Friday, 14 September 2012

What is Lubuntu and why would I use it?

You are probably reading this on a netbook or an iPad, or maybe a smart phone, or maybe one of dozens of other devices. All of these devices have 2 common attributes; they include "hardware" and "software".

The hardware is the bit you hit when it won't do what you want it to do. The software is the reason it won't do what you want it to do.

Software, of course, is invisible but you can see the effects of it on your hardware. For example; it lights up the display and responds when you click an icon (sometimes). So in order to get your cold hardware to do something, you need software.

To make life easier, your computer has some software called the "Operating System" which breathes life into the hardware, allowing you to not only run applications (like email & web browsers) but also to install applications of your choice.

On the device you are staring into at the moment, the operating system maybe Android, Linux, Windows, IOS or something else. For example, your PC may have the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system upon which you have installed Firefox web browser and Adobe PhotoShop.

The term "Windows" is commonly taken to mean an operating system produced by Microsoft (e.g. Windows 95, WinXP, Win7 & so on). The terms "program" and "application" generally refer to software which carries out a task or a set of related tasks (e.g. web browsing or photo editing).

The dark and scary world of Linux
Linux is also described as an operating system, but it does not include a colourful (or graphical) user interface. Is it in fact the central core or "kernel" of an operating system and is typically packaged into what is known as a "Linux distribution".

A Linux distribution is essentially some Nobby-know-all's idea of what is required by you, the computer user. It may include a graphical user interface (GUI), a file manager (so you can add/delete files), a menu structure (so you can find/list your applications), and a web browser (so you can search for unsuitable images on the inter-webbie). A Linux distribution can normally be installed on a computer, or sometimes just run from a CD or memory stick.

There are probably hundreds of different Linux distributions, and most are free to install and use (See DistroWatch:
The "Debian" distribution is very influential, as many of the popular distributions are based upon it, including Ubuntu & Mint.

And so to Lubuntu, which is a Light-weight version of Ubuntu (did you see what I did there?).

"Ubuntu" is apparently and ancient Zulu word meaning "All computers are a pain in the arse!".

In the Linux world, Ubuntu is both the name of a distribution and the name of a family of distributions. So in addition to Ubuntu and Lubuntu there is also Edubuntu (the schools version), Mythbuntu (a TV & media centre) & several more in the Ubuntu family.

Although Lubuntu does not include many applications and basic features which come with other operating systems, they can easily be selected and installed from online "repositories".

Adding application "packages" using Synaptic

Each application package ensures that programs are installed with any dependant software also included. The package also includes a program "category" to ensure a menu entry is created in an appropriate part of the menu structure.
 Lubuntu has a simple menu system with customizable task bar

This allows you to build a system that more closely matches your needs, however this approach may not appeal to everyone.

Why I like Lubuntu:-
  • Lubuntu Operating System is free; don't ask me to spend hard-earned money on software when there is so much good stuff out there for free!
  • Lubuntu Applications are free: I said "don't ask me to spend hard-earned money..." There are free alternatives to most commercial applications such as email, image editors, media players, CAD, Office apps & so on. There are over 30,000 packages (ranging from simple programs to complicated applications) listed in the Ubuntu repository.
  • Old hardware: because its "light-weight" it runs on old hardware (computers) no longer suitable for Microsoft Windows.
  • New hardware: because its "light-weight" it runs fast on new, powerful hardware, and is great for Netbooks.
  • Viruses: its [virtually] virus free
  • Open Source Software: I like to know how things work. Sadly, I'm never going to get there, but there are no secrets with open source software (only little mysteries, and missing or out of date documentation). There are also thousands of members on the Ubuntu forum to help you (

You should probably avoid Lubuntu if:-
  • you expect it to be the same as Windows
  • you MUST produce your documents in Microsoft Office 20xx (although LibreOffice works quite well)
  • you like lots of special desktop effects
  • you cannot be bothered to separately install the applications & features you want
  • you expect someone else to fix it when you get a problem

Lubuntu download:

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