Over on DistroWatch’s popularity ranking list of Linux Distro’s, you’ll find the top 10 dominated by familiar names like "Mint," "Ubuntu," and "Fedora." A little ways down you stumble across such names as "Pear," "Slax," and "Puppy."
Farther down still, nestled somewhere between "CrunchBang" and "Chakra" (seriously...we have some awesome project names in the Linux world), you’ll find Lubuntu, a spunky little Linux distro that deserves to be much, much more popular.
Here’s the basic overview of what Lubuntu is:
Take Ubuntu. Rip out the Unity user interface and drop in LXDE (aka the "Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment"). This frees up resources (both memory and CPU) and generally makes your systems a bit snappier.
Then take out LibreOffice and Firefox. Sub in Abiword, Gnumeric and Chromium. Lightweight, super-face office suite and web browser? Check.
Those sorts of tweaks, and software swaps, are common throughout the system - and almost invariably resulting in a system that is just that much leaner and peppier. They even opt to use Sylpheed for the email client (instead of the common Thunderbird). Seriously. Sylpheed. Who uses Sylpheed? Well, apparently people who want their systems to be crazy fast and stable.
And the result is, quite simply, refreshing.
I love Unity. I love Gnome Shell and KDE4, too. These are awesome, gorgeous desktop environments with some seriously killer features and innovations. But, let’s be honest with ourselves, all those new features and graphical sweetness comes at a price. And that price is, on occasion, speed.
That’s not to say that Lubuntu’s LXDE desktop is unattractive, mind you. Far from it. The default theme and icon set are clean and easy on the eyes. But it definitely doesn’t have the eye-candy that many other Distros - packing more resource-intensive Desktop Environments - bring to the table.
In many ways, Lubuntu reminds me of Ubuntu of old - back when Gnome 2 was the bee’s knee’s. Lubuntu even comes packed with Synaptic Package Manager (the old graphical software installer from versions of Ubuntu more than a few years back) and full access to all of Ubuntu’s software repositories (it is an Ubuntu-derived system, after all, with close ties to the Ubuntu release cycle).
You could almost say that Lubuntu is what Ubuntu used to be - only with newer packages. That’s an intense over-simplification...but it kind of works.
Now, I don’t have a lot of extra space for new, permanent installations of Linux Distros on my desk - openSUSE, Arch and Ubuntu all have places of honor there. But Lubuntu is incredibly compelling. I’m thinking an old Netbook with Lubuntu, with its speed and resource friendliness, would make the perfect "lying in bed" laptop.