quite heavily in an IRC channel I joined after first installing it. Rightly so…I was asking the dumbest questions and not even trying to search for things…but of course, I didn’t know how to search. Had someone shown me the proper way of doing things, I might have had a flameless time with Slack. With PCLinuxOS, I envy new users. They get to be a part of a community that welcomes them in and treats them as equals regardless of experience level. They get a fantastic wiki that takes their hand and walks them through setting up their desktop and feeling comfortable in their new environment. Many of the “gee whiz” items that new users ask about and get flamed for are solved for them in the wiki and if it isn’t, the forums are friendly and welcoming.
6. Try Before you “Buy”
PCLinuxOS is a Live CD. You can boot up and run the entire operating system without installing it. This allows you to take a look at things before you “buy” (you don’t buy since it is 100% free) aka commit it to a hard disk. Ubuntu went in this direction as well with their last version. SuSe also has a Live CD as well. This is a great way for new Linux users to experience Linux. With Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS, it is taken a step further…you’re able to install the operating system while using the Live CD. After the install is finished, a reboot and you’re up into your shiny, new desktop.
One of the niftiest features of PCLinuxOS as a Live CD is that you can install the CD to RAM and pull out the disk. This means that you’re running the entire operating system from RAM…which also means fantastic speed. PCLinuxOS becomes a Live RAM distro at that point. It does take a while to load to RAM, but after you’re up and running you’ll be amazed at the speed. You can install the OS in this mode as well.
7. Community Projects
I am the webmaster and administrator at MyPCLinuxOS.com. This is a community projects site for PCLinuxOS. If the community has a want or need for the OS, we start a project and rally support around it. We then take that idea and make it a reality. The new user guides and wiki were a product of this and other fantastic projects are springing up ever single day. There is a SOHO edition in the works, a MythTV Edition, the PCLinuxOS Beautification Project, Edulos – PCLinuxOS Eduction Edition, the PCLinuxOS Magazine Project (now on it’s third issue), and other projects. I encourage you to get involved if you use PCLinuxOS and help give back to your favorite distro. If you’re not using PCLinuxOS and are curious about what’s going on, come on in and register at MyPCLinuxOS…drop us a comment or question and we’ll do our best to help you get the information you need. Please remember that this website is ONLY for community projects…all official help requests should go to the official forums at pclinuxos.com.
8. Pride and Ownership
All of the reasons above combine to make this last reason hit home. The userbase of PCLinuxOS really takes pride in their distro. The pride comes from having a stake in the way in which PCLinuxOS is developed. See, Texstar is a unique developer in that he listens to his users and adapts his development to suit them. Of course, you can’t please everyone but Tex does a fantastic job with about 90% of the userbase and the other 10% are a synaptic install away from being happy.
When you have a community that develops with you, you develop with the community. Texstar has seen this happen from the early and small beginnings when PcLinuxOS was just a fork of Mandrake 9.2. Fast forward to today where PCLinuxOS is a conglomeration of many different distros with an active community that takes pride and ownership of their favorite desktop Linux. I don’t know how he did it, but others should take note and duplicate it. PCLinuxOS is near and dear to its users and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
In closing, I really feel that PCLinuxOS is on track to be the best Linux desktop users can get for free today. I’m sure there are supporters of other distros out there that are saying “But my_distro does this too!” or “my_distro has all of the things you’re talking about as well”. In that case, congratulations on finding a great fit for you! I commend you for using Linux and am glad we’re members of the same community! Just remember that the same size glove does not fit everyone…if you’re helping others in their Linux journey…make sure that your bias toward one distro doesn’t limit the choices that the new user deserves. I always give new users that I help the choice between all of the major desktop-centric distros before I tell them which one I think is best…it’s great to see what happens when the decide. And remember, if your distro is the best for that new user…they’ll choose it and use it. Just make sure that in the spirit of open source you do not limit their choices in the beginning. Hopefully, you’ll take another look at PCLinuxOS and include it in the list of those you present to new users!
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