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?

41 comments

  1. Its true. Lubuntu is truly light weight and fast. I did a video on installing Lubuntu here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY2oUcMGLUE

    Also note that Lubuntu is not yet an official, full part of the Ubuntu family. The 10.04 release is not labeled as LTS. Some Lubuntu repositories are outside of Ubuntu.

  2. I've been using Ubuntu + LXDE (installed using Ubuntu minimal install, and then LXDE from repo) on my Thinkpad T23 for a while now, and i really like it. XFCE always lagged for me. I can't give you specific numbers, but LXDE seems to use much less memory than XFCE.

  3. There is another LXDE distro that is worth looking at: it is Masonux. The development is lagging behind a bit but the quality of the stable release is worth a try.
    I don't remember the exact numbers but I put both (Lubuntu and Masonux) distros on a USB key and run them on an old laptop of mine to check the RAM usage. As I said I don't remember the numbers but conky told me that Masonux was using almost half the ram of Lubuntu at launchtime with no open applications.
    I would say raccomended on old gear

  4. I tested Lubuntu Lucid as a gaming OS yesterday, and I had 20% more fps than on Ubuntu Lucid !
    Games and emulators which just worked fine were extremely fluent !

  5. I installed it on my Dell w/ 512 MB of ram, pentium 4 and internal graphics. It worked alright however I expected a bit more regarding snappiness. Maybe my expectations were a bit unrealistic but there has been so much hype about Lubuntu being lightweight and super quick.

  6. The fact that you can make it run on your pentium 4 machine is already a great deal. The performance is still dependent on the hardware, so you have manage your expectation.

  7. To get Lubuntu working with your wireless you need to run Gnome network manager. I found that if i installed Ubuntu first then installed the Lubuntu-desktop package then Gnome network manager would start on login in Lubuntu :)

  8. Thanks Carl, I will try it out. Hopefully Lubuntu can include the Gnome network manager in the next release.

  9. I'm pretty impressed with Lubuntu. I like a lot of what I've seen with it, and it boots and runs surprisingly fast on my old Pentium III laptop. I've found it has one major flaw, though, from my perspective: the way it handles Desktop shortcuts is retarded to the point of being nearly unusable. It's a big enough flaw to keep me on Xubuntu on my main system.

  10. LXDE is based on Openbox. Those who are familiar with Openbox will find it much easier to use. For the rest, there is still a little bit of learning curve required.

  11. Just installed Lubuntu on a Pentium 4, 128 MB RAM machine via mini.iso command-line install. Works great! I had tried Xubuntu on this machine previously–the alternate command line install worked, but it was worthless as a gui os. So I can at least anecdotally confirm that Lubuntu works much better than Xubuntu on old technology.

  12. It is indeed a blessing for old technology. I run it on a celeron processor with 256MB RAM and the performance was good too.

  13. Running Lubuntu on a Pentium 4 is no big deal at all – I have Ubuntu Lucid running on my P4 desktop. Lubuntu, or at least LXDE itself, isn't just made for sort-of old hardware, it's made for hardware so old that you can't run a bigger OS on it. For example, my Pentium 3 laptop with 192MB ram, which I'm running Lubuntu on right now and it is quite “snappy”, especially compared to Xubuntu, which was installed on it 6 months ago.

  14. I've been using Lubuntu on my Acer Aspire netbook for a few days now (was using Ubuntu and before that had Fedora running). I'm in love. It is, for this particular computer of mine, the perfect distro. Everything is running super fast. I mainly use my netbook to read e-books, write, and watch streaming movies online. No problems at all, and my movie watching is much faster with Lubuntu that it has been with of distros I've tried. Came pre-installed with Chrome (and I'm an avid Firefox user), and I'm really digging the Chrome browser too.

  15. Good that it is working great for you. Until now, I have heard nothing but positive comments about Lubuntu. Looking forward to the next release in October. :)

  16. FANTASTIC for older machines. Runs great on a Compaq Prosignia 150. That is a AMD K6 466 mhz laptop with 160 megabytes of ram and a 4.7 gig hardisk. IT shipped with windows 98.
    With Lubuntu I can even print with a brand new Epson Multifunction. ( no drivers for win 98 ).
    And of course it never crashes or hangs or needs an antivirus program. For better compatability I installed Firefox , Thunderbird, and OpenOffice. They are a bit slow to start up but they run fine.

  17. Just installed Lubuntu on my Sony C1MVP Picturebook… 384 MB RAM, 867 MHz Crusoe TM5800 chip. Runs like a dream! Very snappy – much more so than XP ever was! There's a few items that don't work, like the jog dial and the built-in web cam, but my wireless card worked right out of the box.

  18. I'm running Lubuntu since 2 weeks and I like it so much!!! My notebook is far more reactive than with Ubuntu variant.

  19. As a Linux newbie, I have to agree with you especially about Ubuntu and Lubuntu wireless support. I spent about 4 hours with a group of several Linux experts trying to get my old PCMCIA wireless card (eHome EH 101) and my much newer D-Link DWA-130 USB wireless adapter to work in Lubuntu. No luck. we had some luck with Puppy, but we really didn't know how we got it to work when we tried again after re-booting to Lubuntu.

