Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Xubuntu: Better than Ubuntu (at least for me)

So my situation here at AEA has been pretty well stated in this blog, but to briefly reiterate where we are:

There are approximately 200 workstations around campus for student use of which approximately 35 are Pentium 4 powered. The rest are either P3 or P2 machines with around 256MB RAM.

The simple fact of the matter is that with machines like these there are few options when it comes to Operating Systems. I'm sad to say that the best option as far as performance is Windows 2000 (as long as I don't install any updates on it ever and just run Firefox).

Of course Win2k is the worst option as far as stability, viruses, and ease of upkeep, especially when compared to a Linux LTSP setup. Ubuntu doesn't run that smoothly on these machines though, I've heard that 512MB is the minimum realistic requirement as far as RAM and that's just more than we have available for these workstations.

Xubuntu though seems to work pretty well, and even better, it comes with an LTSP option right out of the box (something that is not offered with Kubuntu Hardy Beta, although that may have changed with the official release).

Even better, XFCE allows the user to disable control of the desktop which GNOME stupidly does not (at least without manually editing some ridiculous .conf file by hand) which means that I don't have to worry about students putting inappropriate or obsene images as their desktop backgrounds anymore! Xubuntu also works with Sabayon (it's in the repositories although it's a little buggy still) so I can pretty much control every aspect of each users desktop.

Best of all I did a little accidental user testing with some 6th graders today and the results were great! Basically I had 3 classes today and in each one a kid jumped on the Xubuntu machine I set up yesterday. None of the three kids even mentioned the fact that their machine looked different from everyone elses, they all just hopped on firefox and got to work!

Now all I'm hoping for is a little performance boost across the LTSP network since XFCE is supposedly less resource intensive than GNOME or KDE. I'm installing Xubunutu on our new Quad Core Dell box right now so I'll post any interesting results soon. Cheers! -joe


Daniel Hunt said...

I think it goes without saying that I'm particularly interested in how you get on with XUbuntu on the quad core Dell :)

I've been having reservations about how well the system will perform in the school I'm involved in (if it ever becomes a reality, that is), as the lack of a reliable Flash option is such a horrible downside :(

Brad said...

Lack of reliable flash? You can install adobe flash right from the repositories.

John said...

I'd like to know WHY you guys are so fond of ubuntu? I consider myself a novice at Linux but pretty good with (ugh) windows. I have tried every version of ubuntu starting from 5X It refuses to recognize more than one hard drive, and the guy that thought up SUDO has to be a wanna be GOD.

Has anyone taken time to explore any other version of Linux???? I have tried several (other than ooboontooo. Mephis is ..nice, so is mint (both ubuntu based) but the one that is THE EASIEST to configure and use is....PCLinuxOS 93A !!
Thats right gents. this version of linux is ABSOLUTLY THE BEST crossover from windows to Linux for a newby.

Of course Texstar has dropped supportfor this version since they came out with PLCLOS 2007, and I have tried that, only to go right bac to THE BEST LINUX DISTRO.... PCLinuxOS 93A "Big DaddY".

This is where a Beginner SHOULD START.

John DeHart

Stan said...

Better yet, flash now has a self installer. I installed Ubuntu on an old Dell laptop (Latitude 600/500). Since Gnome was a bit resource intensive I installed the Xubuntu desktop with XFCE on the laptop. It ran MUCH smoother. By the way this is the Ubuntu 8.04 version.

I opened firefox and came across the usual "need to install flash" message. It gave me three flash options, and the Adobe flash now has an automatic install option. It installed flawlessly. The only real bug is that flash still obscures dropdown menus. I wish they would fix that!

Istvan said...

I also have an older desktop PC at home (PIII @ 1 GHz, 384 Mb RAM) and tried different distros on it. I wasn't impressed by Xubuntu, though... It's using XFCE, but still had a bloated "feeling".
Finally I've chosen Mandriva One 2008.1 Spring (the KDE version), despite being a fullblown distro, it runs like a charm!
Not sure how this would run on 256 MB or fewer, but for those machines Puppy Linux might be the perfect choice.
Just give Puppy Linux a try...

likemindead said...

Running Xubuntu 8.04 on a Pentium III & 256MB RAM (max possible) at work and I couldn't be happier. My mind boggles at the possibilities Linux opens up. My dad is a tech for the local public school district and we were discussing the advent of Ubuntu and how various governments around the world are making the switch. It would save tens of thousands of dollars out of the software budget here.... ^_^

Tell OzCluster about your Grid/Cluster: said...

Another Ubuntu variant is Fluxbuntu - this runs succesfully on 64MB RAM

Joseph Hartman said...

Thanks for all the replies fellas. I've got a quick couple of minutes before my 7th graders show up to learn Google Sites (super sweet new addition to Apps BTW) but so far Xubuntu is doing great on the quad core Dell. (Now we'll see how it does with 8 cores!)

Flash is very reliable BTW, not a problem so far except that it's slow on the clients which I've posted about. This does get a little better if "hardware acceleration" is turned off in the settings though.

I like Ubuntu for lots of reasons, but most of them are described in slide 7 of my presentation on

I haven't tried PCLinuxOS, but from everything I've read Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE are the big three in terms of hardware compatibility and ease of use. I owe it to myself to try it out in any case.

I did try puppy and deli and a couple of others while I was debating the merits of Ubuntu and actually wrote about it in the previous post here:

I guess I should elaborate a bit on what I did and didn't like about each of the other distributions. Better yet, I'll post on EXACTLY what I need out of a distro and maybe someone can prescribe me the perfect one.

Fluxbuntu sounds good BTW. I'm definitely going to check that out for my stand alone machines. News coming soon...

Cheers! -joe