Linux Mint 8 LXDE CE Review: LXDE Done Right

Trent and I were both looking forward to the release of the Linux Mint LXDE Community Edition for various reasons. Luckily for us, Kendall (maintainer of the Linux Mint Fluxbox CE) pointed us to the .iso for RC1, which is what we’re using as the basis for this review. Since we both have feedback on this CE, we’re trying a Trent Says/Joe Says model. Enjoy!

Joe Says

Ever since I got up close and personal with LXDE a few months ago, I’ve had my eye out for a distro that had a solid instance of LXDE as its default desktop environment. LXDE is getting more press and more attention, but the number of distros that rely on LXDE is still pretty small. When Kendall announced that he was going to make an LXDE Community Edition, I got very excited since Mint is generally my preferred distro. I had also dabbled a bit with his work on the Fluxbox CE and was generally impressed with that, so my expectations were high.

I should mention right off the bat that my test laptop is not ideal for running live CDs or modern distros (which, in a way, actually makes it good, because bloat and inefficiency have nowhere to hide.) Pretty much immediately upon getting the LiveCD booted, I was running the installer. Installation was smooth, and after a little while I was able to take a good look at what was hopefully a solid LXDE implementation.

Trent Says

I was also excited when I heard about an LXDE Community Edition of Linux Mint, for many of the same reasons Joe has: as a lightweight-yet-user-friendly desktop environment, my experiences with it in the past year have been very intriguing. I think LXDE has a lot of promise and a lot of potential, particularly if coupled with a full featured distro such as Linux Mint.

Also like Joe, I have been using my aging laptop as my primary test bed for distro hopping and reviewing lately, which in my opinion makes a perfect place to try out some of the lighter weight releases, such as LXDE and Fluxbox.

Joe Says

Right away, I could tell Kendall had made several good decisions. It all began with his decision to use SLiM as the login manager. I’m becoming a big fan of SLiM: it gets you logged in and lets you switch sessions quickly, but leaves off extraneous bloat. I don’t need a login manager that will polish my sidewalk or water my pet hippo. SLiM gets the job done, and as an added bonus, allows for auto-login (if you’re in an environment where that would be beneficial.) My one reservation about SLiM is that whereas GDM remembers what session you used last, SLiM will always revert to the default session. For the majority of users, this should be a non-issue; after all, why use the LXDE CE if you don’t plan on using LXDE as your desktop environment?

SLiM - Simple and elegant (Fluxbox version)

Trent Says

I like SLiM as well. Compared to GDM, SLiM has negligable overhead, and it’s far more responsive on aging hardware like my laptop. Also, unlike the version of GDM that installs with the Linux Mint 8 Main Edition, SLiM is actually configurable and themable, so what it lacks in other features, it makes up in flexibility and speed.

Joe Says

The good news continued once I was into LXDE itself. Kendall took care to make sure that it looked and felt like a Mint install. While that’s something of a minor matter, it’s also important in that the reasons for using Mint over, say, Lubuntu, are consistent. It goes beyond mere aesthetics, too. Mint’s management tools (mintInstall, mintBackup and the like) are seamlessly integrated, just as they are with the main Gnome version. I was also pleased with the choices made regarding included software.

Trent Says

The installer was the familiar Ubiquity installer used by Ubuntu and Linux Mint alike, which was not an issue on my hardware — though Ubiquity can be an issue if you’re running less than 256 Mb of RAM. While you may scoff at that, some people are looking to lighter weight releases like this one as an option for resurrecting old hardware, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about giving this or any other distro which uses the Ubiquity installer a try.

I also liked many of the choices made regarding software inclusion, but on Mint’s management tools I disagree with Joe. Where “mintInstall” and “mintUpdate” were easily identifiable and easily found in the Mint 8 Fluxbox CE, in the Mint 8 LXDE CE RC1 they are not so clearly labelled. “mintInstall” is actually labelled “Software Manager” in the LXDE menu, and “Update Manager” is what launches mintUpdate, which is found on the “Preferences” submenu. While both applications work just fine, a redesignation of them in the menu should probably be done to make them consistent with other Mint Community Editions.

The default desktop

Default Menu

The default menu

Next page: The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict

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10 thoughts on “Linux Mint 8 LXDE CE Review: LXDE Done Right

  1. Thanks, guys for contributing to my education! If I keep reading, I’ll be sure to pick up on more valuable info. Cheers!

