Lubuntu Review: A Lightweight Ubuntu Variant

Other than the default Ubuntu that we all know of, there are also the Kubuntu (KDE), Xubuntu (XFCE), Edubuntu, Mythbuntu etc that run different desktop environment and serve different purpose. And yes, there is a new buntu addition to the family. Let’s welcome: Lubuntu.

Lubuntu is a Ubuntu variant built using the LXDE desktop, which is in turn based on Openbox. It’s designed to be a lightweight and easy-to-use desktop desktop environment.

The development of Lubuntu goes as far back as 2008. Then, it was only available as a desktop package to Ubuntu Intrepid, Jaunty and Karmic. It is only in Ubuntu Lucid that it releases its own stable version for download. According to Mario Behling, the man behind Lubuntu:

“As a first step Mark [Shuttleworth] invited us to become a self-maintained project in the Ubuntu community. This means we will be able to manage LXDE inside Ubuntu, ultimately offering an Ubuntu derivative, ergo Lubuntu.”

What I read from here is that Lubuntu will receive support from Ubuntu and would probably integrate into Ubuntu family in the future.

So what about Xubuntu? isn’t it supposed to be the lightweight equivalent of Ubuntu?

Sadly, that is a thing of the past. The truth is, the supposed lightweight equivalent is not lightweight at all. While Xubuntu is using the lightweight XFCE desktop environment, it had been bugged down by several heavyweight applications and also the integration with GNOME desktop also makes it lose its advantage.

On the other hand, those who have tested Lubuntu have commented that it runs faster than Xubuntu and use half as much RAM (I have not tested this personally. Can anyone verify this?). This is what I truly call “lightweight”.

Installation

As an Ubuntu derivative, it is not surprising at all to find that the installation process is exactly the same as Ubuntu. To me, this is already the simplest installation process of all the OSes out there, so there is really no need for them to reinvent the wheel.

lubuntu-install

Desktop environment

If you are coming from the Windows background, you will find that the LXDE desktop environment is very much similar to your Windows interface. You got a Menu bar (akin to the Start menu in Windows) on the left bottom corner and the taskbar on the right. Since it is a lightweight desktop manager, you won’t find much (or any) eye candy or special effects on your desktop.

lubuntu-desktop

lubuntu-menu-bar

Applications

The applications that come with Lubuntu are the one that really caught my attention. Taking a quick glance at all the applications, you will find that none (or most) of the apps in Ubuntu are available in Lubuntu. Almost all of them are replaced with a lightweight alternative:

Gnome -> LXDE
Nautilus -> PCManFM
Rhythmbox -> Aqualung
Terminal -> LXTerminal
gEdit -> Leafpad
Firefox -> Chromium
GIMP -> mtPaint
OpenOffice -> Abiword, Gnumeric (no Presentation alternative)
Evolution -> Sylpheed/Osmo
Brasero -> Xfburn
Totem ->MPlayer
Eye of Gnome -> GPicView
eVince -> ePDFViewer

Most of the system settings are still the same. There is no Ubuntu Software Center nor Ubuntu One integration. Installation of software is still done through the Synaptic Package Manager.

Lubuntu netbook desktop

One interesting thing about Lubuntu is that it comes with a Lubuntu Netbook desktop that you can log into. When you are logging in, choose the Lubuntu Netbook from the Desktop dropdown field.

lubuntu-netbook-session

What it does is to sort your applications in various tabs and display them in your screen. You won’t be able to see your desktop from here. Compared to UNE, it is definitely less polished, and also kind of ugly, which make me think I am back to the Win95 era. I would much prefer to the usual interface.

lubuntu-netbook-desktop

Hardware support

I have tested it in my old PC (Intel Celeron 2.3GHz, 1GB ram and onboard graphics) and all the hardware work out of the box, except for the wireless card. This is the one major problem for Ubuntu – their wireless support sucks. I have not been able to get my wireless card to work for all iteration of Ubuntu, so I am not surprise that it don’t work for Lubuntu too.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a lightweight alternative to install in your old PC or netbook, Lubuntu is a great choice. You won’t get any eye candy or special graphical effects, but what you get is fast speed at a low cost. It’s time to put your old PC back to work.

DO let us know what you think of Lubuntu. Is it good enough for you? What features do you like to see in the future releases?