Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
If you’ve been around Ubuntu for a year or so, you might recognize that as the default desktop for Breezy Badger Xubuntu version 5.10, released in November of 2005.
Now fast-forward to 2007.
That’s the default desktop for Xubuntu 6.10, a year later and markedly different — not necessarily better, but definitely an evolution. And while there have been some improvements, not all the changes were beneficial, in my opinion.
My first forays into Linux were a cross of hardware desperation and licensing issues. I had an old P2-233 laptop (a CTX EzBook 700E, if you must know) that I wanted to use to listen to the BBC World Service streaming audio. That was all; nothing fancy.
Unfortunately, through the aforesaid mixture of hardware problems (wireless cards) and licensing pratfalls (stuck at Win98), I tried out Ubuntu, and was shortly thereafter referred to Xubuntu. (I also tried UbuntuLite and something else that I can’t remember … both projects are dead now.)
5.10 ran fine on that machine. No sense of bulk or system drag, and it was a peculiar enough desktop to keep me interested.
Since then, the creeping Gnomification of Xubuntu has rubbed me the wrong way. Things have become heavier somehow, and what was once a sparse and lightweight starting point for a full-fledged desktop now seems like a bulky, blue-tinted Gnome mockup.
It’s not just a visual change, either. The xubuntu-devel mailing list in recent days has been a hashout between the Thunderbird camp and the Sylpheed-claws camp. The Thunderbirders want ease-of-transition-from-Windows, and the Sylpheeders want lightweight.
At last read, it seemed the Thunderbird crowd had trumped the argument with a “this is the way it’s going to be” answer from a dev.
And so the Gnomification rolls onward, and the weight of Xubuntu grows with each revolution. To me, that’s a death knell for the underlying principle of Xubuntu: to make Ubuntu usable on older machines that lack the speed and muscle of modern rigs.
There’s a tendency to point Xubuntu at mid-grade hardware (which, in my mind, as I’m writing this, is the 1Ghz crowd) when the original manifesto suggested machines even slower.
But I’ve stopped recommending Xubuntu on lightweight machines, because there’s only a trivial difference between Xubuntu on a 1.4Ghz machine and Ubuntu on the same hardware. Maybe you feel differently and that’s perfectly fine, but in my experience both drag on a 750Mhz P3 to the same degree.
For now, I look to the Fluxbuntu crowd to save us from abandoning machines that are only 10 years old, when they still have so much potential.
Edit, Jan. 9: ImageShack might have deleted one or both of the thumbnails by now — probably a bandwidth issue. Sorry. Please use your imagination. :)