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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Xubuntu is officially recognized by Ubuntu as a lightweight distro within the Canonical family. That fact gives Xubuntu an immediate advantage to other distros targetted at older machines and for users who prefer less bulk in their computing desktop. Since you are in the Ubuntu ‘family’, you can easily tap into the great Ubuntu community and the application packages available therein.
For Linux users who want a no-frills OS, or need to run on an older machine, but don’t need to be associated with perhaps the most popular distro family, there are other choices. Savvy users will be best-served to check out several comparable distros such as Vector, Puppy, and Mepis, among others, before settling on their OS choice.