Xubuntu Gets Edgy

by Caitlyn Martin

Edgy Eft (version 6.10), the second release of Xubuntu, a variant of Ubuntu Linux built around the Xfce4 desktop and designed to be lightweight, was released in October. I've been using it since then and I've been impressed. The bugs and rough edges seen in the first release, Dapper Drake (6.06) are gone and the end result is a solid, reliable distribution that's a pleasure to use. The introduction to the Xubuntu Desktop Guide says, in part:

You may want to think of Xfce as the BMW MINI of Linux Desktops. Combining it with Ubuntu gives you the full power and ease of use that Ubuntu is known for, while providing a snappy desktop even for those using older hardware

Xubuntu generally uses GTK+ 2 apps that don't have KDE and Gnome dependencies and, in general, performance is definitely improved compared to the heavier desktop environments. In my opinion Xubuntu is not just for older equipment that needs a more lightweight distribution. It's polished enough for use anywhere.

24 Comments

james
2006-12-14 02:07:35
I also like Xubuntu but the default styling, appearance could be greatly improved when you take a look at xfce distros like dreamlinux you cna see how good it can look.
RobK
2006-12-14 05:53:50
Xubuntu only installs the i386 kernel by default. To speed up the overall performance, one should install the i686 kernel from the repos (assuming you are running a Pentium II or better)


Overall Xubuntu is a great distro.


RobK

treris
2006-12-14 07:14:13
First of all, nice review! Not too geeky but also not too superficial.


Got to agree with the author, xubuntu really works for a wide range of people, from beginner to expert. Although I run kubuntu on my main computer I have xubuntu installed on a very old laptop I have lying around kinda as a backup or for when I need a second pc. Even though that laptop only has a p-II cpu @333Mhz and something like 160mb of ram it still works pretty good if you're a little patient from time to time.


By the way for any issues concerning installing multimedia codecs or proprietary software may I recommend automatix? It works on all ubuntu related os's and really makes getting a computer to be fully compatible with just about anything real easy. It's just about the first thing I do after installing (k)(x)ubuntu.

lmf
2006-12-14 08:51:29
Good review. I've actually used Xubuntu quite a bit since your last review (I'm writing this from Xubuntu 6.06). I didn't run into the same problems that you did so I kept it as my default desktop after reading your review.


Xubuntu still has too many packages for my taste, but it's awesome that there's no OOo. I really wish gnome-tools would be installed by default, though. It's very small, and as there's no (real) file search on Xubuntu, I almost went bald until I found gnome-tools. If someone prefers Nautilus or gnome-terminal, these are easy enough to install.


Another thing I really like is that you can add a lot of packages with Add/Remove programs, even ones that have given trouble with Synaptic. I'm not sure though if that is true of all the *buntu's now.

Hagbard
2006-12-14 12:33:36
I use virtualized Xubuntu 6.10 as my main OS, on top of Apple Intel iMac base hardware. I host a LAMP stack personal web server and use the XFCE desktop for my GUI document creation and internet browsing. Performance is excellent even with server tasks constantly active in the background. Stability is remarkable, also. Even when I write bad PHP code that starts performing an infinite series of database queries, and maxes out php, mysql, AND apache, I can still use XFCE to control my system! Most impressive, and helpful for a careless developer.
Caitlyn Martin
2006-12-15 10:53:54
James: Vector Linux Standard is another distro that has a nicer default Xfce desktop than Xubuntu. The nice thing about Xfce is that it's really easy to customize it in every possible way. Let's just say my Xubuntu desktop isn't anywhere near vanilla :)


RobK: Very good point for everyone using Xubuntu on a relatively modern machine. I do have the i686 kernel on the Toshiba and it does make a difference.


Imf: You're right about the lack of a GUI find. I do all my searches from the command line in a terminal so I hadn't noticed. It's a valid point. synaptic has been trouble free under Edgy. You may really want to look at upgrading to 6.10 as lots of little things did get fixed.


Everyone else: Thanks for all the nice comments. It is appreciated.


To those who celebrate the holiday starting this evening: Happy Hanukkah!

