REVIEW: Xubuntu 6.06 LTS from my perspective and from the newbies’

July 21, 2006 at 10:42 am (Ubuntu)

Who should not read this review?

1) Ubuntu haters. If you hate it please restrain yourself from posting comments.

2) Windows users who are bound to certain Windows only applications or games

3) Users which hardware does not meet the requirements of XFCE. For further information:

http://www.xfce.org

http://www.xubuntu.org/

My laptop

Since I do not remember the exact model name I will post the output of “lspci”:

0000:00:00.0 Host bridge: ATI Technologies Inc RS200/RS200M AGP Bridge [IGP 340M] (rev 02)

0000:00:01.0 PCI bridge: ATI Technologies Inc PCI Bridge [IGP 340M]

0000:00:02.0 USB Controller: ALi Corporation USB 1.1 Controller (rev 03)

0000:00:06.0 Multimedia audio controller: ALi Corporation M5451 PCI AC-Link Controller Audio Device (rev 02)

0000:00:07.0 ISA bridge: ALi Corporation M1533 PCI to ISA Bridge [Aladdin IV]

0000:00:08.0 Modem: ALi Corporation M5457 AC’97 Modem Controller

0000:00:0a.0 CardBus bridge: O2 Micro, Inc. OZ601/6912/711E0 CardBus/SmartCardBus Controller

0000:00:10.0 IDE interface: ALi Corporation M5229 IDE (rev c4)

0000:00:11.0 Bridge: ALi Corporation M7101 Power Management Controller [PMU]

0000:00:12.0 Ethernet controller: National Semiconductor Corporation DP83815 (MacPhyter) Ethernet Controller

0000:01:05.0 VGA compatible controller: ATI Technologies Inc Radeon IGP 330M/340M/350M

Its CPU:

model name : Mobile Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU 1.60GHz

stepping : 7

cpu MHz : 1594.945

cache size : 256 KB

It has 256MB of RAM, at least in theory since 64MB are used by the integrated graphic card.

Other distributions which I have tried on my laptop

1) DSL: it worked fine but the livecd (as well as the installed version) froze at shutdown and I could not check the status of the battery (which was always fully charged, at least according to DSL). Other than that it worked fine.

2) Vector Linux and Zenwalk: They worked fine. No complaints here. However I needed some applications which are available in the Ubuntu’s repositories but not in theirs. My bad, it is just that I am too addicted to Ubuntu (which I use on the desktop). They are fast distributions though.

3) Fedora Core 5, OpenSuse 10, Ubuntu 6.06, Kubuntu 6.06: they work fine but their requirements are too high for this old laptop (mainly for its lack of RAM).

4) Xubuntu Breezy was slower and less polished than Xubuntu Dapper.

5) DreamLinux 2.0: the sound card was not detected as well as the ethernet card.

What was on my laptop before Xubuntu

Arch Linux, a blazing fast and very up-to-date distribution was installed on my laptop. I was quite happy with Arch but it needed some tweaking in order to make it the way I wanted.

Sometimes the Xserver crashed at boot without no apparent reason. I had to reboot in order to solve the problem. Perhaps that was due to the fact that I used Slim as my login manager.

Booting took an eternity. I can blame my lack of experience with Arch for that but I loaded only few modules and daemons at boot.

I did not try to set up things like hibernation, etc. both because I don’t use them and because I was too lazy to look for a guide to enable it.

I think that the battery of my laptop lasted much less on Arch (I am not sure though).

Anyhow this is not a rant against Arch which is an excellent distro and which I use on my desktop (as my 2nd distro). Arch Linux is not meant to provide you with an out-of-the-box experience. It is fast, lightweight, up-to-date, and that is the way we like it.

The last crash of the Xserver (which I know how to configure) was enough to switch to a new distribution: Xubuntu

Installation

I used the livecd installer of Xubuntu. It booted up just fine and everything was auto-detected. I had to test the sound card therefore I installed XMMS and played an mp3 (it worked).

