Lubuntu 11.04


In my last review I considered Kubuntu 11.04 as an alternative to Ubuntu for disgruntled Ubuntu users. But there’s another Ubuntu derivative that should be taken into consideration as well: Lubuntu 11.04.

Lubuntu uses the LXDE desktop environment, a much simpler and faster alternative to Unity, GNOME and KDE. Lubuntu also users PCmanfm as its file manager, and comes with Chromium as its default browser. Openbox is Lubuntu’s window manager.

Until now Lubuntu has been considered an “unofficial” Ubuntu derivative but that’s about to change with the eventual release of Lubuntu 11.10:

According to reports, the Lubuntu Linux distribution will become an official Ubuntu derivative. As a fully supported release, its desktop packages will be made available in the Ubuntu repositories for anyone to install – other official derivatives include Kubuntu and Xubuntu.

In a session at the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS), which is currently taking place in Budapest, Shuttleworth and Ubuntu Devleoper Colin Watson discussed the details of integrating Lubuntu into the Ubuntu ecosystem with project member Julien Lavergne. Topics ranged from ISO building to Ubuntu One and a global menu.

The news comes just a few weeks after Canonical founder and former CEO Mark Shuttleworth thanked the Lubuntu community for its “great work and progress” building Lubuntu over the last two years. At the time, he also said that, as the project is “now 100% in the archive, and using PPAs and other tools effectively”, it was now possible “to consider recognising Lubuntu as an official part of the (Ubuntu) project”.

This is fantastic news for current Lubuntu users and for anyone considering Lubuntu as their desktop distro. Getting Canonical’s seal of approval gives Lubuntu even more credibility and gives Lubuntu its place in the pantheon of official Ubuntu derivatives. I’m thrilled about it and I hope it positions Lubuntu for significant growth in its user base. If you aren’t familiar with Lubuntu then you’re in for a treat, as you’ll see in this review.

Desktop
Lubuntu 11.04 Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Based on Ubuntu 11.04
Audacious
replaces Aqualung as music player
File-roller replaces Xarchiver
Guvcview replaces Cheese for webcams
New theme
Lxrandr can save configuration
Desktop icons are movable
Lubuntu defaults to the Ubuntu font
New Lubuntu text plymouth theme
Updated installer
LXDE and pcmanfm updated

Aqualung
Aqualung has been replaced by Audacious in this release.

The replacement of Aqualung makes sense since Audacious is a much better known audio player. I don’t think it will matter too much to users though since most people will simply install whichever application they favor the most. I don’t spend a lot of time listening to music these days so it’s a bit of a wash for me. But I’m sure some people will be happy with the switch.

Given that the last stable release of Xarchiver was back in 2008, it’s not surprising that it has been replaced by File Roller. File Roller supports a wide range of archive types including 7-Zip, Tar, ZIP, Java, ARJ, WinAce and a whole bunch of other ones. For more details on File Roller, see the features page on the File Roller site.

I actually like Cheese so I can’t say I’m real thrilled about it being replaced by guvcview, but it’s sort of six of one or half dozen of the other when it comes to these two programs. I could get by fine with either one though your mileage may vary depending on your needs and preferences.

The rest of the changes aren’t particularly earth shattering, the big selling point here is probably that Lubuntu is based on Ubuntu 11.04.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

The minimum memory requirement for running Lubuntu 11.04 is 128 MB of memory. Note that some of your system’s memory may be unavailable due to being used by the graphics card.

To use the graphical installer from the live-cd, you need at least 256 MB of memory. You need to use the “Install Lubuntu” entry when you boot the Live-CD.

Systems with less memory need to perform a minimal installation (see Minimal Install).

Ubuntu (and so Lubuntu) dropped the support for the following CPU :

* VIA C3
* AMD K6
* National Semiconductor
* AMD Geode

You will not be able to upgrade or to install if you’re using this CPU model. The team are going to support 10.04 as if it were an LTS.

Installation
The install is extremely easy and it lets you install third party applications and updates. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1
Install 1
Install 2
Install 2
Install 3
Install 3
Install 4
Install 4
Install 5
Install 5
Install 6
Install 6
Install 7
Install 7
Install 8
Install 8
Install 9
Install 9

Booting & Login

Here’s what the boot menu and login screen look like:

Boot Menu
Boot Menu
Login
Login

The Desktop
The Lubuntu desktop is rather bland looking. You won’t find wallpaper eye-candy or other flashy things. Lubuntu is more of a workhorse distro in that sense rather than a show-horse.

The panel contains the usual stuff: a “start” button on the left, link to important folders, a Chromium icon for web browsing, multiple desktops, volume, networking and time. You can customize the panel by right-clicking it if you want. There are no icons cluttering up the Lubuntu 11.04 desktop.

