2 May 2012

Xubuntu 12.04: don't fix what is not broken

You can read this article in Serbo-Croatian language too.

There are not so many successful commercial companies on the Linux market. Of course, RedHat is the flagbearer in that area, with their over-1-billion dollars revenue for the last year. Who is on the second place? I think most people would name Canonical.

Canonical’s flagship is Ubuntu. The recent version of Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin was released on the 26th of April 2012.

But Ubuntu 12.04 is not the only operating system from Canonical. The company also officially supports three other Ubuntu-based OSes: Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu. These systems have different desktop environments: KDE, Xfce and LXDE respectively. There are also the less widespread variants Edubuntu and Myth-buntu, but they are targeted to specific markets, rather than to the general public.

I have reviewed Ubuntu 12.04 already, and my opinion is that the Precise Pangolin edition is better than Oneiric Ocelot. But it is still far from perfection.

Xubuntu 12.04 LTS (long-term support) was released on the very same day as Ubuntu 12.04.

If you are interested, this distribution is also available for order on CD through Buy Linux CDs site and through my eBay page. I had some orders for this OS, so I used one of the ordered CDs to run my own Live test of Xubuntu 12.04.

The disk image size for Xubuntu 12.04 is slightly less than Ubuntu's. It is only 680 Mb. I downloaded it through torrent, and there were no issues with this process.

So, the CD with Xubuntu 12.04 is ready and inserted into the drive of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go!

Booting

Xubuntu 12.04 uses the same booting mechanism as Ubuntu 12.04. This is new in the Precise Pangolin release, because previous versions gave you a list of options before the boot started: Try Xubuntu, Install, Check disk, and so on. This time around, there is no pre-boot menu. The system boots itself up to a screen where you have a selection of system language and a choice between Try Xubuntu and Install Xubuntu. This screen is very similar to the one you can see in Ubuntu, with a difference in colour scheme only.

While booting, Xubuntu automatically recognised and configured my wireless card Intel 3945 ABG, and scanned for available networks. As a result, I've seen a pop-up message saying that there were some networks around. The message disappeared, and left a grey rectangle after itself. Also, a similar grey space was around the Try/Install selection window. I suppose this is something to do with the default configuration options of the graphics card. This is strange, because I have never had problems with this card before.

Enough said about the boot screen. My choice was for Try Xubuntu, obviously. A few seconds more, and I've landed onto the default Xubuntu screen.

Default desktop in Xubuntu 12.04
with Task Manager
The Live session of Xubuntu 12.04 took about 220 Mb of memory on my laptop. It is less than I had in Ubuntu 12.04, but still more than you could expect from Xfce-based distribution.

If you are interested in dots and numbers, then I am happy to tell you that Xubuntu 12.04 uses Xfce 4.8 on top of Linux kernel 3.2.0-23.

Edit: Very important difference of Xubuntu from K- and Ubuntu! This version of OS does not require pae-enabled processor. Please see Ubuntu review with my comments about this.

Desktop

The desktop in Xubuntu 12.04 is very similar to the one I've seen in Xubuntu 11.10. It has default wallpaper in blue and grey colours. Although the image itself is different, the style is the same. There is a choice of 5-6 different wallpapers in the distribution, most of them are default wallpapers from previous versions of Xubuntu.

There is a panel at the top of the screen in Xubuntu 12.04 with the usual very familiar elements on it. The left top corner is taken by a menu button with an Xfce logo (mouse head) on it. Next to the menu button, you can find a task bar. It is followed by the notification area with power, messages, network, and volume icons. Next to the right are clocks and calendar. The switch between two virtual desktops sits next to the clocks. By the way, each desktop has its own set of applications on the taskbar. And finally, you see the button with your user name (xubuntu in Live session), which calls up the session management options: reboot, shutdown, lock screen and so on.

As you can see, there is nothing unexpected on the top panel in Xubuntu 12.04.

There is another panel at the bottom of the screen. It has icons for quick access to the browser, mail client, home folder, terminal and so on. This panel auto-hides and only appears when you move the mouse to the area. Although the behaviour of the panel is more or less predictable, I nevertheless decided to remove that panel in my Live session. It is my dislike for all auto-hiding panels which made the decision. Then, I unlocked the top panel (Panel 1) and dragged it to the bottom of the screen.

These simple steps gave me a screen very similar to the one I have in my current installation of Xubuntu 11.10.

Xfce Desktop compositing is enabled in the Xubuntu 12.04 by default. It means that you can see simple eye candy features here, like shadows behind the windows and opacity for different elements.

If you want to have more eye candies, than Compiz is probably your way to get them. I tried to install Compiz in my Live run, as recommended by Emery in comments to my Xubuntu 11.10 review. As a result, Compiz got rid of... all window title bars, including the control elements! Nice! I could not resolve that issue, so had to use keyboard Alt-F4 in the rest part of my review.

Network connection

I have mentioned already that the message about available wireless network appeared on the Try/Install selection screen. This means it was not a big problem for me to connect to my home network. A few strokes on the keyboard, and I am on-line.

