‘Linux Lite’ is a GNU/Linux distribution based on the Ubuntu’s Long Term Support releases. It includes the lightweight & fully functional XFCE desktop environment, comes with full support for proprietor multimedia playback & a few applications of its own (software updater, additional app installer, a ‘cleaner’…) that should assist a novice user for easily managing the installed operating system.
Like many other, it consists pretty much all the software applications that most users would require to get things done (Office suite, PDF viewer, GIMP editor, VLC, Optical disc burner, Web Browser & an E-mail client, Backup utility etc) but can still be considered lightweight due to the low memory consumption (more on that later). According to its developers, being intuitive & simple are its primary design goals, and from the look of things, I would say that so far they have done a pretty decent job.
You can freely download this distribution’s disc images in 32-bit or 64-bit versions, I used the 64-bit one for this review (about 773.8MB, the file size shown in Windows will be slightly different). The current version is 2.2 and it is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS core and ships with Kernel 3.13.0-24 and Xorg 1.15.1.
Below is a brief information about the hardware setup on which it was tested:
Intel Core i3-2330M CPU, Intel HD 3000 GPU, 4GB RAM (DDR3), Toshiba 7200 RPM (320GB) SATA HDD, Intel N-1030 Wireless adapter, Realtek network adapter ('RTL8168'), LED display with 1366x768 resolution (60Hz/60FPS). It's a Dell Vostro V-131 notebook.
As my regular readers are aware of, I always include a performance based comparison (with a similar distro), and I decided to use the Manjaro 0.8.7.1 XFCE for the comparison. I always take a great care while measuring the performance of an operating system. So for achieving a acceptable level of accuracy, for each ‘test’, I took five samples, before arriving with the average values. I measured them first, trying my best to keep the OS at a ‘unspoiled state’ (minimal amount of manual tweaks), although I did disable the start-up welcome screen & added the system monitor to the task-bar. Those were the only changes I made.
Linux Lite is based on Ubuntu, thus it is the same installer (so I will not go into details). I never encountered any issues & as always, enabled the user auto-login feature.
Linux Lite 2.2 comes with the default color theme of GRUB (if I’m not mistaken). It is not bad, but I would have preferred a theme that exposes the prominent, or the default, color theme of the OS, though.
Below is the boot-logo and it includes a progress-bar, accuracy of which, is questionable.
As an example, usually when the progress-bar reaches the half limit, the logo disappears and the system executes the login screen and starts to load the desktop. Perhaps the progress-bar then represented the whole boot process (from ‘init’ till the desktop got fully loaded), but I think it should have displayed the progress from ‘init’ to login-screen only, otherwise it can be a bit confusing.
Linux Lite pops-up a welcome screen when you first login to the desktop. Through there you can install updates (if available), read the online documentation, release notes… though it is not terrible useful, it is nice.
The desktop is a standard XFCE (4.11) desktop with a task-bar at the bottom, coupled with the ‘Whisker menu’, that many XFCE based distributions seem to include these days, and a very ‘rich’ desktop context menu that is slightly different from the Manjaro XFCE (4.10) edition that I encountered last year.
The file manager is ‘Thunar’ (of course). Unlike under Manjaro, ‘Thunar’ under Linux Lite 2.2 failed to generate video thumbnails, a necessary feature in modern day computing, wouldn’t you say?
Other than that, as far as the new features were concerned, there really isn’t much to say about the desktop (keep in mind though, I am not a heavy XFCE user, so I may have missed a few).
As shortly mentioned in the beginning, Linux Lite ships with a couple of in-house built, useful tools. One such utility is the ‘Lite-software’ tool using which you can easily install additional software applications such as Chrome, Chromium, Dropbox, PlayOnLinux, Wine, Skype, Teamviewer and many more (there is a separate tool for uninstalling them later).
If you have used system cleaners in Windows such as ‘CCleaner’, well, Linux Lite comes with a similar one (though not as features rich) called ‘Lite Clean’, that lets you get rid of temporary files (your web browser, package & thumbnail caches) and delete the files in ‘Trash’. It can remove unused packages (leftover packages of apps that got installed when you installed certain applications but were not removed when those applications got removed) and locate large files (any large file, not necessarily unused ones, so use it with caution!) too.
It also comes with a few scripts that help you to setting up a Samba share. You still have to enter things like the shared folder path, through a text editor, but if you are familiar with the basic setup, then it is quite easy to use.
Linux Lite also comes with LibreOffice 22.214.171.124, GIMP 2.8, Firefox 33.0, Thunderbird 31.2.0, VLC 2.1.4, Document viewer 3.10.3, NTFS configuration utility that lets you enable/disable read & write operations and a few more.
Proprietary multimedia codec playback was pretty smooth. I threw a couple of 720p videos at VLC and it handled them without any issues, and the fan kept running at its lowest possible speed. But when playing the same file in Windows 8.1, it usually runs a bit loudly!. Adobe flash player playback was also excellent.