Desktop
Desktop

As I noted earlier, Lubuntu uses Openbox as its window manager. To configure Openbox, click the Lubuntu button on the panel and choose Openbox Configuration Manager.

Themes
There are about 11 other themes available besides the default Lubuntu theme. The default theme is attractive in a spartan sort of way. I liked the Onyx theme but there are a few others that are also good.

Openbox Configuration
Openbox Configuration

Wallpaper
The default wallpaper is bland but works well with the default theme. There are, unfortunately, no other wallpaper choices that come with Lubuntu. So you are on your own to find something that makes the desktop more attractive.

Wallpaper
Wallpaper

Admin Tools

System Management & Preferences
The System Tools and Preferences menus contain all the usual things you need to configure your system to your liking.

System Settings

Preferences

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release. It’s important to bear in mind that Lubuntu is more of a minimalistic distribution than some others. So you won’t find a giant selection of software, and some things such as LibreOffice are not included by default. No problem though, you can easily download them via Lubuntu’s software management tool Synaptic as you can see below.

Games
Various Penguin Games

Graphics
mtPaint Graphic Editor
Simple Scan

Internet
Chromium
Pidgin IM
Sylpheed
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Audacious
GNOME MPlayer
guvcview
Xfburn

Office
AbiWord
Gnumeric
Osmo

Abiword
Abiword

Software Management
Lubuntu uses Synaptic as its software manager. There’s a ton of software available, plenty for most desktop users. However, Synaptic is…er…not a particularly attractive software management tool. You won’t find the slickness of the Ubuntu Software Center or Linux Mint’s software manager. But it is highly functional and searchable.

Alas, there are no user reviews or ratings of software though. So you are basically flying blind if you aren’t familiar with the quality of a particular application.

Synaptic
Synaptic
LibreOffice Install
LibreOffice Install

Adding & Removing Software
It’s easy to add or remove software in Synaptic. Just find the application you want and click the check box next to its name. then click Mark for Installation. Then click the Apply button.

To remove software, click the check box next to the name of the already installed application then click Mark for Removal then Apply.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Since I didn’t opt to install the third party applications when installing Lubuntu 11.04 (I prefer to see the default software install instead), flash didn’t work in Chromium. This is not a big deal, just be sure you choose to install third party applications & updates when you install Lubuntu on your system.

YouTube
YouTube

Multimedia Applications
As I noted earlier, Lubuntu comes with a minimalistic amount of software. You aren’t going to find 50 different multimedia applications available by default. However, what’s here works just fine for basic functionality and you can download a bunch of other stuff in Synaptic. Audacious, GNOME MPlayer, guvcview and Xfburn are what you’ll find after you install Lubuntu 11.04

Audacious
Audacious
Xfburn
Xfburn

Problems & Headaches
I’d like to see Lubuntu come bundled with the Ubuntu Software Center. Synaptic is what it is but I suspect that more users would appreciate the Software Center being available by default, with Synaptic still being included for the folks that prefer its interface. Since Lubuntu will soon be an official Ubuntu derivative, I am hoping that the Software Center will make an appearance with Lubuntu 11.10.

The lack of alternative wallpapers is a minor thing but it does stand out a bit. In general Lubuntu doesn’t seem to have the pizzazz that some other distros. It would be nice to have some alternative choices included in a future release. This is a small thing perhaps but noticeable to new users who might want to change the default wallpaper right away.

The omission of LibreOffice is quite noticeable though expected since Lubuntu is a minimalist distro. Still, if it’s possible to fit into the default install (without blowing up the size of Lubuntu too much) I think it would be a good idea. Abiword is a great, little word processor but people have come to expect some sort of office suite to be included with most desktop distros and I don’t think Abiword really cuts it at this point.

Beyond that I don’t have much to complain about. Lubuntu 11.04 was very fast and stable for me. Speed is one of the nice things about Lubuntu; even on a slow or older system it’s usually quite fast. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you cut out the unnecessary eye-candy and bloat.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Lubuntu Wiki for documentation and other help information.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Lubuntu 11.04 is a great alternative to regular Ubuntu for two kinds of users; those on older or slower hardware and those who simply prefer a minimalist desktop. It may also be a good choice for those who are searching for an alternative to Unity but who also want to stay within the Ubuntu family.

As I said earlier, Lubuntu is a workhorse, not a show-horse. It won’t wow you with amazing desktop effects or bloated eye candy, but it will let you use your system in a very practical and effective way.

