PCLOSGNOME LogoI know I said I would review Xubuntu next, and keep PCLOS Gnome for the July edition of SaGeek MAG, but I wanted something other than a Gnome Distro to review for the MAG, and I only had the 10.04 RC available of Xubuntu, not the final release. Hence PCLOS 2010 Gnome it is for tonights review.

Well how did it perform?

Extra Review Criteria

Given the work I put in on my 20test five way OS Review, I cannot simply waste that. SO, for reviews from now on I will put every OS I review through those twenty tests, and see how they do. The other three areas of review – user friendliness, desktop readiness and the Q rating will still play a role, with the disclaimer that those three are more subjective in nature than the first.

Unfortunately I cannot remove all subjective opinion from my reviews. I have a good idea of what I want in an OS, and I am VERY critical of all of them. What I WILL do though is weigh the OS’s performance in the twenty step test in the other scores, and possibly get to a more balanced and fair rating on those.

Also note, I take all my screenshots from a VM, it is easier to work with the images in my “office” and it affords me to play with the OS while I am writing my review. For older reviews I took my screenies from my full installs, but rebooting to and fro became a schlep.

Right, let’s dive in, shall we?

First Impressions.

PCLinuxOS, to my mind, has always been a KDE distro. I have used the Gnome edition a little before, mostly with a friend of mine who fiddled around with as many distro’s he could get his hands on and then invited me over to come check out some things for him.

PCLOS Gnome is busy. A lot is going on in the menus. It feels cluttered. One instant gripe I have is duplication of functionality in the menus. The APPLICATIONS menu has some sub menus that are repeated under the SYSTEM > PREFERENCES or the SYSTEM > ADMINISTRATION menu. I think more time could have been spent placing those menus in their proper parent category.

Desktop Screenshot

The Pretty, if Dark, PCLOS Gnome Desktop - Click To enlarge

PCLinuxOS Gnome is pretty, if a bit dark. It definitely lacks the polish of say Mint, and you get the feeling that the icon set, for instance, belongs to various different themes. Work is needed to refine the look, but this is a minor gripe.

You get a lot of packages with your PCLinuxOS Gnome. If you need anything, chances are that you will find it pre-installed. Even a Lexmark Printer utility, and various other little tools and packages. The downside of this is that it borders on the too much. More care could have been taken to possibly include installers for those packages that might not be needed by all users, like the Lexmark or HP utilities for instance, and cleaned up some needed space in the menu’s. Less is more in this department.

Installation

Installing PCLOS Gnomes is about as easy as installing any Linux distro these days, almost. The installer asks you to reboot to finish partitioning, which I find odd. Also the setup of GRUB is finnicky, but there might be some users who prefer more control. Down to personal preference, I presume.

Grub Install

Installing Grub

No OpenOffice

Oh no. I went there, didn’t I? Look, I know I got a lot of flack for sledging PCLOS KDE on this, but I need to mention this absence for the Gnome version as well. The UPSIDE is that the Gnome edition of PCLOS includes more office productivity goodies in the form of Abiword and other programs, and they are more neatly organised under the OFFICE menu. I am not gonna hit PCLOS Gnome that hard for this, and besides, the installer I mentioned in the PCLOS KDE review is there to help you get and install it.

PCLOS Tweak

Yep, PCLOS Gnome comes with a nifty control center where you can set and tune all of a number of little housekeeping preferences. Nice to have. Some of the settings might get a little complicated for the new user, but a nice utility nonetheless.

PCLinuxOS Tweak! Click to enlarge.

The TWENTY Part Test!

Right, now to ratings. I will list the test, PCLOS Gnome’s score, and the best and worst scorer in each category, with comments where necessary. Afterwards I will also list the total, and how that total relates to other OS’s tested before.