Caitlyn Martin
2006-12-15 11:16:15
Huge thanks to Uri Sharf for translating my review into Hebrew, adding lots of cool screenshots, and publishing it on the Linmagazine (Israel) website. As my friends know I am working on my Hebrew language skills which were just fine when I was a child but need work now :( I can read fairly well but I'd never have dared the translation myself.
linux_is_next
2006-12-17 08:35:46

I don't care what Microsoft we shall install for kind of operating system next. For me next_is_linux since I am tired on Microsofts dendency to fix
something that allready works. Splendid!!


Tom
2006-12-19 06:12:38
I switch to xubuntu from kubuntu recently and I'm finding the same speedup. I'm running it on 2 Toshiba laptops. One is P4m based and the other is an 1805-S204 like yours. One of the best features IMO on Toshibas is the external volume dial. Wit it, I always know the volume is turned down and can always adjust it no matter what the cpu is doing.
Daniel
2006-12-27 19:39:21
From what I have read in forums, an i686 version is no longer being made available. Also, the i686 was not any faster unless more than 1GB of RAM had to be accessed.
Caitlyn Martin
2006-12-29 12:15:26
Daniel: You are correct that there is now only a "generic" kernel rather than separate i386 and i686 kernels. I haven't seen any degradation in performance so I assume code in current kernels must take advantage of optimizations for newer CPUs.


Imf: gtkfind would probably be a better choice (certainly a lighter weight choice) than Gnome tools if all you want is find. It's what Vector Linux 5.8 has chosen to go with and it's a powerful GUI front-end to find.


Dutch: The blog editor deletes all off topic posts. He may also ban people who spam O'Reilly blogs.

Caitlyn Martin
2006-12-29 13:36:16
linuxg_is_next: I still believe Kubuntu, based on KDE, is going to be easier for someone moving from Windows than Xubuntu, based on Xfce4. The initial look and feel is closer and there are certainly more features. If you have a recent machine with a fairly fast processor and a good amount of memory then that's what I'd recommend. If, OTOH, you have a slower or older machine then Xubuntu is the best place to start.
Thomas
2007-01-03 01:44:23
I have run Xubuntu once before, and I will be writing a review for my website soon pertaining to 6.10. ATI fans, be warned right now. I will not have favorable words.


It's not just great for older hardware, but way, way better than say, Windows Vista (a.k.a. Count Vistila, the OS vampire that sucks system resources). It can be an excellent choice for machines that are already quite powerful in their own right as that means that those machines can truly be pushed to the max.

anjan bacchu
2007-01-04 13:33:16
hi there,


nice post.


How easy is it for a power windows 2000 user(who's been programming on windows for more than a decade) to move to Xubuntu ? More clearly : How easy would it be for this user to move to a new Kernel so that a Pentium 3 700 MHz can run with Pentium 3 Optimizations ?


Thank you,


BR,
~A

Caitlyn Martin
2007-01-05 12:03:25
Anjan: Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, once compared changing operating systems to "performing brain surgery on yourself". Linux does things very differently from Windows. Expect to absolutely hate Linux at first as you go through the learning curve. If you stick with it in six months you'll wonder how you ever made do with Windows.


There really is no need to recompile the kernel for P3 specific optimizations. In the latest kernels the optimizations are supposed to be used automagically, hence Ubuntu's change to a default kernel only. Recompiling the kernel really isn't for absolute beginners and requires some comfort with Linux, the command line, and kernel internals.

Justin
2007-01-10 23:39:32
Nice balanced review Caitlyn.
I installed Xubuntu - only because the magazine Fedora 6 CD would not work on my Dell, and was unfamiliar with it before this.


I love the clean simplicity of Xfce and Thunar, and of course the speed you get without all the bloat.


The only issues I found that may be of interest to readers were:
- setting up WPA wireless using wpa_supplicant(not hard, but lot's of conflicting advice on the web)
- the need to install a few packages like build-essential if you want to ./configure, make, make install stuff
- no default root logon (you can make it though) as I found the sudo before everything annoying after a while.


Having said this, these things were not too hard to change, and for people like me using the Linux box as a remote host for mathsy stuff like linear programming (GLPK) and LAPACK, its great as you don't waste processing power on a pretty interface.