Applications

I quickly went through the list of applications in the menu of Xubuntu 12.04, and found very few differences from Xubuntu 11.10. That's why I invite you to read the corresponding section of my previous review, if you are interested in the list of available tools.

The few differences, which I'd like to mention:

  1. Firefox is version 11 in Xubuntu 12.04 compared to version 7 in the LiveCD of Xubuntu 11.10.
  2. Remote Desktop tool has been removed from the default distribution.
  3. PulseAudio Volume Control replaced the Mixer tool in Multimedia section.

Otherwise, you have a good set of easy-to-use lightweight applications. Honestly, not all of them are my own preferred ones. That’s why I would probably need to add and remove some applications, if I was going to install Xubuntu 12.04 for myself. If you want to install more software, then you have a choice between Ubuntu Software Centre and Synaptic.

Network drive

Xubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin includes Gigolo by default. Gigolo is a very nice tool for connection to remote network drives in Linux operating systems.

I easily found that "Windows share" is one of the options in the drop-down list of Gigolo interfaces. I selected this option, specified the name of my external network drive, and pressed "Refresh" button. As a result, I got a list of available partitions on that drive. All the rest was simple as 1-2-3. A few clicks, and I was able to browse my remote drive. Job’s done!

Russian fonts in the file and folder names were shown fine in the Thunar file manager.

Multimedia

Xubuntu 12.04, like Ubuntu 12.04, which I reviewed before, does not include codecs for MP3 files and videos. You can download them separately during the installation, but the Live run comes without codecs.

That is why I could not play MP3 files in my Live session. GStreamer, the default music player, gave me an error about the missing plugin.
Edit: There is a simple solution. Thanks to my readers!

The easiest way to solve the issue of missing plugins, as always, is the installation of a player which has all them included. The most popular of such players is VLC.

I installed VLC using the Ubuntu Software Centre. It easily solved the plugin issue. I was able to listen to music from the files on my external network drive.

Xubuntu 12.04 with VLC
without window title bars after Compiz installation

Unfortunately, Flash is not included in the default Xubuntu 12.04 distribution.

Keyboard layouts

The process of configuring keyboard layouts in Xubuntu 12.04 is the same as in almost all other Xfce-based distributions.

First, I added the layout indicator to the panel. It appeared as the US flag, showing that the default layout was English US. A right-click on that indicator allowed me to set up Properties, where I could add English UK and Russian, and remove English US layout. I set up the hotkey as Ctrl-Shift, and this was exactly my favourite configuration.

Conclusion

Xubuntu 12.04 is a great system, from my point of view.

As you can see, there are not many user-facing differences in this version compared to Xubuntu 11.10. From my point of view, this is good. Xubuntu 11.10 was (and still is) a very nice all-round distribution. You don’t need to experiment in a system which is going to be supported for three years. That’s why a decision to keep changes minimal appeals to me.

Yes, there were some issues in my Live review of Xubuntu 12.04. The major of them was the Compiz bug. But I believe, it is easily solvable in the installed system.

Apart fron a long initial boot time, the system worked quickly enough for me, even when disk operations were involved. Subjectively, similar disk operations in Xubuntu ran quicker than in Ubuntu.

Will I install Xubuntu 12.04 on my hard drive? I am not sure yet. The reason is that I already have Xubuntu 11.10 installed there. I will first try to update my system. If it breaks something, then I will look at the re-installation option.

As for you, I highly recommend you to try Xubuntu 12.04. I hope you'll enjoy it.

If you want to try Xubuntu or any other Linux distribution yourself, but cannot create a CD with it, then maybe Buy Linux CDs web site can help you. You can order CDs with almost any Linux distributions there, delivered you your mailbox.

You can read this article in Serbo-Croatian language. Thanks to Jovana Milutinovich for the translation.

36 comments:

  1. Why review based on LiveCD run rather than install?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Various reasons, Carl.
      First of all, I always prefer to review Live versions.
      Second, I have Xubuntu 11.10 installed, and, as I have mentioned, I want to try upgrade, not installation.
      Third, I had CD ready to use, because of the customer order. :-)

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    2. Most reviews I have read were installed in a virtual environment. This is the first fully "LiveCD" review I've seen, and it's remarkable how much you have included! Nicely and thoroughly written, and still simple enough "layman's language" for even a sidekick to fully comprehend. Thanks!

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    3. @DarkDuck: See? No matter what some other people may think, it IS possible for us to write thorough reviews of live systems! Also, regarding the Compiz bug, the issue is that Compiz requires a compositing window decorator, and the Xfwm4 decorator doesn't cut it. It requires something like Emerald, so you would need to download, install, and run Emerald alongside Compiz. The nice thing is that there already exist Emerald themes to match the default Xubuntu Xfwm4 theme ("Greybird").
      --
      a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

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    4. PV, I think this is just positive people who like what they have, and people who simply dislike whatever they are offered.

      I have Compiz running in my Xubuntu 11.10 without issues, so that's not Emerald installation which resolves this.

