PCLinuxOS a real contender for top dog?
While PCLinuxOS provides a really slick control panel, I simply cannot get my mind around the overall value of it. Despite what their users claim, I have used two different releases and honestly, it is no better than Simply Mepis or Knoppix with regard to overall usability. It provides a gorgeous desktop feel, yet lacks overall OS usability to get me to drop Ubuntu. A shiny control panel and KDE is not going to win me over.
The latest version of PCLinuxOS however, has seen fair progress with proprietary video card driver installation thanks to dkms-nvidia. It is not nearly as slick as Ubuntu's restricted driver manager, but it is progress nonetheless.
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With stronger focus on cleaning up the documentation, a more reliable means of installing proprietary video drivers, PCLinuxOS could become a serious threat to Ubuntu over time. The distribution takes the best from Mandriva and works hard to make sure that everything is as manageable as possible, considering its slower release schedule. If Kubuntu (Ubuntu with KDE) users are looking for something new and different, PCLinuxOS makes a lot of sense.
Fedora 8 so very close, but too geeky even still
Speaking of RPM-based Linux distributions, I would also point to Fedora 8 as being a very serious threat to the Ubuntu desktop. Unlike Ubuntu however, their implementation of a restricted module installer is limited to codecs only. I think it is awesome that they are asking people to pay for them rather than simply looking the other way with a weak legal warning.
Why? Because here in the U.S., proprietary operating systems have already paid these bills for the user, so I see no reason why U.S.-based Linux users should be any different.
Another area that Fedora rocks with is their out-of-the-box release of Pulse Audio. The new sound system allows users complete audio control for each individual application being used at any given time. This is something that Ubuntu has yet to provide without extra apt-get installation and tweaking. Serious props to the Fedora team for this.
Where Fedora falls short, however, is with their offering of the GNOME desktop. Nautilus (the file manager), when used from the Places menu or with a self created folder, provides zero options for a location bar to browse to different areas of the desktop. Yet if you go to Nautilus from Applications, System Tools, the provided link to Nautilus there does provide the needed location bar how about some consistency here!