As shown in the above graph, Linux Lite 2.2 was 0.6% slower to boot compared to Manjaro 0.8.7.1, but it really is nothing.
Linux Lite 2.2 to its credit however, used 16.9% less memory compared to Manjaro, at the initial desktop loading. An important factor for those with aging computers 🙂 .
CPU Usage at Idle…
CPU usage at idle was also pretty good. Except for the system monitor process itself which kept consuming about 1-2% of the CPU cycles, the rest just did not intervene.
Power Usage it Idle…
When measuring the power usage, I try to keep all my operating systems & the hardware, at a near exact state as in the past, which involves keeping the Wi-Fi turned on (connected to my router), Bluetooth turned OFF, screen dimming & screensaver & automatic suspension disabled, and the brightness set to its maximum. Then I let the OS to idle (for the non-geek users 😀 , this means I close all running programs initiated by me, and let the OS be, with the exception of executing the power usage measuring utility, ‘powerstat‘, manually).
As you can see, and if I remember correctly, I have never encountered a more energy efficient distribution as Manjaro 0.8.7.1 XFCE was. And as such, I suppose it is unreasonable to judge Linux Lite’s power consumption readings based on Manjaro, because even though its are slightly higher, without any major tweaks, this is (13 Watts) within the normal range of power consumption for my notebook under those above mentioned conditions (may that be under Windows 8.1 which includes native driver support, or in most other GNU/Linux distributions).
Now I did not try, but you can install ‘laptop-mode-tools’ or ‘TLP’ (through its PPA) for reducing the power usage a bit more (I have done it in other distributions where the power usage readings were not optimal).
Hardware Recognition and ACPI…
Linux Linux 2.2 recognized and configured my hardware well (yes my fingerprint reader is still not supported by Linux). The Bluetooth gets turned ON & the brightness gets reset to its maximum every time I log into the desktop (it happens under most distributions), but they are fixable. However, then I encountered a major issue after suspending the computer.
When I tried to wake it up, although the OS presented me with the screen lock utility, but as soon I hit Enter (after entering the password), the screen went to blank!. When this happened, I had a video being played (before suspending the computer) by VLC, and I could hear it playing it. In other words, everything seemed to be working from the background, except for the damn screen!. And this happens all the time!.
The only fix, although I am reluctant to call it such, I have found so far is to switch to a different console (Ctrl + F1….) and then login to a terminal session and restart the ‘LightDM’ service. But that in effect, though it brings up the desktop, destroys all the previous running instances of your applications. Now, I put my laptop to sleep quite often and this is a major issue. This might be Intel GPU (HD3000) related, so if you have a different hardware setup, then perhaps it might not trouble you. I have not tried to find a solution, but if I do, then I will update this post.
Anyhow, other than that, the rest of the hardware, with their usual ups and downs under most GNU/Linux distros, worked well.
I tried to get an idea about the responsiveness of the OS by trying to open a couple of programs while a file (about 1.5GB) was being copied within the ‘Home’ folder (while the hard disk was busy, in other words). This involves trying to open a video through VLC, executing LibreOffice Writer, Terminal emulator, Firefox, GIMP, Desktop settings & opening another app or two. So what was the outcome?
It sucked!, I’m sorry to throw it into your face like that, but it did. The mouse pointer movements were horrible, and until the file copy was finished, I could not open any other application. A ‘déjà vu’ I thought, for I had observed a similar situation, though on Ubuntu 14.10, and I blamed it upon the ‘Deadline’ disk I/O scheduler (that which governs disk read/write operations in an OS). So I had a quick look to see what Linux Lite 2.2 is using, and unsurprisingly, it was ‘Deadline’. So I did what I did on Ubuntu 14.10, I switched back to ‘CFQ’ (a disk I/O scheduler that is more ‘fair’ than ‘Deadline’). Then after a reboot I ran the same test, and was delighted with the results!.
Not only all the programs were opened, the mouse pointer sensitivity was excellent & the video playback through VLC was carried out without any interruptions.
P.S: Some say that ‘Deadline’ is optimized for SSDs, so perhaps that was the reason for I have a rotating disk drive. But then again, I have used ‘Deadline’ on the same hardware in the past, and never encountered any such issues, interestingly.
As you can see, Manjaro 0.8.7.1 XFCE was the fastest while shutting down (17.1%), still, 4.1 seconds is not bad.
If you are looking for a lean distribution that works out of the box (note: I cannot give an opinion about whether it’ll run smoothly on older hardware or not, by other than looking at the memory usage, as I only have & tested it upon, somewhat a newer notebook computer) and comes with 5 years of support, then Linux Lite 2.2 a good operating system, only though, if you are willing to take the risk to know that your hardware is not affected by the above mentioned, crucial suspension related bug. For if your hardware is affected by it, then you are in for a treat 🙂 . You can download Linux Lite 2.2 from here. Thank you for reading.