Before you read one more word, I need to make one thing clear: I love Xubuntu. I’d rather use it than just about any other Ubuntu derivative, with the obvious exception of my own personal variants. I think it’s smart and sassy and has a clean, professional feel that I just don’t get with either of its sisters, or for that matter, most of the Ubuntu knockoffs that are available.
Let me put it to you this way: If you were to knock down the door to my house and come charging in to where the computer is, there’s a much higher chance that you’d see a Xubuntu icon on the screen than the logo of any other complete, prepackaged distro.
But as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, and quite some time ago, I think Xubuntu still believes itself to be a lightweight version of Ubuntu — and that’s where I’d draw the line. I know the home page touts itself as a solution for “old or low-end machines,” but I’d only agree if you think “old” means 1Ghz. In my book, that’s not old, and so for me, referring someone to Xubuntu for an old machine — a truly old machine, like 300Mhz — is a huge mistake. 300Mhz is still very, very usable.
But not with Xubuntu. It’s not the lightweight operating system it used to be, almost two years ago. It has matured, filled out and become complete — and that’s a good thing. But at the same time, it’s time to stop telling people with old computers — I mean truly old computers — to dash off to replace Windows 98 on their old Pentium II. Because I still think it’s misleading.
I’m not the only person on the soapbox this time. Steve Rosenberg over at Click is struggling under the weight of the same Xubuntu identity crisis, wondering why a supposedly lightweight distro comes bundled with the Gimp (and I would add a lot to that list), and why it takes more than a minute for the Gimp to start. Granted, that might be a different issue altogether (starts in 4 seconds on my 1Ghz), but the question should be asked.
All the same, I still feel Xubuntu — even in its 7.04 rendition, which I think is the best yet — is laboring under the outdated impression that it’s a viable alternative for “old or low-end machines.”
And don’t misunderstand me: I’m not suggesting Xubuntu trim the fat. I’m saying it’s time for Xubuntu to stop labeling itself as a cure for archaic hardware … and start presenting itself as a full-fledged, complete distribution that uses an alternative desktop environment as a matter of user choice — not hardware requirements.