Testimonial: Another New PCLinuxOS User

by Darrel Johnston (djohnston)

Yesterday I called on a lady who was having printer problems. She had told me the printer would act erratically and usually stop in the middle of the page without finishing. When I checked the printer, it was the usual culprit: almost empty ink cartridges. When I looked at the screen of the nice, shiny Samsung landscape flat panel, I couldn't help but notice that she was running Windows Vista. I checked the hardware specs and saw she had a dual­core modern Intel CPU and a healthy nVidia 65xx something. She is connected via ADSL, and she has an all­-in-­one HP printer, scanner, copier. I also noticed that Norton Protection Center, as it's called, was nagging about being "renewed." After digging further, I saw that Norton had been factory installed, probably never run, and certainly not renewed. When I asked Dona, she confirmed my suspicions. Dona just wanted to read her email without seeing pop­up windows. Worse yet, most of them were coming from Vista's UAC. It was still on, even though the firewall was turned off, there was no malware protection, and the one­time Norton "protection" had lapsed.

It was time to test a theory. I downloaded and installed ClamWinAV. After updating the antivirus database, I started the long scan of the C:\ drive. Well, I had my answer in the first three or four minutes when two trojans were detected. If ever there was a candidate for Linux, it was Dona. She simply wants to read her email and experience what the net has to offer without the computer nagging her. She has very basic needs.

This morning I returned to Dona's house to discover she had closed the ClamWinAV window. I will never know the results. A rerun would be too time­ consuming. She just wanted to read her email. Like I said, a likely candidate.

Having just come out three days ago, it was with some trepidation that I installed PCLinuxOS­KDE 2010 full edition. It was not just that I am still unfamiliar with KDE4, I never know what kind of hardware issues I will run into. But her Compaq PC with onboard graphics and 3 GB of RAM are pretty standard fare for a newer PC. I didn't really anticipate any problems with the hardware. I started by booting the liveCD and logging in as guest. After the desktop came up, I plugged in the external USB drive and copied all her personal files. I then repartitioned her single 300GB drive and began the install. After retrieving the ejected CD, I continued the reboot and did the usual BIOS duties.

**< Here comes the testimonial part >**

Continuing to the new PCLinux install, I answered the user and password information and logged in. I had run the new MiniMe in VirtualBox the night before and knew I could count on a Synaptic launcher to be in the toolbar. But that was MiniMe. What about the full­blown version? Well, of course it was there. How could I have ever doubted? So I launched Synaptic and ran the 15 or so updates that were waiting. No reboots needed, so I proceeded to the nVidia side of things. Hmm, all the drivers were installed. Moving on, I check the sound. No problems here. Moving along, I put the new printer cartridges in, after having first turned on the printer. Turning to the screen, I saw a hardware wizard running, naming the printer, and offering to set it up. I followed the prompts and ran a test page. Only it was two pages, instead of one. The first was the standard HP colorwheel and font stuff, and the second page was a calibration sheet for the scanner. I started up the PCLinux Control Center, Hardware section, and set the printer options. I then checked the scanner settings. Yep, everything was already there, ready to go.

I checked Firefox against the firewall settings and discovered Flash was already installed. It took some 35 minutes to install the OpenOffice suite, but I discovered later it was well worth it. It not only opened the few Office files Dona had, it also opened all the MSWorks (oxymoron?) files she had accumulated. I ran Digikam and set the paths to what Dona's granddaughter had previously used on Windows. Since she has a DVD R/W, I burned a backup DVD of the initial install.

Except for the printer, all the hardware was setup on install. To setup the printer, I basically had to turn it on. I know other distros can do that, but come on, that's pretty cool. Dona's Windows Vista Premium Home Edition never did that. I know that RedHat5 never did that. Hplip has become a pretty awesome driver. Anyways, as I re­connected the USB drive to restore her files, it occured to me that this was the easiest, most efficient Linux install I've had, in spite of my bumbling attempts with KDE4. I believe it is because I relied on PCLinuxOS's new KDE4 desktop interface to be true to the original, enduring layout. And it is, within the constraints of KDE's new design. The menu and the desktop icons have remained pretty much the same, to a degree. I know I can always count on a file browser in the form of a home.desktop icon, or in the trash.desktop, for that matter. And, of course, the ever­present (install.desktop? I'm not sure), finishes the task in a predictable manner. I also relied on PCLinuxOS's excellent hardware detection.

Maybe one of the most important things to me about PCLinuxOS, aside from its friendly community, is that Tex is "back at the helm," so to speak. And it shows in the finished product. Texstar's absence after the Houston­ area hurricane was felt by many. No, Tex doesn't provide the excellent artwork, but he encourages it. He doesn't produce any of the excellent XFCE, or Gnome, or LXDE, or e17 variations of PCLinuxOS. But his stamp is on each one in the form of a tex­compiled kernel and the gcc toolchain. I remember a Con Kolivas­tweaked tex­ compiled­desktop­kernel that I ran for over a year and, only then, grudgingly updated. And, of course, KDE is Tex's baby. And I gotta say that Tex's KDE 4 is one pretty baby!

Dona was thrilled that she could install wallpapers from a changing list over the internet by clicking a few buttons. Actually, they're the background for the desktop folder, aren't they? I just can't grok the plasma paradigm. What problem are these people trying to solve, again? This was my second KDE4 install. The first one was Mandy 'cause PCLOS was not yet ready. Not officially, anyway. Well, I need to learn KDE4. Some clients are going to want it.

I was surprised that I relied on Dolphin instead of Konqueror for all the file transfers. I'm beginning to like it now that it doesn't suffer from random crashes. I kind of expected the Vista­like KDE look and feel. But hey, Dona is already used to seeing those transitions and window effects. I was really itching to install Compiz and spin the cube, but I really didn't want to confuse Dona any more with new concepts. Dona is a new PCLinuxOS user, and she is still trying to grok the difference between Windows and Linux. Dona just wants to access the internet. Did I mention she wants to read her email? Now she has a reliable means of communicating over the internet without her computer being so easily compromised. And the chances of her computer becoming part of another botnet are now much, much lower. Maybe nil.

Thank you to all the developers who build the packages. Thank you to all the distro­meisters who assemble the packages for different desktops. I am REALLY looking forward to a newer e17 build. Thank you to all the beta­testers who report the bugs. Thank you to all those who contribute other code. Thank you to the people who create the artwork and the new mascot. And thanks to everyone who has ever helped another solve a problem.