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.