  1. Join WIFI Network – 100.
    Equals Ubuntu and Mint, beats Win7, Kubuntu, PCLOS KDE (80)
  2. Join Wired Network – 100
    Equal to all Linux Distro’s tested so far, beats Win7 (80)
  3. Set Proxy – 100
    Top scores, next best PCLOS KDE (80)
  4. Get Network Info – 100
    The first Gnome OS to feature a nice popup to give you the info. Beats next best Ubuntu and Mint (50) and equals Kubuntu and PCLOS KDE
  5. Change Desktop Background – 100
    Beats Win7 (80) and equal best with PCLOS KDE, Ubuntu etc…
  6. Change Theme – 100
    Better than Kubuntu (80) equals Win7 and the other Linux Distro’s
  7. Set Screen Resolution – 80
    Equals Ubuntu and worse than Win7, Mint, Kubuntu, PCLOS KDE (100)
  8. Set Up Network Share – 40
    It is a real pain with PCLOS Gnome to do this. Just betters Kubuntu & PCLOS KDE (33.33) and worse than Win7 (80) and Ubuntu, Mint (100)
  9. Access Network Share – 25
    Again a contrived way of doing things failing it. Win7 is next best with 66.67, and the rest all score 100
  10. Get Hardware Info – 50
    Worse than Ubuntu (66.67) and Win7 (100)
  11. Get System Usage Info – 2.02
    Again, like with PCLOS, it seems this functionality is not easily available. If anyone can point me to the right way of doing this it’d be much appreciated. Worst scorer along with PCLOS KDE
  12. Play Audio CD – 100
    Equal best along with Win7 and Ubuntu and beats Kubuntu, PCLOS KDE (66.67)
  13. Access USB Drive – 100
    Simple to do. Joint best with Ubuntu, PCLOS et al, beats Win7 (50)
  14. Play Youtube – 100
    Flash is installed by default. Equals Mint, PCLOS, beats Ubuntu, Kubuntu who need to install flash first (50) and Win7 who needs to download from web (33.33)
  15. Play MP3 – 100
    Equal to Win7, Mint, PCLOS KDE and beats Kubuntu, Ubuntu (50)
  16. Open PDF – 100
    PDF Reader is installed. Win 7 scored 33.33
  17. Look for Specific Software – 75
    Better than Win7 (42.86) and Kubuntu, PCLOS KDE (60) worse than Ubuntu, Mint (100)
  18. Check For System Updates – 75
    Worse: Kubuntu (60), Better: Ubuntu (100)
  19. Supported Architectures (64bit, 32bit) – 32bit only – 50
    Along with PCLOS KDE the only OS I have tested so far that offers no 64 bit support.
  20. Shut Down – 66.67
    Worse Kubuntu (50), Better PCLOS KDE (100)

Final Score: 1563.69 out of a possible 2000. 78 Percent. It scores better than Win7 (72) and Kubuntu (74) and just loses out to its sibling PCLinuxOS KDE edition by 2percent (80.) It still trails Ubuntu (85) and Linux Mint (87) by a bit. Out of the six tested it ranks FOURTH overall then.

Desktop Readiness

PCLOS Gnome edition is relatively desktop ready in that it does most of what is expected of it. It is good for a home computer, and offers quite a lot of packages. Lack of 64bit architecture support might be a problem for some, and will definitely need to be looked at. That it fares worse than its big brother PCLOS KDE in the twenty part test is a bit surprising, but it does not lose out by much. It features the Synaptic Package Management system, which is a plus, and comes with PCLOS KDE’s awesome hardware support.

I give it a 3/5 in this department.

PCLOS Gnome Scores 3/5

User Friendliness

Ooh, now we are going to have to be careful here. The way the menus are laid out is not user friendly. Unlike the KDE edition there is no kickoff menu option to save the cluttered menu layout. The Gnome menu layout is normally good, but PCLOS Gnome suffers from a “more is better” approach. I prefer the simpler approach favored by Ubuntu. If there is one thing to learn from Ubuntu it is this – less is more as far as user interfaces go. The inclusion of a control center is great, but it often adds an extra layer between the user and what needs to be done. In many of the tests above I could have used the control center method for doing things that were actually quicker via the direct route.

I am beginning to have my doubts about Ubuntu featuring a Mandriva style control centre…

I give it a 3/5 as well.

3/5 for User Friendliness!

Q – Rating

Okay. 2/5. That’s it. Quick and painless. Here’s why:

Messy menus (yes I mentioned them before ad nauseum) and an overall lack of polish that is present in the KDE edition. No 64 bit support, and some minor weirdnesses like having to reboot mid install.

Having to reboot to set partitions is odd...

Installer needs you to reboot in the middle of installing. Odd.

If you want to try out PCLinuxOS, go for the KDE version. If you want to try out KDE, go for PCLOS KDE – don’t go for Kubuntu. If you want to try out Gnome, go for Ubuntu or Mint. Mint is better if you are taking baby steps with Linux overall.

Yikes, I am going to get killed for giving it 2/5...

Summary

PCLinuxOS is good, but not good enough. The Gnome edition especially needs some sanding on the edges, and then some polish on top of that. I would recommend the KDE edition over the Gnome edition any day, but as far as Gnome based distros goes it loses out to some really serious competitors, and this is reflected in my comparative scoring.

There are many little touches that give me hope for the future of PCLOS, help menus, auto installer for OpenOffice – little things that might just make this the next best Gnome distro to arrive. Right now it just falls short of Ubuntu’s 3/5 Q-rating.

Maybe the next edition? Let’s wait and see…

If you want some insight into Gnome-Shell, the new desktop interface for Gnome3, you can read what I think of it here, I will be spending seven days with it, and telling you what I think. On that page is a link to day 1, which is going… okay, at best. Read it HERE.

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  3. Time for New Review Criteria?