Friday, September 28, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Some Great Linux Links and other web resources : The most usable and master Linux Documentation portal. Nowhere under the sun there is any guide as detailed, as comprehensive and as pure as . Here you will find howtos, guides, man pages and an online magazine. No hanky panky, only pure information. : Simple is beautiful, that is slackware linux. People use mandriva, pclinuxos, ubuntu, fedora…. to use linux, but they use slackware to master linux. If pclinuxos is the big daddy of desktop linux, slackware is the great grand daddy of everything linux. There is a famous link , read it to know the ins and outs of linux. : The official linux online. It offers applications (source packages), information on distributions and downloads to famous linux, books and all. You will get real big linux news here. : All about linux distributions, their rankings, updates, releases, news and all that. The best resource for linux hobbyists.

Not Linux related but interesting anyway : As you can not do without a car, you can not ignore car insurance. So, why not book your insurance at First Europa and save big money? First Europa is a leading insurance brokerage in Europe. It is growing to spread across the globe like wildfire. Next time you think of buying an insurance visit first europa to save big money on your insurance policy. : The veteran website on content, design and e-marketing. As they say - “from pixels to prose, coding to content.” It has them all. Besides, those designing, content and marketing, if you wish to hone your writing skills, just read a few article at ALA (alistapart). My friend Amit's personal Blog! Quite often he stuns me with his witty remarks and creative sparks. I am sure this blog is going to be the big daddy to compel designers to spell their words about brand, business... and designing. Those who are looking for "content that really works" should visit this website by Ritesh Tanu, my one time fellow content writer. I know him for long for his die-hard attitude towards perfection. Also he happens to be an avid Linux supporter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Using pico for text editing

Probably you know that Linux stands for choice, freedom and innovation. That's the reason there are so many types for application for a single task. Take for example you have, gedit, kate, xpad, nano, pico, bla... bla... for text editing. (Except for vi, it's more than just a text editor) I have used the most popular text editors of modern Linux including gedit and kate. But I am nostalgic about pico, the good old text editor, which is still available to download (though nano has replaced it in most places).

pico text editor manual

click on the image for a better view

I like pico for two basic reasons, first, it's small, simple and fast, and second, though a cli application, it's not that much cryptic like vi.

Basic Operations

Pico displays a menu bar of commonly-used commands at the bottom of the screen. Pico accepts commands only from your keyboard but not from your mouse. You can create or edit an existing text file using pico. Just issue "pico filename" (replace the filename with the name of the file you want to create or edit).

  • Deleting text: To delete the character to the left of the cursor, press BACKSPACE, DELETE, or CTRL/h. To delete the character highlighted by the cursor, press CTRL/d. To delete the current line, press CTRL/k.
  • Cut and paste functions: Place the cursor on the first text line you wish to cut and press CTRL/k to remove it. To cut and paste two or more consecutive text lines, press CTRL/k until all the text lines are removed. Now move the cursor to the location where you want to paste the text. Press CTRL/u. Pico pastes the text back into the file at the new cursor position.
  • Cut and paste text blocks: Move the cursor over the first character of the text you want to remove. Press CTRL/^ to "set the mark." Use the arrow keys to highlight the text you wish to cut. Press CTRL/k to cut the text. (Be sure you got all of the text you wanted, including the last character.) Move the cursor to the place where you want to insert the text. Press CTRL/u to paste the text into the new position.
  • Inserting an existing text file: Place Ctrl/r to insert the contents of an existing file at the cursor location. Pico prompts you for a filename. You can either type the filename and press Return, or press Ctrl/t to select from a list of available files. To exit the File Browser, press e.
  • Spell checking: To use the spell checker, press CTRL/t. When Pico discovers a word it does not recognize, it highlights the word and prompts you to enter a replacement. You can either type a replacement or press RETURN to keep the original word. Pico then continues to the next misspelled word. When Pico has checked your entire document, it returns the cursor to its original position.
  • Recovering your work: Look in your working directory for a filename with the extension .save to recover the files if pico crashed.

Command Overview

  • CTRL/a----Move to the beginning of the current line.
  • CTRL/e----Move to the end of the current line.
  • CTRL/v----Move forward one page.
  • CTRL/y----Move backward one page.
  • CTRL/w----Search for text (whereis).
  • CTRL/L----Redraw a garbled screen.
  • CTRL/d----Delete the current character.
  • CTRL/^----Begin selecting text. *
  • CTRL/k----Remove (cut) current line or selected text.
  • CTRL/u----Paste (uncut) last cut text at the cursor position.
  • CTRL/u----Undo justify
  • CTRL/j----Format (justify) the current paragraph.
  • CTRL/t----Spell check the text.
  • CTRL/r----Insert (read in) a file into this file.
  • CTRL/o----Save (output) the file.
  • CTRL/g----View Pico's online help.
  • CTRL/x---Exit Pico, saving the file.
  • CTRL/f----Move cursor forward
  • CTRL/b----Move cursor backward
  • CTRL/n----Move cursor to next line
  • CTRL/p----Move cursor to previous line

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Using antiword to Read and Process MS Word documents

Most Linux (and PCLinuxOS) users have to read MS Word documents at sometime. They use Abiword or OOo Writer for that purpose, but feel annoyed at OpenOffice's sluggish behavior and Abiword's ill rendering of the document. I browsed through many Linux forums and got suggestions to - disable java loading or enable ooquickstart. I applied those fundas to my PCLinuxOS. There was some performance boost, but not satisfactory. Then, a wise man replied to my forum post - "Hey, why don't you try Antiword." And I got some command line freedom to view and process those *.doc files. It's smal, fast, easy and simple.

You can easily get the rpm of Antiword. Just google "antiword rpm". Whatever version of Antiword I tried, it never asked for dependencies. But I would suggest you to install the latest stable version in order to get maximum compatible with MS Word. If you don't use PCLinuxOS, no matter, you can get source tgz package and install it.

After installation I issued "man antiword". But it did not returned any readable help. While simply entering "antiword" in the console I got some usable help.

click on the image for a better view

To read a plain MS Word (one with minimum formatting, tables, forms etc.) just issue "antiword file.doc." You can read the document quite well. But for the documents with complex formatting, Antiword offers you numerous options to create a pure text file, pdf document, ps file or xml file, straight from a doc file.

To convert a document into text file, issue "antiword -t file.doc > file.txt"
To convert a document into pdf file, issue "antiword -a letter file.doc > file.pdf"
To convert a document into pdf file, issue "antiword -p letter file.doc >"

Though conversions work fine, except for reproducing the images. You should use the options "-i" and "-i2" to reproduce the images in your desired output file. You can issue "-s" option to view the hidden comments of the doc file.

