I’ve used used PCLinuxOS over a period of about 3 years and currently use Ubuntu as my main Linux OS. I have just basic skills in Linux, just enough to get me around, install software and basic functionality in the terminal. Out of these two, I would say avoid PCLinuxOS.
This OS appears to try to replicate the Windows GUI, mostly with the help of its KDE interface. When I first started using PCLinuxOS 2007, it did not take me long to find my way around, installing updates and so on and can honestly say I really enjoyed it at the start. It supported most of my hardware, especially on my EEE netbook, where I exclusively used Linux on. Installing packages at the time was as simple as picking something out of the package manager and clicking ‘Install’. After figuring out how to mount NTFS volumes, I had no issues with using external hard drives and USB sticks. I mainly use open source software anyway in Windows, so I had no issue getting the versions for Linux, such as GIMP, Audicity, Firefox, OpenOffice, AviDemux and Linux media players.
All went will until they released PCLinuxOS 2009 and stopped updating the package manager for the 2007 version. Then I realised just how painful Linux can be when it comes to installing software not in the package manager. Once I figured out how to install RPMs, this was fine for a short period and then I started running into problems with dependencies. After about a few months, new software became very frustrating to install and after several hours unsuccessfully trying to install a newer version of GIMP (photo editing software), I backed up my data, wiped the main OS partition and installed PCLinuxOS 2009.
I ran into the same issue again with PCLinuxOS 2009 once PCLinuxOS 2010 was released, again being unable to get new software from the package manager and trying various package sources. After about a month of noticing no new updates and being unable to update Firefox, I made the switch to Ubuntu.
The main distribution is based on the Gnome interface, so this took me quite a while to get use to. From my first experience, the GUI is not as friendly as KDE or the Windows GUI, but am getting more accustomed to it now. I started with Ubuntu 9.10 and found its package manager pretty straight forward to use. Its package manager certainly has a much better layout than in PCLinuxOS and installing updates is much like that in Windows. The one thing that really impressed me with Ubuntu is how updating to 10.04 was as simple as carrying out an update, unlike PCLinuxOS.
Hardware support seems to be as good (if not better) than I recall in PCLinuxOS and the package manager seems to get updated much more frequently when new software updates are released (e.g. newer versions of GIMP, Firefox, etc.) I also had no issue both reading and writing with NTFS drives, which means no more trying to mount NTFS partitions for write support.
Linux in general
Ideally, to get the most out of Linux, it’s well worth learning the terminal interface, even its basics.