Saturday, June 7, 2014

Linux Lite 2.0 "Beryl" Review: Evolving to a very good distro!

Linux Lite is a user-friendly XFCE spin of Ubuntu LTS. I came to know of it and reviewed in 2012, the version 1 of the distro based on Ubuntu Precise. The version 2.0 is released recently with Ubuntu Trusty Tahr as base. I downloaded the distro last week but reviewed Mint 17 Cinnamon as it sounded more interesting proposition to me. However, a reader's comment that Lite seems to have evolved, prompted me to use the Lite 2.0 for last one week and pen down this review.

On 1 June 2014, Jerry Bezencon announced the release of Linux Lite 2.0, the new stable version of the project's lightweight Ubuntu-based distribution featuring the Xfce desktop: "Linux Lite 2.0, code name 'Beryl', is now available for download. This build is the work of four months of constant development and the implementation of the best ideas from the team and the wider community. This also marks the beginning of our own repositories for our custom software so that changes and improvements to the operating system can be offered regularly. Now Lite User Manager, Lite Manual, Lite Software (install and remove additional software) and Lite Fix can evolve more easily to meet the needs of the user. In this release we wanted to combine the newest versions of well-established and supported software like LibreOffice, VLC, WINE and GIMP so that people have access to the latest features in those programs."

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
I downloaded both the 32 and 64 bit versions of Linux Lite - the 64 bit version for this review and the 32-bit version to install on my Asus 1101HA netbook (1.33 Ghz Intel Atom Z520, 1 GB DDR2 RAM & 160 GB SATA HDD). This netbook was successfully running Zorin OS 8 Lite for last 3 months and I wanted to install a lightweight Ubuntu LTS spin there. I created live USB using Linux Mint Image Writer for both the versions. I did a live boot followed by installation.

The 64-bit version was installed on my test laptop, Asus K55VM, with 2.3 Ghz 3rd Gen. Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics, on a 50 GB partition.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Like Xubuntu 14.04, this version also ships with XFCE 4.11 and Linux kernel 3.13.0. Thunar 1.6.3 is the default file manager like Xubuntu 14.04.
Installation
Installer is the stock Xubuntu one and no surprises there. The step by step approach is fairly easy and should not challenge even a Linux novice.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Score for Installation: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
Linux Lite's hardware recognition is top notch and it detected everything accurately including single/double tap in touch pad. Screen resolution, WIFI, LAN, sound, etc. everything worked perfectly out of the box in both the laptops.

Score for Hardware Recognition: 10/10

Aesthetics
From all black/dark theme in the previous versions, Linux Lite 2.0 now has a more evolved and aesthetically pleasing bright all white theme. It reminds me more of Linux Mint XFCE than Xubuntu.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
It ships with whisker menu and a reasonable set of packages (Lite has a lighter ISO than Xubuntu itself).

I noted a few other attractive wallpapers along with the default one in the desktop settings option. Right clicking the desktop shows these options among others.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
With my Asus 1101HA, for the first time, I tried projecting to screen and it worked well (Fn + F8 keys give the options). However, one thing I noted, upon projection, it took the default wallpaper though I had previously changed to a different wallpaper.

The boot splash is graphical like Xubuntu but the grub looks pretty antiquated. Possibly a little bit of grub customization will help to improve the aesthetics further. Thunar looks simple and worked well on both the machines. Font rendering is also similar to Xubuntu and pretty neat.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
I added conkies to glam-up the desktop a bit and the result was pretty interesting.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
In overall, I am very impressed with the updated aesthetics and Linux Lite looks very professional.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Pre-Installed Packages
In it's small sized ISO, Linux Lite packs quite a few utility packages, namely:
  • Office: LibreOffice 4.2.3.3 (Calc, Writer, Impress), ePDF viewer
  • Internet: Firefox 29, Mumble, Support IRC, Thunderbird email client
  • Graphics: GIMP 2.8.10, Image viewer, Scanner, Screenshot
  • Multimedia: CD/DVD burner, VLC 2.1.2
  • Accessories: Application finder, Calculator, Terminal, Leafpad, Archive Manager, NTFS configuration, gparted disk formatter, Printer manager
  • Others: Steam
The application choice doesn't seem to be for a lightweight system, at least on face value. Though the distro is named as light, it ships with packages meant for more modern hardware like LibreOffice, GIMP, VLC, Steam, etc.

