Posted by: Diabolic Preacher | October 1, 2006

pclinuxos…migration to linux is not so much a migraine

dhaatt! another tech post. finally got to try out pclinuxos on an ibm r51 thinkpad. given to me for the purpose of backing up my data from my defunct pc. this mandrake’d distro delivers a reasonable dose of open source goodness

This isn’t a official type of review with lots of unwanted specs like date of birth and name of creators and all that crap. it’s more of the ‘why i like this distro…or what i find lacking in it and what features strike me the most’ … yes it’s my journal so my likes…right? blah i feel so bored to write… :p well anyways, ever since puppy linux i am looking at some of the more useful (in the context of the end-user) distros that go out of their way to make it easy for the first timer on linux without heavily depending on the eye-candy and extremely end-user friendly bloatware called KDE. Before trying it out myself, my juniors had asked for some live shit (not binge & purge 😉 to complete their assignments, practice for the practz exams, that’d run on 128 mb ram, which is specifically what nelson had told me when i had asked for some rescue distro that’d be low end friendly. now i didn’t try the thing out myself and just distributed to them hoping to get some lab rat feedback ;P although the distro it seems ran perfectly in the dept. lab (since all were brand new with 512 mb ram 😀 ), it seemed to not play smooth at the junior’s place, who had 126 mb ram…2 mb for video ram i suppose. once i did get back the cd, i thought i’d do the exploring myself and so far as i believe, demanding more than 128 mb ram to backup is not really that linuxsane an idea.

I took ma’s desktop’s keyboard and plugged into my PC…coz she didn’t get me one since 2 weeks when i asked her last and even when i called the dealer’s office, according to their promised time of delivery they are more than 24 hours late. hopeless cases by all means. when pclinuxos was tried out in the lab i did notice there was kde which loaded by default, which was surprising, as that was supposedly a low-end friendly OS, but not if KDE comes as the default. i never thought about that much till i got the distro back in my hands. Experience with live cd’s taught me that one should always look at the list of boot parameters one can pass (pressing F2 shows this), so that one need not have 640×480 desktop shifted 50% to the left with disco effects displaying error messages in chinese that no network card has been found. 😉 As you experiment with more and more live distros and with the help of linux know your system more better, you’ll be able to pass more accurate parameters that’ll help the live cd give you the most perfect linux experience. If you are not-so-newbie you might type livecd and press enter and let it take control of your experience. or if you are die-hard n00b, just take a nap or take a stroll, while the graphical login screen comes up. the distro defaults to a command line login prompt before moving onto the video settings detection and finally moving onto the GUI login. so one may use it on really low-end machines to backup stuff. mkisofs, cdrecord are your friends there. :). The graphical login is designed like a fake Windows XP login screen. I understood things are crafted for the ExPee audience, so the graphics effects are bound to take their toll on old-age machines. I checked for some option to choose window managers, since I remembered KDE and thought there might be a lightweigth WM. Surely in the Session menu, there was my old favorite Fluxbox. Fluxbox impressed me with how fast a desktop can load in almost no time. So used that, since KDE on my old desktop is a serious no-no. Once the desktop loaded. first thing i noticed was that this installation had the desktop icons hack…as far as remember desktop icons don’t appear by default on fluxbox without some add-ons being installed and configured. Right clicking on the desktop is usually where the exploration on a fluxbox desktop starts from. since this is a distro default, things are arranged nicely under meaningfully named categories. although it is confusing to have all the application categorized under the main as well as re-appearing under a separate “Applications” menu…although both the lists are not identical. Also some programs are kept in categories you wouldn’t expect to find them in. such as internet tools are combined with networking tools under networking. browsers are kept under WWW …. so hopefully one should know what WWW is for or spend all his/her time looking at all the menus to find the web browsers to surf the world wide web. 😉 this duplicate menu was also in another distro…probably debian or some deb based distro.

