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PCLinuxOS Overview

What is a Linux distribution?

A Linux distribution is a software product containing the following:

  • A Linux kernel and associated modules that get your computer and all of its peripherals working.
  • A set of utilities and applications to use with the kernel
  • A text mode shell and/or a graphical interface for user interaction

Sounds simple, right? This is the most basic definition of what a Linux distribution is, and if this was all Linux really consisted of, then Linux would not be very useful to anyone.

These days, Linux distributions are far more than just the basic three components described above. Currently, there are more than 100 distributions in the Linux market, with some for laptops and desktops, while others are intended for mobile devices, and some work best on netbooks and tablets...and a few are intended to work best on clusters of servers.

When it comes to choosing a distribution for your laptop, desktop or netbook, experience level matters here. Distributions like Gentoo and Slackware are intended for the very experienced, while distributions such as PCLinuxOS are intended for those just migrating to Linux from Windows or Mac OS-X.

Where Linux is to be used also matters. Distributions such as OpenSuSE and Fedora can be used in both home and business environments while SuSE Linux Enterprise, Mandriva (Pulse) and Red Hat Enterprise are intended for business use only. CentOS could be used in a home or small business environment for those who want an enterprise level Linux, but do not use Linux in an enterprise. The same could be said for Ubuntu LTS (long term support) releases as well as Debian (the Stable release as opposed to Testing release).

What is PCLinuxOS?

PCLinuxOS is a Linux distribution that can be installed and administered by anyone at any experience level.

PCLinuxOS is a independently developed distribution with its own software repository, generally kept up to date. PCLinuxOS is a distribution that combines RPM packaging with the Synaptic Package Manager.

But what makes PCLinuxOS different from other distributions?

First, PCLinuxOS uses only one software repository with numerous mirrors, ensuring stability when it comes to software packaging and installation.

Other distributions, while they may maintain their own respositories, intend to rely on other distributions respositories for supplementary software, resulting in software that may be compromised in terms of stability and security.

Having only one software repository makes keeping PCLinuxOS up to date relatively easy. While there are various ways to keep your system up to date (e.g. browsing and downloading packages using a web browser then installing them on a command line), using Synaptic to keep PCLinuxOS up to date is the only proper way to accomplish this task.

But it is more than just software that makes PCLinuxOS different. Hardware support on a LiveCD distribution is important. Enough drivers for video, disk controllers, and wired and wireless devices are included with the LiveCD to get most any laptop and desktop configuration working. Without these drivers, any Linux distribution running off a CD-ROM is useless, and will deter anyone wanting to switch to PCLinuxOS (or any other Linux for that matter).

PCLinuxOS does not stop there. These variants pack as much useful software onto the LiveCDs as possible so potential users get a better idea of how Linux works (not to mention support for many popular printers thanks to the inclusion of HPLIP and Gutenprint).

...and PCLinuxOS is not limited to just KDE or GNOME. There are versions of PCLinuxOS that provide XFCE, LXDE, Openbox, Fluxbox and Enlightenment, and are quite usable on older machines (if you have at least 384MB of memory)...and then there is the MiniMe version (with a minimal KDE desktop) and a Zen version (with a minimal GNOME desktop) that allow the most flexibility when it comes to what you want to install on your machine.

...and that is not all

MyLiveCD is a tool for remastering the PCLinuxOS LiveCD you will not find in any other Linux distribution. Here you can create a customized distribution that can be used as a restore disk in case of hard drive failure, or if you want to install PCLinuxOS on another machine where no Internet connection exists. Simply use Synaptic to install all the software you want to include in your customized distribution, then create a CD-ROM (or DVD-ROM) image with MyLiveCD.

Then, there is the PCLinuxOS-liveusb tool that allows you to install PCLinuxOS to a USB flash drive. This is useful for when you want to install PCLinuxOS on a machine where no CD/DVD drive exists, such as a netbook. You can also use unetbootin to accomplish the same task.

Where can I get a copy of PCLinuxOS?

PCLinuxOS is available as a disk image that you can burn to a CD or DVD, and is available at the official PCLinuxOS website. Alternately, you can order a CD-ROM from places such as OSDisc.com (for a nominal fee), or you can purchase a desktop, laptop or netbook with PCLinuxOS preinstalled from the LinPC.us website.

If you choose to download and burn a PCLinuxOS disk image, there are different disk images to choose from. The original PCLinuxOS distribution comes with the latest version of the K Desktop Environment. If you are used to doing things the Windows way, this variant is right for you.

Currently, the most recent ISO release of PCLinuxOS is available for 64-bit machines only. If you must use a 32-bit release, you will need to download one of the Community supported ISOs available.

My preferred method for creating bootable USB flash drive.

You can use the PCLinuxOS-liveusb utility to create a bootable USB flash drive is one way to accomplish the task of installing PCLinuxOS on machines without a CD/DVD drive, such as a netbook. I find it is easier to download and run unetbootin on your system. This utility runs on Linux, Mac OS-X and Windows, and makes creating bootable USB flash drives easy. Simply plug in a blank USB flash drive into the machine where you downloaded the PCLinuxOS disk image, then run the utility.

unetboot screen image

All you need to do here is to select disk image (usually in the Downloads folder in your home directory), select the PCLinuxOS disk image you downloaded, then select the flash drive, click on OK, and let the utility do the rest.