Monday, September 24, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Playing those DOS games in Linux

At home my elder brother still uses an old i386 PC though he has a brand new Compaq. That i386 machine has a history - it was the first PC ever in my village and it was the first machine on which I laid my hands on. I learned those nitty DOS commands on it. It’s aged more than 15 years old now, but still functional.

pclinuxos - playing dos games in linux

My 10 year old nephew, Sonu will be visiting me at Delhi on 13th of October. He is an avid games freak. Each time he called me on phone he reminded me to load some games - mainly those age-old DOS games that he plays on the i386 - paratrooper, aliens, antactic, blocks, mario, digger, ace speeder, dangerous road etc.

I was in a difficult situation "how can I install those DOS games on my PCLinuxOS 2007 machine, a brand new VIA-Intel hybrid PC?". I browsed forums, googled for a while, punched the keywords "linux dos games", "how to play dos games in pclinuxos, linux" etc. And then got search results related to Wine and DOSemu. Installed those packaged from PCLinuxOS repository through synaptic. And I am there, I could play almost all those games.

(For a wholesome knowledge of DOSemu, please refer this great guide: This guide will help you how to emulate any DOS applications in Linux.)

Now I can understand, DOS games are not that bad, except for their graphics. Even I could not pass 3 levels of Ace Speeder and Dangerous Road. Alas! If I could know about these software earlier!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

PCLinuxOS Command Line Basics

image of a typical xterm
image of a typical xterm in pclinuxos

PCLinuxOS tries to serve everything on the face, i.e., desktop. But as you grow using it, you will definitely like to use its terminal (Konsole, Xterm or Yakuake). Knowledge of the following CLI (Command Line Interface) commands will definitely enhance your experience of the terminal.

As a background to CLI, please understand these bash notations:

/ - root directory
./ - current directory
./command_name - run a command in the current directory when the current directory is not on the path
../ - parent directory
~ - home directory
$ - typical prompt when logged in as ordinary user

A few keyboard shortcuts to CLI operations:

[Tab][Tab] or [Esc][Esc] - prints a list of all available commands.
x[Tab][Tab] or x[Esc][Esc] - prints a list of all available completions for a command, where the beginning is 'x'.
[Alt][Ctrl][F1]-[F6] - switch to the virtual text console.
[Alt][Ctrl][F7]-[F12] - switch to the GUI console, if there is one running.
[Arrow Up] - scroll through the command history.
[Shift][Page Up] - scroll terminal output up.
[Shift][Page Down] - scroll terminal output down.
[Ctrl][Alt][Bk Spc] - kill the current X server. Used when a normal exit is not possible.
[Ctrl][Alt][Del] - shut down the system and reboot.
[Ctrl]c - kill the current process.
[Ctrl]d - logout from the current terminal.
[Ctrl]s - stop transfer to current terminal.
[Ctrl]q - resume transfer to current terminal. This should be tried if the terminal stops responding.
[Ctrl]z - send current process to the background.

pclinuxos konsole terminal
image of a typical konsole in pclinuxos

List of Linux Bash Commands

access  - determine whether a file can be accessed.
Usage: access -MODE FILE MODE is one or more of rwx.
Exit successfully if FILE exists and is readable (r),
writable (w), or executable (x).

adduser - used by root to add user to system

Usage: useradd [options] LOGIN

agetty    - enables login on terminals.

Usage: agetty [-hiLmw] [-l login_program] [-t timeout] [-I initstring] [-H login_host] baud_rate,... line [termtype] or [-hiLmw] [-l login_program] [-t timeout] [-I initstring] [-H login_host] line baud_rate,... [termtype]

ark       - create, modify and extract from archives

Usage: Calls Gui Ark

arch      - print machine architecture type
bash      - Bourne again shell. This is the default shell

Usage: bash [GNU long option] [option] ... bash [GNU long option] [option] script-file ... Type `bash -c "help set"' for more information about shell options. Type `bash -c help' for more information about shell builtin commands.

bunzip2   - used to uncompress files compressed with bzip2

usage: bunzip2 [flags and input files in any order]

bzip2     - compresses with algorithm different from gzip

usage: bzip2 [flags] file name

bzless    - view bzipped files

usage: bzless /folder/

bzcat     - view bzipped files

Usage: bzcat /folder/

cd        - change working directory.

Usage: cd dir

cfdisk    - hard drive partion configurator

Usage: cfdisk

chgrp     - changes group associated with file. Can be used to change the group
associated with subdirectories and files of a directory.

usage: chgrp group files or: chgrp -R group files
chkconfig - Query or update system services/daemons for different runlevels.
chmod     - set permissions (modes) of files or directories.

A value of 4 is used for read permission. A value of 2 is used for write permission. A value of 1 is used for execute permission.

chown     - changes ownership of a file. Can be used recursively.

usage: chown userid files or: chown -R userid files

clear       - clear screen command

usage: clear

cmp         - compares two files for differences

usage: cmp file1 file2 cmp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.old

cp        - copies on or more files. Recursive copying is one simple way of
archiving part of a directory structure.
Use the command as follows: cp -r /sourcedirectory /targetdirectory
date      - displays or sets date and time

usage: date

diff      - displays differences between two files

usage: diff file1 file2 (same as cmp)

dmesg     - displays messages from /var/log relative to the most recent boot

Usage: dmesg [-c] [-n level] [-s bufsize]

e2fsck    - check an ext2 filesystem. The syntax is e2fsck /dev/devicename
where the filesystem is on /dev/devicename. The device should not be
mounted, and this program must be run as root.
echo      - write arguments to standard output. One use is to print out information
about environment variables,
as in echo $PATH - list paths to search
echo $HOME or echo ~ - list name of home directory
egrep     - search files for lines that match regular expressions.

Runs faster than grep and fgrep.

exit      - exit a shell. This is a shell builtin.

fdformat - low level format of a floppy device

file - displays classification of a file or files according to the type
of data they contain
find      - find files according to a large variety of search criteria.

The find command that I use the most is find . -name filename -print

grep      - used to find a string within a file. The -i option returns matches
without regard to case. The -n option means that each line of
output is preceded by file name and line number. The -v option
causes non-matched lines to be printed.
usage: grep pattern files or: grep -i pattern files
or: grep -n pattern files or: grep -v pattern files
groupadd  - create a new group on the system

groups - shows which groups you are in

gunzip - used to uncompress files compressed with gzip

gzip - used to compress or decompress files

halt - immediately shut down system as root, without reboot

history - command for viewing and manipulating the shell command history list
ifconfig  - display (as root) information on network interfaces that are
currently active. First ethernet interface should be listed as eth0,
second as eth1, etc. First modem ppp connection should be listed as
ppp0, etc. The lo connection is loopback only.

ifdown    - shut down the network interface

ifup [interface_name] - start up the interface

insmod - used (by root) to install modular device drivers
kill      - sends a signal to (especially to terminate) a job or process.

