Updated: December 13, 2012
Back in 2009, PCLinuxOS was a blast. I know I'm repeating myself in my praise and observation, but that was the heyday of this fine little distro. And as I've already told you multiple times, including the latest PCLinuxOS spring release review, once you peak, there's only way, down. Indeed, the almost irreversible trend seems to be holding.
Truth to be told, 2012.02 was a decent edition. Not the best, but doable. Much has changed since, including who and when and how, plus the much promised 64-bit version is still nowhere to be found, or at the very least, Dr. Dedo failed to find it. Nevertheless, let us see how PCLinuxOS 2012.08, release in the late summer, behaved here.
How it went
The following section encompasses live session experience, installation and the subsequent fun altogether. Not to worry, you get the full throttle roadtrip. Anyhow, the distro booted fine on my SSD-ed laptop, with its generic Intel card and a 64-bit processor, asking only a single question about the keyboard choice before loading the session. The resolution was properly set, unlike the last time. When it comes to its stock looks, PCLinuxOS retains a well-familiar if somewhat archaic KDE layout.
Wireless & Samba
Wireless worked just fine, but it needs to be setup by using the Network Center, and not by clicking on any icon in the system area. This is less intuitive for most people, I guess. There were no problems, and it worked well. Likewise, Samba sharing was fine.
Since the dawn of humanity, PCLinuxOS has provided codecs for your music, videos and whatnot. Indeed, PCLinuxOS ships everything you need. I successfully played MP3 music in Clementine and Youtube Flash videos. So it's all sugar here.
This part still remains somewhat controversial, as far as I'm concerned. The steps needed to commit the distro to your hard disks without ruining any existing data are not trivial.
The Draklive partitioning wizard listed both SSD, as well as the USB that I used for booting the distribution. All of the partitions are shown in gray color, so you have no simple way of easily distinguishing between them. If you toggle the expert mode, then you will have to manually setup mount points and the filesystems, each time clicking on a different button.
The partitioner will then warn you about the formatting, as it will want to commit changes immediately, so you'd better be prepared. Once this step is done and you move forward, you will once again be asked to format your partitions, even though you have just done that. Or perhaps you have not, and it will only be done now. Question mark?
Next, you will be warned that your partitions will be wiped. Ignore the slash character that has sneaked its way into the text. Now, selected partitions will be formatted, again? Does this mean all of them, or just those marked with the checkbox? Most common users would be seriously troubled at this stage.
After this elaborate setup was complete, PCLinuxOS began its installation. It was fairly quick. At the end of it, it wanted to setup the GRUB bootloader. After I selected the root partition rather than MBR, the distro assumed and asked if I was using another bootloader from another partition to start the system. Yes, indeed, I was using GRUB2 provided by the Pangolin installation on the laptop, one of the four distros used. I am not sure if the wizard somehow used this information to better its own configuration.
Now comes the interesting part. After updating the bootloader in Ubuntu, I rebooted and selected the PCLinuxOS entry. If you do not change the labels during the installation, you will only see a very generic lowercase linux used. After this, the bootloader complained about an invalid VGA options used. And then, the PCLinuxOS kernel panicked on me.
Thus endeth the review of PCLinuxOS 2012.08.
Sadly, it seems that PCLinuxOS will never be the awesome operating system that it was three years back. Its glory days are gone. There's a steady decline, or at least, a very distinct lack of progress and improvement in the distro. The looks remains unchanged, many of the old problems, bugs and logical flaws in its components, most notably the installer, remain as they were half a year, a year ago. Now, it won't even boot.
Deep down, I was hoping that PCLinuxOS 2012.08 might rise again and give back that sense of fun and freedom that it gave us in 2009. Unfortunately, it seems the distro has self-locked itself in a descending spiral. It is very hard to judge how good it really is, since I did not get an opportunity to play with it that much. From what little I've seen, it's more or less like the spring release, provided you get it to run successfully on your box. Which it did not on mine. Now, you may argue GRUB-GRUB2 combination, Ubuntu being at fault and all that, the simple fact is, very few distros refuse to boot on my systems, and this is one of them, reasons notwithstanding. So I'd say, the combination of a very static appearance, the lack of a true 64-bit edition, the unresolved slew of old problems, and the latest boot issue all make PCLinuxOS a distro you'd best skip, and keep that nice memory of what it had once been.