Tuesday, May 20, 2008


About 2 weeks ago, my wife discovered that her computer, running Ubuntu 8.04, would no longer read her digital cameras. As she was running the 64 bit version, and I was running the 32 on mine, I tried the cameras on my computer. No luck. What a disappointment! We had both happily been using Ubuntu for almost 2 years!

I looked around on the forum and tried a few things, no luck. Well that did it for me. I just find my time is too valuable to spend tinkering with the OS in order to get it to do what I consider basic functions (things like printing, internet access, sound, and cameras).

So I went to distrowatch.com and did some research. Here's the list of distro's I tried, along with a few notes.

  • PC Linux OS Gnome Edition 2008- had a good bit of trouble getting it installed.
  • OpenSUSE 10.3 - It was ok, just didn't wow me.
  • Mandriva 2008.1 - Pretty promising, I put it on my short list. Wasn't happy about it's history though. Some releases were reportedly awe full.
  • Debian Etch - I've never, ever had a distro boot up so quick! Pretty smooth install too. Required a bit of tinkering though, and the packages were so old.
  • PCLinuxOS 2007 - My current choice. Read on for further review.
Yup, to my surprise, I ended up deciding on a KDE based distro. KDE wasn't nearly as horrid as I remembered. Perhaps I got better at tweaking it to behave the way I like.

PCLinuxOS 2007 almost didn't make it though. The install was not perfect, and I was putting a high value on perfect installation performance. Still, I got through the install ok. Tweaked the desktop... I like a simple one, similar to windows. One small bar on the bottom with a 'start button', task section, notification section, clock. Simple.

I got a real kick when I fired up firefox and noticed the built in PCLinux Home Page was titled: "PCLinuxOS | the distro-hopper-stopper" I had to laugh out loud, as that is precisely what happened to me... I was hopping, now I stopped. I also thought that showed an amusing level of confidence on their part. Was it boasting? Will I stay with PCLinuxOS? I hope so, it seems to offer so much.

Right away, I was able to watch flash online. Many things just worked. I do think they should've included webcore-fonts in the install. It's in their repository though, so not that big a deal.

Very important as well is that my cameras worked! WooHoo!

And THEN I find out that PCLinuxOS is a 'rolling release' style distro. This means that you don't have to worry about major version upgrades, just keep doing the updates and you will always have the latest 'version'. I like this a lot.

I need to find the time to put this distro on my wife's computer. I'm curious how she'll react to a KDE desktop. She does NOT like change when it comes to her computer. We are both so used to GNOME. I think she'll value a properly working OS though over a broken one. I'm also curious to see if the install goes better on hers than on mine.

Maybe I can get to it this coming 3-day weekend.


ArtInvent said...

I think it would be ten times as much trouble to install and figure out an entirely new distro, as to do a little research and figure out why a camera isn't being recognized by Ubuntu. If you're going to switch distros every time you have a minor glitch of some kind, well, go right ahead. And you really think PCLinuxOS will be immune forever from such incompatibilities?

Stephen Starling said...

Point taken, artinvent, and thanks for the comment.

Perhaps I just had a 'distro-hopping' moment. But I DID do some research, to no avail.

How could such a flaw make it into a 'long-term' release of Ubuntu? This is where their strict release schedule may be a flaw. I don't know.

I'm quite willing to work at a problem, heck I've installed and ran Gentoo for awhile. THAT taught me a thing or two. But now there are SO many good distro's, and I find it's SO easy to switch... I just download a LiveCD, give it a whirl, if I like what I see, and things work to my satisfaction, I can switch. Basically, I'm saying that I don't HAVE to work as hard as I did, years ago. Thank goodness! :)

Anonymous said...

You can install Gnome on top of your PCLinux 2007 install...for detailed instructions, go to the PCLinuxOS forum, search for task-gnome , and check out the responses. Good Luck!

Stephen Starling said...

Thanks John! I haven't installed it on my wife's computer yet, but I gotta say, the more I use a KDE desktop, the more I'm liking it. Oh, and the apps rock too! Still, if the wife doesn't like it, nice to know there's that option...