Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Faceoff: PCLOS 2009.1 vs LinuxMint KDE CE 6

In the past few days, I was lucky to be able to test drive two wonderful Linux distributions that both promises to work "out of the box" -- PCLinuxOS 2009.1 and LinuxMint KDE Community Edition 6.

My rig is only a Lenovo G400, with 1Gb of RAM, 120 Gb SATA HD, Built in Video (‎Mobile 945GM/GMS, 943/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller) and Sound (82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller), NetLink BCM5906M Fast Ethernet PCI Express as NIC, and BCM4311 802.11b/g WLAN for Wireless.

Before using trying out these two distros, I was happily using Ubuntu 8.10 on this laptop.

PCLOS and Mint KDE share many similar characteristics. They both use the K Desktop Environment. They are both derivatives from "bigger" Linux distros. Both promised an excellent "out of the box" experience thus loaded with the necessary plugins and codecs needed for every average user to enjoy his/her everyday computer use. Both distros are using the Synaptic Package Manager for software management. Development of both distros are being led by one guy namely Texstar for PCLOS, and Clem for LinuxMint.

But the similarity ends here.

PCLOS is based on Madriva Linux while LinuxMint KDE CE is based on Ubuntu. PCLOS is a meta or rolling distro, Mint is not. PCLOS is true to its promise of being able to play almost all types of media files, with LinuxMint KDE, I don't have sound on some .3gp and .mp4 files.

Although both uses Synaptic, PCLOS uses rpms while Mint uses debs. PCLOS uses KDE 3.5.10, while LinuxMint is now using KDE 4.2.

Installation with both distros on this rig is a breeze as I didn't encountered any problems at all with both distros using easy to use wizards.

On hardware support, I had varying results.

PCLOS was not able to activate my Fn keys at the start (I had to install Keytouch), while LinuxMint was able to activate almost every key right after installation. I also have this feeling that LinuxMint KDE 6 handled power management for this laptop better than PCLinuxOS but then again, both were able to suspend my laptop well and that what matters most.

Network management is way too easy with PCLOS than that of the KNetwork Manager installed on LinuxMint KDE 6. To make matters worst for Mint, I can't seem to make my wireless work. It was so easy with Ubuntu 8.10 but a no go with Mint (this was the ultimate deal breaker for me). With PCLOS, I didn't had to install or download anything. I simply configured it with the wizard incorporated on its Control Center. No fuss or whatsoever.

Built in sound just works, the same thing with the video as both can use Compiz with it.

More softwares are installed by default with PCLOS. However, I had problems with Frostwire which I had to do a "killall" command before I can kill it. HDDTEMP and POWERTOP aren't working well on PCLOS too. HDDTEMP on PCLOS says that it doesn't support my drive but hddtemp on Mint can. PowerTop on PCLOS doesn't work on my Lenovo, but powertop on Mint just works.

However, perhaps its because of KDE 4.2, I had stability problems with LinuxMint KDE 6. Random crashes and slowdowns. I can't use the wireless card with it. Mint doesn't even have a GUI for connecting with PPPOE. And as compared with KDE 3.5 and the PCLOS Control Center, Mint doesn't offer as much tools to work onas PCLOS does.

And personally, I don't like Amarok 2 on Mint as much as I love Amarok on PCLOS. Kaffeine on PCLOS is able to play almost everything, unlike VLC or DragonPlayer on Mint which can "play" some videos but with no sound. Where is the joy in that?

After an update using mintUpdate, I found myself wondering why I can't hear anymore any sound with Youtube videos with Mint. Did I just broke something with that update? Along the way, I also unknowingly broke my Mint system as some widgets (which I love so much) suddenly ceased to function. I didn't know what happened. I just installed some apps using mintInstall then after a reboot, some of my widgets aren't functioning anymore much to my dismay.

And with Mint, sometimes when I try to restart or shut it down, sometimes it will turn off or restart, sometimes it just sits there doing nothing.