This is a shell builtin in bash,tcsh and zsh.

killall   - kill processes by name. Kill all processes which are instances
of the speciffied program. Also used to send signals to processes
or restart them.
killall5  - kill all processes except the ones on which it depends

less - Linux alternative to more command. Displays text files,
screenful at a time. When less pauses, there is a large number of
available commands to tell it what to do next. One can scroll both
forwards and backwards.
ln        - creates a link to a file. Used to create hard links and,
with the -s option, symbolic links which can link files on
different disk partitions. The syntax is - ln [options] source [dest]
logout    - execute logout as individual user and bring up login: prompt

ls - list directory contents.

lsmod - used (by root) to show kernel modules currently loaded

lspci - utility to display information on pci buses and
hardware devices attached to them.
man       - displays information from online Unix reference manual

mkdir - create a directory

mkfs - create a file system (format) on a device or partition.

Should be invoked after lowlevel formatting of the disk using fdformat. It has several versions which are all links to the basic program, such as mkfs.ext2

more      - list file contents, stopping after each full screen
mount     - mount device using filesystem of type [fstype] with device name

[device] at the location [mountpoint] in the filesystem directory tree mount -a - mount all filesystems according to the specifications in /etc/fstab

mv        - moves (renames) files

usage: mv [src] [dest]

passwd    - change login password

pwd - print absolute path of working directory. This is a shell builtin.

reboot - reboots the system. Seems to be equivalent to shutdown -r now

rm - remove files or directories. With the -r (recursive) option
(very dangerous!), can be used to remove the contents of a
specified directory including all subdirectories.
rmdir     - remove empty directories

showmount - show information about an nfs server

shutdown - reboot or shut down system as root, after specified amount of time.
With the -r option, reboot. With the -h option, halt the system.
usage: shutdown -r minutes
startx    - front end to xinit in Linux. This is a script which starts up X clients
and shuts down the X server on exit from the window manager
su        - log in as another user, including root

sudo - allows individual users to have root permission to perform specified
umount [device] - finish writing to the device and remove it from the active
filesystem. The command umount -a will (re)mount all file systems
listed in /etc/fstab.

unzip - uncompress files compressed with the zip utility,
compatible with DOS PKzip

userdel - remove an account (as root). The user's home directory
and undelivered mail must be dealt with separately.
users     - prints list of users on the system

which - used to find utilities in search path. Will return the absolute
directory path of the named utility program.

who - display information about currently logged in userids

whoami - display information about userid that is currently logged in

X - starts up the X server. Same as startx

There are many commands available on your PCLinuxOS system. Not all commands have a man page. To see a complete explanation for using a command, in a terminal window enter man command_name, where command_name is the actual name of the command. For any command not containing a man page, command_name --help will usually show a summary of command options.

For more information visit


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Re: PCLinuxOS - the new Number One distribution

click on the image for a better view

I went through your pilot editorial (DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 220, 17 September 2007): "PCLinuxOS - the new Number One distribution," wherein distrowatch wrote, "Being number one on DistroWatch does NOT mean that PCLinuxOS is the most popular distribution, nor does it mean that it is the best distribution; it simply means... ..."

If any means I have to go by distrowatch's opinionthat PCLinuxOS's high HPD is not the only criterion of its being the desktop leader, then I must say at least Ubuntu has never been a leader.

The reasons are plain. First, the Ubuntu hoopla is created by its rapid release cycle and more than dozens of its official and unofficial respins. People's choice for Ubuntu has been to some extent, is shaped by this condition. And second, the Canonical connection + Shipit program. You must agree, internet has not penetrated to most parts of the third world. They can't download even the LiveCDs, let alone the jumbo Linux DVDs. They just go by Ubuntu's Shipit program.

By this I don't mean to say that Ubuntu is not a good distro, I have no personal grudge with Ubuntu, Shipit or Mark (the patron). I am happy that they help so many linux wannabe's.

But... but... I have tried both Ubuntu Feisty and PCLinuxOS 2007 for quite a long time now. And I found PCLinuxOS is better in all respects. So, no more political play, if people said Ubuntu is a leader for all the undue adulation, they must, now, agree that PCLinuxOS is a good desktop, for all the good reasons.

Believe it, or not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PCLinuxOS Remaster Guide

Why should one remaster the already FIT and FINE PCLinuxOS?

There are a lots of reasons behind it, all for providing the users with a more personalized experience. The major two reasons are:

  • To distribute personalized PCLinuxOS CDs remastering it with more applications to the persons who can't access the repositories or who can't do the necessary configuration, if required. There are several reasons you might want to do this such as setting up a complete gaming system on a disk, cd, or dvd, to take anywhere with you. Themes and applications added to or subtracted from the basic PCLinuxOS system just the way you want it.

  • Linux home desktop users have a tendency (call it good or bad) to switch from one distro to the other. But they came back to the good one. I had used PCLinuxOS two years back, then switched Ubuntu, Mepis, Mandriva One, Blag, and here I am again working on PCLinuxOS. Of Course, now I am sticking to it. For those flirting users (like me), remastering helps a lot. I modified PCLinuxOS as per my choice and remastered it, so that next time I will just install it, no more configuration.

How to remaster PCLinuxOS?

It is damn simple, only the term "remaster" makes it sound little complicated.

If you just want to remaster your system as a backup it is just entering mklivecd new.iso or remasterme from your terminal as superuser. Only PCLinuxOS Preview 0.93a Big Daddy comes with remasterme by default.

How can I get more help on PCLinuxOS remastering?

For more help on remastering enter mklivecd --help.

Monday, September 17, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Sharing Some Ecstasy and Agony with Frustrated Linux Users

This post is not for those who don't even know the "L" of Linux and don’t bother to know about it. Also this post is not for those who are very much religious zealots against Windows. But it is for the judicious and normal Desktop/Laptop users who for some reasons find it difficult to have a good time with Linux and shifting back to Windows.

I came from “Windows Old World” (Windows 9x and before). There are two major reasons behind my Windows => Linux shift. First, I was fed up with Windows Blue Screen of Death and bugs. And, second, I had to work on a RedHat thinclient. My first employer was a firm supporter of Linux and OSS. He even did over-expenditure for emulating some Windows based software that he can’t do without for the sake of making a computing environment that rides only on Linux.

Last few years of my tryst with Linux (and recently PCLinuxOS 2007) taught me many lessons on Windows => Linux shift and vice versa.

The apathy towards Linux is created from the preoccupations of Windows Operating Experience. Some of my friends of North-East, who had no access to the software vendors used community sponsored Mandrake, Redhat and Slackware, feel very much at home using any Linux. They don’t complain Linux for being “an OS for geeks”. The inborn Linux users (those who started computing with Linux) don’t have much pain as such. Because they were exposed to Linux World as you frustrated race were exposed to Windows world.

The other most important reason why many find Linux somewhat unmanageable is the geek tag attached with it. Let me dig the topic.

Dear frustrated Linux Users just look at the following contrasting points and make a judicious decision.

  1. Simple - You don’t have to mount your partitions in Windows, they are already mounted.

    Geek Approach - In some Linux flavors, you have to edit /etc/fstab file to change enable automounting.

