Saturday, 1 January 2011

It probably seems like I change operating systems like (some) others change underwear.

Well, hopefully a little less frequently than that - for their sake, rather than mine!

My love affair with openSUSE was on the wain toward the end of the year, with the old irritation of system pauses becoming increasingly evident, as well as overall performance degrading generally and annoying issues with DVD playback that prevented Chris from using the computer. Also that OS tended to use older versions of software, thus Digikam was on v1.2 instead of the current 1.7, KDE on 4.4 instead of 4.5 etc etc and printing was really flakey. To cap it all it refused to access the files in another copy of openSUSE that had been installed on a 250Gb drive  that was no longer being used to boot, and had some images that I'd wanted to recover from there.

So a few days ago I'd decided enough was enough, backed up recent work plus firefox/thunderbird/opera and did the re-install from scratch trick with PCLinuxOS 2010.12.

I've tried this distro before, and although I quite liked it, the branding everywhere gets old very quickly, and it lacked the speed of a new SUSE install while looking less attractive than Sabayon. It also comes with much less 'in the box' - just as a single 700Mb CD with enough to get you up and running, plus automated installers to download open office, language packs etc. It doesn't ship with libdvdcss - more later - or even the usual card games. The upside is that installation is fast - around 20min tops to having the system ready to surf. The downside is that you've then got to spend time finding and dowloading the packages you want to use.

It used the Synaptic package manager - slightly unfamiliar to me, and frustrating in that I couldn't make it open downloaded .rpm files. It does however seem to do a good job, and once I'd told it to refresh repository content, a lot of stuff that I'd wanted to DL & install was available. This includes libdvdcss2 that is essential to play commercial DVDs, and that I'd been trying for ages to install without success - it's available from the refreshed repository and worked fine.

Other hassles included a delay on DVD audio playback, putting voice & image out of sync, but I *think* that's fixed now too with more drivers that were installed 'automatically', but only when I started looking at installed drivers in the hardware manager. Ho hum.

What about the perennial bugbear with Linux distros - screen fonts? Well, they're pretty fair, probably as good as SUSE and only a little behind Sabayon. The display is sharp and crisp, probably thanks to the Nvidia driver being used, athough the Nouveau driver in SUSE looks fine too, but in this case I can use full 3D acceleration for the full set of screen effects.

So how long will I keep this one?

Probably either until it develops a fault that I can't put up with, or until something else more interesting comes along that I really want to try. I'm quite enjoying it at the moment: it doesn't have the 'wow-speed' feeling, but it does seem to work smoothly and, so far, effectively. Sometime I should try windows 7, but since I'll have to buy a real commercial copy of that I may just bung it on the Macbook along with Office.

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