If you haven’t used Lubuntu before, I highly recommend giving it a download. It might surprise you by seducing you away from Ubuntu or even Kubuntu. Sometimes less really is more and Lubuntu is a fine example of that idea. Lubuntu begs the question though: Do we really need all the bloated desktop features in order to use our Linux systems? Or is it all just extra that results in needless complexity and performance slowdown even on powerful hardware? After using Lubuntu for a while I tend to lean more toward the latter but your mileage may vary.

Lubuntu 11.04 is fine for beginner, intermediate or advanced users. Beginners should familiarize themselves with Synaptic though, especially if they are used to the interface of the Ubuntu Software Center.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Lubuntu 11.04
Web Site: http://lubuntu.net
Price: Free
Pros: Fast, light-weight desktop environment. Great for older or slower computers. Based on Ubuntu 11.04 but doesn’t come with Unity. Chromium is the default browser.
Cons: Uses Synaptic and not the Ubuntu Software Center for software management. Default software installed is very minimal. Doesn’t come with LibreOffice installed.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced users.
Rating: 4/5

 




Comments

  1. Deivid says

    Just to add :

    Ubuntu software center could be download through synpatic package manager and it is totally functional ;) and there is also lubuntu software manager, still in test phase i guess…

  2. XanII says

    Looking for Ubuntu alternatives as the Unity system is just too shocking.

    Doesnt anyone ever store stuff on their desktops anymore? Hellooo? It's called a desktop and i for one store temp folders and files there that i works with and sort out. If desktop work area gets ganked like this in the latest ubuntu 11.10 then it's a game-breaker for me. And no, basic folder navigation wont do. I'll forget my stuff there. after all they are 'temp files'.

    Lubuntu is something i'll try.

  3. Jonas says

    Nice review. To the who should use it list I would add virtual machine users. It has taken me quite a while to find a distro that would run on VirtualBox without annoying glitches or without beginning to stutter after a while, yet still being easy to install and complete. I am quite satisfied with Lubuntu now.

  4. Paul Rudolph says

    I use Lubuntu exclusivly, it takes me a while to get it setup on a new(to me) machine because I tweek it quite a bit. There is a ginormous amounts of info on the web on the how too's. I use some things from ububtu like the package manager. I also installed firefox becasue of functionality but only use it about half the time.

  5. says

    I can confirm that Lubuntu 11.04 runs very well on a low-spec machine. I recently installed it on my vintage HP rig which has a 500MHz processor and 500MB RAM. I was pleasantly surprised. Lubuntu 11.04 runs faster than the latest PCLinuxOS lxde (2011.06). Anyone who's skeptical should install Lubuntu 11.04 and run hdparm.

    My only gripe is that Lubuntu 11.04 still has poorer automatic menu organisation than PCLinuxOS lxde.

  6. Ralph says

    I've installed Lubuntu 11.04 on more than one old Pentium III, most with 512 MB of RAM or even less. It runs well. I was even able to watch online videos.

  7. Roy H Huddleston says

    I am liking Zorin OS 5 Lite which is built on Lubuntu 11.04. Inside of Zorin was XFburn but not like it was in XFCE on the Debian Squeeze version of LXDE. It looked a cross between K3B and the burner that used to be in XFCE. Ubuntu used to have Kpackage. What a motley crew of packages. Funny thing happened when I tried to install the Alpha 3 DVD of Lubuntu 11.10. The Alpha asked me if I wanted to upgrade the Lubuntu 11.04 inside of Zorin to 11.10 or if I wanted to upgrade Zorin to 11.10. Or I had the option to erase everything and start with a fresh install of Lubuntu 11.10. The difference was between the live DVD option (Try) and the (Install). Lubuntu as of the Alpha 3 is an Ubuntu version. But it doesn't have it all together, yet. It still has some conflicts. The options it gave me was its way to resolve some of those conflicts. But through all three it is not quite there, yet.

  8. rick says

    I hope it's stays "un-bloated"; I like things like synaptic -it works.

    ….hernce LXDE + Ubuntu = L"ite"ubuntu

  9. Vinnicius says

    Cool review. I've installed Lubuntu-Desktop on my computer and removed Ubuntu-Desktop, it's now Lubuntu! On a PC with 1GB and a Celeron processor, Lubuntu works so good, differently of Windows 7 (600MB), Ubuntu Unity 11.04 (320MB) and Kubuntu (390MB). Lubuntu only uses 150MB with Compiz effects, themes, screenlets and Google Chrome open. On a PC with 16GB and Core i5 (PC of my cousin) Lubuntu works very good, the same 150MB, with 15,85GB to run programs, games and others. I recommend Lubuntu for all that have slow PC's, medium PC's and fast PC's to see Lubuntu flying in your machine :-)

  10. Barista Uno says

    @ Adam Hunt:

    I will most certainly try it out once I find time. Three days with Bodhi Linux 1.1 and it has crashed a number of times. It would crash all of a sudden if I reduce the size of my Firefox 4.01 browser or scroll down a page. I was also using the same Firefox version on my earlier installed PCLinuxOS lxde and did not have this kind of problem. Some apps also seem to dislike the Enlightenment Desktop, such as epdfviewer or wammu. I probably won't even try Lubuntu 11.04 liveCD but just install it and overwrite Bodhi. The Enlightenment Desktop is fast and elegant but I can't suffer the instability.