I decided to install it and it was really a matter of a few mouse clicks before I could leave the computer alone for a while. Of course I had to set up the clock an insert a username and a password.

NOTE: my hard disk was already partitioned and I do not use Windows.

On the next reboot I was greeted first by one of the shortest booting times I have ever seen in my life and then by the GDM login manager (which has been themed for Xubuntu and looks good).

Updating the System

I wanted to update the system therefore I clicked on the Applications menu and then on System/Update manager. Update manager “complained” (actually notified me) about the fact of not being enabled by default (but this is not a problem).

Note: for some reason the live installer set up the repository list to use Australian servers. You can change it manually to the repositories related to your country (Italy in my case) in order to download at higher speed (but that is not a real problem).

It took me only a mouse click to start the update. The packages were downloaded and installed. At a certain point I noticed that the progress bar of the status of the installation of the packages was idle. I had to click on the triangle beside the word “Terminal” in order to see a terminal window embedded in the update manager. There I saw that the update of a package (CUPS-BSD) needed an answer about enabling a printing protocol (or something like that). I had to press ENTER to continue with the installation. A few other packages needed an answer. The rest of the update went smoothly.

My only doubt is whether a newbie would find out that he has to click on the little triangle and see why the progress bar is idle. Maybe the Terminal Window should be enabled by default. The same “problem” affects Synaptic. That is something to suggest on Launchpad as it makes Xubuntu less userfriendly than it could be.

I usually prefer using the command line but I guess that Windows users would find it alien and unfriendly.

Installing Applications

You can install a application from Ubuntu’s repositories by opening a nice GUI program called Synaptic. You can search a program or just a word (e.g. “bittorrent” or “blog”) and Synaptic will find all those applications which has to do with that word (i.e. a bittorrent client, etc.). Then again I prefer the command line.

Ubuntu’s repositories contain many applications which range from word processors to mind-mappers to games, etc. I am very happy with all the software available there. Unfortunately the repositories are not kept as up-to-date as on Arch or Fedora for the sake of stability.

Installing Restricted packages

Restricted packages are packages of different kinds which cannot be stored on Ubuntu’s repositories for legal reasons. They can be codecs or proprietary plugins, etc.

If you want to install them (e.g. if you want to watch your DVDs on Ubuntu) there are several ways to get the job done. You can follow the Wiki, use EasyUbuntu (a nice app which I have no experience of ) and Automatix.

Automatix was my choice. It is made up of several scripts written in Bash with a Zenity GUI. I went to Automatix section of the Ubuntu forums (ubuntuforums.org), read the fine instructions (actually just three lines to copy and paste to the command line) and installed this application. A new entry was added to the applications menu. I ran Automatix, chose all the apps, codecs and plugins I needed (it only takes you a few mouse clicks) then I waited and I had all I needed installed on my system. I cannot wait to see Automatix 2 which will be written in Python (and therefore even more powerful and flexible).

Ordinary tasks

Three things could be improved as they could make newbies’ life a bit harder on Ubuntu:

1) Adding a link (or shortcut) to an application to the panel. That is usually an easy task on Desktop Environments such as GNOME and KDE but it was a bit more difficult on Xfce (version 4.3.90.2 BETA1) (which is used by Xubuntu). I had to right click on the panel, select “Add new item”/Launcher, type the name and the path to the application. What if I had not known the exact name of the executable file related to the application I wanted to add?

An experienced user would know how to do that but I doubt a newbie would.

I cannot blame Xfce for that since it’s only a beta.

2) Thunar does not enable me to browse my network and access the shared folder on other computers. Unfortunately that feature has not been implemented yet. Other than that Thunar is a very nice file manager.

3) The following problem affects also the other flavours of Ubuntu:

the accents are not displayed properly in names of files and folders on my Cd-Rs or DVD-Rs.

For example the word “verità” would be displayed as “verit?”.

That is easy to solve. Type:

sudo mousepad /etc/fstab

and look for the line related to your Cd reader:

/dev/hdc /media/cdrom0 udf,iso9660 user,noauto 0 0

And make it look like this:

/dev/hdc /media/cdrom0 udf,iso9660 user,noauto,iocharset=utf8 0 0

Save the file and exit.