    • Hey, it’s Aunt Jo! :-)

      Any time! Though to be fair, this particular flavor of Mint isn’t anywhere near as user friendly as the one you are getting on the ZaReason computer you just ordered. It’s got some really great potential, but it still has a ways to go before I’d subject a non-technical user to it without a LOT of guidance.

  2. I really enjoyed this review.

    I have been using LM 8 LXDE CE RC1 as well and agree with all the comments here. My first taste was running it in VirtualBox and it all looked good. So I installed it on my not-so-fast laptop.
    (I have /home on a separate partition for preservation)
    I am not sure what openbox WM I used in the past, but I was surprised by the panel appearance. It found my old point-n-click configuration. (Most notably the Lock & Shutdown buttons I put over by the clock)

    Trying to find all the typical tools in the menu… I have run through so many other distros in such a short time, I forget where I expect to find things.

    FluxBox is my other WM of choice, barely beating out XFCE for some unknown reason.

    Thanks!

  3. Nice review — thanks, guys.

    One quick question. On all LXDE distros that I’ve ever tried, changing the height of the panel makes it look horrid: icons don’t resize and stay stuck. Is this behaviour fixed in Mint? If so, I’ll definitely give it a go.

    • The behavior of LXPanel has not changed, icons don’t re-size automatically. On the same page that you resize the panel, though, you can also re-size the icons.

  4. Very enlightening! My early flirtations with LXDE left me a little frustrated with bugs, but I have been “watching LXDE from a distance” with interest. I think I prefer Xfce for now, but LXDE has been making such big strides.

    I ordered the Mint-8 LXDE RC1 CD from On-Disk (due to severe bandwidth restrictions here) and look forward to testing it!

  5. Pingback: Links 18/3/2010: Many IBM Headlines, Mandriva Enterprise Server 5.1 | Boycott Novell
  6. I’ve tried lxde rc1 on 3 machines so far and all of them were fast with it but only one of them wasn’t buggy or worked as an OS should .I have been trying to figure out why my 2.9 ghz intel machine with built in 8mb intel video and 512 mb ram runs hulu and youtube video without any slowdown or screen flicker like my other 2 machines do.My machine with the most memory 1gb which is upgradable to 4gb and has an amd athlon single processor +3700 2.2ghz plus sata2 hd and ati 3850 1gb vid card flickers alot on hulu but not so bad on youtube.I installed newest drivers from ati but that didn’t help.I also have an old Dell Latitude d600 with 512mb memory and 1.4ghz processor and that actually does a little better with hulu video than my amd machine.Maybe flash video just doesn’t work well on older amd machines and could on newer dual and quad processor machines with more memory? on my amd machine ,playing a video on hulu runs the cpu around 95 to 100% usage which is not good. On windows xp on same amd machine on seperate partition,the same exact hulu video ranges cpu usage from 85 to 95% and if i let video play in background where i can’t see it and open up another page in windows,cpu usage drops down to 20 to 35%.I would have thought my 3850 1gb video card’s gpu would take away from my actual computers cpu usage but maybe it needs to be setup differently.
    Anyway. I am going to keep the lxde version on my intel computer and it works well enough to use for everyday business or video and music also,along with photo editing.
    I also have the latest or newest 10.04 ubuntu installed on the dell d600 and it works well or more stable than the lxde on that machine. LXDE crashed and corrupted the harddrive on the d600 but it was really fast before it crashed.

  7. If you place a (properly constructed) .desktop file in $HOME/.local/share/applications it will show up as an Available Application in the Application Launch Bar Editing dialog.

  8. I’ve been running LXDE on top of Xubuntu (XFCE was slower) on an old slow machine and it work pretty good. Running Compiz also, RARELY crashes. Firefox is the biggest problem.

    I’m typing this from another machine running RC1 in VB.
    Installation was no problem. Karmic works good, Lucid is horrible (I thing this is a VB issue), PClinux LXDE is super buggy and unusable at the point. But Mint LXDE is so far bullet proof. No crashes at all. The file find function sucks, but that is in rewrite as we speak. Very snappy and low on resource demands. Me Like!

    This will be a keeper, I’m sure.

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