Apart from Fedora, I had posted another “almost full” cycle, which missed only one element. Coincidentally, that missing element is also an LXDE system.
Debian cycle. If you want to read about other versions of Debian Squeeze, please follow the links to reviews of GNOME, XFCE and KDE versions.
Debian LXDE Live, like any other part of Debian Live project, is distributed in two options: for CD/DVD and for USB drives. I downloaded the latter one, because the BIOS on my laptop Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 does not always like CD ISOs on USB. There are no torrent options, so I used one of the Debian mirrors for downloading.
The image size of Debian LXDE Live is 776 Mb, which is the smallest of all the parts of the Debian Live family.
When downloading was complete, I dd'ed the image onto my 8 Gb USB stick.
So, USB stick is in the port. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!
Welcome to Debian LXDEDebian LXDE Live offers several options during the boot. This is a similar picture to that for the KDE and XFCE versions, which I spoke about earlier. Namely, some of these options are Debian Live, Debian Live 686, and those same two with Safe mode. Of course, my choice was for the normal Live 686 run.
The few seconds of boot time were not the fastest, but definitely quicker than many other Linux distributions I’ve seen so far.
At this point in time, I expected to see the standard Debian desktop wallpaper with a panel at the bottom. My expectations were only half-true. Yes, there is a panel at the bottom of the screen. But the default wallpaper in Debian LXDE Live is not the same as you see in GNOME, KDE or XFCE versions. It is not a space-themed image with Debian spiral. Instead, the wallpaper is in blue colours with the LXDE logo on it. If you don't like this wallpaper, you can change it... to the same in green and red colours. It is not the best selection, is it? Where are all the wallpapers available in other Debian versions? Where is the iconic space image with Debian galaxy?
The only item on the desktop of Debian LXDE Live is the Debian Installer icon. Otherwise the desktop is clean.
As I have already mentioned, the panel in Debian LXDE Live is in its usual place at the bottom of the screen. What do you have on it? The bottom-left corner of the screen takes, as usual, the menu button. This time round it has an icon with the LXDE logo, which is quite logical. Next to it sit three elements of the quick launch panel: PCManFM file manager, Iceweasel browser and Iconify (Show Desktop) button.
The switch between 2 default virtual desktop is placed next to the Iconify button.
The taskbar takes the largest part of the panel, and is at its centre.
The right part of the panel, which is often referred to as the notification area, is not so rich as in many other Linux distributions. Shutdown and Lock Screen are two buttons in the bottom-right corner. Next to them are clocks and the CPU usage monitor. That's all, there are no more elements in the notification area.
NetworkAs you might already have noticed from the panel description above, there is no network status/management icon on the panel of the Debian LXDE Live.
That's why I started to search for it in the system menu. The result of this search was very disappointing. There was nothing like Network Manager, Wicd or anything resembling the network management tool.
It means that I was not able to configure my home wireless network.
As a side-effect, many other usual elements of my test were not possible: mounting of remote network partition, multimedia playback from remote drive, usage of flash on web sites and so on.
Your menu, Sir!The Debian LXDE Live menu was “impressive” in the negative sense of this word. I have not seen anything like this before, if I do not count the mess I got in Linux Mint XFCE after some unfortunate update. But Linux Mint XFCE is a rolling release system based on the testing branch of Debian. I could expect something wrong to happen. As opposed to Mint, Debian LXDE is the rock-solid stable version.
To be fair, the menu in whole looks fine. You find usual sections there. Nothing to worry about until you start looking closely. And, like one spoon of tar can spoil a barrel of honey, only one section of the Debian LXDE menu can spoil whole impression.
So, what in particular was messy? The only section in the menu, called “Other”. From my perspective, it listed all the available applications in Debian LXDE Live. OpenOffice applications, Iceweasel, Terminal, XTerm and many-many-many others were all part of the flat list. Who did put this into the final release of respectable operating system?
Of course, this “Other” section is not the only part of the menu. Luckily, most of them are intact with the expectations most users have.
Let’s have a look what else is available.
The Internet section is represented by only one application: Iceweasel browser. It is version 3.5.16. You get no mail client and no instant messenger in the default Debian LXDE Live operating system. Probably, developers think you can install your favourites by yourself. More on that later.
The Sound & Video section of the menu is not rich in applications either. Music Player LXMusic 0.4.4 is the only element of this menu group. When I launched this player, I saw that Debian LXDE Live comes with one audio track in .ogg format, probably for test purposes. When I started this file, I could barely hear the music. The volume level was set to minimum. And... there are no volume control tools anywhere in the menu or on the panel! Ergh? How could this be?
Debian LXDE Live includes GIMP, OpenOffice Draw and XSane scanning tool in the Graphics section of the menu. No complaints here, because GIMP solves all the possible questions. Even the screenshot I show here was taken by GIMP.
Office tools, as you could already guess, are OpenOffice.Org applications. Debian LXDE Live includes the full set of OO.o, together with Base, Math and Draw. OpenOffice.Org is version 3.2.1.
The Accessories in Debian LXDE Live menu include LXTerminal, Leafpad text editor, PCManFM file manager, Xarchiver and Image Viewer GPicView. Not the largest selection, I would say.
There is nothing interesting in the System Tools part of the Debian LXDE Live. The most important tools here are the Debian Installer and Reportbug.
As you can see from the list above, the menu in Debian LXDE Live is more than basic. This operating system almost gives you nothing in terms of applications. Even the most needed ones are not included. What do I mean? A package management tool, Disk partitioning tool, Task Manager, Volume control and even Network Manager – where are they all? Most likely, you can install them one-by-one. But this needs an Internet connection, which is not possible because of the absence of a network management tool. Is it a vicious circle?
KeyboardI could actually skip this part of my test too, as I have done with network-related activities. LXDE is not prepared for configuration of several keyboard layouts in graphical mode. I understood that after my reviews of Fedora and Knoppix. Debian LXDE Live gives you an even worse selection than these other operating systems.
To cut the story short, the keyboard layout could not be configured for the needs of a multi-language user with assistance of graphical tools.
I understand that this is most likely an “upstream” LXDE issue. But the issue still exists in Debian LXDE. So, if you’re a user with the requirement to use different layouts, please be prepared to do some manual editing of configuration files.
This time round I found how touchpad works in LXDE. At least, in Debian LXDE you can scroll by two fingers on any part of touchpad. I don't know if this configurable or not. Unfortunately, the issue of "clicks" on touchpad is still not resolved.
That was the end of my story with Debian LXDE Live.
What do I think of it now? If I knew the outcome of this test, I would not even have started it. In my own opinion, the LXDE version is the worst one in Debian family. This is not really Debian as you are used to seeing it: stable, Spartan, but still functional. This is an operating system packed with some enhanced applications but without essential elements. A colossus with feet of clay.
Yes, the XFCE version of Debian Live is also a light one. But it is not trimmed to the unusable state. You can plug a CD or USB with Debian XFCE Live into your computer and start your usual activities in seconds with full support of network, multimedia and so on. All this is gone in the LXDE version. It’s trimmed to the level where you need to spend a lot of time just to add vital components. It is not the way the operating system should work.