The next time you insert your CD the problem will be gone.

Note: this problem also affects Debian Etch, Arch Linux 0.7.2. In Fedora Core 5 this problem does not exist.

What I really liked about Xubuntu

1) CPU Frequency scaling just works. I know that because now I can clearly distinguish the noise of the fan of my CPU from the one of my hair drier (and I am not kidding).

2) Automounting works out-of-the-box. You insert you CD or USB storage media and they are mounted and ready to be accessed. This feature is not always available on other distros.

3) Ubuntu’s repositories are huge and suit my needs. For all the rest I use Automatix.

4) The system is fast and usable. The battery lasts more and hibernation works out-of-the-box.

5) I find Xubuntu to be very pleasing to the eye as it resembles GNOME (and I happen to be a GNOME fan). Its look can be changed though.

Final comments

I feel that my quest for a distribution for my laptop is over. Xubuntu is here to stay.

Here is a series of questions and answers which hopefully will make my stance clearer:

Q: Is Xubuntu the best distribution ever made?

A: No, it is not. But does such a thing exist anyway?

Q: Is Xubuntu the best Operative System for YOUR laptop then?

A: Definitely

And now a more interesting question:

Q: Does Xubuntu work fine on any hardware?

A: No, at least as far as I know

As a moderator on the Ubuntu Forums I have seen some users who had problems with all the flavours of Ubuntu.

If you cannot even use the Livecd because the Xserver crashes (i.e. your graphic card is not well supported or is not supported at all) you can try booting the CD in Safe Mode.

If that does not help you Ubuntu has a friendly community which will be glad to help you.

You might find these threads particularly useful:

Dealing with problems with the Xserver

Having problems with installing or upgrading to Dapper? Here are some fixes

WARNING / take a look here prior to upgrading and installing!

If even those threads did not work for you, you can post in the first thread and ask for help.

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33 Comments

  1. matthew said,

    Nice review, very clear and I appreciate the amount of detail. Thanks for putting it up!

  2. ubuntu_demon’s blog » Blog Archive » REVIEW: Xubuntu 6.06 LTS from my perspective and from the newbies’ said,

    […] read more | digg story […]

  3. jucato said,

    Very nice review. Concise and straight to the point.

    I just have to note some things:

    1. In the installation section, you mentioned that you installed XMMS and played an MP3. I think it would be quite informative if you mentioned that you installed some codecs first to get MP3 support (if you did). Some people might presume that Xubuntu, unlike Ubuntu and Kubuntu, has MP3 support out of the box.

    2. I have tried Xubuntu as well, and I was very much impressed by the speed. However, I had 2 issues with the current Xfce version that Xubuntu is using:
    – it has no Trash management: you have to be careful with what you delete. Although a warning pops up when you delete a file, people who are used to just pressing Enter would be surprised.
    – it has no search/find program. You’d have to install something like gnome-utils in order to get that.

    Other than that, Xubuntu is a very good distro, and Xfce is an impressive desktop environment that’s suitable not only for systems with minimal resources but also for anyone who wants speed without sacrficing the integration that a full desktop environment has to offer.

    – Jucato (a.k.a. Fenyx in Ubuntuforums.org)

  4. albertomilone said,

    jucato

    1. I didn’t have to install any codec because I think that XMMS was built with MP3s support.

    All I had to do was typing:
    sudo apt-get install xmms

    and my mp3 was then played by XMMS

    2. You’re right. I forgot to mention that. I think that Xfce has great potential and I’m convinced that it will become a great DE once the Final version is released.

    And thanks for appreciating my review (which BTW is my 1st review)

  5. Xubuntu Blog » Blog Archive » Xubuntu 6.06 LTS Review said,

    […] Here’s a nice review of Xubuntu 6.06 from a new user’s perspective. […]

  6. jucato said,

    Oh I didn’t know that about XMMS. I guess it’s not public knowledge or not quite known. I mean, the usual answer when someone asks about playing MP3s is to install the restricted codecs either manually or through Automatix/EasyUbuntu. I haven’t seen anyone say “try XMMS”.

