Ubuntu 12.10 was released last month but I have only recently reviewed Ubuntu 12.04 and to be honest I couldn’t muster up the energy to do battle with Unity again so soon.
It isn’t that I particularly dislike Ubuntu because I don’t. You only have to read my review of Ubuntu 12.04
to see that I have every respect for this distribution. I also received a fair amount of criticism from people who were clearly not fans of Ubuntu.
I think the best comment on the Ubuntu review sums up how I feel about Ubuntu as well:
I installed Ubuntu 11.10 when I first got started with Linux, and I’ve uninstalled it, reinstalled it, uninstalled it again, and so on. I’ve tried Unity, don’t like it, and I’ve moved on. HOWEVER, despite all that, I believe Ubuntu has made a fantastic contribution to the Linux world in one very important way. It’s easy to install. In fact, after six months now of looking at other distributions, I can attest to the fact that only Ubuntu and its derivative distributions have an installer a novice can use without having to wade too deeply in the hard drive partitioning waters. I’ve seen some that come close (openSUSE and Fedora, for example), but even they can quickly become too technical for the user who just wants the system to install itself so he can get on with USING the computer. For the folks who take pride in their technical expertise and skills, there are plenty of options out there (and they can even demonstrate them to their heart’s content with Ubuntu), but the secret to getting more people to use Linux is making it super-simple to install. Most users don’t care how it works, why it works or how wonderful the coding may be. It doesn’t matter how good your mousetrap is if the user is intimidated by its installation process.
So based on the fact that I have recently reviewed Ubuntu 12.04 and the fact there is now a 12.10 release available I have decided to review Xubuntu 12.10 which is Ubuntu with the lightweight XFCE desktop environment.
I downloaded Xubuntu 12.10
and installed it to a USB drive using Unetbootin. I then installed it fully to the hard drive on my Samsung R20 laptop. The Samsung R20 is a good six years old and it is hardly a mean machine in terms of processor or graphics ability. It is definitely not a good choice for Ubuntu but for Xubuntu it is just fine.
ch_client = “garynewelluk”;
ch_width = 550;
ch_height = 250;
ch_type = “mpu”;
ch_sid = “Chitika Default”;
ch_color_site_link = “0000CC”;
ch_color_title = “0000CC”;
ch_color_border = “FFFFFF”;
ch_color_text = “000000”;
ch_color_bg = “FFFFFF”;
The first thing I noticed was the boot time. It was very quick at around 15 seconds. To give you a benchmark most other distributions on this laptop take between 30 and 45 seconds.
The Xubuntu desktop loads with a rather bland blue screen with a taskbar at the top and four desktop icons on the left hand side…..
…. but that is not all because if you hover over the bottom of the screen a docking bar appears with a series of icons which enable you to perform common tasks.
The XFCE desktop will be very familiar to most computer users whether you are a novice, a Windows user with 20 years experience or a seasoned Linux guru.
The taskbar at the top has a small icon on the left that brings up the menu. On the right hand side of the taskbar there is a fairly standard set of icons for various functions including a battery monitor, speaker symbol which enables you to adjust audio settings, wireless icon for setting up a wireless connection, notifications icon, a clock, a workspace selector and the name of the current user which when clicked gives you the option to lock the screen, switch users, log out and shutdown.
The docking bar has icons to provide instant access to the most commonly used applications including a file browser, email client, terminal, settings, search tool, software center, word processor and a music player.
Connecting to the internet
To connect to the internet click the wireless symbol on the taskbar and a menu will appear showing the available networks.
When I first clicked the icon nothing showed in the list. I had to uncheck enable wireless and then recheck enable wireless before the wireless networks appeared. This is not the first time I have seen this happen with a Ubuntu based distribution.
To connect to a network simply select it and enter the security key. On subsequent boots the network will be connected to automatically.
Flash and MP3
To test Flash I always go to Youtube and attempt to play a video.
A message appeared stating that I would need to install a plug in.
There are two options, one for the Adobe plugin and one for Gnash.
I tried the Gnash plugin and it worked however keep reading because there is a better way.
To test the playing of MP3s I ran the default music application which in Xubuntu’s case is GMusicbrowser.
As soon as I started playing a track an error appeared due to a missing GStreamer plugin.
Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu have an extra package that can be installed which installs things like Flash, Java, Truetype fonts and MP3 codecs.
In Xubuntu’s case the package is called Xubuntu Restricted Extras.
To install software in Xubuntu you can use the Ubuntu Software Center. There is an icon on the docking bar (blue square, white down arrow) that loads the software center.
The easiest way to find a piece of software is to type the name of the software in the search box.
Therefore to install Xubuntu Restricted Extras type Restricted Extras in the search box and you will be given the option to install Ubuntu Restricted Extras, Xubuntu Restricted Extras and Kubuntu Restricted Extras. Of course you only need to install the one for Xubuntu.
Half way through the installation of Xubuntu Restricted Extras you will be asked whether you accept the license terms and conditions.
Just tick the box to continue unless of course you don’t agree to the terms. I wonder how many of us have checked that box and never even bothered reading the terms.
Once the Xubuntu Restricted Extras were installed I was able to watch videos on Youtube and listen to music in GMusicBrowser.
Xubuntu has always been designed as a lightweight operating system and as such some of the more polished applications that come with Ubuntu are replaced with applications with a smaller footprint. In addition to this there aren’t that many applications installed.
There are the usual accessories you would expect to find including archiver, terminal emulator, a file editor (Leafpad) and a screenshot tool.
The games section is sparse with just mines (minesweeper) and sudoku. There is no GIMP or indeed image editing tool but there are image viewers.
Under the internet section there is a mail client (Thunderbird), web browser (Firefox), messenging tool (Pidgin) and IRC Client (XChat).
The multimedia section as mentioned before has the GMusicBrowser for playing music.
GMusicBrowser is no Rhythmbox or Banshee but it has all the more common features for a music player including the ability to import music and create playlists. You can also change the look and feel to make GMusicBrowser behave like other music applications including Rhythmbox and iTunes (Why anyone would want to make their music player work like iTunes I do not know).
The media player included with Xubuntu is called Parole.
There is a word processor in the form of Abiword and a spreadsheet tool in the form of Gnumeric. If you are using an older computer then these tools are perfectly useable but lack the features of LibreOffice.
I have deliberately kept this review shorter than normal and that is because Xubuntu on its own is fairly plain. There are only a couple of choices of wallpaper and the software that is installed isn’t hugely inspiring.
If you have an older computer then Xubuntu can be used as is and you can add to it with more lightweight applications.
However I think Xubuntu would work brilliantly as a main operating system on a more modern computer. The reason I chose to use the Samsung R20 for the review as opposed to other computers at my disposal is that it isn’t brand new yet it isn’t so old as to be considered ancient.
The fact is that whilst Unity is a cumbersome beast, Ubuntu itself is really good. The Ubuntu repositories provide an endless list of applications and the hardware support is brilliant. Therefore Xubuntu with the XFCE desktop is a great base for creating the ultimate operating system.
I will be posting more articles as I turn the Xubuntu install into something more pleasing on the eye and with the functionality of the heavyweight operating systems.
Thankyou for reading.