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Lubuntu 11.10 review – a cure to Ubuntu’s Unity blues?

by Russell Barnes

Could Lubuntu 11.10 prove to be the perfect cure Ubuntu’s Unity backlash? Russell Barnes tests the latest LXDE spin to see how it has progressed in the last six months…

Firstly, congratulations need to go to the Lubuntu project – it’s their first release as a fully subscribed member of the official Ubuntu family since Mark Shuttleworth welcomed the project to its ranks around the release of 11.04. It joins Xubuntu and Kubuntu among others, and slots rather neatly into the pack, each member bringing a slightly different slant to our beloved Linux desktop while staying true to the mainline software on offer from the core Ubuntu repositories.

As stated on the project’s homepage, the core objective of Lubuntu is to create a lighter, less resource-hungry and more energy-aware desktop distribution. It achieves this first and foremost by utilising LXDE (the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment), but also backs it up with a number of popular applications and utilities, each picked for their frugal use of resources.

Lubuntu 11.10 review – a cure to Ubuntu’s Unity blues?

As we’ve said in the past, LXDE is a great alternative to KDE and the GNOME 2.x desktop environments in that aesthetic appeal and functionality is minimally compromised in its effort to be as sleek and light as possible. Since it’s targeted at the ‘normal’ tower and laptop user, its low system requirements are put to great work ensuring legacy hardware gets a new lease of life while modern systems run with real zip and zeal.

The requirements are low enough that a system as old as a Pentium II (or Celeron) with just 128MB of memory will boot. The end-user experience is unlikely to be optimal (for example, you can’t use the graphical installer without 256MB of RAM), but the ability to raise a pulse from a system so advanced in its years is an incredible achievement, not least from a fully-fledged and high-functioning desktop distribution such as this.

Lubuntu 11.10 review – a cure to Ubuntu’s Unity blues?

Considering all the fuss and bluster surrounding Unity and GNOME Shell, the cynic in us wonders if Mark Shuttleworth might have employed a certain amount of foresight in the enrolment of Lubuntu. Such a sizeable change in user experience was always going to upset the apple cart – having an array of official derivatives with a classical approach certainly implies a degree of damage control.

That’s enough cynicism for today, though – let’s take a quick look at what’s new. Since most components of LXDE have had official releases, you could argue that there’s little that hasn’t been updated. LXDM is an excellent lightweight display manager and PCManFM might be quite a young offering, but it’s fast and relatively easy to manipulate. Elsewhere Lubuntu 11.10 makes the switch to xfce4-power-manager for power management and there’s a even a new theme by Rafael Laguna to enjoy.

Lubuntu 11.10 review – a cure to Ubuntu’s Unity blues?

The now trademark pale blue of the desktop is almost hypnotic. It’s incredibly clean, clear and logically laid out – a user experience a million miles away from that of Ubuntu 11.10’s Unity or GNOME Shell counterparts. In comparison there’s an almost cleansing nature about its simplicity. If you’d like to keep your up-to-date Ubuntu back-end, but forgo the move to Unity, Lubuntu is certainly an excellent choice, though those of you with allegiances to KDE or Xfce might still prefer Kubuntu and Xubuntu respectively.

Verdict: 4/5
Lubuntu 11.10 certainly proves its worth as a full member of the Ubuntu family of Linux distributions and makes us wonder why we were so worried about losing GNOME 2.x. While it’s not as flexible or pretty as its defunct counterpart, Lubuntu 11.10 has certainly got everything you need to keep your computer happy and your desktop clean and clutter-free.

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    • mandog

      yes Lubuntu is a little gem works perfect on the wife’s netbook but not a patch on ctkarch a very young openbox slant based on arch now this is fast less than 15 secs to boot using a single core processor uses 45mb ram on startup.That said you are write in saying it could wow users to stay with Ubuntu as all others on offer are so bloated take kubuntu over 500mb of ram Salix KDE uses 180mb and never crashes. xfce still uses ram like there is no tomorrow. The Lubuntu team has tried to keep the resources as low as possible using the parent stack and it is stable on release date.

    • bob

      The title to this article begins with the words “Lubuntu 11.10 Review.”

      The title seems misleading to me-I don’t see a review and can’t tell if the reviewer actually tried out the distro. There’s a comment on the hypnotic pale blue desktop and a quick mention of three changed processes and a new theme, and some discussion about the nature of Lubuntu that wouldn’t require trying it out.

      Did the reviewer install Lubuntu, boot it up, try it for stability and performance, try multimedia, office or other applications, plug in a camera etc? Does it work well, is it stable, are the default applications sensible, are there problems? There’s no way of telling on reading the review.

    • Treeant34

      Yes the review could have had more meat to it…

      Can’t stand Unity, the bloat is horrible…

      It’s actually harder to find stuff in Unity…

      Lubuntu is great…


    • kenneth

      I used to use jwm/pcmanfm. I’ve only tried an lxde desktop once and the experience was not all that pleasant. Hopefully this release fixes some issues..