PCLOS is much more stable. Almost every app from the repos works well except for the three apps I mentioned earlier. And I haven't ever experienced breaking my system after an update.

One thing I like more about PCLOS is that it has its very own repository of applications unlike in Mint where I still see some Ubuntu lines on their /etc/apt/sources.list file.

And the mklivecd script simply rocks with PCLOS along with RedoMBR and other utilities which Mint doesn't unfortunately have. (Or perhaps they some equivalent but still mklivecd works better than the others)

My verdict?! Obviously, after installing PCLOS then wiping it out for LinuxMint, here I am again with PCLOS. So how was I able to restore my PCLOS installation so easily? Good thing that I used mklivecd to create my very own PCLinuxOS, loaded with my fave goodies and with all the updates.

I simply reinstalled the whole thing using my custom PCLOS and everything were back to its proper places. :)

Make no mistake about it. This is not an anti LinuxMint or anti KDE 4.2 post. I love LinuxMint especially its main Gnome edition. I love how KDE 4.2 looks and still fancy plasma, plasmoids, widgets or whatever you want to call them. (Hey, I miss the Picture Frame widget!!!)

But I have a life to live and a choice to make.

Perhaps someday when the Ripper Gang is finished with their KDE 4.x rendition, I won't hesitate to install and use KDE 4.x on this laptop knowing that it is finally stable to let me get my job done.


nb said...

To use 'picture frame' or other widgets on PCLinuxOS, install screenlets. The screenlet, "picframe" should do well for you.

v00d00 said...

Try the sabayon 4.1 KDE edition when it comes out in a week?

Anonymous said...

I also tried Linux Mint and PCLOS 2007. I have tried so many distros that my head was spinning. Could not get any work done. When PCLOS2009 came out, I thought, why not give it another try. So I installed it and OMG, it's so much better. I now have it on my laptop as well as my PC. The wireless functionality on the laptop was always a bear to get working, especially since I have a Broadcom wireless card. PCLOS took care of that during the installation and away I go on the internet. With some minor desktop changes ( icons, text, background, etc ) I have got it to what I want it to be. I am now officially ending my distro hopping and settling on PCLOS2009. Great job to the PCLOS group. Their KDE is top notch. Even tried a LiveCD of their GNOME and that looks awesome too. Hats off to all the Linux developers out there for bring about Linux to the desktop.

Onederer said...

I had been looking for a long time for a Linux distro., to replace Freespire (it's been abandoned by it's new owners). I wanted a distro that did the same thing as Freespire. Easy to install wireless networking for two laptops. I did try MINT Linux, but failed to get wireless to work. Finally gave up on it. Then I picked up PCLOS, and now tried it in "live" mode, and everything seems to be working fine! No hassle for setting up Wireless networking. Just follow the instructions from the Wizzard. This is wonderful! My next task now is to install this latest version into the bedroom laptop (no Windows in this machine), and also (try) to "install" this version into a flash memory for the other laptop. The hard drive is too small for two OS's. The search is finally over! Now I can be a user again.

fishfillet said...

And so real people are actually reading my blog. :)

@nb: Thanks for the tip. Don't worry, I can still wait for KDE 4.x :)

@voodoo: I always find sabayon too heavy but will try to download it for you. :)

@anonymous/Onederer: Congrats to the two of you for finding PCLOS your right kind of Linux distro. :)

Onederer said...

What I'm wondering if anyone has ever succeeded in installing a "live" distro, into a flash memory? I did install PCLOS as a "live" distro in an 8GB flash device. However, I haven't tried to install it as a permanent installation on such a device. I don't know if the installer can handle that, or will it just work if the distro is installed on the regular hard drive? The problem with "live" OS's, is that whatever setup one has, is gone forever, once the power is turned off. There is no retention of data, or OS's setups. Wouldn't it be nice to have the option with a "live" distro, to have a small footprint on some storage device, to retain desired permanent data? With that capability, one would not have to install the entire OS into a hard drive. Only install the necessary data that needs permanency.

fishfillet said...

