Linux Review 3- PCLinuxOS 2007

PCLinuxOS 2007
PCLinuxOS has always been criticized for shoving to much software onto it's users. That is evident, as I could find anything I want for day to day use in the menu. There is tools for CD burning, the popular, and powerful Open Office Office Suite, The GIMP(v2.3), and many others. Installing was speedy and quick, taking only a minor 10 minutes on my dual-core system. The OS was also very usable in LiveCD mode, and it was quick and speedy in my opinion. You need to manually configure your time zone, keyboard, and network interface before you actually get into the desktop, which I found odd, and you also have to go through a login process, which has a guest account and a root account. You login with passwords, guest for guest and root for root, and they give it to you at the top-left of the screen, but I just thought it would make it take longer. The installed is called Drak-Live Enhanced, and the graphic is a PCLOS Icon with a witch's hat. Further on when installing the boot loader, it is a PCLOS Icon with a hat and it shows an LCD screen with the longer PCLOS icon, which I wish I had.

Updating takes quite a while, using the 2007 version in 2008 probably should be discouraged. Why? There are 538 packages to download, and some others to remove, or some to do other things to. Looking at the summary it said "76 MB will be used, and 616 MB will be downloaded", at least I can write my review while I download it.

The large bar at the bottom made me feel cramped, so I changed it to "tiny" I still feel cramped on the 1024x768 resolution and I wish I could turn it up to 1280x1024 so it is less cramped, but I need to install video card drivers. The blue theme with KDE is my favorite theme so far, it really is easy on your eyes and it is bright and easy to read. The start menu resembles a Windos start menu, it works well, and you can find everything in there.

Something unique with PCLinuxOS is that it comes with proprietary software, such as Flash player and Sun Java. The versions of these two programs are 9 and 6 respectively. It also comes with tools such as MPlayer for playback of MP3's and Windows Media files.

After installing the proprietary NVidia drivers from synaptic, you get a nice looking NVidia Splash screen before you log in. You are also enabled to use Compiz Fusion, the 3D desktop program, and with Compiz enabled it looks very good, although I couldn't actually get the cube to turn by dragging a window, you can still make it do that by pushing CTRL+ALT+left arrow/right arrow. You also get a better resolution, I now have a true 1024x768 so It isn't so cramped, and I have full usability. It feels much better now.

If you are switching from Windos, this OS is a great choice, sure there is some setting up required, and there will be some updates, but this OS is stable, and is full of software you'd need. There will be a learning curve, but you had that with Windos anyway. If your considering switching, this is a great choice, It even looks like Windos.

The Compiz Fusion Effects are really cool, the 3DCube is on, I found the configure tool in the start menu and now it is snowing on my desktop. I also tried the Draw Fire feature, and the water effects feature, both are very well rendered and blend in nicely. I played a combat flight simulator called GL-117. With NVidia drivers enabling OpenGL, it looked great, and it achieved around 40-45 fps. This is an outstanding OS that I would defiantly use for stuff like Word and Web and it would probably make a good system rescue CD if it weren't for high requirements. PCLinuxOS is a Linux OS that needs a pretty good system. Looking at KSysGuard it shows me that 600MB of my Memory is being used, and there is 97 processes running. That's where it needs a good system. The require for proprietary drivers for a good system and effects is annoying, could NVidia or ATI make open-source drivers, or can they let the drivers be included in major distributions, or even the small distributions that not many have heard about? Downloading drivers from their website requires that you install them from the command line, new Linux users probably will not know how to do that. I wouldn't have been able to do it if it weren't for the drivers being included in the repositories, and Synaptic.

This distribution is on the top of the list at DistroWatch, and I believe it deserves it. It is easy to use and fast, and it would work great for a Win-Lin switcher. It deserves a 4.5/5, just I wish it weren't so cramped(Resolution Wise).

Windows Product Review 1- Lego Brick Digital Designer

Yes, it's Lego Bricks, and now they have a designer program. The program .exe to download is a 27.2 MB file, so it takes a while, and it also requires the QuickTimeInstaller for sound, which is an additional 22.3 MB .exe file. It also takes a small amount of time to install, and the initial startup is slow, it has to find all the required files. Once it comes up it gives you three choices, Starter Model(Which gives you a model to build on), Free Build, and Recent Model. Chose any one of those and you will be building right away. You can rotate and zoom around the building. You can also, If you are using the bricks that allow it only, check the price for the pieces for your model. It gives you an estimate for what it will cost, and then you can upload and, I believe actually buy the pieces so you can build it. You can also take screen shots right within the program, and it will remove the side bars and the grid for you with the end product looking like this,

This product of course is free, (Not Open Source) and it can be downloaded from here. Download Digital Designer

There you have it, I give this product a 9/10. It is easy to use, easy to install, but the Quick time For sound thing is odd, and the file itself is a bit large.

Food For Thought-2/11/08- Creating a Custom LiveCD

This is a new quest for me, but I have been having a good time so far, and I found my greatest success using a Mini-Me version of PCLinuxOS 2008. I have tried the Ubuntu Customization kit, and I have also used Custom Nimble x, with not much success. The Ubuntu Customization kit also was somewhat confusing. With PCLinuxOS I just installed it, configured it for my liking, and ran a program from the menu to create your ISO. Next week I will do a quick over view of installing, and part one of a guide to customizing.

