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PCLinuxOS 2010 beta - fantastic!

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http://forums.opensuse.org – I recently put a brand new desktop system together in order to get better performance with some of the FPS games I like to play, as my trusty old HP laptop with it's rather low-end Nvidia 8400m gs card just couldn't handle it. Of course the first thing I did was install openSUSE 11.2 onto the nice clean 500 gig hard disk. I've never had too many problems with Linux and hardware incompatabilities in the past, apart from obscure cheapo-brand webcams and the odd inconsequential laptop device, but on my shiny new system I was confronted with several extremely annoying and puzzling problems. First of all it seemed everything was running as normal, my Nvidia GTX260 beast was working like a charm, the system booted to the desktop in a little over 15 seconds, my 1920x1080 LCD screen gave me a decent sized desktop, life was good. Then all of a sudden, in a game, the sound cut out when I received an IRC message. I didn't pay too much attention to this, as I was quite used to games giving me problems, but then it happened again as I was playing a movie on the desktop, and again when I was playing an mp3 file! It turned out that no two applications could use the sound system at once. I tried all sorts of combinations of oss and packman versions of media players and alsa versions, I even resorted to installing the dreaded pulse audio to see if that would fix it! Nope, still the same. Then I tried the simple task of burning an .iso file to a CD to see if an older version of openSUSE would fix the problem, this was the start of the real headaches, it completely refused to burn a CD or DVD properly, oh it would start and burn just long enough to destroy the media, but never finish. Again I tried several different versions of software, created, joined, and searched many threads here trying to figure it out, but nothing. As far as I could make out it was simply hardware incompatability. Then WINE started to have sound issues, it would work one day, then refuse the next. After installing and re-installing many different versions of openSUSE, I just decided to accept the fact that my machine was too new. Then yesterday I stumbled into distrowatch.com and saw that PCLinuxOS had just released a new beta version of their 2010 distro. It sounded interesting, and I really liked their 2008 mini-me distro at the time, but came to openSUSE instead, mainly because PCLOS always had an older kernel and openSUSE just looked more professional. I booted their liveCD on my desktop and was completely blown away with how it functioned. EVERYTHING worked out-of-the-box! I had 4 videos playing on the desktop, while also playing an mp3 file with amarok2, konversation sounds didn't cut the sound out, and the Nvidia driver was already installed and working. I clicked on the "enable 3d effects" button for a laugh, and low-and-behold it worked. All this on the LiveCD! I plugged in my LUKS encrypted USB drive, entered the password, it appeared in Dolphin no worries. I decided to push my luck and try to play a .vob file - it played. OK, surely not .avi, or .wmv? Yup, even a .mkv (matroska video HD) played. I wanted to try burning a CD, but of course I couldn't do that from the LiveCD, so I plugged in a spare hard drive into my desktop and installed PCLinuxOS 2010 beta1 on it. It successfully resized the old NTFS partition that was still on there and the installation went smooth and easy. I did run into a problem when trying to use an encrypted /home partition because on first boot it flicked up a message asking me to press "y" if I wanted to use the LUKS partition that it had found within 5 seconds and it took me too long to read it and respond! It took me a bit of fiddling and command line work to get the LUKS home partition automatically mounting at boot, but when it did there was another nice surprise waiting. I'm used to having the system drop out of the nice graphical bootsplash screen to a text terminal so I could enter the LUKS password, but not with PCLOS, it popped up a nice graphical box informing me that /home was encrypted and that I should enter my password! Very nice. Next to see if PCLOS provided all the usual apps I like to use for everyday stuff, off to Synaptic to learn how to use it. Well, I was all ready to enter a lengthy search on their forum to find out how to add the "useful" repos, and learn how to change all the useless purposely "crippled" apps to useful ones. I was delightfully disappointed. All I had to do was click on the "refresh" button and it went off and did it's magic. A few seconds later all I had to do was click on the "mark all upgrades" button, then click on apply. After about a few minutes of downloading and installing updates, I decided to search for all the usual suspects - konversation (xchat installed by default), codecs, acetoneiso, pysolFC, devede, kernel sources, compiler, skype; everything was either immediately available or already installed! I did notice that there was an amd64 CPU specific kernel available so I decided to install that. On reboot it was taking a rather long time to boot, so I pressed ESCAPE to see what was going on, and bugger me the system was automatically recompiling all the drivers that were effected by the change in kernel!!!! Never in my life have I seen Linux behaving in such a user-friendly way. I didn't have to ask it, I didn't have to read through pages of incoherent guff or be tut-tutted by the white sock and sandle brigade because it is naughty to use "non OSS drivers", it knew what to do, and just got on with it with out asking stupid questions or making me jump through hoops. Now this is how Linux SHOULD be, and obviously CAN be! Chuffed by this amazing display, I decided to boot the LiveCD on my laptop, what would it do with the Broadcom 4312 wireless adapter? Surely I would have to do more reading and go through the usual nonsense of installing firmware files? Nope, the blue light came on straight away, and once at the desktop I entered the password and bugger me I was connected to the net! There's just one last acid test - could PCLinuxOS 2010 beta1 burn a CD? No other distro could, and I tried several versions of Ubuntu, openSUSE, and even Mandriva out of desperation, all failed. I'm now writing this from a PCLOS LiveCD (running from RAM by the way) burnt with my "non-compatible" DVD burner, while playing 4 movies, one mp3 (through my incompatible sound card), chatting on IRC, and using the wireless network! Setting up my HP wireless printer/scanner was also painless, that took me days of bashing my head against the keyboard fighting with the hplip drivers in 11.2, where it wouldn't work if you selected the printer the software discovered, you had to enter the IP manually. Plus PCLOS set the scanner part up automatically, that has to be done seperately in 11.2. Of course most of this might all be simply due to the newer 2.6.32.8 kernel it's using (although I had the same and worse problems with openSUSE 11.3 milestone1 and I think that kernel was newer), but the sheer luxury of actually being able to use my system without having to jump through hoops and fiddle just to get it to play a simple mp3 file is fantastic. One major downer is that there is no 64bit version of PCLinuxOS, well, I never found one anyway. And it does seem to run a little slower than openSUSE 11.2 64bit. It's well worth checking out if you're like me and don't have the patience anymore for fiddling and just want to "get on with it", if you want to see how Linux can be without all the restrictions and political nonsense. The final release should be very interesting indeed. It's the details that make the difference between good and great, and this distro looks really nice. (Distributions)