When I tried Lite 2.0 on my Asus 1101HA, videos didn't play at all in VLC player initially due to limited ability of the laptop. But, on changing Tools -> Preferences -> Video to uncheck "Accelerated video output (Overlay)" and choosing X11 video output (XFB), I could get nice full screen movies without any issue.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Though the application package is very basic, Lite 2.0 does a good job by providing "Install Additional Software" tool. It gives a list of 25 additional packages like Google Chrome web browser, Chromium (yes, both!), Google Talk Browser Plugin, Dropbox, Netflix, Skype, Deluge Torrent client, Wine & PlayonLinux, etc. It definitely makes life easy for a Linux novice.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Similar to Install, there is a Remove Additional Software tool as well to easily uninstall the extra packages from the above list. However, it doesn't include the existing / pre-installed packages.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Honestly, I am pretty impressed with the package list of Linux Lite 2.0. But, somehow the packages don't sync with the lightweight distro idea and hence, I am going with a relatively lower score than what it deserved.

Score for Pre-Installed Packages: 6/10

Repositories
Ubuntu Trusty repositories form the primary source of packages in Linux Lite 2.0. Further, it includes the third party repositories to support established packages like Linux Mint, GIMP, Wine, etc. What it essentially means is that this Ubuntu spin will continue to provide you the latest version of these packages which are not available in Trusty Tahr repositories.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
Apart from Install Additional Software, the packages can be accessed and installed via Synaptic Package Manager. There is no Ubuntu Software Center in this spin.

I installed quite a few applications like Chromium and Google Chrome browsers, Conky-Manager, Skype 4.2, Transmission bit-torrent client, uget download manager, Wine, PlayonLinux, etc. Except for conky-manager, I didn't have to add a single ppa as everything was there in the Linux Lite repository collection. Good job done by the developers.

Nvidia-Prime for Bumblebee
Given my Asus K55VM has NVIDIA graphics, I installed nvidia-prime to ensure reduction in laptop heat and more battery life. Linux Lite ships with a graphic driver installation option to make life easier. Else, you can try out the following codes (which I did for Linux Lite):
$ sudo apt-get install nvidia-prime nvidia-331-updates
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
$ sudo apt-get install prime-indicator

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From the nvidia-prime option, I changed to the Intel graphics option for my regular use.

From Linux Lite 2.0 http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
One thing I should mention, even without installing nvidia-prime, I didn't note any laptop heat in Linux Lite possibly due to the presence of nouveau drivers. However, I am not sure if there is a way to enable Nvidia graphics to play games in Steam without installing bumblebee or nvidia-prime.

Performance
Linux Lite 2.0 offered very good performance on both my laptops. On Asus K55VM, Lite 2.0 consumed about 330 MB RAM and 0-5% CPU, which is more or less similar to what I recorded for Xubuntu 14.04 and Voyager 14.04, on the same machine.

Operating System (64 bit) Size of ISO Desktop Linux kernel CPU (%) RAM usage (MB) Size of installation (GB) Boot time (sec)
Xubuntu 14.04 LTS 0.913 XFCE 4.11 3.13.0 0-5% 310 4.0 23
Voyager Live 14.04 0.983 XFCE 4.11 3.13.0 0-5% 300 4.5 25
Lite 2.0 0.7 XFCE 4.11 3.13.0 0-5% 330 4.0 30

However, Linux Lite 2.0 took a few seconds more to boot than Xubuntu or Voyager. But, even 30 seconds of boot time is faster than all of the KDE distros and majority of the GNOME 3 distros, as shown in the table below.

