Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
I don’t follow the PCLinuxOS crowd. And I’ll admit a fair amount of prejudice, because I have to clean up after the PCLOS fanboys who troll through the Ubuntu forums, leaving hostility and negative energy in their wakes. (If that’s you, you’re not helping the greater situation, friend.)
So I’ve procrastinated in trying out the Fluxbox version of PCLinuxOS, because I wanted to attain a fair mindset before trying it out. If I came off another spamtastic cleanup adventure and installed TinyFlux (which, if I understand correctly, is only one of a series in the PCFluxboxOS line), I’d probably come at it with very sharp objects within seconds. So I waited, meditated, installed, waited, tested … and now I’m better with it.
Here’s a shot from the live environment.
I have to admit that it’s very attractive. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Ubuntu brown effect, or the orange variation of late, but I hold default desktops to be somewhat irrelevant — the first thing any person does, within seconds of using a new computer, is to change the desktop, the colors, the themes, etc. So while Ubuntu’s predilection toward brown isn’t as attractive to me as others, I don’t fault it for using it.
TinyFlux, on the other hand, has a very crisp blue theme with a concordant glossy white effect for the GTK panels, buttons, etc. It’s a good complementary theme, and attractive from the start. The framebuffer grub and boot screens are also very tasteful, as is the login manager. The default theme takes advantage of Fluxbox’s native transparency effects — but subtly, which is very nice. Everything suggests close attention to detail.
Aesthetics aside, TinyFlux has a good scattering of programs available from the start. Netscape and Dillo are available as browsers, wisely (in my opinion) avoiding the great slothful beast that is Firefox (although … is Netscape much better? I wonder …).
Sylpheed is the e-mail client; Leafpad is an editor and medit as an alternative; Abiword, Evince and so forth are office apps; both Thunar and EmelFM are on hand for file management; and so forth. It’s not as comprehensive as, say, Wolvix, but it’s a healthy collection. You should find something here to fill your need, so to speak, and if you have Internet access I’m sure there are dozens more at your disposal.
I also like that remastering tools are included by default. I wish Ubuntu or one of its sisters would include some mechanism for building your own CD, rather than focusing so much on a complete Ubuntu desktop experience. I’m guessing most people don’t require quite so comprehensive a live environment, and might actually find more use for recasting the live CD in their own fashion.
Installation was very enjoyable. The live CD configures everything before you reach the desktop, and those settings carry over to the installation, which means you have very little aside from partitioning and setting accounts that needs done. I did stutter when partitioning required a reboot — because that meant I had to “reconfigure” my live environment twice before I could install once — but perhaps that was just a quirk of my hardware (goodness knows this machine has plenty of quirks 😯 ).
Post installation was where I ran into problems, though. My Xircom network card worked like a champ in the live environment, but caused hard locks after installation. I could boot without the card inserted, but pushing it in caused a system meltdown (video to black, drive halts, no error messages … 😕 ) and booting with the card inserted was impossible.
I’ve seen problems like that before, usually with DSL or Puppy, where the card simply wasn’t detected or locked after a few seconds of network access. It’s quite possible that this was something I misconfigured even as far back as the live environment, and made unusable through my own unfamiliarity. But it was a letdown all the same.
TinyFlux also makes the same mistake Ubuntu does — setting my color depth to 24 by default, thereby giving me the black boxed effect for the desktop. It’s a minor inconvenience and one I can change without too much hassle, and it’s good to know that Ubuntu isn’t the only one who overlooks that point.
But perhaps most disappointing was the fact that every application I try to start causes another system lock, even without the network card inserted. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, perhaps I had a defective ISO or a disk error or something. I can get most application menus, but without fail opening a program makes the ugly little laptop lock up.
As you saw, that doesn’t happen in the live environment, which makes things all the more frustrating.
So I don’t have start times or many software comparisons for you. Bootup is in 1 minute, 33 seconds from the grub boot screen to the desktop, which excludes the login prompt. Shutdown is in … well, I’m not sure, since the shutdown command also causes a lock. Those numbers alone put it in the same bracket as Wolvix or Fluxbuntu for me, which is what I would expect.
So in review, I give TinyFlux points for being pretty at the start and having a decent slew of applications available. The live environment suggests it’s quite functional and very comfortable, and installing was very very easy.
However, my installed system was only minimally usable, which I’m willing to blame on quirky hardware (I’ve used that word three times now 😐 ), but anticlimactic nonetheless. Perhaps on a different machine I could push TinyFlux a little harder, and enjoy it a little more.