Originally posted at Adam's Blog, Igneous Quill. Visit him by clicking here for great stuff about Ubuntu, programming languages, and all kinds of other fun stuff!
"It's just not... happy", I told him. My friend, Adam (whose blog is here) had made the jump from Windows to Linux some time before and got me looking into a Linux solution for my Windows XP problems. So, after a little research I chose the Ubuntu "brand" of Linux (as it seemed to have the most support for older Dell hardware), and took the plunge.
At first boot, it was love. Ubuntu 8.10 installed like a dream. I popped in the CD-ROM I had created from the download and that's all I really had to do. I was prepared to deal with some issues that had been reported regarding video and wireless drivers, but those issues never appeared for me. I was up and running and using the web in less than 30 minutes.
But a short while later, I just wasn't feeling that squishy love feeling anymore. "It's just not... happy", I told Adam. Ubuntu just didn't seem to have any pep. Everything was slow, painfully so, and the more I used it the more it seemed to just want to go to sleep.
"Have you looked at Xubuntu?", he suggested. I had looked at it, briefly, when I was doing my original research into different flavors of Linux, but for some reason had passed it by. Adam went on to explain that Xubuntu was built for systems like mine - older, slower, crankier, and that I should give it another look.
So, I did. It's really easy to switch from one "flavor" of Ubuntu to another using the Synaptic Package Manager. At heart, all Ubuntu distributions are all the same - the heart, lungs, kidneys, all Ubuntu distributions share the same guts. What's different is the bones and the skin. I won't get too technical, but it's enough to say that since the guts are the same, you can quickly and easily change the outside. Switching to Xubuntu just involves searching for it in the package manager, selecting it, and clicking apply.
I did that. I looked up Xubuntu in the package manager, which caused it to unload all the Ubuntu stuff, and we were off.
20 minutes worth of download and install and I was now an Ex-Ubuntu, Xubuntu user.
Again, I was in love. My laptop was alive again! If I wanted to run Firefox, BANG, it was open. If I wanted to run Gimp, POW it was open. No "click, wait, wait, run" anymore. Everything was quick, fast, slick and shiny.
But then...you got it. Something was just not quite right. The biggest, and I mean BIG, issue I had with Xubuntu was the network. Oh, I could get online, no problem. Other computers could "see" the Xubuntu machine and use files on it. But Xubuntu couldn't "see" them. This was a problem.
Now, to be clear. Xubuntu is GREAT. If you have an older laptop, use Xubuntu. It's slick, fast, and can do just about anything you need. However, If you have a need to share files across your home network, then Xubuntu is not your best solution. It can't do that.
Simple as that, Xubuntu was not built with network file sharing in mind. The developers of the file manager either over looked it, or intentionally left it out. Either way, it was not coded to recognize your network.
I found this out the hard way. Really hard. See, the thing is, I like to take pictures. I'm not a photographer, by any stretch of the imagination, but I have kids. Lots of them. So I take lots of pictures. I currently have close to 100 gig worth of snapshots stored on my desktop machine. I am in the process of organizing, touching up, and compiling these pictures into albums that I can share with extended family. As such, I want to keep them stored in one central place and not have multiple copies floating around.
So, one thing that is important to me is to be able to access the pictures from the desktop computer on my laptop. I couldn't do that with Xubuntu.
But I tried. I really wanted it to work. Compared to Ubuntu, Xubuntu made my laptop extremely happy. It's a match made in heaven. It's like the people at Dell that designed the B120 laptop so long ago went out and said "hey Ubuntu people, here's all the stuff you need to know to make a version of your OS that would make this old hardware come to life like an Autobot."
Like any other Linux user with a problem, I went out to the forums. If you're a Linux user, you know the forums. And there's a lot of them. The most awesome thing about Linux and especially Ubuntu, is that people on the forums are the coolest people anywhere. You an ask the simplest, dumbest question and someone will politely, graciously, and with much detail, help you. 99 times out of 100, you don't even have to ask your simple dumb question because someone else already has and there's a fix waiting for you.
"Xubuntu can't see network", or something like that, is what I needed an answer for. The answer? There is no answer. Oh, I found some great suggestions on configuring Samba and creating a shortcut in the files. But every suggestion was answered the same way. "This doesn't work". And the final answer to every suggestion was "Xubuntu can't do that".
As I said earlier. The Xubuntu file manager just isn't built to "do" networking. Apparently, there will eventually be an update to fix that, but for now, it just can't do it.
That was the deal breaker. Much as I love the speed and power of Xubuntu, I just can't live without the network. So I kissed her goodbye and with much sorrow and tears I switched back to Ubuntu...
But, in the meantime, the lovely people who work on Ubuntu had released version 9.04. And guess what? It's love again! I don't know what they changed, but at least on my Dell, it's just as fast as Xubuntu was. The video is better and everything is just generally peppy again! But that's another blog post...
In summary, Xubuntu is awesome. If you have an older laptop that is dying or has died from Windows, bring it back to live with Xubuntu. However, if you need to access your home network, use Ubuntu. Either way, your old hardware will be like new, saving you money and saving your computer from the landfill.
Ready to give Linux a try? Check out the Ubuntu, Kubuntu or (if you have a slightly older computer) Xubuntu distros. They're all good, and all free.