    Conclusion - Mounting a partition is an extra job. Right. But it adds to your security and disk manageability.

  2. Simple - You don’t have to think which windows manager to use, which desktop environment to log in etc. It feels windows is a tightly integrated desktop.

    Geek Approach - You have a dozen of desktops environments, window managers, bla… bla….

    Conclusion - Diversity in window managers and desktop environments is not a deliberate approach towards complexity. Yes, Linux is not as tightly integrated as Windows is. But it’s a way to make the best of computing in terms of aesthetic sense and the hardware resource. If you have a modern hi-power computer, use KDE, tweak it to beat even Vista Aero look-n-feel. If you love little eye candy, but don’t want to compromise on performance, use Gnome. If performance is the major objective and desktop the least, then use, blackbox, fluxbox, rox, xfce….. And if you are a true geek, use a Linux sans any X-window environment. The choice is your. Choose one and stick to it. Visit and or more information.

  3. Simple - You have a mature set of productivity applications for windows. You don’t even have to read the “READ ME” or “INSTALL NOTES” before installation. They almost always work the way you want it to. No multiplicity in software related terms like: rpm, deb, pkg. tgz, autopackage, bin, sh, apt, synaptic, cnr…. No need to nail the brain in these jargons.

    Geek Approach - You have a still larger no. of software, repositories, package management tools, etc.

    Conclusion - This multiplicity in software installation terminology, diverse number of distributions, frequent updates, betas, RCs etc. lead to a chaotic situation. There is a way out, if you are not a Linux developer, choose only a Desktop Linux distribution, work on its default desktop environment, take pain to load with the required set of software and applications. Then just work on it. People often complain that Linux is not stable, because without having much knowledge of Linux, they start playing around and sometimes mess-up their system. Just work as you worked on your Windows without trying much geek tricks, I guarantee you will enjoy Linux as well. As for application maturity, it is improving very fast in Linux world. Visit for more information.

  4. Simple - Windows does it all for you. But you have to make Linux to do many works for you.

    Geek Approach - Linux can do a lot more than Windows does.

    Conclusion- Imagine the power of a root user and the extent of his freedom. Had windows not been a closed-source OS and had it offered that much power and freedom, I bet windows would have been a more disastrous experience (compared to Linux). Windows has integrated only an X number of applications (giving a chance to the third party to sell their products to its users) to a neat desktop, where as a normal you can’t rush deeper into. Whereas in Linux even the default installation gives you more number of applications. You need not need to do installations every now and then. Besides, there is no trouble in renewal; if your pc is online it receives regular updates.

  5. Simple - Windows is GUI control over it.

    Geek Approach - Linux Command driven.

    Conclusion – Neither is Windows a Fully GUI controlled, nor is Linux Fully Command driven. The GUI control of Windows is only skin deep and the real control lies in regedit and gpedit, both are more difficult than the Linux command line. Also compare Microsoft Windows Control Panel with PCLinuxOS Control Center (just run pcc on your PCLOS), you will definitely find configuration in Linux is much easier and fast in comparison to Windows.

  6. Simple - There are Trojan viruses, Rootkit viruses, spyware programs such as dataminers and keyloggers and 27 hijacks. But there are firewall, antivirus, bla.. bla… bla…

    Geek Approach - You just forget those malicious terms, you are secure in Linux, though for the security freaks, there are antivirus programs and firewalls in Linux world.

    Conclusion - In security world Linux beats Windows from all sides. I have never experienced any attack on my PC from the web or from LAN for last 4 years.

  7. Simple - There is no worry for devices drivers. Vendors supply drivers in the Windows pre-installed PCs.

    Geek approach - Search the web for drivers or configure your system as per the device tech-specs.

    Conclusion - Well, device problem is now a history in Linux World, you will have problem configuring devices if the Linux version you are using is older than your hardware, or if your hardware is so exotic that very few people know it.

Linux is not difficult. But it is different from the one you are used to, i.e, Windows. The frustration is often arises from that different way of working. Had we that intuition and inquisitiveness that we had at the time of learning Windows, it would have been just a child’s play.

Stay with it, never go out of your way for some geek tricks, till you know much about Linux internals. Learning is always a time intensive thing. Stay simple and faithful with Linux as you did with Windows. Use PCLinuxOS 2007, if you are desktop user, you won’t have any more frustration. Put your difficulties related to Linux before the community and before me.

PCLinuxOS computing! Happy computing!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Microsoft Word vs. OpenOffice Writer - Usability Comparison

Abhishek Chib had asked me for some help regarding OpenOffice Writer usage. Many others also need the same help. So, I had plans to prepare a document comparing the features and usage of Microsoft Word vis-à-vis OpenOffice Writer to help the Windows converts into Linux or OSS. Luckily I came across this document Though this document was meant for OpenOffice 1.1.1, it works well with OpenOffice 2.0.2 that ships with PCLinuxOS 2007 and other leading Linux distributions.

Usability wise OpenOffice Writer is not difficult in comparison to Microsoft Word. But as many have learnt computing through a Windows perspective, they generally face the problems in terminology and “where to find what” kind of annoyance. Little bit of intuition will help the users be familiar with OO Writer.

Most functions and controls have the same or similar names in Microsoft Word and Writer, but a few are different. This table compares some common terms in the two programs.

Microsoft Writer
Office AssistantHelp Agent
ScreenTips or ToolTipsTips
WildcardsRegular expressions
(no equivalent)Long-click (click and hold on an icon to display a tear-off toolbar)
Smart tagsDo not exist in OOo

Set up the program to work your way
Most functions are found in similar places in both programs, but a few are slightly different, and the degree of control varies. This table summarizes where to find the setup choices.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Turn off Office Assistant (Help Agent)Help > Microsoft Word Help > OptionsTools > Options > > General
Turn off autocompletion
Tools > AutoCorrect/AutoFormat > Word Completion tab, deselect
Enable Word Completion.
Set up document window (rulers, status bar, default toolbars, etc)View > select required itemsView > select required items
Change measurement systemTools > Options... > GeneralTools > Options... > Text Document > General
Customize toolbarsTools > CustomizeView > Toolbars > Customize (or) Tools > Configure (or) Right-click on toolbar > Customize or Configure
Customize menusTools > CustomizeTools > Configure
Display font names in their font (in toolbar drop-down font list)Tools > Customize > OptionsTools > Options > > View, select Preview in fonts lists
Always show full
menus (include unavailable and little-used items)
Tools > Customize >
Tools > Options > > View, select Inactive menu items
Show/hide ScreenTips (ToolTips) on toolbarsTools > Customize > OptionsHelp > Tips, uncheck
Always create backup copyTools > Options > SaveTools > Options > Load/Save > General
Autosave every x minutesTools > Options > SaveTools > Options > Load/Save > General
Show paragraph marks, tabs, etc.Tools > Options > ViewTools > Options > Text Document > Formatting Aids
Change file locationsTools > Options > File LocationsTools > Options > > Paths
Change user informationTools > Options > User InformationTools > Options > > User Data
Set up AutoCorrect and AutoFormat optionsTools > AutoCorrect OptionsTools > AutoCorrect/AutoFormat > Options tab