    • Peter Fitzsimons

      Yes, I love Lubuntu. As an ex graphic designer I love the clean design. Classy! It’s a shame I just don’t seem to be able to download and install BBC iPlayer. Has anyone had any luck there? I would appreciate any feedback.

    • Peter Fitzsimons

      Yes, I love Lubuntu. As an ex graphic designer I love the clean design. Classy!

    • Podsgrove

      LXDE is fast becoming the home of Gnome2 refugees, which probably accounts for its spectacular rise up the Distrowatch ranks leaping ahead of the well established Xubuntu and Kubuntu. If Lubuntu’s hits were added to Ubuntu, Mint would still be in second place. Remember that Mint LXDE, Mint KDE, Mint Xfce, and LMDE all come under one entry in the table whereas Ubuntu’s hits are seperately listed for each official desktop derivative.

    • Sammy

      I honestly prefer XFCE- it feels better integrated. I usually simply delete second panel and drag another one on the bottom – so it would be familiar.

    • Rodney

      I love Lubuntu 11.10 for it’s speed, amazing.

      For How-To’s, Information and Screen-Casts on Lubuntu go to the
      Lubuntu One Stop Thread –


    • Carlos

      I have tried several linux versions on my acer one (1Mb + 8Gb SSD version and nothing compares with Lubuntu 11.04 so much so I am reluctant to upgrade to 11.10 as it is working beautifully and the desktop is clean and cool.

      My question therefore is: What will I gain from the upgrade? For example after upgrading to Ubuntu 11.10 on a desktop pc I changed back to 11.04 since it was awefull (in my opinion) and I don’t want the same experience with Lubuntu. Actually I think I’m “in love” with Lubuntu 11.04, sometimes I just boot up to watch it and to date I have had no problems whatsoever! Everything worked right of the box except for the wireless on/off switch which has never worked since I deserted the pre-loaded XP.

      Any feedback will be appreciated.

      Well done Lubuntu, BFN Carlos

    • Vati

      I also have tried it on an old Advent laptop and like Carlos have tried Ubuntu 11.10 and went back to 11.04 on my newish desktop. I never got the wireless on/off to work either on the Advent – minor irritation but enough to make me go back to the Winsh* pre-loaded XP :-((

    • Vati

      Any help on the on/off switch as I would really like to use it ???

    • Carlos

      Just thought I’d another comment or two: Despite several attempts to get Wine to install it won’t. Gets stuck at the same point where it asks me to accept M/s license to use Windows Fonts but I can’t find where to say yes so much so I decided to try Puppy linux and wow it’s really fast but not for me. I still like Lubuntu 11.04 but I’d like it a lot more if I couls get Wine to work (for my Kindle Books).

      I too would like the wireless switch to work if possible

    • JJ

      Just installed Lubuntu 11.10 last night on a circa 2006 version of Toshiba Satellite (1 GB RAM and with Centrino core clocked at 1.75 GHz).

      Everything worked out of the box after installation. It is typical linux magic which got the sound, graphics, accessory drivers and wi-fi working through one bundle install process. It also sticks to its slogan of being light-weighted and resource efficient. Memory monitor log shows that it averages at around 380 to 390 MB of active memory at any time of its transient state. Of course with web-browser turned on or when multi-tasking with diverse sets of applications, then it gets to be approaching the 1 GB RAM limit of my machine.

      The user interface, like many other reviewers has noted, is quite simple and probably targets users who intend to use it for work related projects and more serious toned IT works. It is probably too slimed down for consumers who wants a windows or os x equivalent type of OS.

      Overall, I strongly recommend getting Lubuntu a try and you might just like it so much that you will stick with it in the long haul on one of those abandoned machines you have stashed away. This is especially true, when considering that Lubuntu has recently been adopted into the dev core of Ubuntu project and has dedicated members supporting it.

    • Penguin12

      So after first hating Unity and Gnome 3 after RTM I actually started to like both.
      I really started to like Unity. However the following things made me decide to uninstall:

      1. Performance. The normal unity interface ran pretty high CPU (up in the teens and twenties) and Memory (around 400 mb) (*caveat there may have been other things going on to add up to this), nonetheless ,however running unity 2d or gnome 3, they had better performance figures. Running this on a labtop so the less CPU usage the better = better battery life. I think it may have something to with compiz for example.

      2. Zeitgeist is what really put me off. I saw the service running, and looked it up in Synaptic (which I had to install manually, but okay, I can see a use for software center, as Ubuntu is trying to be normal user friendly. From what I understand Zeitgeist is used for filtering of the whatchamachigs, and as such, unity becomes disfunctional without that.

      Other than that, things such as the numbered keys when you press the (Ubuntu) logo key, are really a nice touch. As well as e-mail and chat integration. All in all it has a nice poished look. In the end I settled for gnome 3, as it is quite user friendly, does not require Compiz, and is quick to use. Stil have to figure out how to add a nicer theme though.