Boot time Average (sec) Best (sec)
KDE4 52 35
GNOME 41 22
Lite 2.0 30

Otherwise, the distro is very fast, responsive and smooth to use. Even with the relatively heavy packages, it offered very good performance even on my low powered Asus 1101HA. I could watch videos and watch online youtube channels without any issue. Zorin OS 8 Lite didn't support full screen videos but in Linux Lite, I could watch them in VLC player full screen!

Score on Performance: 8/10

Overall
Linux Lite has definitely evolved and I like it's version 2.0 more than I liked version 1.0. Now the theme is more professional and attractive to add to the enhanced user-friendliness that this distro provides. I specifically liked the Install Additional Software package. There are other Ubuntu spins as well providing this functionality but they don't provide an extensive list like Linux Lite. Further, Linux Lite felt pretty lightweight to use and may work well with low powered machines, like it worked with me.

Additionally, I liked the concept of adding third party repositories supporting packages like LibreOffice, GIMP, etc. While using Ubuntu LTS spins I noted that they become antiquated pretty early and I had to add these third party ppa's to ensure I have the latest LibreOffice and GIMP - the two applications that I use daily. Those who keep talking of stability in the name of using antiquated packages, in my 6 years of Linux experience, I haven't seen any instability because of LibreOffice or GIMP - even their beta versions worked absolutely wonderful for me. So, I appreciate this feature in Linux Lite provided by the developers.

One thing I felt while using the distro and going through the Linux Lite OS website - possibly the developers are trying to achieve too many things with a single distro. I am not sure whether it is a lightweight distro for old machines or a Windows alternative for modern machines or it wants to engage gamers by providing a fully functional distro. In my opinion, the developers can provide variants of Linux Mint, targeting each niche segment. A better positioning of the distro would be a definitely more welcome step.

Anyway, it is still the infancy stage for Linux Lite and the distro is definitely evolving for good. I am pretty sure it will curve it's own niche among the Linux users - at least the early signs are positive. You can download the 32 and 64 bit versions of Linux Lite 2.0 from here.

Overall Score: 9/10
Breakup
Installation (20% weight): 10/10
Hardware Recognition (20% weight): 10/10
Aesthetics (20% weight): 10/10
Pre-Installed Packages (10% weight): 8/10
Performance (30% weight): 8/10

22 comments:

  1. Does it worth it to switch instead of antix mx 14 on low hardware?

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    Replies
    1. Right now I am fully into Linux Lite for two of my low powered machines: HP Compaq PC (2.3 Ghz Pentium 4 single core CPU with 1.5 GB DDR RAM) and Asus 1101HA netbook (1.33 Ghz Intel Atom CPU with 1 GB DDR2 RAM). On both these machines, Linux Lite 2.0 feels lighter to use and plays media files a whole lot better than MX 14. I guess Linux Lite has nailed it this time!

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    2. Thanx for the reply . I will give it a try. Could you please tell me what config are you using. I'm taking about the date/time/ram/cpu "widget".

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    3. This is actually a conky. You can please search for Conky-Manager by Teejee. It is a wonderful application to create stylish conkies.

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    4. I have Voyager looaded as a dual boot with LXLE. Both of which I think are very satisfying distros.

      How do you think Linux Lite compares with Voyager in particular. LXLE is still based on 12.04 so not perhaps a fair comparison, but a beta version is now available but only in 64bit. Surprising for a distro which is supposed to be aimed at users of older machines.

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    5. I personally tried both the distros. Voyager looks way beautiful than Lite but I felt that Lite works better on low spec systems. At least Lite works way better on my Asus 1101HA.

      Yes, it surprised me as well that why distros like Voyager / LXLE focus so much on 64 bit systems these days. But, possibly I understand now. Last week I was looking for a portable laptop < $400 and I saw plenty of 64 bit Win8 machines running on Intel Pentium, Atom, Celeron , etc. processors. Plus, there are a host of Chromebooks where possibly Linux can provide a full distro experience. I guess this is the market which these distros want to tap and you see even supposedly lightweight distros releasing 64 bit version earlier than 32 bit version.

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    6. Hi David:

      Though it is slightly disappointing not to see a 32-bit spin of LXLE 14.04, but I guess you're right. I don't see many 32-bit machines in working condition in 2017.