Write, edit, and review documents
Most writing, editing, and reviewing techniques in OOoWriter are similar to those in Microsoft Word, but the details often vary.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Jump quickly to other parts of a documentEdit > Go to (or) Outline view Edit > Navigator (or F11), double-click on required heading, figure, table, etc.
Choose language for spelling checkerTools > Language > Set LanguageTools > Options > Language Settings > Language. (Note: has no grammar checker.)
Ignore some text when checking spellingSelect text; Tools > Language > Set Language > Do not check (or) Format > Style > Modify> Format > LanguageSelect text; right-click > Character > Font > Language = [None] or the real language of the selected text, if that is foreign.
Recheck spellingTools > Spelling & Grammar > Recheck DocumentAlways rechecks
Find and replace text, formatting, and stylesEdit > Replace > More; choices as neededEdit > Find&Replace; details are a bit different
Use wildcards (regular expressions) in find and replaceEdit > Replace > More > select Use Wildcards checkboxEdit > Find&Replace; select Regular Expressions checkbox. Wildcards differ from those in MSWord.
Choose, create, or edit a custom dictionaryTools > Options > Spelling & Grammar > Custom DictionariesTools > Options > Language
Settings > Writing Aids
Create exception (exclude) dictionaryFile > New, type words, Save As > text only, file extension .EXCAs for custom dictionary, but select Exception [-] checkbox
Track changes (choose options)Tools > Options > Track ChangesTools > Options > Text Document > Changes
Protect document for editingTools > Protect DocumentEdit > Changes > Protect Records
Mark and track changes(Word 2000) Tools > Track Changes > Highlight ChangesEdit > Changes > Record
Insert comments associated with a changeHighlight text; Insert > CommentEdit > Changes > Comment
Insert notes (comments not associated with a change)Highlight text; Insert > CommentInsert > Note
Show changes as pop-up textOptions > View > ScreentipsHelp > Tips (and) Help > Extended Tips
Merge documentsTools > Merge DocumentsEdit > Changes > Merge Document
Accept or reject changesView > Toolbars > ReviewingEdit > Changes > Accept or Reject
Change document propertiesFile > PropertiesFile > Properties
Get a word countTools > Word Count (can get word count for selection)File > Properties > Statistics tab. (Cannot get word count for selection without using add-in macro.)
Create AutoText entrySelect text; Insert > AutoText > NewSelect text; Edit > AutoText (or) CTRL+F3
Insert AutoTextType shortcut and press F3Type shortcut and press F3 (or) type Name of AutoText entry and press Enter. OOo distinguishes between the “name” and the “shortcut” of an AutoTextentry; Word does not.

Control page layout
This section covers such things as margins, headers and footers, columns, and frames. OOoWriter controls basic page setup somewhat differently than Word does.

Microsoft Word page setup
Page setup (paper size, orientation, margins, and so on) is a property of the document as a whole. To change the setup for a page, you need to define a separate section with the changed
setup. For example, if you specify headers and footers, they apply to the entire document, unless you change them in specific sections. Writer page setup
Page setup is a property of the page style. You can define many page styles—for example, First Page, Left Page, Index Page, and Default. If you change the page layout for one page style, only that style will be affected. When you set up a page style, you can specify which page style applies to the next page, so when text flows from one page to the next, the correct page style will automatically apply to the following pages. For example, you could specify a First Page style to be followed by a Left Page style, to be followed by a Right Page style, to be followed by a Left Page style—a common setup in books.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Define marginsFile > Page Setup > MarginsFormat > Page >Page
Specify different headers and footers on first, odd, and even pagesFile > Page Setup > Layout > Headers and Footers sectionDefine different page styles for First, Left (even), and Right (odd) pages, using Header and Footer tabs
Edit headers and footersView > Headers and Footers, then type or insert fields; can also double-click in existing header or footer regionsAfter you have specified Header and Footer areas for a page, they are always active. Single-click to type or insert fields
Change from roman to arabic page numbers in the footer of a pageInsert a section break, deselect “Same as Previous” in the second section, define a new footer with page numbers restarting at 1 in arabic numeralsInsert a manual page break and apply a different page style
Use paragraph styles for page layoutCan define paragraph styles with offset from left margin, with heading styles aligned left or rightCan define paragraph styles with offset from left margin, with heading styles aligned left or
Use columns for page layoutInsert continuous sections to switch from single to multiple columns on one pageFormat > Page > Columns (or) Insert/Format > Section > Columns (or) other methods
Use frames or text boxes for page layoutFrames are used in Word 97 but mostly replaced by text boxes in Word2000 and 2002; can be linked to flow text from one to next, as in a newsletterInsert > Frame (can link frames to flow text from one to next, as in a newsletter); “text boxes” are fields, not positioning devices
Use tables for page layoutTable > Insert > Table (use dialog to format)Insert > Table (use dialog to format)
Put portrait headers on
landscape pages
Use rotated text box linked to header Use rotated text in a frame
Set first page number to greater than 1Insert > Page Numbers > FormatIn first paragraph on first page, Format > Paragraph > Text Flow > Breaks, select Enable and With Page Style, choose the page style, specify the page number.
View and edit facing pagesFile > Print Preview; click Zoom button to enable editingFile > Page Preview shows pages on wrong sides of screen, so you may want to insert a blank page before the first page while writing a draft. You cannot edit in page preview mode.

Use templates and styles
A full discussion of the similarities and differences in the use of templates and styles would take too long for this summary document, but the following table should get you started.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Find which template is associated with a documentTools > Templates and Add-insFile > Document Properties > General tab.
Specify default template"Normal" template is defaultFile > Templates > Organize, choose any template to be the default
Create a new templateFile > Save As, set type to Document Template (.DOT)File > Templates > Save
Edit a templateFile > Open, choose templateFile > Templates > Edit
Copy styles between templatesTools > Templates and Add-ins > OrganizerFile > Templates > Organize. Copy styles with Ctrl + drag and drop between templates and documents
Create a new document from a templateFile > New (opens a list of templates)File > New > Templates and Documents
Apply a different template to a documentTools > Templates and Add-ins > Attach, select template, OpenStart a new document based on the different template; copy contents of old document into new document.
Apply a style to text(Word 2000) Select from Style List or Style dialog (XP) Can also use task pane.Format > Styles (or press F11), double-click style in list; after one use, paragraph styles appear in Apply Style list on Formatting object bar.
Change a style definition(Word 2000) Format > Style > Modify; (XP) can also select in task pane and click ModifySelect style in Stylist, right-click, choose Modify; or Format > Styles > Catalog, select style, click Modify.
Create a new styleFormat > Style > NewFormat > Styles > Catalog, click New.
Use outline numberingFormat > Style, select style > Format >
Tools > Outline Numbering

