Day One of our Lightweight Distro Roundup.

Our candidate? Lubuntu, a Ubuntu flavor that uses LXDE as its desktop environment. I has everything that Ubuntu has going for it; large community support, tons of packages in the repositories and years of Ubuntu legacy and know-how.

Does it provide what is needed in a lightweight distro?

Quintin

Lubuntu certainly promises a lot.  The Distro certainly is lightweight, and on our test machine it lives in about 260MB of RAM with no other programs open.

It is a bit light on some features though, some of them omitted due to performance considerations, like dropping OpenOffice in favor of some lightweight alternatives like Abiword and Gnumeric.

If you were so inclined you could of course install OpenOffice from the repositories, and this is a strength of the $buntu family – you can take almost any version and tailor it to your liking.

If you were to hand it over to a relative remember to check that all the codecs are installed though, very easily done since you can rely on the package manager to take care of your needs.

Elzje

Speed wise it was okay, probably quicker than Xubuntu and definitely quicker than anything else that had been installed on my machine. There were less little frustrations compared to others.

In Chrome there are no arrows on the scroll bars, this irritates me since I prefer clicking on them to scroll a page. I have not gotten the scrolling via the touchpad down.

The flash problem was an irritation until Quintin fixed it. The error message I received and the solution provided was very misleading to me. Why would it tell me the browser has flash installed when the OS not having it is the problem?

The way Quintin explained flash as part of the OS instead of the browser but installing it from the repo to get it into the browser is a bit confusing. I just want it to work…

(Q – In Ubuntu you could always install flash from the browser in Firefox. The Ubuntu installer popped up and solved that issue. Lubuntu should have something like this if they want to strip flash from Chromium…)

Typing special characters was a pain – I wanted to help my mother in law with her CV, but her name has an é, but Lubuntu cannot type this letter if the keyboard preferences are incorrect. Quintin could not fix this since you have to choose the correct keyboard on install.

(Q – The default is US Keyboard, as per Ubuntu the US International with ALTgr dead keys is available, but I did not select this, I figured I would be able to switch later.)

Other things I could do was watch movies on DVD, so it basically served all my needs.

Questions and Answers

Now to our seven questions and answers, how did Lubuntu do?

  1. Is it reasonably quick?
    Yes. It does not need a lot of resources to run.  In fact, from memory it feels quicker than Xubuntu did, taking less time to boot and being faster on opening programs.
  2. Can you use the Internet with ease?
    No. Even though Lubuntu includes the excellent Google Chromium browser there are some problems. An example is flash support.  Go to Youtube and try and play a video, you will be notified that you need flash to install. If  you click on the “Get Flash” link, you will be informed that Flash is already included with Chrome. Installing flash via the package manager solves that problem though.
  3. Can You Edit Documents and Spreadsheets?
    Yes. Even though the programs included are not as powerful as OpenOffice is, they are adequate for casual use.
  4. How easy is e-mail use?
    It includes Sylpheed 3.0.2 as a mail client. Again this is adequate for casual use, but more serious users might opt for Thunderbird instead.
  5. Are Codecs available for all the common formats?
    Yes. Via the repositories. Some distros include them, others don’t. Really a non issue for most people…
  6. How hard is it to join networks?
    As easy as with Ubuntu. Lubuntu uses the Gnome Network Applet, and managing your networks is predictably easy.
  7. Is it a swap-in for a higher end distro?
    No. If you want you can turn it into almost anything you want, but there is one feature sorely lacking – try and swop your keyboard layout. You can only choose it during install, or do some command-line hacking to get it done. A major disqualification.

Summary

Lubuntu is rather bare bones when taking some of the company here into account. It is not our choice for a lightweight Linux Distro, but there is certainly a bright future ahead. One to keep an eye on.

You can get the Lubuntu  we tested from THIS LINK. (iso File)

(You can read DAY 2 HERE)

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