      Regards,
      Arindam

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  2. I am a big fan of Linux Lite. It is surprising what a great replacement it is not only for XP but for Windows in general. I sort of disagree with your observation that the developers don't know what market Linux Lite plays to. Linux Lite captures the essence of Linux itself, providing a solid platform to build upon, but also providing enough depth out of the box to satisfy a users basic requirements. I think its major competitor is Elementary OS, however Linux Lite is more mainstream.

    Thanks for your review. I enjoy your blog a lot. It is information provided by people like you that helps the community grow and keeps guys like me using Linux and ditching Windows.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for liking my reviews. Also, another observation on Elementary OS is that it is meant for more modern hardware whereas Linux Lite runs comfortably even on my 11 years old Pentium 4 PC with 1.5 GB RAM. Personally, I haven't seen better lightweight XFCE distro which works on both antiquated and modern hardware equally well. Hence, I felt that Linux Lite can perhaps position itself better than how it does now.

      Regards,
      Arindam

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    2. IMHO, nothing beats LXLE when it comes to a 10+ year old computer. I don't completely agree with their decision to stay with 12.04 LTS on 32 bit computers. But then again, by 2017 those computers will likely all be gone and a 10-12 year old computer will be 64 bit.

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  3. Arindan Goodnight, I always see her block, are very good and complete their comments distros, I am now using Linux Lite, is excellent, very quick and complete recommend.
    I'm very excited to try the Kali Linux distro based on Debian 1.07 Testing when your comments will have this distro?.
    I tell him that I do not speak English, it is translated in google translator on line, hojalas you can understand my comment.
    I cordially dismissal from my country Chile.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Francisco:

      Thanks for liking my blog. Sure, I'll cover Kali Linux in my blog - I used it briefly and liked it very much. My efforts to answer you in Spanish :).
      Gracias por gustarle mi blog. Claro, voy a revisar Kali Linux en mi blog - lo usé brevemente y me gustó Kali Linux mucho.
      Saludos.
      Arindam

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  4. Thanks for another great review. I've just updated to Lite 2.0 from the previous version and your review is a reminder that I did the right thing.

    One minor request. When posting screen-shots to your site, could you (where possible) show the unenhanced version: i.e. without any Conkey or similar. Only because I'd like to see what the distro is capable of before you add in the extras. Maybe finish with one last shot of your prettified desktop?

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for liking my review. I'll keep your suggestion in mind for my next review :). Actually the unadulterated screenshot is given in the aesthetics section.

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  5. gerry rijnsma

    Linux Lite is light, fast, flashy and crispy. (Xfce)
    I love it after 2 years Xubuntu 12.04 on another partition of HD, which did everything needed for me.

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    Replies
    1. I agree, Linux Lite runs very well on my Pentium 4 PC with 1.5 GB RAM, an antique machine from 2003.

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  6. Did you identify why Linux lite is slower to start than Voyager and Xubuntu & takes more memory ?
    Likely more startup programs :)

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    Replies
    1. Yes, that's what the main culprit. Removing unnecessary start up applications actually improves boot time significantly.

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  7. No. But it looked like there was a memory-leak.
    And icons jumping to the left without reason at boot.
    But it's going better after some updating.

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  8. It was Firefox (30) and the refresh of tabs (sites).
    So I searched, found and installed this 'must have':
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/memory-restart/?src=ss
    Poblems gone, fantastic OS.

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  9. This one is better yet: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ram-restart/?src=ss

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  10. Let us not forget that this version (along with just about any other) of Ubuntu has full access to the Ubuntu Software Center with a simple "sudo apt-get install software-center" for US and "sudo apt-get install software-centre" for the UK base. I've been with Linux LIte since 1.06-- both 64 and 32 bit-- and can honestly say its amazing and versatile. I've been distro hopping since 2004, but haven't felt the need since LL. Plug-n-play all the way :-) Thank you for an awesome review! Thanks for spreading the word! More users = more input = more perfection :-)

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