Use fields
A full discussion of the similarities and differences in the use of fields would take too long for this
summary document, but the following table should get your started. Major differences exist in the use of cross-references.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Insert a fieldInsert > Field (or) CTRL+F9 for blank fieldInsert > Fields
Define a number range
Insert > Field, use SEQ (sequence)Insert > Fields > Other > Variables > Number range
Insert a bookmarkSelect text; Insert > BookmarkSelect text; Insert > Bookmark
Insert a cross-reference to a bookmarkInsert > Cross Reference, choose Bookmark as typeInsert > Cross Reference > Bookmark
Insert a cross-reference to a headingInsert > Cross Reference, choose Heading as typeEither bookmark the heading or use Insert > Cross Reference > Set Reference to mark the heading, then Insert > Cross
Reference > Insert Reference
Insert a cross-reference to a figure or tableInsert > Cross Reference, choose typeInsert > Cross Reference > Insert Reference > Figure (or Table)
Insert a cross-reference from document A to an item in document BUse Includetext fieldsKeep a manual list of cross-reference names (case sensitive) when you set them in document B.

When you insert the cross-reference in document A, you must type the name of the item (in document B) in the Name box on the Fields dialog instead of selecting the name from the Selection list.
Use conditional contentUse IF or other fields, or styles (all workarounds)Insert > Fields > Other > Variables (among other ways)

Work with large or complex documents
A full discussion of the similarities and differences in working with large or complex documents would take too long for this summary document, but the following table should get your started.

Major differences exist in the use of master documents. The table does not attempt to summarize all these differences. Other how-to documents are being written to describe the use of master documents in detail.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Create a table of contents, list of figures, or an alphabetic indexInsert > Index and Tables Insert > Indexes and Tables > Indexes and Tables
Insert index entriesALT+SHIFT+XInsert > Indexes and Tables > Entry (or) click Insert Index Marker icon
Create a bibliographic databaseUse database, e.g. Microsoft AccessTools > Bibliography Database
Insert bibliographic references into textLink to field in databaseInsert > Indexes and Tables > Bibliographic Entry
Insert footnotes and endnotesInsert > FootnoteInsert > Footnote (or) click Insert Footnote Directly icon
Insert other filesInsert > File, choose Insert or As LinkInsert > File
Cross-reference between
Use Includetext fieldsKeep a manual list of cross-reference names (case sensitive) when you set them in document A. To insert a cross-reference from document A to an item in document B, you must type the name of the item in the Name box instead of selecting it from the Selection list.
Use master documentsNot recommendedFile > Send > Create Master Document; use Navigator to insert subdocuments

Work with graphics
Most graphics work should be done outside Word or Writer, with the graphic files embedded or linked to the Word or Writer file. However, you can do some simple graphics using the drawing tools in Word or Writer. This table covers the basics.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Create Drawing objects(Word 2000) View > Toolbars > Drawing; (XP) Insert > Picture > New DrawingClick Show Draw Functions icon
Combine graphics objects and drawing objects(Word 2000) Edit > Picture > Reset Picture
Boundary; (XP) Use drawing canvas
Place all objects in a frame
Insert graphics files into a text document (embed or link)Insert > Picture > From File, choose Insert or As Link Insert > Graphics > From File
Anchor graphicsFormat > Picture >
Layout > Advanced > Picture Position
Use icons on Graphics object bar, or right-click and choose from pop-up menu, or click Format > Graphics
Wrap text around graphicsFormat > Picture (or Object) > LayoutUse icons on Graphics object bar, or right-click and choose from pop-up menu, or click Format > Graphics > Wrap
Crop graphicsFormat > Picture > Crop, (or) click Crop tool on Picture toolbarFormat > Graphics > Crop
Create captions for graphicsSelect graphic; Insert > Reference > CaptionSelect graphic; Insert > Caption
Annotate graphicsUse drawing objects; group, or place in frame or on drawing canvas (XP)Place all objects in a frame
Insert watermarkFormat > Background > Printed Watermark > Picture (or Text) WatermarkFormat > Page Style > Background (or) create
drawing object, Arrange > To Background, Anchor > To Page

Use keyboard shortcuts
This table summarizes some of the built-in keyboard shortcuts used in Microsoft Word and their
equivalents in Writer. Functions without built-in keyboard shortcuts can be performed using toolbar icons, or you could assign your own key combinations.

To do Microsoft Writer...
Underline words not spacesControl + Shift + WNo equivalent
Change font sizeControl + Shift + PNo standard equivalent
ThesaurusShift + F7Control + F7
Show/hide non-printing charactersControl + Shift + *Control + F10
Hanging IndentControl + TNo standard equivalent
“Unhang” IndentControl + Shift + TNo standard equivalent
IndentControl + MNo standard equivalent
“UnIndent”Control + Shift + MNo standard equivalent
SuperscriptControl + Shift =Control+Shift+P
SubscriptControl + =Control + Shift + B
Remove character formattingControl + SpacebarRight click > Default
Remove paragraph formattingControl + QNo equivalent
Jump to previous edit pointShift + F5Need to use the reminders on the Navigator

PCLinuxOS Wins the Desktop War

It is 6:00 am IST, and I am happy to announce that PCLinuxOS 2007 won the desktop war. For last three day I was out of my home and office. On returning home I hit distrowatch, but could not connect to its server. Perhaps it’s down or under some severe attack. No matter, I found the full lilst of its mirrors which are:

Czech Republic:

PCLinuxOS wins the desktop war

I don’t know what the statistics was for last three days, but today, on checking its USA mirror I found that PCLinuxOS 2007 is marching ahead of many desktops, it has got 2522 HPD and Ubuntu is the close second with 2517 (Please look at the screenshot above). I am sure PCLinuxOS will continue to lead, probably with more HPD for a long time.

Well, what made our beloved Tux, PCLinuxOS the leader of Linux desktops?

I regularly visit PCLinuxOS website. It talks plan, no hypes, no hoopla, no fanaticism, nothing… The Linux community has warmed up to its power, performance and people-oriented approach. It’s stable, usable and fast. Let’s wait for its Official Gnome Version.

If anyone knows the PCLinuxOS Gnome Project Schedule, please mail me or post the schedule as a comment on the blog. I will be highly grateful.

Happy Computing!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

PCLinuxOS 2007 Gnome Remaster - Versatile Personality with a Simple Look

I had been looking for the official PCLinuxOS Gnome version since 2005. Thanks God, it’s now in the making. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say when its slated date of the big showdown.

By the way, I came across a Gnome remaster of PCLinuxOS 2007 at

KDE, the default desktop for PCLinuxOS is good, but I prefer the Gnome desktop for my home. Because, it is fast and simple.

After the hitting the download link I frowned a while, is it worth downloading? Yes, it was worth all the pain I took to download via my 128KB cable line.

