Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lubuntu 12.10 Review

Screenshot of Lubuntu loading up
A week or so ago, I reviewed the Official Ubuntu 12.10 distro, featuring the Unity desktop. After that review, I have been working on reviewing all of the derrivities, such as Xubuntu, Lubuntu, and Kubuntu. After downloading Lubuntu, I flashed it to a 1GB USB stick, same as before with Ubuntu 12.10. Now for a bit of a background before continuing.

Lubuntu (1) (2) is a Linux distro that is a derrivitive of Ubuntu, but feaures the LXDE desktop environment. There is also small changes to make the distro as light as possible because the main mission of Lubuntu is to work well on old hardware, sort of breathing new life into it. In this review, I actually try out another distro of Ubuntu, and I also put their mission to the test, buy running this distro on old hardware, the same hardware as the Ubuntu 12.10 review to test LLVMPipe.

First thing you have to do to get Lubuntu is to download it. I flashed the image on to a USB stick, and booted off of it.

When you first boot the Live USB, you first get a text based language chooser, which I can say can scare some users. This is still Ubuntu, so you would expect everything to be as graphicical as possible. It is not that much of an issue. Once you choose your language, you are taken to a less "scary" text screen that features a few menu choices. You can run Lubuntu from a live environment, check disc for errors, boot from your first hard disk, check memory, and install Lubuntu directly. You also get a few function key options as well at the bottom of the screen. For this review, I decided to run everything live.

When you choose to boot live, you might notice that the sytem appears to lock up. It's not locked up. If you pay attention to your drive indicator, you'll see that it is actually booting the kernel and OS when this is happening. So don't freak out and yank your drive or shut off your computer via a hard shutdown method.

As soon as the system is done booting, you'll be taken to the Lubuntu LXDE desktop environment. It looks like this, minus the orange HexChat icon in the bottom right.
On the desktop, you may notice that there is almost nothing there. The desktop resembles Windows in some regard, with the Lubuntu icon (bottom left) as a start button. It also resembles XFCE a lot as well. By default, the desktop comes with one panel. The default indicators that show up in the notifications area is the sound icon, battery icon (if you are using a laptop), and the network indicator icon, the time, and the power options, such as to log off and shut down the computer. The default wall paper is similiar to previous Lubuntu wallpapers, sort of how the main Ubuntu distro is with its changing wallpapers, but similar nevertheless. You do have more wallpapers in the distro to choose from. You can look at all of the default wallpapers by clicking here and looking at the folder I uploaded them to on my SkyDrive.

Default Applications
Lubuntu has a few default applications, and they are surprisingly lightweight. The default web browser is Chromium. The default file manager is PCMan Fm. In the main Ubuntu distro, the default web browser is Firefox and the File manager is Nautilus, respectively. Lubuntu contains some sound and multimedia tools, and even a word processor. For the internet tab in the Lubuntu start menu, you get Chromium, a lightweight email client, and the Transmission BitTorrent client. As for games, Lubuntu has a load of games installed. From what I have tested, the majority, if not all, are some type of card game. Surprisingly, no checkers or chess. I'm surprised that Chess was not installed, as I love the game of chess; its a good concentration game and strengthens the mind in my opinion. You also have a few more default applications, such as a basic graphics editor similiar to Microsoft Paint, and more. You also get a text editor, but it isn't gedit.

File Manager 
The file manager included in Lubuntu is PCMan FM. It's not Naultilus that everyone has gotten used to. I have used PCMan a lot, and I can honestly say that its fast, and it just "works". It doesn't need any fancy eyecandy, it looks decent (follows Lubuntu's theme anyways), and gets the job done. It is not as feature rich as Naultilus, but then again this is Lubuntu. It is aimed to be as lightweight as possible, and this is a fairly lightweight file manager.

Software Updater
The software updater (previously known as the Update Manger) works quite well. At the time of reviewing this, I had very little updates to install, and it was mainly Firefox updates because I  installed the Firefox package to test that as well. From my testing it works fairly fast.

Sound in Lubuntu is standard. It however, is not advanced. It does not use the PulseAudio system commonly used in Linux. You can change the volume from the indicator. You do have a command line-like audio mixer, with controls via your arrow keys. You also get a bit of info about your sound card, so I guess that is a plus over pulse audio. Take a look at the image below. lightweight is it?
I can say that Lubuntu is lighter then Windows XP. The amout of RAM taken when you first load up Lubuntu is under 200 MB. XP at its base is at least more then 200 MB, at least that is what I know of. You can look at this task manager view below. Even with 6 chromium tabs open, it uses less memory then I thought it would be cause generally Chrome/Chromium is known to be bloated, at least with the amount of RAM it occupies.
This is with Chromium. With Firefox, the RAM usage is less. As far as graphics goes with this system, you shouldn't have any issues with this either. The desktop is very minimal, and has very minimal effects. It does not use compiz as a window manager. The OS itself does not consume a lot of resources, but applications themselves can consume CPU resources such as installing software and even browsing the web.

I don't have a screenshot for the task manager while it is just booted, because I am typing this review from Lubuntu right now. In fact, this entire review is typed from Ubuntu.

The Wrap Up
Overall, I think Lubuntu is a great distro. It is lightweight, and it gets the job done. It does not have eyecandy like you would expect, but it is aimed to be lightweight. Lubuntu is in fact lighter then Windows XP, and it will certainly breath life into older hardware. My final word is - yes, I'd recommend it!