H. van de Kolk
2007-01-13 13:29:00
Xubuntu I installed it, activated Beryl with Nvidia on it. And even with the i386 kernel it's running very well. I worked a lot with SUSE, REDHAT, Fedora, Kubuntu and Ubuntu but i think for now i will stick with Xubuntu
Linux tech notes
2007-02-09 23:25:02
There is a my repo for ubuntu edgy with XFCE 4.4 packages in it. That install should be compatible for a future upgrade to fiesty.
Aksel Handzhiev
2007-04-08 08:01:34
Xubuntu? Definitely that's the best distro for me. When i first installed a Linux distribution it was Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper, I like it and it ran well on my PC - Pentium 2.4 GHz, 512 RAM, ATI Radeon 9550, so i decided to install a linux distribution on my older machine too and when i found Xubuntu i downloaded it and installed it and i found that it has almost the same functionality like Ubuntu. Guess what happened next, I installed Xubuntu on my newer machine too and it was really really fast, even XGL and beryl runs so fast on my machine, and it was not so fast with Ubuntu. I recommend it to users who love speed and performance. I know that you'll love it too ;)
Kitty
2007-04-12 04:28:45
I liked your review a lot. Xubuntu is one of my fav distributions but as I found SAM Linux 2007 (XFCE for PCLinuxOS) it was love on first sight. Maybe you could do a review about SAM and then compare those two? I would like to see if you agree with my opinion. ..and I will have a look at your other reviews now ;)
Anirban
2007-04-20 08:58:02
Should we expect another excellent review of the recently Xubuntu 7.04 from you? I am considering installing one of the flavors of Ubuntu on my old Thinkpad T20 with 512MB ram...not sure if I will miss much if I have Xubuntu instead of Ubuntu. Especially I am eager to run Automatix. Can I use Automatix with Xubuntu?
Caitlyn Martin
2007-05-02 13:23:18
Anirban: I have a review of Xubuntu Feisty Fawn mostly written. It will be a very mixed review as in many ways Feisty is a step backwards from Edgy Eft, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. The review is waiting on a bit more testing and hopefully some problem resolutions. I should post it by the end of the week.


I don't even know what Automatix is so I can't help there.

Richard
2007-09-29 06:17:09
Great overview - I've now installed Xubuntu 7.04/Feisty, which is great, on a Toshiba laptop with 192MB memory. A couple of points:


- choosing the right WiFi card is important to getting it working easily with WPA - install wicdconf for a much easier way of configuring WPA. I'm using a WiFi USB stick from 3Com that works with the zd1211 driver in-kernel for 7.04, and it was really very straightforward - no command line work at all really. However, YMMV greatly with other cards.


- Feisty uses 2.6.22 kernel which automatically optimises itself at runtime for 686, even though it's labelled generic.


- Automatix is a BAD IDEA - while it gets codecs and binary software installed quickly, it does many bad things to your setup, making it much harder to upgrade. Feisty has a much better setup for loading proprietary drivers (restricted drivers manager) and binary codecs generally. See the "enabling Multimedia in Feisty" sticky posting on the Ubuntu Forums, Absolute Beginners forum, for the full details - it only takes a little cut and past to get this done, and you end up with a much cleaner system.


I'm not an Ubuntu expert but I really like Xubuntu. As always, there are sometimes regressions on particular hardware, but mostly Feisty has some great features - it even tells you which package to install when you get a 'command not found' error in the shell!


Shane
2007-10-09 16:59:32
New to Xubuntu 6.10, and I am using it for a couple of computers. Your article was informative, interesting, and well presented!


I find Xubuntu an excellent candidate for an Apple Powerbook G3 Lombard, 333MHz with 512MB of ram, instead of OS X 10.3.9. Wow, what a difference in terms of speed!!! I can actually keep an old workhorse alive and useful!


The Apple Lombard had poor support in OS X for video functionality; using an ATI RAGE LT Pro graphics processor which is the machine's Achilles' heel with later versions of OS X. Xubuntu allows videos watched on the Lombard! The Lombard is used primarily for web surfing, and emails for someone who is not computer savvy.


I have also installed Xubuntu on my Dell Inspiron 600m using Windows XP and MS VirtualPC 2007! Installation had it's quirks in VirtualPC 2007, but I managed to get it up an running. I must say that I like what I see!


Thank you :)