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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Mepis 8.0 Linux – Review and Screenshots

Mepis 8.0 Linux is a Linux distro designed for ease of use and suitable even for beginners.

Mepis is built on Debian 5.0 stable core with the 2.6.27 Linux kernel and comes in a 32bit and 64bit version.

You can download from the Mepis mirror sites here.

Their motto is “SimplyMEPIS just works!”   We decided to give it a try.

The installation disk includes a Live CD so you can try out Mepis before installing it to your hard drive.

KDE 3.5 vs. 4.1

Mepis has chosen to stay with the KDE Desktop 3.5 instead of moving up to the plasma-based 4.x that is already available on many KDE distros.  The differences between 3.5 and 4.1 are major enough in function that Linux really looks and acts differently with each of them.  I have written about my disappointment with the current KDE 4.x desktop in earlier posts, but some of our viewers have commented that the plasma desktop is a major improvement.

The makers of Mepis have probably stuck with 3.5 since it is ostensibly easier to use than the newer version, and Mepis has stated that it is dedicated to ease of use and simplicity.  I think it was a good decision.

Desktop – First Impressions

The desktop is standard KDE 3.5.  The bottom bar has a nice assortment of quick links and system tray information.  It has a clean and pleasant display of menus and easy access to most-used elements.  Nothing shouted out to differentiate Mepis from other simple distros.

Desktop
Desktop

Installed Packages

The menus show software items by function with the package name in parentheses.  For example, Ksnapshot is “Screen Capture Program (Ksnapshot)”.

Internet browsers include Firefox & Konquerer.  The KDE Kmail program is installed along with Kontakt and Korganizer.  For multimedia, Amarok is installed, as you’d expect in a KDE distro.  Mepis also includes the Open Office tools for spreadsheet, word processing, and presentation.

User Manual

As you’d expect for a beginner user-friendly distro, Mepis comes with its very own user manual.  It’s actually quite useful.  Some may consider this a gimmick since popular distros like Ubuntu have so much written documentation online and user forums, that you’re never far from an answer to any question even without a ‘manual’.

User Manual
User Manual

Gallery of Screenshots

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