Let’s discuss how it is different from PCLinuxOS KDE versions. It featurs kernel, Gnome 2.20.2, Gnome office apps, Firefox, Frostwire, Bittorent, Xmms, Flash, JRE, Compiz and a tons of multimedia applications. For installation it takes little more than 2GB space.

The installation is seamless and same as that of PCLinuxOS 2007 KDE. You can use the same repositories that you do with PCLinuxOS 2007 and install/update almost 7000 packages.

Linuxgator also has a lighter Gnome version based off TinyME. Download link

This lighter version is suitable for remastering that will fit on a 700MB disk.

Gusto! Linuxgator, you have done a good job!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Piece of Linux Advocacy through PCLinuxOS

When I got first call from Monika I felt a bit annoyed - there is somebody who wants to learn OpenOffice Writer (the most used application from the canon of openoffice), and Lo... he is going to pay me for that. The reasons for my annoyance are multifold, first, I was stuck up in some urgent deliveries, second, I had to attend an official meeting and third "a person so serious to learn openoffice". With some haphazard thoughts, I switched off my mobile (that's a part of my etiquette before attending any meeting, you will agree mobile phones have become a personal as well as public menace) after firing an SMS.

Meeting went fairly well, though we never really come up with anything worthwhile, Monika's SMS arrested my attention, especially the domain name component in the mail ID - And I got on to put something - "These people are up to something good."


Ok. Let's talk plain. Learning OpenOffice is as easy as learning any proprietary office application suite, like that ubiquitous Microsoft Office. All you need is to be familiar with its interface, menubars, tools and context menus. Though internally it is much different from MS Office, the surface elements are much similar, except for the context menu (the menu that is invoked by right-clicking). They work differently but put the same result at the end. All is well that end's well!

As a novice user one can't find much difference, but a power-use can. The macros, the templates, and the preferences make all those difference. OpenOffice has its counterparts from Microsoft Office. There you get Word, here you get Writer; there... Excel, here Calc; there... PowerPoint, here Impress; there... FrontPage, here Web; and there... Access, here Base.

One can notice OpenOffice taking much time to startup. The startup time can be optimized by enabling openoffice quickstart and disabling java runtime (from the options menu) and splash screen. However, after first startup, consequent startups take very less time.

I am well versed with OpenOffice. I have been using it for last 5 years. But recently I am in love with Gnome Office (Abiword and Gnumeric), as it is simple, light and fast, it gives me exactly what I want.

Fostering Linux

Well, let's discuss to propagate our Tux race.
What is Linux and what's all that hoopla about it? Linux is an open source variant of the UNIX operating system. The present standing of Linux is the result of millions of lines of codes and volumes of documents.

What's so good about using Linux?

  • You can shape up Linux the way you want it as the source is available for free, but you can't do the same with Microsoft or OSX.
  • You get a wagon of software and applications, all for free.
  • You will have piece of mind, you won't have virus, trojans and malware.
  • You have a community of like-minded people to share your views, creativity, code and documents.
  • You live on the edge of technology. Tech-savvy hobbyists swear with Linux. Because lakhs of developers contribute their codes for rapid development cycle.

The above list of points state that Linux has an edge over any proprietary operating system. Is not it unbelievable that it only enjoys a user base less than 10%? So what are the roadblocks?

  • Aggressive marketing campaign of proprietary operating systems: Microsoft can spends fortunes on its promotional campaigns. But Open Source OS, Linux can publicize itself with words of mouth only (it's also powerful).
  • Geek like approach of Linux contributors: You will agree Microsoft is the most user-friendly OS, though not the best. As a profit-oriented company, MS considers its customers (Windows users) as king, pop up the disk and you are almost there. Whereas, Linux is badly influenced by geek like approach. You have to do that extra configuration for better performance. Of course, that approach is defied by PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Mepis and several other flavours. Linux Desktop has made usability its prime goal.
  • Communication Gap: Many newbies to Linux still don't know which distro to choose from. Let me site a real life example. Today I morning I had been to a Photostat stall to get my PAN card copied. There I found some old books of RedHat 9 lying to be copied. Later I came to know that till date many think RedHat 9 is the latest and best distro. But the fact is Linux is moving very fast. Compare RH9 with Fedora 7, you will know the difference, the truth. This lack of information leads to frustration in many users. They found RH9 far behind Windows XP or Vista. Besides, RH9 does not has device drivers for the current hardware. The reason for this downward trend is the suggestion of old Linux users who still suggest RH9 and lend RH books and CDs.
  • Chaotic development: Freedom is good but excess of freedom leads to anarchy. Makes sense? Hundreds of distro, dependency problems, lack of proprietary drivers, multiple display managers, multiple x environment (Kde, gnome, xfce, icewm, fluxbox, blackbox....the list continues) and the immature application development leads to a real chaos. That's what gives newbies a sense of inconsistency, instability and alienation. We know these are all surface elements, and the kernel is the same across many distributions. But how many new users know that?

Let's propagate our Tux race (Linux OS and the community) through unified effort and a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach. In this regards, I find PCLinuxOS 2007, a true desktop, best in usability, stability, performance and beauty. I must say it has a personality also. Let's follow its path of development. It just works and is radically simple!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How to copy VCD in Linux, especially in PCLinuxOS


Linux users generally get stuck up while trying to copy VCDs. They get an “IO Error”, no matter what they try. Further, if one copies that video files from windows partition or just tries to play that infamous *.dat video file, Linux does not recognize that file. Of course, if one opens that file with mplayer or vlc (or any other video player) then it does play.

Nobody wants to let those good old VCDs go just for the reason that they can’t be copied. Thanks God, there are a few fixes to it, all regarding ripping the files off.

Truth: You can’t copy the files off a VCD, but you can only rip them off to your hard drive.

VCDXRIP (a part of VCDImager) and Mencoder (that comes with Mplayer ) are two versatile programs that rip VCDs. Both these programs ship with PCLinuxOS 2007. If you use other distro, please download and install these into your OS.

Copy (rip) VCD in Linux using VCDXRIP:

Just issue the command:

$ vcdxrip

It will rip the vcd files to your hard drive in *.mpg format, that can be readily playable in any media player.

Note: Read the vcdxrip manual to know the insides of the command and its various options.

Copy (rip) VCD in Linux using Mencoder:

Mencoder is a versatile toolset that helps you do a lot of tasks, ripping a vcd is one of them.

Just issue the command:

$ mencoder vcd//:2 -oac lavc -ovc lavc -o filename.avi ($ sign is the terminal prompt)

You will get an avi video file, that’s compressed and readily playable.


But… but… vcdxrip and mencoder can copy (rip) only error-free VCDs (unlike windows that copies the *.dat files regardless of the errors). If these programs find any error during ripping, they stop the process right there. So, use only clean and well authored VCDs.

CDFS - the best solution of all:

Download cdfs from here:

Install both the packages.

Mount your vcd this way:

mount -t cdfs -o ro /dev/cdrom /mnt/video (other users can change the parameter as per their device and mount point). Using this option one can easily read vcds + other multisession or mode2 disks quite easily, which don't mount normally.