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    5. @PV I'm no expert, but I'm certain xfwm4 is a compositing window manager, as I can have transparent panels/windows on my desktop. I had to compile it with the support enabled though, because the standard version (on Fedora at least) doesn't come with it.

      Delete
  2. Hi,
    Gmusicbrowser, the default music player in Xubuntu, DOES play MP3s!
    In the program, click the options button, then navigate to 'Audio' tab, and you'll see option to change settings to MP3. Play a bit with these settings.

    I was always able to play MP3s that way in Xubuntu without installing anything...

    Otherwise, a very nice review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the hint! I am in Live Xubuntu 12.04 right now, and I am listening for the music! Wow!
      I edit the post to reflect the knowledge!

      Delete
  3. Is Xubuntu better than Ubuntu for a 1gb ram laptop? Ubuntu says it is made for netbooks as well as pc's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As long as Xfce initially requires less resources than Unity, then Xubuntu should better run on 1Gb memory. I have not tried it with 12.04, but that was definitely the case for 11.10.

      Delete
  4. Why didn't they wait for a few days and include Xfce 4.10? Is Xubuntu to remain at Xfce 4.8 for the whole 3 years?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's not only few days. There is certain point in the release process when no changes are accepted, unless critical. Not talking about global change of DE version. All the rest comes as backports. :-)

      Delete
  5. I had xubuntu 11.10 installed on this desktop (dell vostro) and made the upgrade to 12.04 without issues, but then again I compiled xfce 4.10 yesterday lol.

    It's working pretty nice I can tell you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great! I can't wait till I upgrade my 11.10...

      Delete
  6. does japanese input with anthy ibus and mozc work in the live install or do you need to install to test ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I don't know how to test it. I have never used Japanese input. I don't know Japanese.

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    2. Ibus Anthy works very well on an installed Xubuntu 12.04 (x86_64) system. It's fast and flawless, and I'm using it every day.

      Delete
  7. @DarkDuck: I installed Xubuntu 4.12 with Compiz.
    Everything works, but I have a problem.
    I open any window (Terminal, thunar, etc etc), this window opens in the upper left and the window decorator remains under the panel.
    Even when I turn off the computer, the shutdown dialog always appears in the upper left.
    You have no idea how to solve this problem?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to your question. In the most part, because the very first thing I do in my Xubuntu installation / Live run is to move the panel to the bottom of the screen.

      In the mean time, I can confirm that Shutdown dialog appears in the top-left corner, if you use a panel button. I think it is in the middle of the screen if you use the main menu item. I maybe wrong here, though.

      Delete
    2. There is an option in the Settings sub-menu, under Window (or Desktop) Manager tweaks or something like that (I can't remember correctly), that sets a "smart placement" option, in function of the window size to be opened.

      Delete
  8. > Xubuntu 12.04 with VLC without _window_ title bars

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  9. Thanks DarkDuck for sharing a part of what xubuntu is. I haven't tried it but I am a long time ubuntu user. When my girlfriend bought a netbook I have her use ubuntu's netbook version. Maybe one of these days if she plans to change her netbook i'll have her use xubuntu. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why wait? Try Live version of Xubuntu together! And then decide, whether you want to stick to Ubuntu, or switch to Xubuntu.

      Delete
  10. I use Xubuntu 12.04 for two weeks now on my 5-fold multiboot system with also Mint with Mate and Cinnamon (which are great), PCLOS, WattOS (fast!). I did polish everything so it does just what I demand.

    I must say I'm very impressed.
    All is right. 'Just works fine'.

    There wás always sómething wrong in Ubuntu, but not any more now with Xfce, as far as I can see.

    Because the LTS effect I hope to use it and do my work with it for years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right: Xubuntu "just works".

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  11. I use it for three weeks now (along with Mint 12 MATE/Cinnamon) and I must say Xubuntu is a great system (with some tiny help from the web).
    For the time being it will be these two here.
    Perfect competition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have tried Linux Mint Cinnamon recently. From my perspective, Xubuntu is still a winner in this competition.

      Delete
  12. Xubuntu is on most of my computers. It's great. Slower machines get Peppermint 3, Crunchbang or Antix mepis. I put SliTaz on a 300mhz dinosaur.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Been testing a lot of different distributions but I always return to Xubuntu. The "others" all have some really good things about them but owerall with my everyday use of mail, surf, shotwell for my pictures and general work X always works w/o hassle - And thats what I need.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm running Xubuntu 12.04 and haven't got any problem at all.
    I also use it on my office computer and XFCE is very productive friendly.
    I would recommend Xubuntu 12.04 as alternative to Gnome3/Unity/Kde because very light and still more accessorised than too bare Lubuntu.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also find Xfce in a nice balance between performance and eye-candy.

      Delete
  15. i'm trying out xubuntu 12.04, im having problems with my USB broadband connection which keeps getting disconnected. Forums suggests this may have something to do with Xubuntu's "USB autosuspend" feature. How do i disable this from the terminal? (I have not installed powertop or powernap) any suggestions? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may try to ask on forums, or do your own search first.
      My quick search gave me this link: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1773991.

      Delete