    I guess you learn something new everyday, huh? 😀

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that among the three (GNOME, KDE, Xfce), Xfce has the most flexible/customizable system/applications menu (the menu on the panel that you can add/remove). Of course, you might have to do a bit of manual editing of config files, but once you get the hang of it (it’s not that hard), the possibilities are (almost) endless.

  7. Tazzix said,

    I love Xubuntu, since I want the least bloat (memory footprint) and the most functionality possible, even on a modern desktop machine. And I want it working “out of the box”, unlike having to configure a lighter-weight desktop, desktop icon support, drag and drop support, session support, etc. etc. (Example, IceWM + iDesk + XFE (or Rox and no iDesk) + GDM + etc.). So XFCE covers most of my requirements.

    My only gripe is the Beta 4.4 XFCE’s Thunar doesn’t have network browsing yet. Hopefully that will be solved in Edgy Eft.

    -Taz

  8. www.Xubuntu.info said,

    Very in depth and concise review. I enjoyed it!!

  9. EcceWeb » dzdzndzldn said,

    […] REVIEW: Xubuntu 6.06 LTS from my perspective and from the newbies’ […]

  10. Rebel Devel said,

    Nice review.

    Have you compared memory usage (Xubuntu versus Arch)? I have compared Arch running Gnome versus Ubuntu. Arch uses up about 164 Mb, right after boot, including Gnome Terminal. Ubuntu uses up about 272 Mb! I guess Xubuntu is extremely hungry as well 🙂

  11. albertomilone said,

    Rebel Devel

    I didn’t compare memory usage but Xubuntu on my laptop seems to be as fast as Arch (I can see it when I use it). I know that it’s a bit odd but having used Arch for a few months I can say that I have noticed the difference. Actually I was so surprised that I wrote the review.

    Of course Ubuntu is more resource hungry than Arch (in general). Unfortunately it would be a pain to run GNOME on either Ubuntu or Arch on my laptop (therefore I don’t bother installing them on it).

    On my desktop computer I can’t notice any difference though. It has 2GB of RAM, AMD3500+, etc. Usually you can notice the difference more on slow CPUs and with small amounts of RAM.

    Xubuntu Breezy was a resource hog, even if I set openbox instead of Xfce.

  12. snvv said,

    Hello,
    In fact I tried to install xubuntu from liveCD and the installer was broken. So I can’t say how the installed version behaves after HD installation. But as a liveCD was a bit slower in my machine both from zenwalk and vector.

    I would like to ask you which applications didn’t find for slackware? Because, personally I have find everything that I want. I have tried more than 50 Linux distributions and currently I use zenwalk. It is the faster around with compatible speed with a fully optimized Gentoo but much more easy and stable.

    One think that I dont understand with ubuntu is why there are so many version of the same essential distro. For example in zenwalk I have installed Gnome, KDE, enlightment using the same base. After extensive testing I cant choose between xfce & Gnome. Both are beautiful and fast.

    And yes you have made a good review. I enjoyed it. Thank you

    SN

  13. albertomilone said,

    snvv

    Can you explain what you mean by “the installer was broken”, please?

    Did the Xserver crash? I can help you with that

    BTW I didn’t say that Xubunu is the fastest distro ever. I would be crazy to say that. I said that it is the fastest on ym laptop (I guess it’s a matter of hardware compatibilty or something like that.

    As far as the packages are concerned I think that Arch has all the packages I need as well as Ubuntu.

    I need support for English, Italian and Spanish (with the respective spellcheckers for Openoffice), Microsoft fonts, Nvu, Vim, Rhythmbox,etc. They are way too many to be listed here. I don’t remember exactly which packages Zenwlak lacked (you know, my memory is not that good).

    And yes, I know that Slackware has plenty of apps but I was talking of the packages on the repositories (of Zenwalk).