@Onederer: Yes, I have tried that before with Ubuntu 8.10.

It does have an option to retain your personal data at /home/user/.

And although I haven't tried, I think its the same implementation as with the MKLIVEUSB utility in PCLOS.

Personally, I think the way to go is to create a customized ISO out of your installation and use that iso for the creation of a Live USB environment.

BTW, that can also be down with Puppy Linux. :)

Onederer said...

To tell you the truth right now, I'd prefer to install PCLOS as a permanent installation on a flash drive. I don't care if the Flash Drive will only work on only one machine. I hate to deal with "live" distros, as I mentioned before, because of the loss of retention when the machine is closed. My concern is if the PCLOS standard installer will be capable to install the OS on a Flash Drive, and if that drive afterward, will be bootable when the machine is turned on. I'm very aware that "live" versions are bootable on a USB port, but have had no experience or knowledge if it would be the case by using the permanent installer application.


fishfillet said...

@Onederer: Yes, that could be done. Just try it out :)

Onederer said...

I just got a delibitating reality shock last night. I had so much confidence in PCLOS, and it's fine performance with the kitchen laptop, that I went to install it in the bedroom laptop.

I found out that PCLOS wouldn't run as a "live" version on the bedroom laptop. I had chosen the first choice in the boot menu. Rebooted again, and this time, I chose the second choice in the boot menu. And that worked! I had chosen the filebuffer option. But I found out that it was impossible to get the wireless network card to run. I then plugged in the cat-6 cable. It still wouldn't work. I plugged the cat-6 cable into the docking adapter, and it worked! So I thought, "oh well, guess that I have to resign myself to be tethered to a networking cable if I make a permanent installation in this machine." I made the decision, and went ahead to install the OS permanently in that machine. Sadly, the boot-up menu choices was very sparce, compared to the "live" version. I even entered data that I found in the "live" version that worked before. No matter what I tried, when the installation completed, it only brought me to the text command mode. I couldn't make it "startx". No graphics! What a disappointing downer! My one hope, PCLOS, was not as good as I thought!

The difference between the two laptop machines: the kitchen "zonlap-PC", is a newer model, and has more ram than the bedroom "HPlap". They both use an AMD-64 chipset. And the other significant difference is that the "HPlap" has a built-in ATI card, whereas the "zonlap-PC" has an NVDIA card. I therefore believe that PCLOS has a bias against ATI cards, and bombs out because of that. Also, the wireless chipset in the "HPlap" is a Broadcom card, while the chipset for "zonlap" is an "Atheros" video manager.

I guess that my search is not over to get "easy" wireless and installation of a good working OS in the bedroom "HPlap" machine. Too bad that the new owners of the Linspire and Freespire have abandoned those two OS's, and are only interested in retailing their brand of Linux. Freespire thus far, is the only Linux OS that works in the "HPlap" computer. Freespire has all the non-free codecs and aplications needed to make a computer running like a breeze. But right now, their repositories have been severely neglected, so updates are not available.
I'm open to suggestions. and would dearly like to run that machine wirelessly.

Anonymous said...

Good post! I personally only know PCLOS. I have been using PCLOS2007 for a couple of years now without too many problems, but when I upgraded to PCLOS2009 everything went wrong. A fresh PCLOS2009 install was not much better, and I finally had to reformat and go back to PCLOS2009. In a nutshell, PCLOS2007 is a stable system much like Windows XP, but PCLOS2009 has a lot of fancy stuff, but unstable and full of problems. Much like Windows Vista.

fishfillet said...

I think the last two comments should be posted at the forums at One of the strong points of PCLINUXOS is its forums and friendliness of its people so please try to let them know and let's see how they can help.
Please always include the details like error messages, specs, etc.