  11. says

    Can anyone confirm if I can install Lubuntu 11.04 on my vintage IBM (Pentium III) with 1.2GHz processor and 500MB ram? Or would it be better for me to install Lubuntu 10.04 (LTS) instead?

    I am not certain about the architecture of my system, hence the questions.

  12. says

    Jim, I'll give Bodhi a couple of days to prove its worth. I'll try Lubuntu 11.04 and the new mysterious distro you mentioned. Incidentally, my workstation is a vintage IBM with 1.2GHz processor and 500MB ram. So it's either lxde or Enlightenment for me.

  13. says

    Barista, you'll have to make up your own mind about Lubuntu 11.04. I think it's very good but so is what you are using. Not sure what to tell you between the two.

    There is another distro based on Lubuntu 11.04 that you might find interesting. I can't discuss it right now because it hasn't been released yet. Check back here tomorrow sometime and I'll have a review of it up. It's a bit different so you might find it fun to play with.

    I can say no more.

    :angel:

  14. says

    I've just replaced the broken PCLinuxOS lxde on my workstation with Bodhi Linux 1.1, which uses the Enlightenment desktop. So far I am quite satisfied with Bodhi. Any compelling reason to switch to the latest Lubuntu edition? I've tried Lubuntu before but wasn't impressed.

  15. says

    Jim: I know you have noted the lack of the Ubuntu Software Center in this and the 10.10 releases of Lubuntu, but have you ever checked out why the Lubuntu team is using Synaptic instead? Checking the System Monitor on an Ubuntu or Xubuntu installation using the USC will show you why. Even on a 2.66 GHz Intel CPU the USC will max the CPU out, even when it is idling. Bottom line is that USC is a CPU hog and doesn't belong in a lightweight distro.

  16. Stan says

    I don't like xbuntu or lubuntu because things like video and sound just don't 'work'. I've only gotten audio to work through HDMI for me once and it is crucial for me as I use multiple machines and it is so easy to have audio and video to go through one cable. When I want to use LXDE or XFCE I just wait for the latest and greatest Mint versions of those. I use XFCE on my Pandora(it is the default) and will probably use it on my desktop this next Ubuntu based Mint. On my Atom box I see a BIG improvement on speed when I use the slimmed down desktops. I always say I'm going to use light desktops on all my machines but I'm always pulled in with Gnome. That might change with Gnome 3 until it gets a few releases under it's belt.

  17. paul says

    I was kinda hoping for a basic system distro, then the installer could check boxes to see which programs and GUI they wanted to use. that way we could have it both ways. If it wouldn't work one way we could uninstall that and install something else. Most of the stuff I don't use that comes with a distro. I don't listen to music on my computer or watch movies. Mostly internet usage and documents.

  18. Hassle says

    Do this : install Xubuntu, remove GNumeric and AbiWord, install Libre. Install Orta, Faenza, Nautilus Elementary :
    http://www.techdrivein.com/2010/12/orta-gtk-theme
    Use a nice background, play a little with the bottom panel and the top panel and see if you like the end-result …. Otherwise, play on.

    By the way, docks are nice : Avant the best, but you do can do it all with just the bottom panel …. Just to put you on the track … Nice weather in Ireland, by the way …. :cool:

  19. Bert says

    Hi Jim, thanks for the great review.

    I just downloaded the Lubuntu ISO and gave the live Cd a quick spin.

    First impressions are good.

    However, I have a few questions I'm unable to solve with my own brain:

    1. Why is Lubuntu so big, at 682 MB it's about a full cd, just like Ubuntu and many other distros. But Lubuntu has no LibreOfice (-120MB?) and lacks most of the big apps that come standard in other 1cd distros.