    And in theory Arch (optimised for 686) should be slightly faster than Slackware

  14. albertomilone said,

    NOTE: I did say “in theory”. I’ve never used Slackware.

  15. snvv said,

    Hello albertomilone and thank you for your comments,

    In the liveCD there is an install icon. I tried to install from that but I got a black screen. ubuntu people in a forum told me that better to avoid the liveCD installer because it is new and buggy.

    Recent days fonts are not problem in any linux distribution and this is true zenwalk 2.8 which support many international languages using “free” fonts. The zenwalk repository reflects the zen philosophi – one application per task – but if you like something different I am sure you will find it easily.

    In fact zenwalk is optimized and for 686. Using zenwalk & arch and Gentoo in a 686 machine I couldn’t get a filling of difference in performance. I talk about filling because I did’t made any official test. All was fast, especially in comparison with other distros in the same machine. Eventually, I selected zenwalk to be my primary OS zenwalk because I found it easier and more stable.

    But still I don’t understand why there are so many different versions of ubuntu.

    Best Regards
    SN

  16. albertomilone said,

    snvv

    The different versions of ubuntu can be sent by shipit or bought. Does such a thing exist for Zenwalk (i’m asking because I don’t know)?

    Ubuntu Kubuntu Xubuntu are different flavours and each of them *should* be payed the same attention to details. Almost as if they were different distros.

    BTW I didn’t try Zenwalk 2.8 but the previous version. I might give it another shot on my desktop computer though. Especially if it has GNOME.

  17. Juan Carlos Lopez said,

    Nice review Alberto.

    I never had any good reason to try a linux os until 3 days ago when I got a Notebook HP n3410 K6-2+ 550 mhz “3D-now” 64mb ram (8mb r used for the video card) HD 5GB max res: 800×600. It is in very good condition. It has (or i may say “had”) Windows ME. After a lot of online research i decided to download and install xubuntu 6.06.

    I wasn’t sure if I sure dive into the linux world, THis is the first time i’m doing this, but, blogs like yours encourage me to do it.

    The installation is as easier as any windows os. actually, a little bit better (not as faster, though) It detected and install my 108 Mbps Wireless PC Card Model WG511T without any problem. I log to the internet using a open wireless connection in my bldg.

    I am very used to the nice netgear windows based software to log into the wireless networks. but, after a couple of clicks i log on succesfully to the internet. xubuntu doesn’r tell me how strong and fast is my conection, but i’ve only use xubuntu for 1 hr, so, i’m sure there is a lot to be discovered yet.

    I did notice that my pc was faster when I was using the oem windows me. But, i have read so good comments about xubuntu that I just order new memory (256mb) for my laptop. I only want to use this pc as emergency pc or just to go to my local starbucks to check my email.

    I wonder where can i get some applications for my laptop; applications that allow me to maximize the battery life (or at least to tell me how much battery life i have left) and also to make the hibernation process as smooth as my girlfriend’s mac laptop.

  18. albertomilone said,

    Juan Carlos Lopez

    I think that your laptop will run noticeably faster with 256MB of RAM.

    About the battery life:
    Click on the panel and select “Add New Item”. You can then select an applet which displays the status of your battery, how much time it will last, etc.

    I have never used a wireless card therefore I wouldn’t know how to help you.

  19. Miriano said,

    Hi Alberto. Today I’ve installed Xubuntu on an old computer, the first time in my life I use Linux. I have to say I like it pretty much, I think I’ll keep it that way, but I have to find a solution for a problem: it doesn’t recognise the internal wi-fi card (Belkin). On the “network” panel it shows a wi-fi connection (generic) as disabled, I can enable it and it seems to work but if I close and open the panel again it still is disabled. So it looks like it’s a drivers problem, and Belkin has nothing on their web site. What would you suggest?
    (Btw, I live in the US but I’m Italian…)
    Ciao

  20. albertomilone said,

    Miriano:
    Unfortunately I’ve never had any wireless card therefore I’m afraid I can’t help you.

