- Double clicking on the window bar does not maximize windows, even if the window management settings say it should. Not sure if this is a Xubuntu or an XFCE issue.
- Thunar is lightning fast once it's been run for the first time, but the first run takes longer than I was expecting from such a lightweight file manager. On the same hardware, Dolphin needs less time for that first run under Kubuntu.
- When booting the system, once I enter my credentials on the Xubuntu login screen, the time to load the desktop is a bit slower than usual with other distros/DEs.
- Configuring automounting external drives on startup is not possible through the UI (at least I didn't find how), so I had to do a bit of
- Loading Conky scripts as I ran them in Ubuntu didn't bring the expected results. The Conky window was not below nor transparent, so I had to do a bit of research before I found the right parameters to make it work correctly.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Xubuntu 12.04 REVIEW
Most of the machines I use are laptops or tablets, but I also have a desktop that I use for recording my music. On that desktop, though, I have two different hard drives split in three (roughly 250GB) partitions, something that allows me to have different distros installed on it. Since late 2010, that machine had Ubuntu 10.10, PCLinuxOS KDE and Ubuntu Studio 9.04 spread across those three partions available. It was about time I went for a change, for a number of reasons, including the fact that Ubuntu 10.10 recently went out of support (needless to say, so did Ubuntu Studio 9.04). On top of that, PCLinuxOS had been stuck on KDE SC 4.6.5 for about a year, so I wanted a fresh update on all my partitions to get fully supported distros and up to date applications and features. The first thing that came to mind was to go for Fedora 17 GNOME and KDE on two of those partitions and then Dream Studio on the third one. However, I had doubts about that approach, mostly because of the feverish Fedora tendency to keep updating the Kernel time and again (which may lead to trouble on somewhat old hardware when planning for a 2-3 years installation). Along the same lines, the fact that Dream Studio releases happen several months after Ubuntu ones do meant that I had to wait a few more months if I wanted the LTS release. All in all, I felt it was somewhat risky to go for Fedora, plus I wasn´t willing to wait that long for Dream Studio. Moreover, Dream Studio sports Ubuntu´s Unity, and let's just say it is not what I want to see on my Audio Production setup. I recently stumbled with the latest Ubuntu Studio release announcement and it quickly grabbed my attention. The lack of a low latency kernel which had put me off in recent releases had been remediated, and a move to XFCE (as opposed to Unity) made this release all the more interesting. Not only that, but the fact that it is an LTS (Long Term Support) release and the huge array of Multimedia production tools available in the DVD made it the perfect candidate for me (expect an Ubuntu Studio 12.04 review soon!.) I had had very little experience with XFCE, though, so before installing Ubuntu Studio, I wanted to use the opportunity of the recent Xubuntu release to give it a go and learn more about it. Long story short, the experience was so positive that I decided to use it as a replacement for Ubuntu 10.10 on my desktop, which is saying a lot. Kubuntu 12.04, which continues the improvement pace from recent releases, was the perfect candidate to close the circle, taking over PCLinuxOS as the KDE "representative" on my desktop (I will post a Kubuntu 12.04 review in the next few days as well!.) ...SO HOW ABOUT XUBUNTU? As I was considering Xubuntu, trying to get an understanding of what XFCE could do, I started trying things on the LiveCD, checking configuration options and learning more about its flexibility and power by researching on the Internet. All I found was positive, including immediate, complete and correct hardware recognition and configuration out of the box. It didn´t take long before I made up my mind and went for the installation. As can be expected, installing Xubuntu is very similar to installing any other X-buntu distro. The installation process is great, smooth, and if running in a system connected to the Internet, it can provide a fully up to date desktop right off the bat (albeit with a significantly slower installation time). Aesthetically (and I know this is very personal), the default Xubuntu setup is, well... not beautiful. However, the good news is that most of the good old customization that was very easy in "classic" Ubuntu, still is in Xubuntu. Icons, window decorations, fonts, rendering, wallpapers, even Conky, Compiz and Emerald are easily set up and customized. In other words, don´t get too caught up by the initial impression, because it does not take much to make Xubuntu look stunning, as hopefully the screenshots in this article show. Click on image to enlarge. (Just to provide some background on what I changed, I added the Faenza icon set, the Ambience theme and window decoration and then changed fonts from Android to Ubuntu. Cairo Dock, Conky and a fitting wallpaper complete the list of changes.) From a functionality stand point, as could be expected from a lightweight DE like XFCE, Xubuntu is very responsive, but also simple and intuitive. The System Settings application is clear and easy to grasp, but in general I would say Xubuntu just makes sense. Click on image to enlarge. Common settings are right there where most users would expect them to be. For instance, I know it is a small and probably meaningless detail, but I was happy to see window controls (minimize, maximize, close) on the right. Similarly, right clicking on the desktop brings back most of the relevant options one would expect to see. Click on image to enlarge. Thunar, a fast and no-nonsense file manager is consistent with this simplistic approach. It does lack some features that other more powerful alternatives like Dolphin offer, but it should satisfy most regular users needs. Click on image to enlarge. DEFAULT APPS Xubuntu is great in itself, but it obviously helps if the default applications of choice are just as good. In that sense, I have to admit that the preinstalled applications list is full of good and interesting choices, some of which surprised me very positively. Firefox, Thunderbird and Pidgin take Internet browsing, email and instant messaging duties respectively. Music is managed by the impressive GmusicBrowser, which surprisingly loaded my entire music collection without complaining one bit. Click on image to enlarge. Image viewing is handled by Ristretto. Click on image to enlarge. Parole is in charge for video playback. Click on image to enlarge. Office productivity apps Abiword (text processor) and Gnumeric (spreadsheet) are simple and lack some of the features available in more popular alternatives, but in turn they are simpler and more responsive. If, like me, all you use them for is to open a spreadsheet every once in a while, they probably suffice. If not, a quick visit to the Ubuntu Software Center should fix the issue in a few seconds. Click on image to enlarge. All in all, the set of applications accompanying Xubuntu is consistent with its spirit, sporting somewhat modest yet powerful features, fast and easy to use. If the default set of apps does not fit your needs, though, installing other apps is easier than ever with the latest version of the Ubuntu Software Center, which works great, but I will save my speech for my soon to come Ubuntu 12.04 review. Click on image to enlarge. NOTHING IS PERFECT Xubuntu is no exception to the rule, it is not perfect, and I did find my share of minor issues here and there. Here's a short list of the issues I have found so far: