Friday, 28 June 2013

I'm trying out a couple of new distros

And typing this from Linuxlite, running live off CD.

This particular distro is designed to have a very small footprint in memory - 160Mb tops, and would have been an excellent choice for that Sony Vaio I had through my hands a couple of weeks back. It is also meant to have low processor overheads, meaning longer battery life and cooler running in a laptop. I'm running it in the Philips Freevents laptop I took to Africa (now with replacement keyboard - excellent!) because that's got a slow processor and 1Gb RAM.

There were a couple of 'interesting' hiccups to begin. The CD started fine and the desktop came up reasonably quickly. Took a minor amount of fiddling to get it to find the wireless router, possibly because it was running live and therefore a little slow. Then I couldn't enter the wep key because it automatically switched the num lock on and this is a laptop keypad. Once figured out it was no problem, and connected fine.

It picked up the hardware well. Screen brightness works fine, battery charge and time remaining (reckoned 2.21 - I usually get 2.40 from Pear on this machine, but that's a HDD install & much more efficient, plus with auto-dimmed screen. Pretty fair then. Audio worked, but a known bug is that the pulse audio control may either have the volume set right down or, as in this case, was muted. VLC comes as the multimedia player, and unmuting gave entirely normal audio playback.

Despite running from CD the OS felt snappy and entirely acceptable - certainly enormously faster than that Sony with XP. The desktop environment is XFCE, and it's like a well polished version of Gnome 2 with some nice refinements and better crafted icons. Wallpapers are good enough for me to wonder about saving them for use in the pear install.

I can't test DVD playback because the one drive is in use, but it might well be fine if Libdvdcss is to be found.

Why wouldn't I install this?

Well, DigiKam isn't going to run without installing half a Gb of KDE with it. Libreoffice is old - 3.8.4 instead of 4.04 and several other apps are a little old too but very functional. GIMP is current though, at 2.8.4. It runs so nicely I'm really asking myself why I'm not setting up a dual boot system right now, except the answer is that I'm about to test PCLOS with the LXDE front end. And I've just remembered that this HDD is encrypted and will probably not take kindly to dual booting without a wipe & reinstall.

Looks like tonight is geek night! TTFN - back in an hour or so.

In a mo I'll shut down and pop the other CD in. Might just explore a little more though


I'm back. Did you miss me?

This time in PCLOS with the LXDE desktop from a live CD.

About 4 years ago I ran PCLOS as my main system for a few weeks before and after Christmas. It was kind of good and kind of frustrating, not least because it *feels* like someone's home-customised system, with a particular take on icons, widgets, set up etc. This is no illusion because, just like pear linux by David Tavares, it is very much one man's creation and very much his particular style (*assisted these day by a bunch of other guys). So although this is very clearly LXDE themed, and has a very smart immediate impact, after a few seconds you start noticing the PCLOS customisation.

OK - first impressions.

As soon at it had finished starting up (slow) with an attractive blue wallpaper & LXDE logo, a dialogue box appeared asking if I wanted to connect to a network, offering wired and wireless options and connecting first go. Brilliant! Off we go then.

It's similar to linuxliteos in many ways, but a bit more stately, a bit sluggish by comparison and a little less clean and crisp. Some of the tool bar icons are hard to work out on a 12" 1200 X 800 screen. And while there seemed to be lots of icons to look at, they weren't the one's I'd have expected. When I unplugged the power supply I could hear the CD start up, but nothing popped up to tell me. Eventually I added a widget to monitor battery life, but why wasn't the laptop auto-detected & one added immediately?

From here things were less good. Screen brightness keyboard controls didn't work, unlike liteOS's, and worse, none of my USB sticks could be mounted. There may be bug fixes for this, but is't annoying with a live distro that you might wish to run without network connection.

Software wise there's a slightly different range of applications available, and this runs on a fork of Mandriva Linux, while linuxliteos runs on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, itself a fork of Debian. Both have the GIMP, though PCLOS came with more additional software. It also comes with Abiword and an option to install libreoffice, which is not included on the disc, unlike LLOS. There are players & various internet apps available, but from less well known sources. Worth noting that LLO also comes with Steam pre-installed - important if you're a gamer.

Now, if I'd just had this disc to try I'd have simply given it a whizz, decided it wasn't too bad but wasn't special either and decided that pear was a much better choice. However having tried LLO, I've been quite blown away by it and have realised that this version of PCLOS really isn't all that special after all. For those who like a very comprhensive distro the have a package called the full monty (ooh eer) with a KDE windows like front end and separate desktops for office, internet, games, multimedia, music creation and graphics. It looks really cool in a PCLOS style manner, but it's a 4Gb download and would benefit from being run on a heavyweight desktop.

I'm tempted to try PCLOS LXDE on my desktop machine, just to see if things work better there & it's snappier with 4Gb RAM and an Intel E5300 processor, but that also makes me wonder whether LLOS would be much faster still? That's not a migration I want to make, but I may well try a separate HDD in here to see if I want to supplant pear on here.

Interesting stuff.

I ran PCLOS LXDE live on my desktop system and it displayed the same faults - refusal to mount USB drives and icons that were hard to see. Also on a larger screen the text was crummy, just like Ubuntu used to be. These issues may be sorted by a couple of updates & tweaks (and there may be something on the PCLOS forums about them) but they were not caused by hardware.

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