    I can only suggest you to start a new thread here:
    http://www.ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=139

    Buona giornata 😉

  21. J.Such, Ph.D. said,

    Your blog helped convince me to try Xubuntu. I’ve been working on Hoary machines all summer and came upon a laptop recently with a small 128mb of RAM.. I drifted towards DSL or Puppy Linux until I read about Xubuntu. Your blog was the second page I saw after Xubuntu’s main website, and it convinced me that even with my Ubu-newbie status I could do it. I’m now using Skype, playing Mp3s, you name it..

    Miriano, definately check out the forums. Search a lot before you post, I’ll bet you can already solve your problem..

  22. miriano said,

    J.

    It’s almost a week that I’m trying to get that information. So far I’ve found that my card has a Broadcom chipset 4306, which is said to be “almost good”. But the only way to install the firmware seems to be to “extract” it from the win file… All with a lot of terminal fiddling, which I’m not at all familiar with…

    Ok, any case I’m gonna try one of the next few days…

  23. kurian said,

    hai, iam a new user to linux, i do have got some kubuntu cds with me , do anyone know how to install the gnome desktop over it and remove all kde apps so that the system looks perfectly like xubuntu………………………………………with no kde applications.

    my system is amd athlon xp 2000 , with memory of only 128 mb theoretically (96+32videocard memory) will the xubuntu be faster in my system?????

  24. albertomilone said,

    kurian

    you can install Kubuntu using the Alternate installer CD or using the Server installation of the Livecd.

    then all you need to do is typing:

    sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

  25. kurian said,

    first of all thanks for the quick reply……………

    i do need to know one more thing, is der any method by which i would be able to download the xubuntu packages to a separate location and then install them into my kubuntu system………..this is to ensure that if iam reinstalling the operating system and want to perform the same thing i dont want to get connected to the internet again for downloading xubuntu packages…………will be thankful for a good solution…………

  26. albertomilone said,

    I can’t help you with that. Of course the best solution would be that of downloading a Xubuntu cd

  27. kurian said,

    hi , Now i have received a xubuntu live cd with me …. I have installed the kubuntu OS in my harddisk ………. Is there any option to install xubuntu-deskop by using sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop so that the packages are retreived not from internet but from my xubuntu CD………….Hoping to get a good solution…………

  28. albertomilone said,

    kurian

    you can do:

    sudo apt-cdrom add

    Then it will ask you to insert your CD. After you do it you can type:

    sudo apt-get install xubuntu desktop

    For further questions please ask on the foums (since blogs are not meant for providing support):
    http://ubuntuforums.org/index.php

  29. kurian said,

    hi, ONE LAST QUERY………………

    Could you please provide me with a jigdo file of xubuntu -live cd(intel x86pc)
    as well as a jigdo template file …………..

    if possible mail to me………………

    WANT IMMEDIATELY

  30. kazuya said,

    I agree with the review to an extent. However, why bother with these finding xmms for mp3 when zenwalk , vector or most slack-based distros already come with this enabled. Did I mention my experience with installing mepis, kanotix, sbayon linux, vector soho 5.1, vector std, zenwalk, pclinuxos, elive, dreamlinux and ubuntu on my 128 MB P3 laptop. Zenwalk and Vector Soho, VL std were the champs here. They were very speedy. But if you want to know the best way to test this speed thing I am talking of. Take a DVD movie or downloaded movie and try to play them in that old laptop. You quickly realize which one handles speed better. Things tended to be faster on the slack-based ones. VL was probably fastest or tied with Zenwalk. Sabayon kde was somewhat good. It propably could be better. mepis was okay, but multimedia still rendered slow, elive was okay. The debian-based distros were slightly slower. Kanotix was the closest in responsiveness to the slack-based distros. As was mepislite.

    Zenwalk is more capable in my opnion. For a much newer laptop, I would say go with the xubuntu and Zen if you like. I would always take speed along with functionality over just functionality.

  31. Aiakos said,

    Nice!

  32. Theofanis said,

    Cool.

  33. Freddy said,

    Xubuntu really rocks!
    I always come back to it when I try other distributions!
    Thanks for the review!

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