first thing i tried out was the detection of my windows partitions, coz that was mainly what i wanted to backup primarily. Let me mention that i passed a boot parameter “fstab=rw” during booting so the drives would be automounted in read-write mode (as the helpful comment suggested). sure enough it did mount them and were easily explorable via konqueror. well since i don’t have a spare optical drive to backup my data to (nor an extra hdd), i thought of trying out the various applications and features on the distro. first thing was mp3/ogg playback software…do they sound good? do they make any sound at all? being a user-friendly distro (blessed majorly by KDE apps), it loaded amarok, although KDE (and this distro) also has another almost same feature software called JuK. Searching for differences between the two, all i could infer was that JuK is pretty much useless without aRts sound server which is the KDE default, but both play only audio. Fortunately this distro’s amarok (and eventually i figured out even JuK) played the mp3’s outta my box. there was a time when i’d manually compile mplayer for like almost a hour or so and play mp3’s one by one or create playlists in windows specially coz things in the command line are not that intuitive nor well explained. being more than just an audio player (xmms) amarok, i went on to try the media library features…adding the directories containing the music files and checking if all the tags are properly read and the music sorted according to artists/albums/tracks. surely the music got neatly sorted, indexed (searchable) and playable. playing songs by album, artist…in shuffle mode is all usual stuff, but there were more features of amarok that i tried later on the laptop. One thing i noticed was that the media library gets populated really really fast and my collection is far from anything that can be called scant. All other apps that i tried are the usual set of desktop apps. having a first go at a new windows pc and having a first go at a new linux pc from a new user point of view differs only on one point and that is time needed to explore. a default linux desktop distro can really widen your idea range (and your eyes) at how many things are possible using your computer…in most cases, without spending too much money…you need not be a pro (i.e. not earning) and yet train yourself, with the actual tools rather than get promises that so and so high-end tools will run on your new pc. ok ok i won’t repeat same sob story again.

i tested not much beyond the music as i was planning to test em all on the laptop where more importantly i wanted to check its handling of the ntfs filesystem. in short i’d say, good for backup only…can’t use your win partitions to save stuff thru the distro…like if you’re surfing and stuff and most apps weirdly said that they support saving to local disk only…i.e. the ramdisk+swap space. and won’t save/read to/from either hdd or pen drive. However the most wonderful thing that i discovered on the laptop was net connectivity…no sorry…”wireless” net connectivity. yes pclinuxos detected my intel bg2200 wireless card and even setup internet access thru the router before i could detect where the wireless network setup was 😛 now having connected to the net, on linux i’m usually stuck at too-stubborn-to-improve mozilla browser and no flash plugins n all. however there were many first time experiences that i had with this ‘connected’ distro and really nice one at that. fortunately it had mozilla firefox (1.0.7) but defaulted to open links from external applications in konqueror which surprisingly was refusing to load the pages or search for the address even though firefox was doing so. anyways, next i configured gaim with my chat accounts and tried IRC as well. was irritating to find that the IM window doesn’t alert in anyway and i had some pals storming off(line) coz i couldn’t help but ignore them. well later i did find out the pre-supplied plugins that are needed to be enabled but usually are on some other distros…in fact they should be enabled by default in gaim installation itself. things that work out of the box…given that net connection is present, are: –

  • amarok could not only just download album covers…it could correctly guess the tag information of the downloaded files with little or no information. bad luck was since the distro doesn’t write to ntfs, i couldn’t save the data.
  • firefox.period. it’s way too useful by itself but then again i fail to understand why the default font size is so small in linux distros and quite readable on windows systems. especially the login boxes where i type in details…ekdom putki (tiny).
  • Limewire. people used to talk about this p2p client but never got to try this thing out. not only did it connect and get search results, the basic version itself downloaded a file at really good speed (33kbps 😛 ). coolest feature i like is when i asked it to scan my ntfs drives. it located the exact paths where i stored my application setup exe’s, zips and my music collection. it simply doesn’t get better than that. btw i saved the download to desktop..of the live distro…something you wouldn’t be expecting from a cd rom only distro isn’t it?
  • logjam. the livejournal-specific client is bundled by default in the “news” section of the applications…probably coz blogs use rss feeds just like any other newsfeeds. has all the fields of a LJ post. made a quick post here. the logjam site is here.

only other tool i used was GIMP for editing the current LJ pic with the photocopy filter and make it look like photocopy of an ink sketch. i also started up scribus…don’t remember if it had inkscape…but it had krita a kde app for image manipulation. i’d like to learn to use these tools. why do i bother so much about “art”work? 😀 fluxbox has a huge list of styles and looks cool with transparency on.

now if i could only get 0.93 or later version of the same. also given that pclinuxos is basically a mdk distro, wud mandriva 2006 give the same experience?



  1. reconsidr 4 souvenir

    compress plz

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