Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Thirty days with PCLinuxOS – Preparations

In June 2007 I wrote a review about PCLinuxOS. The conclusions were not all positive, nor completely negative, but nevertheless it resulted in quite a few comments. I shouldn’t have picked on the ” Radically simple” slogan and criticize PCLinuxOS like that. Maybe, maybe not. I do believe in the strength of criticism as a tool for improvement and part of the essence of open source development is peer review. I also believe that end users should contribute to the discussion from their own experiences and viewpoints.

That being said I also feel that PCLinuxOS warrants a more in depth look and what better way to do that, than to actually use and work with it for 30 days. The previous two series were about PC-BSD and DesktopBSD.


Perspective
It might be good to explain something about the perspective from which I write the ” Thirty days with..” series. My main focus is W2L migration. What is needed to stimulate Windows end-users to migrate to an open source desktop? I have a group of Windows users in my mind that use it everyday. It’s a group that partly consists of people that have no clue about the intricacies of operating systems, hardware, software etc. For them, the computer is simply a tool to get work done. Another part are the more experienced Windows users who like to play and tinker with their boxes. It’s group I regularly see at lectures and workshops.

I will use both these groups and their use of their computers as reference for most of my experiments and testruns. This means I will sometimes deliberately do ‘stupid’ things or just blunder my way around in the graphical work environment. On the other hand, I do have some more experience with *BSD now (thanks to the previous series) as well as extensive experience with Linux. So don’t be shocked if I use that to get things done well.

Criteria for the open source desktop
I use a short list of key criteria that I believe are needed for any Linux distribution in order to qualify to be a viable candidate for W2L migration and provide a solid open source desktop:

  1. the open source desktop needs to a recognizable and easily understandable graphical work environment;
  2. the open source desktop should have a complete set of graphical tools for systems- and software management that can be used intuitively;
  3. the open source desktop should support multimedia activities and peripheral devices without too much hassle, even if this can only be achieved by a pragmatic approach towards non-free software components;
  4. the users of the open source desktop should have access to business-grade professional support if that is desired;
  5. maintaining and developing the open source desktop should not be dependent on a single person or a relatively small group of developers and maintainers;
  6. migration to the open source desktop will require re-training of end users and some level of real time support during the process. This means that good and accessible documentation should be at hand as well as easy access to end user support;
  7. the open source desktop should have a solid track record for quality, stability and solid progress over the last few years.

Well, I don’t expect everyone to agree with this set of criteria, but feel free to comment on them. Who knows, I might even alter them.

What will be tested?
For one, I will try out the core PCLinuxOS distribution. That means installing it, setting it up to work with peripherals, software management, systems management and simply fine-tuning it to my own needs and wants. I want to work with it and do all the things I normally do with it.

I will attempt to make my laptop triple-boot into Windows XP, Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS. Half of my work is done via the laptop so I need PCLinuxOS to cooperate there as well.

Besides the default distribution there is now a nice ecosystem of related distributions. The Community Projects include the PCLinuxOS GNOME project, the Business Edition Linux project, the Edulos project focused on creating an education focused PCLinuxOS desktop, the PCFluxboxOS project and the TinyMe project. I will install and test all of them.

As with the other series there will be a part about the community around PCLinuxOS, the documentation and the support that end users can get.

Comparisons between PCLinuxOS and other distributions won’t be made until the final article of the series. Expect the first article somewhere next week.

Until then.

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