Xubuntu 9.04 Linux – Official Ubuntu Lite Review, Screenshots & Comparisons

Xubuntu is Ubuntu’s official “Lite” version.  Their tagline “Linux for human beings” sort of makes me chuckle – as if the other flavors of unix are for monkees and aliens?  Xubuntu has set out to do what a number of comparable distros are also vying for, ‘the minimalist’ side of Linux.  They claim that Xubuntu is  “that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need – a web browser, document and spreadsheet editing software, instant messaging and much more.”  We set out to see for ourselves.

Being that Ubuntu is a big organization, the download mirrors for Xubuntu are quite vast. Xubuntu 9.04 is a ~600 MB file and downloads rather quickly assuming you choose a nearby mirror.

Installation

For a lite distro, I was hoping for a much faster installation.  From start to finish, the install took nearly 45 minutes.  There may have been specific hardware factors that slowed it down, but the installer never complained, it just took a lot of time.

Our reviews of other “lite” distros have proven to be much quicker to install.  The amount of install screens and questions to be answered is the same for Xubuntu than for example, Mepis, and Vector, yet both of those distros installed in a fraction of the time that Xubuntu required.

First Impressions

The Xfce desktop is neat and clean.  There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but the things you need are readily available.  Xubuntu is meant to be a “lite” version of Linux, and on that promise they deliver.

desktop
Desktop

Installed Packages

You’re a click away from the Firefox browser and your file manager.  The folks at Xubuntu settled on Mozilla’s Thunderbird for your email client.  This is an interesting selection since although Thunderbird is quick and competent, and there are plenty of plug-ins to choose from, it is lacking the off-the-shelf integration with calendar and other desktop tools.

Xubuntu has a sparce smattering of installed apps.  The heavy tools like Open Office and Gimp are missing, but what you are left with is just enough to get your work (and some play) done.  By comparison, other lite-linux versions, like Puppy Linux, have foregone Firefox prefering the less-memory hogging Sea.  Xubuntu lacks a comprehensive multi-media app, such as VLC Player, which is included with Vector Linux.

Competition

Vector Linux is a fair comparison to Xubuntu since it is targeting a similar user audience, and both distros have chosen the Xfce desktop.  We liked the speed and power of Vector very much.  Vector is built on the Slackware frame, whereas Xubuntu takes its roots from Debian.  Vector’s installation went quicker, but it was bit less fool-proof than Xubuntu.  Vector includes the useful VASM, for powerful configuration options in an easy format.  The Vector landscape is filled with useful tools, while Xubuntu has only a few.

Puppy Linux is also a good distro to compare with Xubuntu.  The Puppy runs exceptionally fast as the entire OS is loaded into the computer’s RAM at bootup.  Puppy Linux manages to get everything done in only a 100MB download.  The installation from a live CD is a cynch that any non-techie could easily accomplish.  First-time Puppy users may get spoiled with the speed of their OS and never want to try another lite distro.

It boils down to user preference.  There are many flavors of ice cream at the shop too, and they all seem to get eaten.  There is a whole sub-category now of Linux distros for older machines and lite installations.  Xubuntu is less of an invention in its own right, and more of an adaptation of Ubuntu.

Xubuntu Screenshots Gallery

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Google Chrome OS – Boon or Bust?

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Google Chrome

Google recently announced their intentions for launching Google Chrome OS (Operating System).  According to their blog release, the Google Chrome Operating System will first be targetted at Netbook users. Google plans to release their code to Open Source later this year, and make it available commericially in 2010.

On their official blog, Google asks for help from the open source community to accomplish their vision for a lightweight and easy to use Operating System that does not ‘get in the way’ of users.

Pundits will debate the significance of this ambitious release and its timing to coincide with Microsoft’s new Windows 7 OS.  As the established Search Engine leader, Google in recent years has competed for the desktop user on many other fronts.

Google Talk was released in 2005 as an instant messenger client and was tightly integrated with their email service GMail.  According to Comscore reports, Google Talk is still in distant 4th place behind MSN Messenger, Yahoo, and AOL-AIM.

Their Gmail service, although widely regarded as a superior online email tool, is in 3rd place in usage behind Microsoft’s Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail.

Google’s internet browser, Google Chrome, sits in 4th place with a meager 1.8% market share behind the venerable Microsoft Internet Explorer (65%), Firefox (22%), and Apple’s Safari (8%).  Browser Statistics Source

Google Chrome OS – Starting on the right foot?

What we do know about the Chrome OS is that it will be based on the Linux Kernel, and that the user interface will be minimal, coinciding with the Google Chrome Browser. Google will be working with many OEM’s to integrate their netbooks with the new OS.

Google vs. Microsoft or vs. the Linux Community?

Most of the media have concentrated on the impact Google Chrome OS may have on the ever-present Microsoft Windows.  Depending on deals made between Google and major PC manufacturers, we may see new laptops in 2010 being offered with Chrome OS pre-installed instead of Windows.

In a down economy, users may be looking for ways to save money and the Google OS, to be offered free, will ostensibly save on the licensing costs for Windows.  However, as the numbers above indicate, Google does not have a great track record in wooing mass-market PC users to their non-search engine products.

I think that in the months after the first release of Chrome OS, the first users most likely to give it a try will come from the Linux community.  Microsoft is still very entrenched as the default OS.  As far as the Linux community is concerned, even with the plethora of new versions and flavors of Linux being released on a monthly-basis, the competition has served to fortify the community as a whole.

Google’s Chrome OS may finally bring Linux to the forefront as a mainstream viable alternative to Microsoft.  It may not cut away at Microsoft’s stranglehold, but the Linux community will thrive.  If that happens, the biggest winners in this effort will be Linux users.

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html