    Is their a reasonably price PCMCIA or USB wireless adapter that can just be plugged in, drivers installed from CD, and work from the get go? I'm getting a free netbook (MS Win XP) from a relative, and, if I can't get the wireless to work in my existing old laptop, I'm not going to waste hours again trying to get Lubuntu to work on it with respect to wireless. I had hoped to run Lubuntu or Peppermint ICE on the notebook.

    • I have a ten year old Dell laptop and a seven year old Dell WS neither Linksys and Netgear would work, then I find some really inexpensive Airlink cards that work with Ubuntu without any hacking. What I using is the AIRLINK 802.11g Super G wireless cardbus adapter on the laptop and AIRLINK Super G wireless PCI Adapter on the desktop. Got mine at Fry’s Electronic.

      Best of luck

  20. Im loving lubuntu. i installed it along side windows 7 everythings been great but now windows will not load? Any ideas on why. and how do i recover my windows 7?

    • If you have the Windows 7 DVD installer, boot it up and use it to repair the startup registry

  21. Tried several distro’s and do like Lubuntu1010 best. Looks good (and no rust!).
    Everything works! btw. running on Celeron power..
    It was easy to connect (wep) with my pcmcia wlan card (wg511t ‘atheros’ chipset).
    With Ubuntu, Puppy- no wlan. With Mint, Puppy, Slax- no brightness control.
    In Lubuntu brightness control is easy (but starts up at full throttle).

  22. Of the half dozen Linux distributions I have tried over 2 years, LUBUNTU 10.10 is easily the fastest & best solution for the Dell (Inspiron) Mini 9 netbook.

    Everything works effortlessly, including the wireless connection, built-in webcam, and a (Logitech) bluetooth mouse. Applications snap to attention, including Chromium.

    The Lubuntu team are to be congratulated; hopefully they will be able to maintain the high standards they’ve started with.

    NOTE: Owners of the Dell Mini 9 wishing to try Lubuntu or any live distribution should choose a compatible flash drive from the helpful list at ubuntumini.com

  23. Have installed Lubuntu on P4 Dell Inspiron 8500 with 512MB ram. It seems to run fine.(installed from a disc on ‘Linux Format’ magazine – uk)

    I’m a fairly basic Windows user, (XP is also on this PC).

    I’ve read that I don’t need anti virus..Is this correct? Is it safe to shop & bank online without AV.

    Can someone recommend an AV that is easy to instal??

    Many thanks

    Bob

    • You won’t need any sort of anti virus with Lubuntu, since people don’t develop viruses for any Linux OS. So, shop freely!

    • Hi Bob

        The absolute safest way to online bank is with a live cd. The best program for that is Puppy Linux as ir runs totally in ram but any live cd will work. That is how the FBI and the Australian Secret police do theirs.
      No you do not need av, even in the lab they have trouble creating a virus that will wipe out anything other than one user let alone spread to other machines.

  24. Installed Lubuntu from USB on Eee 1015pem (Acorn N550 netbook) getting rid of Windows Starter/7 ….
    This OS rocks … found my wireles and ethernet and everything else … boots and shuts down fast!!
    BoB

  25. Oh my God…Lubuntu 10.10 seems like a made-for-VAIO to me. What it took me months – in Ubuntu and a dozen other distros, it took nothing, everything brilliantly incorporated, this OS is smooth, fast and efficient….Kudos to the developers….

  26. I have loaded Lubuntu 10.10 on four different PCs so far and find it just what I expect an operating system to be – simple, intuitive, stable, fast.

    But…

    On three of the PCs Lubuntu was set to dual boot with varying flavours of Windows, and in each case as soon as Lubuntu did it’s first update (which I think included a kernel update), Windows disappeared from the GRUB boot menu.

    I would highly commend Lubuntu as a standalone system, but my experience to date would indicate that unless you are more capable than I of editing GRUB then Lubuntu has a serious limitation in a dual boot scenario.

    Compliments to the development team, and I look forward to a fix for the dual boot problem.

    Regards
    Bryan Flanagan

  27. Very impressed, I am only allowed an old machine at work and Lubuntu is definitely faster thatn Xubuntu- I am not having much luck configuring the system proxy server settings and so the default chromium browser just doesnt work for me…it’s porbably my fault for not knowing enough but I need the internet to get that knowledge! Fortunately ou can adjust the proxy server settings on the snaptic package manager and get firefox on the system where setting the proxy server settings is easier for a relatively newbie like me…

    • I agree. Just installed on my 7y old Dell 700m. It works perfect. I will now order a new battery on Ebay (30$) and I feel like having a new Mac!

      Thanks to the (L)Ubuntu and Linux designers. I made the definitive move to Linux now, having wasted too much time on defective or “broken Windows”

  28. As far as wireless problems in Lubuntu I solved mine by using the same drive i used in puppy linux.
    I think you will find the PL people are more likely to have an answer for things like that,

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