It’s a shiny little desktop; very crisp and tight. Firefox is a sweet browser and Synaptic is a great package manager. Sure enough if things don’t look like they work.
But now the bad news for PCLinuxOS 2007:
Weird Behavior: Running from the CD, it there’s a lag between creating new files and having them show up in the GUI. I haven’t reduced this to a set of repeatable steps and I wonder if this is even some sort of Twilight Zone thing or something, but there’s something non-intuitive going on here.
Base: Hey… Open Office has a clone of Access! But going in and creating a table, defining some columns… and hey… how do I set a primary key? Hmmm… can’t. Close the table to save it and I get prompted to add one… it adds a totally new field without giving me a chance to select the field I wanted to be the primary key. Open the table and start entering some rows… and the autonumber field seems to go haywire. Why is this program taking up space on the install??
Stupid question: Why doesn’t the CD Rom drive show up so that I can explore it and tinker with it?
Installation to USB drive is dodgy: The installation wizard seems to be wacked. You start off with an option to install to hard drive or to USB drive. If you select USB, you still see your hard drive on later screens of the wizard. This is particularly frightening on the partitioning screen. Your primary hard drive is the default drive being doctored even if you’ve already told the wizard that you’re doing a USB install.
The install wizard does its thing and then stops without giving a success message or new instructions. This is very confusing. I just have no idea if I’m done or if the wizard crashed or anything.
“Persistent Home” should work by default: After using the system, enjoying it, and setting up a bunch of packages, I shut down the system expecting it to all be there when I come back in. And of course… it’s not there! There appears to be a way to use KPackage and Kusbhome to keep your stuff from boot-up to boot-up, but you apparently have to download and install those packages– and log out and log back in!– in order to get this feature. Even then, installing the functionality is nontrivial and seems to require some special partitions to be set up on your USB drive. (And you seem to have to do this every time you boot up.) None of the software gives you any obvious assistance in identifying the fitness of your USB drive for these purposes. In my case, I could persist my own files, but I could not figure out a way to persist my installations of Clisp and Emacs from session to session. This stinks all the more when such a feature should work automatically or at least be painless to implement.
IMHO: On logging out or shutting down, I should get a message warning me that I’m about to lose my work… and there should be an easy way to save stuff offered. On boot up I should have an option to use the persisted files in setting up the session.
Conclusion: I gave up on the Persistent Home scenario after wasting hours of time and risking sudden death to my hard drive via an accidental mouse click. I tried to go back and install the OS to the USB drive. Again, it’s not clear if 1 gig is enough space to store the installation and given the poorly designed Wizard, I can’t trust it to tell me such pertinent tidbits.
On my final attempt to make the installation work, I used the Installation Wizard’s partitioning tool to set up three partitions: a 470 MB / partition, a 94 MB Swap partition, and a 415 MB /home partition. The Wizard chugs away briefly on my USB drive and then stops.
I then fire up the Installation Wizard again (after rebooting, I think) and set the install to go to the USB drive to the existing partitions. It then copies files for about 15 minutes or so and then… it just stops. Looking at the drive, there’s boot, home, lib, usr, and root directories on the /home partition. And there’s just a couple files left over from my “Persistent Home” attempts over on the / drive. Shutting down kicks me to an all-text log-in screen and I have to look up a Unix command to manually shut down the system. Booting to windows log-in screen and then shutting down strangely leads to the crashing of some random file or memory address. This is starting to get scary.
I went into the BIOS and moved _USB HDD, USB FDD, and USB CD options to the top three positions of the boot order. There’s a message there saying that “USB BIOS support must be enabled for USB boot” but I don’t know where to go to affect that change on my IBM ThinkPad. Booting up without a DVD in the drive and with the USB stick plugged in leads to a message saying, “Invalid system disk, replace the disk and press any key.”
This is altogether a very frustrating experience. This OS is just slick enough that I want to move to it and use it as much as possible. But I don’t trust the software and fear that I will inadvertently fry my machine with an accidental mouse click. I can only conclude that the USB install is not the default approach that most people use with this platform… and that most people using it tend to set aside a half dozen gig on their hard drive and install there instead.
I’m rooting for this distro and would very much like to be a satisfied non-customer… but at this point I’d have to say that the Wizards and the documentation for the install process are very poor. Other people seem to have had a good experience with it, but I’m not there yet. From my perspective, I’d have to say that we’re still a ways from having Granny install and use this thing on her own….