A Look at Lubuntu on a Netbook

My experience with Lubuntu on a netbook (just my thoughts, not a proper review)

I used to run the Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 on my netbook, a Dell Mini 10v (1.6 GHz Atom processor, 1 GB Ram, 10in screen). I liked the simple interface and fantastic Ubuntu repositories that made installing software easy.

Unfortunately I found the whole thing way too slow. Opening up the file manager Nautilus seemed to take 10 seconds on a good day. I also wasn’t crazy about the windows always being maximized. Especially on a 10 inch screen.

To resist the urge to buy a SSD, I thought I’d try a lighter operating system instead. After playing around with a few different operating systems like Puppy Linux and xPUD (man I wish Meego would finally be ready) I decided on Lubuntu 10.10.

In short, Lubuntu is an Ubuntu derivative that uses LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) as its desktop environment instead of Gnome. It doesn’t have official endorsement from Canonical, but hopes to in the future.

After using it for a few weeks now, I am very happy with the results!

Lubuntu is much faster and more responsive than Ubuntu’s desktop or netbook editions. But you still get the secure, solid foundation found in Ubuntu, as well as some awesome repositories similar to Ubuntu’s (the Lubuntu repositories).

One reason Lubuntu is faster than regular Ubuntu is that lightweight applications replace their bulkier counterparts in the regular release. Some of the changes include:

Chromium replaces Firefox
PCManFM replaces Nautilus
mtPaint replaces GIMP
Abiword replaces OpenOffice Writer
Aqualung replaces Rhythmbox
LXTerminal replaces Terminal
Leafpad replaces gEdit
MPlayer replaces Totem
ePDFViewer replaces eVince

What I like the most is the file manager PCManFM. It it so much faster than then Nautilus, but is still a full-featured file manager ie: tabbed browsing, drag and drop, thumbnails, etc.

There are also two cool features in PCManFM under ‘Tools’ that really save time:
‘Open Current Folder in Terminal’, and ‘Open Current Folder as Root’. In Nautilus, I often copy the current folders location and then paste it into terminal after the “cd” command to get to the directory I want.

Or when I need root privileges, I have to open terminal, type “sudo nautilus /location/i/want/” or just “sudo nautilus” and then navigate to the directory I need. In PCManFM I just click on ‘Tools’ in the menu bar and there are the options. It’s so convenient.

Also, PCManFM is the best looking file manager I’ve used (it’s even much better looking that OS X’s Finder aka: the worst file manager ever) because it keeps all the folders and files in perfect rows. It doesn’t matter how long the file names are, they will all be in equally spaced rows.

Have a look at the photo of Nautilus (left) and PCManFM (right) side by side on my desktop. See how PCManFM’s folders are all in neat and even rows? Whereas Nautilus’ rows are not lined up evenly. It is just aesthetics, but it makes my experience more enjoyable.

Chromium (Google’s open source web browser that Chrome get’s it source code from) is a great internet browser. I find it starts up quicker than Firefox, but the selection of add-ons and themes is much smaller.

Everyone has their preference when it comes to an internet browser (apparently the most used application in an OS) so I am sure many people will install another web browser. I personally still use Firefox as my main browser and like playing around with Opera, but I can say that Chromium is a good fit for Lubuntu because it is fast and functional.

The quick and easy Pros and Cons list for those who don’t like to read too much:

Pros:
Faster than Ubuntu and the Ubuntu Netbook Edition
Longer battery life (I get about an extra 5 mins on 2 ½ hours)
Very easy installation, just like Ubuntu
Easily found the drivers for my wireless card
Lighter applications are installed by default
File manager PCManFM is awesome – appearance, speed, terminal/root integration
Chromium is fast, smooth, and open source
Volume keys work out of the box
Can run Celtx, Skype, and Flash no problem
The beautiful Elementary icons are the default!!

Cons:
External drives don’t mount on desktop
Boot up time is about the same
A small learning curve coming from Gnome
Not official part of the Ubuntu family
Less eye candy
Included games are lame
I had to manually set it to automatically login to my wireless network (and had problems with the keyring manager getting in the way)

What I miss:
The software centre
Better looking themes

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