Last week I did a review of Kubuntu 10.04, one of Canonical’s officially supported Ubuntu derivatives. Today’s review is about Xubuntu 10.04, an officially recognized but not supported Ubuntu derivative. According to the Xubuntu downloads page, it is based on the “feature-rich core of Ubuntu” Linux.
Unlike Ubuntu (which uses GNOME), Xubuntu uses the Xfce desktop environment. Xfce is a lightweight environment that, according to its creator Olivier Fourdan, “…loads and executes applications fast, while conserving system resources.” Xubuntu is really geared toward those using older hardware or who simply prefer a no-frills desktop without the gobs of eye-candy found in GNOME or KDE.
What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release:
Albatross theme updated to the latest version
Xubuntu now uses PulseAudio
You can choose an Xubuntu or classic Xfce session when you login
Xubuntu now includes the Ubuntu Software Center
SimpleScan replaces Xsane for scanners
Gnumeric updated to 1.10.1
Revamped selection of bundled games
Xscreensaver is now the default screensaver
If you aren’t familiar with PulseAudio, see the Wikipedia background article about it and see also this article on Linux.com for why PulseAudio matters to Xubuntu users. The article is a bit dated but explains some of the advantages to using PulseAudio in Linux distributions.
Being able to choose between Xubuntu and classic Xfce is a nice touch on the login screen. I doubt, however, that many users will opt for generic Xfce over Xubuntu. But it’s there if you want to do it.
One of the things I disliked most about Kubuntu was that it lacked the Ubuntu Software Center. That isn’t the case with Xubuntu and I’m very glad to see it. Please note that you can still access the Ubuntu Software Center in a classic Xfce session, as well as via the default Xubuntu session.
Although I don’t spend too much time gaming these days, it’s nice to see a revised selection of games. See the software section for a list of what’s available in this release.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice is how fast…REALLY FAST…Xubuntu is when you boot into it, reboot, or login/logout. Ubuntu 10.04 itself is fast but Xubuntu 10.04 is even faster. It takes just a couple of seconds and you’ll be staring at your desktop or you’ll have logged out, etc. Zippy is definitely an appropriate word to describe Xubuntu.
Hardware Requirements & Installation
Here is the official list of system requirements for Ubuntu 10.04, from the Ubuntu Manual:
700 MHz x86 processor
256 MB RAM
3 GB disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024 x 768 resolution
Network or Internet connection
The install is the same as installing Ubuntu. It’s easy and it’s fast.
As with Ubuntu, you’ll see a helpful and interesting slideshow while the install completes. I particularly liked the slide that touted the virtues of Abiword and Gnumeric in comparison to OpenOffice.org. If you are new to Xubuntu, it’s worth it to watch the slideshow since it definitely contains some useful tidbits of information.
Booting & Login
The pre-install bootsplash screen lets you opt to use a Live CD version of Xubuntu. You can try it out without having to install it and you can do the install right from the Xubuntu desktop. You can also pick your language and change other options from the bootsplash screen.
As I noted earlier, you can choose an Xfce session or a Xubuntu session on the login screen. Note the default desktop wallpaper in the background of the login screen.
Since Xubuntu uses the Xfce desktop environment; you won’t find the same kind of eye-candy that you can get in GNOME or KDE. And thank goodness for that! Who really needs it anyway? Xubuntu, as I noted earlier, is very fast and provides a minimalistic but extremely functional desktop environment. It’s perfect for older hardware especially.
When you first boot into the desktop, there are only three icons available: home, file system and trash. The panel color looks like Ubuntu’s, a quiet black that lets you access menus and icons without standing out too much or otherwise distracting you.
If you want to change your system settings, go to Applications then Settings then Xfce 4 Settings Manager. Here’s a sample of the system settings categories available via the settings manager:
Sesssion and Startup
Right-click your desktop to change your wallpaper, menus and icons. The default wallpaper is a bit too dark for my tastes, but it’s easy to change it to whatever you want or you can pick from earlier wallpapers included in previous versions of Xubuntu.
