Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
In my seemingly eternal quest for a reasonable precompiled distro for my hideous old laptop, I turned to Linux Mint‘s Fluxbox edition, thinking it might be an unusual enough variation from the original to solve some problems for me.
It did, but I committed a large error at the start: I didn’t do my homework. I assumed the Fluxbox version of Daryna would be a lightweight, stripped-down version that was aimed at older hardware.
But from my perspective, that’s not the case. Yes, Fluxbox is the default window manager, but there’s a lot of other stuff in here — both Xfce- and Gnome-based. So it’s not Fluxbox plus lightweight applications … so much as it’s a “best of” Gnome and Xfce, with Fluxbox as a window manager.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of people just prefer Fluxbox over other window managers, and use it as an overlay to the entire Gnome Ubuntu installation. If you’re one of those people, this version of Mint is probably ideal.
But if you’re looking for something that will help resurrect a 333Mhz desktop machine, it might not be perfect. As most people know, the reason to choose Mint would be to have a large array of preinstalled support software — Java and Flash and FuseSMB so forth — but the reason to grab the Fluxbox version would be because you happen to prefer Fluxbox.
Firefox is the browser (of course), but the file manager is Thunar. Mousepad is the editor and the terminal emulator is xfce4-terminal. GDM runs the login, Metacity is available, and quite a few other things are Gnome-based.
With that many of the heavyweights on board, system speed doesn’t compare to other, Fluxbox-centric systems. My start times were over two minutes, which puts it somewhere in the reach of Wolvix — the XFCE-based version — but slower than MEPIS AntiX and Fluxbuntu, which are closer to pure Fluxbox.
Desktop performance was likewise a little sluggish — Firefox wanted more than 22 seconds to appear, and still needed more time render. Thunar is rather quick, so it didn’t take more than three or four seconds to open, and Terminal opens in around one or one and a half seconds. That’s about what I would expect for something using Xfce and Gnome, on this hardware.
Time to install was rather long — something like three hours, after I stopped making dumb mistakes. That’s not uncommon for Ubuntu-based distributions on this machine.
Linux Mint wins points for polish though — it’s very pleasant to look at. The GTK theme, the Fluxbox theme, the wallpaper and everything mesh very well, and it’s a very unified appearance. It’s a tiny bit dark for my taste, but certainly not unacceptable.
Personally I put it second only to Fluxbuntu for a nice, clean default Fluxbox desktop.
Mint also has a few utilities that I would endorse for the Ubuntu side of the house. Personally, I thought a rating system for updates was a good idea. I can see where this would behoove someone on dialup, or someone with less experience, to determine if they want to update a package or not.
And I like the centralized configuration panel. I’ve seen something like this in other distros (I can’t remember which ones now) and from utility’s perspective, it’s a bonus.
But the real benefit in running Linux Mint over Ubuntu is that so many other things come preinstalled. Flash is already in there. Java is preinstalled. Mplayer is already on deck. MP3s play without installing anything extra.
There are some other nifty things available — tilda is on here, and so is conky. Most of the Fluxbox accessories are available immediately. (And also in the “nice touch!” category is the preset Linux Mint start/search page, which Ubuntu really should do too.)
But after that, I found the software rundown to be rather sparse. After Firefox, there’s nothing lighter. XChat, Thunderbird, Transmission, period. GPaint and GPicView, but nothing aside from that. Gnormalize, Brasero and Exaile. Evince, Abiword and Gnumeric round out your office applications, and that’s about the size of it. There are plenty of utilities and tools to get you going, and if you want to download something else you’re fine. But for default apps, that’s what you get.
And I feel obligated to mention a few other faults — like the persistent “Install” icon, even after the system is installed. And I found the right-click menu to be a bit overpopulated, since this version inserts most of the standard Fluxbox menu into a submenu of a still-higher menu. Fluxbox is overnested anyway, so adding another layer was a little annoying to me. There were other quirks, but they really had their roots in Ubuntu.
And other than those minor points I hold no ill will toward Mint. In fact, on a full-speed system with a little more muscle, I’d probably recommend it over straight Ubuntu to a non-computer-literate person — and this version if they seem inclined toward Fluxbox. Saving a newbie the inconvenience of installing things like Flash could be the difference between a conversion and a rejection.
But again, my suggestion would be to look elsewhere if you’re working with outdated hardware. Despite the Fluxbox addition to this particular version, it doesn’t strike me as lightweight.