Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
I’m prejudiced. I admit it in the first sentence. Ubuntu was the origin of my Linux history, and I’m still partial to it.
Compound that with the fact that, for about a year, there have been very few viable, lightweight versions of Ubuntu that targeted outdated hardware. To me, this was a huge gap in the Ubuntu community that called for something comprehensive and well-rounded, but light and speedy. That’s a tall order.
So I approach Fluxbuntu with a mix of hope and over-familiarity, and that might shine through because I really, really like it.
Most of the screenshots I’ve seen thus far are all the same, and mine are no better. Of course, changing it very much wouldn’t suggest it was Fluxbuntu.
The desktop theme and wallpaper are some of the nicest I’ve seen in Fluxbox, or any *buntu, really. For once, a default Fluxbox desktop that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trapped in a Saturday afternoon sci-fi double-feature rerun on Channel 54. Most Fluxbox setups look unnecessarily sci-fi-ish, to the point where it has become a turnoff. I don’t really need another exploding 3D tetrahedron rendered in #3465a4 against black, thank you. It’s been done.
But this is very approachable and very calm. It’s something you could install for your mother and she wouldn’t be scrambling to figure out how to change the wallpaper. And the window theme, icon theme and GTK theme match perfectly. The boot splash is unique too. A nifty stopwatch counts backward, and the sweep of the second hand reveals the Fluxbuntu logo. Nice touch.
But looks aren’t everything, as someone said in a pub somewhere, late on a Saturday night. Installation took about 1 1/2 hours, which is longer than a command-line installation on this system, but shorter than the default Xubuntu 7.04 or Ubuntu 7.04 installation.
Start times, for some weird reason, are terrible. Three minutes, 54 seconds to the login manager (which is SLiM, by the way) — almost a minute worse than a full Ubuntu 7.04 installation. And that’s not the first run, it’s a fifth or sixth run.
The default partition setup is the same as the default Ubuntu version — ext3 plus a 256Mb wedge of swap. I can’t say if that is to blame for the slow boot, but it’s a bit frightening. Something is going on, if it’s slower than Gnome.
It’s also possible that my video card — an ancient 2Mb Silicon Motion Lynx — has a hard time keeping that boot splash running. I don’t know if that’s the culprit, but I do know that knocking “quiet” and “splash” off the kernel boot line drops the start time to 1:40. Of course, there are lots of ways to speed it up, too.
Other programs start snappy too. Uxterm needs less than three seconds to appear. Kazehakase is loading in under 12 seconds (compare that to more than 20 seconds for Firefox on this machine, usually.) Rox starts so quickly I can’t time it. Shutdown is in 23 seconds, which includes the time it takes me to fat-finger my password in.
I still have some minor issues, most of which I can trace back to Ubuntu. The default color depth is 24, just like Ubuntu, and that causes a black frame effect on this machine. I don’t know if it’s an option (since it might involve repackaging something crucial like xorg), but if this is targeted at early machines, 16 might be a better default.
I also get a weird triple-cursor effect under Gutsy, and the ubiquitous tty screen of death. Both of those are core Gutsy issues for me, so I don’t blame Fluxbuntu for them.
I get some strange USB icons on the desktop, which I think is the known issue described on the Fluxbuntu download page. I also noticed that Fluxbuntu polls the floppy drive on startup; that might be related or not. Usually Ubuntu doesn’t, and /etc/fstab shows it flagged as noauto, so perhaps ivman or something else is doing that. No harm no foul, I say.
I see there’s still some Gnome in it — I see its droppings in my home directory, like a dog that needs housebreaking. I’m guessing, but looking over the applications list, that might be residue from gksu. Can’t help anything there.
Also, I’m not sure who’s running the wallpaper — if it’s rox-filer or fbsetbg — so my initial lunge to change the backdrop needed a little caution. That might be a turnoff for some folks who want to immediately reapply that exploding 3D tetrahedron.
And there are a few minor theme points I would suggest. A cleaner default font for uxterm would be cool. The root account has no GTK theme set, so opening Synaptic gives the ugly Raleigh style. GTK1.2 apps are the same — XMMS has those enormous characters and terrible GTK theme. Perhaps a Fluxbuntu GTK1.2 theme would spare us the horror.
And while we’re on the subject, how about a default XMMS theme? Something … green, perhaps?
Aside from those terribly minor points, there’s very little I can fault. It sets itself up like *buntu should — network and all. Everything just works (omigosh, I said it ). And really — if the best I can do is offer theme advice, it must be pretty darn good.
In short, this is something that has been needed for a long time — a cool and clean Ubuntu derivative that’s at once lightweight and comprehensive. If you’re a past Ubuntu user and you have a 500Mhz machine in the closet, this is what you’d want on it. I would recommend this over Xubuntu for anyone in the sub-1Ghz range, any day of the week.
Try it. You’ll like it.