You can also adjust the brightness and saturation, or you can simply opt to dump the image and go with a colored background instead. The desktop settings controls are easy and intuitive, even if you haven’t used Xubuntu before and aren’t sure how you want your desktop to look.
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.
Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News
Pidgin Internet Messenger
Remote Desktop Viewer
It’s interesting to note that GIMP is bundled into Xubuntu and F-Spot isn’t, unlike Ubuntu. The PiTiVi video editor also isn’t included in Xubuntu. Both are available in the Ubuntu Software Center, however.
And don’t forget that the Software Center also has a large selection of games if the revised list of included games seems underwhelming to you.
As I noted earlier, I’m very happy to see the Ubuntu Software Center in this release of Xubuntu. It’s an incredibly easy way to manage your software and it’s something I’d like to see available in every Ubuntu derivative, as soon as possible.
Xubuntu defaults to Canonical’s software repositories but you can easily add your own if you want. Just click Edit in the Software Center’s menu and then choose Software Sources. For most users it probably makes sense to simply use default sources. There’s an enormous amount of software available so why bother messing with other sources?
Adding & Removing Software
If you want to remove an application, just find it in the Software Center under Installed Software and click the Remove button. You’ll need to type in your password and then the software will be removed. Adding software is just as easy, and you can search the Software Center for any application you want to add to your system.
Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
You’ll need to grab the flash plugin from the Ubuntu Software Center to view Youtube Videos. After I installed it, I had no problem with sound or video in YouTube.
My test DVD “Enter the Dragon” didn’t play. Not really a surprise since Xubuntu makes no claim to have included the codec necessary for DVDs to play in Linux.
Problems & Headaches
One very minor problem I noticed was that the desktop wallpaper did not revert to the default xubuntu-karmic.png file when I switched my session back from Xfce to Xubuntu. Not a big deal at all, I just right clicked and pulled up the correct wallpaper.
Another problem that’s a big more significant with Xubuntu is the lack of Ubuntu One. For some strange reason, it is not included the way it is with Ubuntu Linux. Given that the Ubuntu Software Center is part of Xubuntu, it would make sense for Ubuntu One (the online service and the music store) to be incorporated into Xubuntu at some point.
Another perplexing omission from Xubuntu is the social media client, Gwibber. It was in Ubuntu but it’s not present in Xubuntu. You can install it via the Software Center though. But I’d like to see it added to the Networking application menu. It makes perfect sense to have it available immediately after installing Xubuntu.
Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.
You might also want to check out the Xubuntu Linux support page. There are links there to numerous sources of documentation and support, including the Ubuntu forum.
Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m very pleased with Xubuntu. The inclusion of the Ubuntu Software Center really makes a positive impact on the overall experience of using Xubuntu. A big thumbs up to whoever was responsible for making the decision to include the Ubuntu Software Center in this release.
Beginners, intermediate or advanced users can all use Xubuntu. It’s a particularly great option for those who want or need a desktop environment that is fast and functional, without the eye-candy of GNOME or KDE. If you’re in that category, give Xubuntu 10.04 a download. You won’t regret it.
|Product:||Xubuntu Linux 10.04|
|Pros:||Ubuntu Software Center included in this release. Xubuntu now uses PulseAudio for an improved audio experience. Users have the option of logging into a classic Xfce session or a Xubuntu session. Also includes an updated theme and a revamped selection of games.|
|Cons:||The Ubuntu One service and music store are not present in Xubuntu. PiTiVi (video editor) and Gwibber (social media client) are not installed by default but are available in the Software Center.|
|Suitable For:||Beginner, intermediate and advanced users.|
|Summary:||Xubuntu is an excellent option for Ubuntu users who prefer a light-weight desktop environment. Xubuntu is particularly well suited for older hardware with less RAM and CPU power.|