Thanks Anurag and Granular Linux Community for packaging it for us. This cdfs package works on pclinuxos 2007, granular as well as mandriva linux.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Some very good PCLinuxOS URLs

PCLinuxOS website:

PCLinuxOS forum:

PCLinuxOS 2007 wiki:

PCLinuxOS magazine:

PCLinuxOS community projects:

PCLinuxOS at distrowatch:

PCLinuxOS Gnome Spins:

PCLinuxOS 2007 download:

PCLinuxOS - Views of a non-tech Windows convert to Linux

Through this post Sudhansu Sekhar, a non-tech home desktop user, wants to convey his Linux Love to the world.

He just wants things get done. He has no interest in knowing how it all happens - what's kernel, why Linux is more secure and most importantly, what's that OS thing anyway. He could have created his own blog, but then, why put an extra hour creating a blog and toil maintaining it?

But I dragged him to my desk, just to tell the world "how PCLinuxOS can be very much usable to a non-tech user having not much knowledge of the system internals". Here is how he puts his experience...
I never thought, I will ever use PCLinuxOS. Simple, I never really cared! The last 5+ years of my PC experience is restricted to web browsing, editing and documentation, image manipulation and at times audio/video playback. To put it plainly, I am not familiar with PC usage in corporate environment. I am only upto the home desktop.

I liked PCLinuxOS for very simple reason that I have never experienced any virus, malware, trojans, whatsoever, though I roam around the web the whole day out. When I was using Windows XP SP2, I had the following problems:
  • Infections during data transfer: brontok (the infamous file/folder duplicator), adobe.exe, ravmon.exe, mss*d.dll, folder.htt, desktop.ini, autorun.inf, don't really recall there are so many...

  • Infections while browsing the web: trojans, a lot lot lots of virus, spyware, adware, malware, you might also be facing many such menaces.....
The repercussions were very tragic, sometimes I got pointers to unwanted webpages, sometimes abrupt system shutdown, low system responsiveness, etc.

With PCLOS I enjoy good times with my computer. It's as usable (even more) as Windows. Take my word, you will feel at home. You can get your regular chores done efficiently. Use it to believe it.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Home Desktop Tweaking Continues, this time to the extremes

Caution – These tweaks hold good only for home desktop systems.

I am using PCLinuxOS in a system with Intel(R) Pentium(R) CPU 2.66GHz Processor having 1024KB L2 Cache. It has 512MB RAM with 480 free memory. It has a VIA mainboard - P4M00-8237R. My video card is VIA/S3G UniChrome Pro IGP using 32MB memory for display.

Welcome back to PCLinuxOS extreme tweaking. This blog discusses four tweaks to optimize your home desktop PCLinuxOS systems. These are:

- Desktop, Panel and Widgets.
- Run levels
- System services
- Memory
- Programs

Desktop, Panel and Widgets

The default installation of PCLinuxOS gathers 4 virtual desktops, a clipper tool and most used productivity apps and system apps like synaptic, firefox, show desktop, etc., on the desktop panel.

First, I reduced virtual desktops to just one, and later removed that along with clipper and all the icons. Now the denuded panel has only main menu icon, volume icon and date-time viewer. I have also reduced the panel size.

Look at the picture above. It looks sane and uncluttered.

My desktop does not have any background image and the screensaver has been removed right after installation of the OS. The desktop bears default color theme and icons - no extra icons, backgrounds, screensavers, GUI effects, whatsoever. If you do like those bells & whistles for some time, you will never like them for long, I am sure.


Linux boot process is guided by inittab. You can change it by editing /etc/inittab. I use a home desktop, so I edited the inittab by commenting out unnecessary runlevels such as 1,2,3 and 4. Never comment out or remove 0 and 6. They are necessary for system start up and shutdown. So my system starts directly from rc.5, i.e., runlevel 5, the multiuser graphical desktop with network.

I have also removed all the gettys, they are not for me.

Look at the above image. And comment out the items as I have done.

System Services

Services are both processor and memory-hogging things. You can give a boost the performance by disabling unnecessary services. I have disabled avahi-daemon, cpufreq, crond, harddrake, netfs, partmon, saslauthd and syslog.

If you are playing safe with your system you no more need syslog to output what went wrong. Besides, if you can do regular maintenance manually, you no more need crond. Regular chores (word processing, image editing, web browsing and multimedia playback) on home desktop generally do need any job scheduling. But, if you are not sure of what you are doing don't play with crond and syslog.

Look at the above image and uncheck the unnecessary services.
Alternatively, you can remove services through CLI. Issue chkconfig --list to see a list of running processes. Then switch off the processes that you don't need. Issue chkconfig --level sevice offon.

Here is what get by issueing ps -ax. I have now only barebone number of services active on my desktop.

While I was using Windows XP three years back, I had only 11 services running on my system. I was happy with that much service, because I never wanted my CPU fan hiss. With PCLinuxOS I am able to speed up my system further shedding memory hogger still further, in all ways possible.


Linux has an age-old rule of swap memory. By default most of the distros ask for a swap space which is roughly double your physical memory (RAM). I have been using PCLinuxOS 2007 since its beta release. Quite often I check how much memory and swap my system uses. After minimizing processes, bells & whistles, I never see my memory usage exceed 400 MB. The swap is almost unused. So, I removed the swap partition. Radically, my system has become more responsive. I would suggest if your system has more 512MB of RAM you don't need to have a swap partition (only for home desktop users).

Here is the memory/process graph of my system. Open ksysguard to see yours.


Though I am fan of PCLinuxOS, I respect Slackware , the most, for its puritan approach and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) funda. I always keep disk of Zenwalk (a famous Slackware flavor) with me. Zenwalk is light, fast and... disciplines itself with “one application per task” principle.

I applied that Zenwalk principle to PCLinuxOS. And the result - mind blowing!
If you are happy with Konsole, remove Xterm, Yakuake. If your text editing is OK with nano or pico or kate or vi, remove the rest. Likewise you can shed the multiple apps like browsers, editors, media players, system tools, office applications, p2p clients. What's more, google for a while on some CLI tools and remove their graphical counterparts. Result you will have mean machine with necessary fast & fury.


After applying above customization (you may call it tweak) I have experienced the following improvements.

Boot time: It takes only 30 sec to boot my system.
Memory usage: Right after boot up it uses only 120 MB of memory. I have 360MB free memory to work with.
System responsiveness: I click and I am there. Responsiveness almost doubled.
Shutdown: My system halts like a TV. After clicking the turnoff button, my systems halts in just 6 sec.

Bottomline: I have minimalistic approach while it comes to PC usage. For that, I have tried to tweak any OS to its extreme. But most Linux flavours were messed up in my tweak process. Only PCLinuxOS stood by me. I swear by its stability, speed and usability. Need I say more!

Thanks to PCLinuxOS, Texstar and the Ripper gang!

How about this