Lubuntu 12.04 on the M11X R3

M11X R3

Since I had a bit of time after my final dissertation, I am at last able to get a few different hobbies back on the go. Since I was able to uninstall all the software I needed for my project, I had a clean slate to test the Operating Systems on my laptop that I have had on the back burner for a while. The first is Lubuntu 12.04.

Introduction

Since I used Lubuntu to bring my 12 year old Vaio Z600 back to life last year, that laptop has only seriously been used once. That was the week I locked myself out of my flat. Using that machine really tested the lower bounds of the OS’s compatibility. With so little processing power and an anaemic amount of RAM, the laptop performed surprisingly well. I wanted to see what Lubuntu could do on my M11X R3, a completely different beast. So over the period of a week I wanted to see whether it could be used as direct replacement for the Windows 8 Release Preview install I had just deleted.

Caveats

Windows Phone

There are several things I knew would not work before I had even started. The first is the syncing software for my Windows Phone, based are Microsoft’s Zune music player. Unless I was to set up a virtual machine running Windows simply to run Zune, I have been unable to find any software that would be able to replace it. While there is software that I could use with my iMac instead, it is not as full-featured.

For this week I have simply deleted the software and will use the phone as-is, hardly a hardship. However I would not be able to receive any OS-updates without connecting to the software, so using Linux would not be a viable option with my choice of phone.

iMac

As mentioned above, I have an iMac which I use as my desktop computer, TV and general syncing machine for most of my tech things. This means that the number of things I need my laptop to do is a lot smaller than if it were my only machine. This means that the pressures put on Lubuntu are going to be lower than many others may need. It is my portable work machine and goes with me when I need to work anywhere away from the flat. But it doesn’t need to sync my iPad/iPod, backup any of my files or hold all of my music etc.

Installation and First Boot

As with the vast majority of Linux installations with a computer able to boot from a USB flashdrive, this took 10 minutes. Using a 4GB drive and the software that is easily available from the Ubuntu website, I was able to create a bootable install drive of the Lubuntu .iso. I then restarted the computer with the flashdrive in and pressing F12 at the right time, which allowed me to choose to boot from the Lubuntu install. It asked me to plug in an ethernet cable and it started the installation. I decided to do a simple wipe and install, but you can partition the hard drive if you want. The installation then required a few entries such language and name, and then took about 15 minutes more to complete the process. Very straightforward.

Wifi worked right out of the box, so I just typed in my network password and was able to unplug the ethernet cable and start installing the apps I need.

Lubuntu 12.04 Desktop

My Required Apps

This is my list of things that I always install when I use Linux:

Dropbox

This is possibly my favourite app/ service ever. It meant that after a quick install all of my important files and folders over. Macintosh, Windows, Linux, all works great. Very happy with it.

Text Editors

gedit 3.4.1

My choices are gedit and PyRoom. I love “gedit” for being able to have two .txt files open at once. This means I can read a message in one column and reply to it in the other. This is something that the bare-bones “Leafpad” isn’t able to do. I know I don’t use it to anywhere near its full extent, but it works for me and opens instantaneously, something a full-blown word processor is unlikely to do.

PyRoom 0.4.1

PyRoom is based on WriteRoom for the Mac. It is one of those “distraction-free” text editors which goes full-screen and gets rid of everything on-screen apart from your text. I use it every so often for when I’m typing something that doesn’t need to refer to other sources all the time- it isn’t as useful if have to jump in and out of the program. I love using it in a busy place at university to reduce the distraction on the screen, even if the world around is pretty busy!

Browser

Chromium, the open-source browser which Chrome is built upon is the browser Lubuntu is bundled with. It was too resource intensive for my Z600, but on this machine that is no problem at all. However, I found it had a problem displaying hyperlinks inline with text. I downloaded Chrome instead, and the problem isn’t there, so it will do nicely for me. On top of that both of them allow for the Chrome sync, which allows for my bookmarks to sync over from Chrome on my other machines, which is very useful!

Email Client

Mozilla Thunderbird. I have used this app instead of Outlook on Windows for many years. It is still just as good for Linux, and allows me to check my different email addresses all at once, and while I don’t like it quite as much as Apple’s Mail, nothing on Windows is better than that for me either. Even with the development slowdown at Mozilla, and the apparent exodus from client to web-based email, I still think it is a great app!

Word Processor

While I prefer to use text editors, sometimes you actually have to use a word processor. Here I would generally use Pages on the Mac or Word on Windows, although lately I have been using LibreOffice’s Writer with them both as a basic level of compatibility between the two. While it will never be quite as good as Microsoft Office, it definitely does enough for me, and probably the vast majority of people.

Picture Editing

GIMP 2.6.12

The GIMP - Great app, and while it isn’t Photoshop, it does everything I have so far needed to whilst playing with the bare minimum of graphics and photo editing. I continue to be very happy with this app.

The Good

It’s All Free!

This is something that Linus has that other desktop operating systems cannot compete on. I can download, install and use the operating system and all the apps and not worry about paying a thing.

Boots Fast!

Compared to Windows 7, this machine boots fast. Even with my Windows 7 installation on a 7,200 rpm drive compared to Lubuntu being on a 5,400 one, it takes a little over half the time to boot into Lubuntu, about 30 seconds. However with the approach of Windows 8 and its rapid boot time, this may be less of a draw for people.

Massively Compatible!

This OS works on my 2011 M11X, my 1999 VAIO and everything in between, including Intel and PowerPC Macs. This means I can install it on every machine I own and keep them up to date far beyond the original manufacturers leave them behind.

Installation and Usage is a Breeze!

With the Software Centers available on all distributions of Ubuntu, finding, installing and updating apps and the OS itself is easy. Perhaps even easier than OS X and Windows, as they stand at the moment.

Very Customisable!

Everything that can be changed in terms of layout, colours, toolbars, docks etc can be. This makes it very easy to make the desktop look and behave as you want it to. This is something that neither of the two main Operating Systems will allow to the same extent.

The Bad

The laptop runs hot!

Even running Chrome, Thunderbird, Audacious and gedit, this machine is incredibly hot and the fan is going. It could be that the discrete graphics card being used for everything, but I’m not sure. This is something that would not happen under Windows 7 or 8 and definitely restricts its use as a true “lap”-top! Not ideal!

Software Center Delays

The apps available in the software centre is a little out of date. For example, the LibreOffice version available at time of writing is 3.6.1, whereas on the software centre it is 3.5.4.2. This is a full 0.1 behind, which leaves it behind the version that can be downloaded from the web. This isn’t a major problem, but it does mean the software centre is a number of weeks behind.

Random Assumptions

I initially assumed that closing my laptop’s lid would put the computer to sleep. I then found myself surprised to find the battery very low the next time I opened it. It also turns out that single clicking the power button of my laptop now turns it off, rather than hibernates the laptop. Again, it isn’t a big problem now I know, but it was an inconvenience finding it out.

Conclusion

After a week of using Lubuntu with my M11X, I can say it is a great operating system that allows me to do almost everything I need to do with my laptop away from my desktop computer. It doesn’t do anything better than my Windows 7 or 8 installs, however, it definitely gives a good option for when you don’t want to pay for a Windows OS install or your computer is to old to run the more modern OS updates. For me, even the ability to those that require Windows are not such a big problem. But the way in which the computer continues to run hot under very little load, really stops me continuing to use Lubuntu on this machine as its daily driver, especially on the sofa or in bed!


Originally published on 8 September 2012 at www.dcxiii.com.

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