Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MCLinuxPC 2012 - The Whole Kitchen Sink

Kind of bubble sort, distributions come up, tumble down, some grow, some die unmaintained. First we had Slack, then Redhat, Mandy, Mepis, Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS... and now Mint. Most often the popularity of a distribution depends on the degree of "out of the box" functionality it offers, plus how well it integrates the various bits and pieces. IMO, only three distributions championed in this regards - Mepis, PCLinuxOS and Mint.

Now on to the business. Here I am reviewing MCLinuxPC 2012, a remaster that comes from one of my favorite distributions that manages rpm packages on synaptic, by Sefy. No awards for guessing. But I won't reveal the name for two obvious reasons: first, this remaster has gone too far in including the software not allowed to be legally redistributed, second, it's not been publicly announced.

The good thing is, that legality neither applies to him in Israel, nor me in India. Besides, Sefy has taken all care to rebuild some base packages related to lsb, issue, grub, etc., altering every reference of that famous distribution. For now, the remaster is floating across a few close friends.

Hope it doesn't violate any rule.

Here's the review.

I'm a big time fan of that popular distribution for one solid reason - it never failed on my hardware. It's neither the most beautiful, nor the most cutting edge distribution. Stable, and may be a little conservative, but it just-works, you won't have to fiddle much. You are ready to go the very next minute after installation. Having said that, seems it's a great feat for the remaster to maintain that quality, after loading so much extra stuff.

I won't repeat here the livecd experience and the installation. It's pretty much similar to that big distribution. So, fast forward to the installed environment.

Hardware

As of now the remaster has been running on four different set of hardware at my home and office -  a Dual Core Pentium Dell Optiplex 360, an old PIV Compaq, an Asus Eee PC 1215b with AMD Fusion C-50, and an Intel Essential D410PT nettop. Some of those machines have housed Debian Squeeze, Arch and Ubuntu Natty also. Let's see how well MCLinuxPC fares against those veteran distros.

Booting

As always, no surprises here. MCLinuxPC booted just fine across all the four different configurations. Of course the bootup time was a few seconds more than Arch and Debian, it's the price for its heavy customization. The freshly booted desktop seems to be pimping Windows 7 and Mac OS on top of the default KDE 4.6.5. Under the hood there's a bfs patched 2.6.38 kernel. The application software selection is huge and all-encompassing, we'll see later. The look is quite different from its parent distro. It doesn't do blue and gray that much.

Memory Consumption

Memory consumption right after booting was around 350MB on all the machines, except that EEE PC 1215b, where it was around 400MB. No bad for a KDE 4 remaster.

Performance

I can't site any numbers here. As far as my perception goes MCLinuxPC is as responsive as Natty, Arch and Squeeze on all the machines except Eee 1215B. Squeeze was the most responsive of all on this tiny computer. 1GHz Ontario C-50 APU is not enough for KDE 4, may be.

Desktop Experience

No surprises here. For the first time my Eee 1215B worked as expected. Graphics, Touchpad, Wireless, Webcam and Bluetooth behaved smooth. The other three machines worked well too including my old PCI Hauppage analog TV tuner on a dated PIV system. Apple Trailers, Microsoft Media Server, flash videos, MP3 et al played. Oh the good xbmc, the local media files were shelved the way they should be. MCLinuxPC does a very good job of managing additional languages through its Localization Manager. For the rest, there's good old MCLinuxPC Control Center.

The systems are stable - I've been working on the machines for last 4 days, so far no crashes related either to KDE or kernel.

Applications

MCLinuxPC outshines almost every other distribution in this department. There is the whole kitchen and sink. The system utilities, internet suite, productivity suites, multimedia suites + xbmc + codecs + media converters, graphics suites, games, emulators, and believe it or not, the universal computer learning suite comprising the full jdk, gcc, g++, assembly, mysql. Wow! A superb selection. Be it sharing your stuff, using internet, doing some serious office work, converting your media, syncing your devices with PC, managing security, cleaning the system, sharing peer desktops, or whatsoever, you name any popular modern system software or application software, it's all there. Also, there's a balance of the software - not much duplicity. Under 2.6GB it packs so much applications that the good old synaptic seems an overdo. You can live your life without using it ever, except for updating the system, if you like.

Here's a list of applications that comes with MCLinuxPC, sorted items menu-wise:

Communication:
qtadb for android
barry backup
synce kde pda manager
Configuration:
ATI catalyst manager
3D acceleration configuration
cairo dock
chbg
compiz manager
emerald
ezswitch
firewall
floppy formatter
google gadgets
kde grub manager
gtk theme switch
hardware information
install MCLinuxPC
localization
libreoffice manager
network center
ntfs configuration manager
nvclock
partition manager
pulse audio manager
redo mbr
samba configuration
unetbootin
user administration
kwallet manager
Development:
diff/patch configuration
teamviewer
kompozer
complete gcc, g++, nasm, assembly (nasm), sun jdk, mysql
Text editors:
medit
vi
kwrite
File tools:
bleachbit
krename
krusader
midnight commander
kleansweep
Games:
complete bundle from arcade, board games, puzzles, strategy, etc.
Graphics:
imagemagick gui
gimp
kolourpaint
kamoso
gpicview
digikam
picasa
ksnapshot
xsane
kruler
Sound:
amarok
songbird
kscd
kradio
timidity
cd ripper
nvidia tv output
floola
volume control
sound recorder
Package management:
dupclean
synaptic
libreoffice manager
opera widget manager
Emulators:
wine - Windows Emulator
desmuke - Nintendo DS
dosbox - DOSbox
epsxe - Playstation One
xgngeo - NeoGeo
nintendo - Nintendo
hu-go! - HuGo
pcxs -
virtualbox
visualboy - Advance Gameboy
winetricks
gsnes - Sega Master System & Genesis
yabause - Sega Saturn
zsnes - Super Nintendo
Monitoring:
thinkpad battery monitor
desktop widgets
netapplet
removable media utility
system monitor
xkill
view disk usage
Terminal:
konsole
xterm
Archiving:
acetoneiso
k3b
nero
ark
file roller
iso master
nepomuk backup
p7zip gui
Internet:
google earth
qbittorrent
filezilla
dropbox
teamviewer
firefox
chrome
opera
kdesktop sharing krfb
thunderbird
kopete
kppp
groupware
blogging
putty
tightvnc
xchat irc
tkpppoe
Office:
libreoffice
note taking tools
time management
adobe reader
personal organizer
artha
calibre
Video:
imagination
cheese
coriander
me tv
xbmc media center
tv time
realplayer
vlc
video4fuze
mobile media converter
kplayer
winff
gtk-recordmydesktop

Conclusion

Question: So, what's so good about Sefy and his remaster?
Answer: MCLinuxPC is godsend for all those who love linux but can't stand the annoyances and pains that come with it. Yes, it's fat, it's not as clean and swift as a default Arch or Debian setup. But that's a small tradeoff for the amount of goodies you get. You only need to download just the remastered iso, and have a secure, modern, entertaining and productive life without the need for any extra bit or piece. Another big point is this is the only Linux with "out-of-the-box" adb pre-configuration for immediate access to Android phones.

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