In the quest to find an updated Ubuntu derivative as easy to use as Ubuntu 9 and 10, I tried Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2 64-bit. Xubuntu is another good distribution I use often, and I wanted to find out how well it would perform compared to Xubuntu 10.10.
One of the benefits of Xubuntu is that it uses Xfce, not Unity. However, since Ubuntu version 11, I have experienced nothing but problems with my two favorite eyecandy buddies: Compiz and Emerald. Would they work with Xubuntu 12.04?
Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2 installs flawlessly in VirtualBox 4.1.10, and the GuestAdditions also install–complete with an autorun prompt. After updates, Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2 uses Linux kernel 3.2.0.-21-generic.
After playing around with Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2 for a while, I found it to be easier to get into than Ubuntu 12.04 beta 2. Of course, Xubuntu uses Xfce, so if you know Xfce, then you will feel at home. Though on the simple side, Xfce does its job well, and there is no Unity to mess with.
Compiz and Emerald
Next, it was time to launch Compiz. Nothing makes the jaws of new Linux users drop like watching a fluid desktop cube twirling around to switch workspaces–along with other Compiz effects (fire mouse cursor, raindrops, Expo, ring switcher, and more). Compiz is one of the reasons I switched to Linux in the first place. It’s great!
Sadly, Compiz in Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2 refuses to run. At least for me. I tried every trick I could think of. I installed metacity, several Compiz packages, extras, libglib2.0, and more, but Compiz refused to run no matter what.
The biggest problem is that Xubuntu 12.04 always froze when launching Compiz using compiz –replace (or compiz –replace ccp). This required a forced shutdown. Not good. To make matters worse, testing Emerald was not possible because Emerald is no longer present in the repository.
Compiz in Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2 crashes the system and displays this error dialog upon the next reboot.
This puzzles me. Why are two of the best features, Compiz and Emerald, so difficult to install and enable? After all, these are the features that made me want to use Linux in the first place. Why discard the main attraction?
They work perfectly and with minimal hassle in Ubuntu 9 and 10 and Xubuntu 10.10. Sure, eye-popping effects are not essential to computing, but they make improvements not found elsewhere and give Linux a special look and feel.
The Compiz Desktop Cube installs easily and runs perfectly in Xubuntu 10.10 64-bit.
[Compiz in Xubuntu 10.10: Enabling Compiz in Xubuntu 10.10 inside VirtualBox requires some love and patience upon setup. Install Compiz, Compiz Fusion Icon, and Advanced Desktop Effects Settings, and Emerald. Run the Compiz Fusion Icon and enable loose binding while disabling the indirect rendering. IMPORTANT: Install an Emerald theme before enabling Compiz or Emerald lest all window contents be blank until the windows are resized. After that, enable Compiz from the command line (compiz –replace), startup, Compiz Fusion Icon, or whatever method you prefer.]
Yes, there are ways to make Emerald work, but they involve too much hassle and require too much behind-the-scenes knowledge that new users do not have. In the past, both Compiz and Emerald were extremely simple: Install and go. They worked in virtual machines and on real hardware.
The other problem with using Compiz and Emerald with Ubuntu-based distributions from version 11 upwards is time. It is no longer as simple and quick as it used to be. Enabling Compiz and Emerald on version 11 and up requires several minutes (maybe longer if you are new to the process) to install and enable just for one machine. Multiply that time by 37 Linux installations and your time is quickly lost. Past versions made it so easy to install Compiz and Emerald that any added time was negligible. Now, it is a serious time investment. How can this be called progress?
Xubuntu Does Other Things Well
To be fair, Compiz and Emerald were really the only negatives I could think of regarding Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2. Xubuntu 12.04 does so many other things well that it is easy to forget about them. Xubuntu runs fast and snappy. The menus are well-organized. Despite being a beta, Xubuntu is stable and offers the same high level of security, such as encrypted home directories, that we expect from Linux. There is a well-chosen selection of default software installed. Aside from the Compiz glitches, Xubuntu never crashed or performed erratically in VirtualBox. It was smooth sailing all the way.
Everything from OpenSSH, Thunar’s toolbar (removed from Nautilus for Ubuntu 12.04), a usable desktop, practical themes, minimal hardware requirements, and updated software from the 12.04 repository makes Xubuntu a joy to use.
Xubuntu 12.04 beta 2 is good. In fact, I like it better than Ubuntu 12.04 beta 2 from which it is based because the user interface does not get in the way of using the computer. Xubuntu is a case where the developers updated the OS without losing what made Xubuntu great in the first place–aside from the lack of Compiz and Emerald support.
Granted, Xubuntu with its Xfce desktop environment might not be the easiest Linux distribution for new Linux users to grasp, but Xubuntu is still good ol’ Xubuntu, and it does things out of the box that I wish Ubuntu 12.04 would do.
Other than the lack of Compiz and Emerald support, Xubuntu is excellent, and I recommend it.