There’s a steadfast simplicity that sits at the heart of PCLinuxOS. It’s certainly served the product well, given that it’s one of the most popular Linux distributions around, and one that has been increasing in popularity in recent months. And it can’t be any coincidence that it’s one of the least bloated, and easiest to get to grips with, iterations of the Linux operating system.
The most recent release, PCLinux 2007, does little but enhance its reputation. For starters, whereas many popular Linux distros – openSUSE and Ubuntu, for instance – can easily fill a DVD with their installation files and attached software, PCLinux 2007 contents itself with a single CD (albeit a jam-packed one!). An interesting choice, and one in line with the underlying theme of providing a tight, thoughtful operating system.
What’s more, this disc works as a live CD, allowing you to boot directly into the OS, give it a try, and then if you choose to do so simply install it from there (although it should be pointed out that, as with all popular Linux distros, PCLinux does come in a variety of flavours you can choose from). As usual, working from a live CD can be painfully slow, but it’s still useful as a taster or troubleshooting tool.
The installation procedure, once you press ahead with PCLinuxOS, is as simple as migrating Windows users are likely to want it, and is completed in under half an hour. For a modern day operating system that’s not a bad time at all, and the more sophisticated options – as is the case throughout the OS – are pretty much take it or leave it.
What’s more, when the OS boots for the first time, the configuration choices it made on our test machine were sound: there was no issue with the graphics adapter (although exploring online forums, we did find some who’d not has as much luck as us in that department, and that can involve some fiddling around to resolve), our Internet was picked up and the desktop was suitably friendly. Given the issues we’ve had in the past with Linux, it was something we were pleased to see.
In fact the whole distro feels friendly. Although we did have a few problems when we went exploring into the depths of some of the settings – and the learning curve did occasionally ramp up – this is a clean, uncluttered piece of software. It lacks much of a cutting edge feel, but was – for the duration of our testing – solid, reliable and pretty much trouble-free, even if it wouldn’t play our DVDs (although pretty much every other media file we threw at it worked well).
It comes with a selection of useful software tools, such as OpenOffice and The GIMP, Thunderbird and Firefox – some of the most popular open source applications – and while you might miss the larger range of installed choices that other distros offer, there’s something to be said for the slimmer installation. It’s easy too to add fresh programs (the included Synaptic does the hard work there for you), and should you feel something’s missing or you need a bit of help, then the community support for the OS is very strong.
PCLinuxOS 2007 is a polished, satisfyingly easy to use Linux distribution. We didn’t find it suited beginners quite as snugly as Ubuntu, but there’s not much in it. And this is an increasingly mature operating system that displays the careful choices made in putting it together. It might not be at the most exciting end of the open source world, but in serving an increasingly mainstream audience, PCLinuxOS 2007 is a Linux distribution of real value.