Food For Thought- 2/4/08- Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 4 Beta Testing

Today I installed Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 4. This system is not quite stable yet, but it seems quite solid. When booting the live CD I could not see the entire screen, as the resolution was too small, at 800x600 I could not see the very bottom of the installer. I could only use 800x600 or 640x480 for my screen, and I expected to have more options once rebooted. I rebooted once it was installed, and found that there were no new options. I then checked if I could turn on 3d effects, and I couldn't and I wasn't asked to install the driver or anything, here is a bug they might want to fix. I then installed the restricted driver from NVidia, and both problems were fixed. Also, sometimes I would have an app or package crash, I installed updates, as it said I was using some outdated things, and it fixed that too. 8.04 doesn't look any different from 7.10, at least not yet. (Updating, I had 61 updates, and it took about 7.5 minutes to download and install 24.4 MB of updates.)

Linux Review 2- Ubuntu

Ubuntu 7.10
is a well equipped Live CD type OS, so in terms of having an install time, I'd say, within 2 minutes I had a working OS, and within 30 minutes I had an installed working OS. Ubuntu is easy on the eyes, and it uses GNOME for the Desktop Environment.

Installing Ubuntu was quick, under 30 minutes, just like Fedora. With the Edubuntu/ Digital Equity project I have discovered that memory makes a huge difference. It took under 30 minutes, and quickly rebooted into GRUB, so I could select which OS to boot. It didn't even ask me to install the boot loader, so I checked anyway by clicking advanced on the last install prompt screen, and it was checked, so it was good to install. Once rebooted I logged in, and It was ready.

Again, I had a large amount of updates, 186, more than Fedora. It took a while to update, and there were some really slow points but I could actually do things while it was updating, and Fedora's updater would turn non- responsive if you didn't pay attention to it. Another great feature is update download resuming, so if you already have some updates downloaded then it would resume from those updates.

The repositories are great, I found many things that just sounded cool, I found a screen recorder, again with that familiar Add/Remove programs feature, and If you don't find it in a program, then you can add a repository, or with Firefox there is a search engine already there called the Ubuntu Package search, an in-browser download program.

With programs that you get off of the CD, there is my favorite Browser, Firefox(Which I use in Windows too) Open Office(Which I use in Windows) The GIMP(Which I use in Windows) and some Games(That might have a Windows Relative.) Many people see Open Office as a slow word processor, on Ubuntu it is not. It is just as fast as Microsoft Word. The Word Processor loads in 5 or 6 seconds.

This OS was the first one I could enable desktop effects in, and they are brilliant! I also downloaded the Compiz-Fusion control panel to change the settings and I set 3d Cube as one, it truly is pretty cool. My graphics card, well integrated chip set, is the Ge-force 6150SE, with 128 MB of video memory. I'm not sure about this improving productivity, because I found it somewhat fun to drag my windows around to the next desktop and have it rotate. There are also a set of keyboard controls so you can change desktops, but the multiple desktop feature is so much more helpful, for example have one window with a web browser, with another with a word processor, and yet another with your file browser. I am now using a FAT partition that both Windows and Linux can put files. It is a 2GB partition, and it is much faster than using my thumb drive and rebooting every time I want to move a file.

Setting up a printer is easy, and you can use one connected to a windows computer through SAMBA (SMB) You can print into a PDF file, like digitally printing, not physical paper and ink, and there are options to have a server have a printer folder on it so that you can use a server to print, have an Ethernet printer on a switch connected to a server, and all other computers can see it. I configured an Edubuntu computer on Tuesday so that it could use a lab printer. HP has drivers for Linux, and many other companies, such as Canon, also have them.

Ubuntu does not have any packages for a new desktop environment, instead you must use a flavor, like Kubuntu for KDE, and Xubuntu for XFCE. Edubuntu comes with GNOME, and it is customized with many Education programs, like the popular GCompris learning suite.

The repositories from Ubuntu are humongous, with All Programs selected in Add/Remove, there must be thousands of programs to install. I selected a screen recorder called Istanbul, It records your screen into a movie file so you can make a tutorial, show how cool Ubuntu is to your friends, or put how cool Ubuntu is or a tutorial on Youtube so every one can see. When you load the Add/Remove application, you are given a brief introduction to Synaptic, telling you that to add a program, check the box, to remove un-check it, and to make your check/un-check changes click Apply. You can still install KDE programs such as Koffice, or what I am trying now, KGet, a download manager.

Download speed, although varies with connection speed, seems faster on Ubuntu than on Fedora. I normally get speeds of up to 100KB/s and the fastest I have ever seen with Linux, was 136KB/s with an Ubuntu server. I checked a few of my favorite websites, and did some simple configuration.

Ubuntu is simple, easy to learn, and the repositories are great. Installing Flash was done through command line, but instead I unzipped, clicked setup and hit run in terminal, simple as that. Ubuntu is defiantly something to check out if you are looking to switch to Linux, It comes in a Live CD to test your hardware, and it is easy to dual boot.

Overall I give Ubuntu a 4.5/5 for ease of use, full feature, and it just works, The only downside is that it uses deb packages instead of RPM, and RPM is more self- extracting, and that is the way I would normally install flash.

If you would like me to review another Ubuntu based distribution,
Leave a comment with one of these letters,
K= Kubuntu
X= Xubuntu
E= Edubuntu
G= Gobuntu
or other= leave name of the distribution.

Now off to watch DistroWatch.

Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 4 is out, I'd like to Beta it.