    2. Did you have a look at the Ram and cpu usage? From my former experience with Lubuntu and from reading another reviewer, it seems cpu usage is very low, but Ram usage is higher than one would expect. I fail to understand why it uses 200-300 MB's of Ram, just iddling, with no apps running. Especially since it is "sold" with the promise of ultralight Ram usage (under 100MB)

    Thanks again :happy:

  20. says

    Jim Lynch wrote:

    Hi Hassle,

    I have not forgotten Xubuntu, it’s on my list but there have been a few others I’ve been looking at. It never rains but pours eh?

    I'm all for seeing stuff about the other derivatives, but from my standpoint, Xubuntu is the first one I look at, Kubuntu the second, and the others fall in line after that. Both Xubuntu and Kubuntu have been solid, but Xubuntu gives you just enough of a full featured system so that you don't have to monkey with it too much (unless you want to), Kubuntu offers more than enough, though it does it well, and Lubuntu, while nice and light, really isn't a complete system, compared to ones similar in size and function, such as Absolute Linux, antiX, and Peppermint OS One, which are also light and fast, but a bit more feature complete.

    Lubuntu makes a good, solid foundation, and in fact, Peppermint builds on it, but unless all you do is the Web, you probably will be adding packages to Lubuntu, whereas antiX, Peppermint, and Absolute are complete enough at least for basic, lightweight computing.

  21. says

    Hassle wrote:

    Only one thing, after all the u.reviews, and some l.reviews, it is time to review xubuntu, as it the most perfect ubuntu release without unity, give it a try …. it seems to me, nobody wants to know …Well, now you know.

    I agree!

  22. says

    Hi Hassle,

    I have not forgotten Xubuntu, it's on my list but there have been a few others I've been looking at. It never rains but pours eh?

    :wink: :whistle:

  23. Hassle says

    Only one thing, after all the u.reviews, and some l.reviews, it is time to review xubuntu, as it the most perfect ubuntu release without unity, give it a try …. it seems to me, nobody wants to know …Well, now you know.

  24. says

    Great points about LibreOffice, Raphael. There's definitely a distinction between those using older hardware and those running Lubuntu simply because they prefer a minimalist interface. Either way it works out okay since LibreOffice is available for download so everybody can pick and choose what they want.

    :smile:

    Now I'm off to sip some coffee as I just woke up and am only semi-coherent right now. :sleeping:

  25. Raphael F. says

    As you wrote, Lubuntu is intended for older and slower computers (also Netbooks). Libre Office doesn’t work well on this machines, that is, it works, but it is extremely slow, especially when scrolling in a document or when trying to open a large presentation project. Abiword works much faster, but I agree, that it doesn’t have all the qualities that Libre Office has. My solution is to use Latex (not just because Libre Office is slow, but especially because it fits more to my needs). Because new Linux users will prefer a MS Office “replacement”, I think including Abiword in Lubuntu was not a bad decision. And as to spreadsheets programmes, I personally prefer Gnumeric over Libre Office because I think that many functions are better implemented in Gnumeric than in Libre Office Calc. And it is more lightweight.

  26. sasula says

    OK, OK I am going to check it out and see how it works on an old PC I found splattered with cement in my brother's shed. It was bought in 1999…..yeah OK. Old. I should use Puppy Linux on it, but I am gonna see how Lubuntu copes. I am new to the world of alternate operating systems. But I am catching up by messing about.

    Your reviews of operating systems are very helpful. Thank you.

  27. Brian Masinick says

    I do not expect too much from a light distribution except the flexibility to modify it, and Lubuntu does extremely well on that count, enough so that one of my favorite light distributions, Peppermint OS One, is based on the core code found in Lubuntu, with a few Mint tools and home grown features added in.

    As it stands on its own, I'd be more inclined to use this if I wanted another system to use to build my own setup, but I'm all set there, so I tend to use Kubuntu and Xubuntu a lot more than Lubuntu, and they tend to come with a bit more software. But there is no question, without a doubt, that Lubuntu is the lightest and snappiest distribution in Canonical court!

  28. says

    Heh, heh. Yeah, you raise a good point Podsgrove. I was a bit inconsistent there, but I couldn't help myself.

    :angel:

    I guess we all want what we want and I like to see some cool wallpaper in a distro. Ha.

    :whistle:

  29. Podsgrove says

    I was amused at the way you commend Lubuntu for being bloat free just after having complained about the lack of alternative wallpapers!

    I fall into the catagory of 'disgruntled Ubuntu user' and so gave Lubuntu a try and so far I am pleased with what I have found. It does hang occasionally but I think that has more to do with the clunky old put-together-from-bits-and-pieces machine I have been testing it on than any bug in the operating system.

    I like the plain, empty, icon-free desktop and the concise, easy to navigate menus which I think they are much more what distraction free computing is all about rather than the whole-screen displays of gigantic icons that Unity and Gnome3 use.

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