Tech thoughts: Xubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot) review

Laptop screenshot (10/22/11)

Last week, I installed the newest version of Xubuntu, 11.10 (or “Oneiric Ocelot”…and yes, I had to look up how the heck “oneiric” is spelled). As long-time readers know, I’ve been using the Xfce-based distro since 11.04 (“Natty Narwhal”) last spring, which I switched to after disliking both GNOME 3 and Unity. So far, 11.04 has worked fairly well, and I’m pleased to report that 11.10 also works just as well.

Ocelot hasn’t changed much from Narwhal in terms of features, so if you enjoyed Narwhal, Ocelot should go smoothly. I’ll note the major changes and usage observations below:

gThumb

gThumb is now installed by default. The GNOME image viewing program (which also offers some simple image manipulation features) was once a preinstalled part of Ubuntu, until it was replaced by F-Spot. While I use Shotwell for my photos, gThumb looks like a good alternative to Shotwell or the still-included default photo viewer, Ristretto.

LightDM

The display manager has changed from GDM to LightDM. A display manager is the software that handles the login screen when first booting up. In this case, the switch to LightDM was made in Xubuntu (and its sibling Ubuntu) since GDM relies on GNOME libraries. Logging in works as well as it did in 11.04.

Pastebinit

Pastebinit is now included by default. Wikipedia’s definition of a pastebin:

A pastebin is a type of web application that allows its users to upload snippets of text, usually samples of source code, for public viewing. It is very popular in IRC channels where pasting large amounts of text is considered bad etiquette. A vast number of pastebins exist on the Internet, suiting a number of different needs and providing features tailored towards the crowd they focus on most.

IRC users should find this useful. While I use IRC, I haven’t used a pastebin before, so I can’t offer much input here. I usually just give an article’s URL if I don’t want to paste something lengthy in the channel.

Onboard

Onboard is an on-screen virtual keyboard, which may be useful for those who can’t use a regular keyboard for various reasons (mobility impairments, etc.).

Leafpad

Leafpad is the new default text editor for Xubuntu, replacing the previous text editor, Mousepad. The switch was made due to Mousepad not having been updated in quite awhile. If you’ve used Notepad in Windows, you’ll find Leafpad familiar. I usually use the GNOME-based gEdit as a text editor.

General usage

Use of Xubuntu 11.10 is similar to 11.04. The default install still includes an OSX-like Dock at the bottom of the screen (which I removed in favor of just one menu bar), and the familiar Xfce features (Thunar file manager, etc.) are all still present. Gmusicbrowser is still installed as the default music player, but as I noted in my 11.04 review, I prefer Banshee or Rhythmbox.

I haven’t had any major show-stopping incidents so far on my laptop (a two-year-old HP Pavilion DV6-1230US with a Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB RAM). Unlike in my initial use of 11.04, shutting down the laptop in 11.10 works properly out of the box. Xfce, of course, is lighter than GNOME or Unity in terms of features, but it works fine for my use, especially since it supports GNOME software fairly well. Anyone used to the classic version of GNOME should feel at home in Xfce.

Overall, I’d recommend Xubuntu (or another Xfce distro such as Linux Mint Xfce) for anyone who dislikes GNOME 3 and Unity, and seeks an alternative.

3 comments

  1. I switched to xubuntu 11.04 (and now 11.10) as well for the same reasons as you. As for that bottom panel- I transfered it to left side and now it takes just bottom 50% of my left side of the screen (and autohide+transparent) :)

  2. The one puzzling shortcoming in Xfce is the inability to view thumbnails (image files) on the desktop. This limitation has been around for years and the Xfce devs have known about it for years. Obviously, the shortcoming isn’t high on their fix it list. I’ve been using Xubuntu since Unity was introduced, but I find this shortcoming so annoying that it makes me reconsider Unity or G3. In the year 2011, Xfce devs can’t figure out how to thumbnail an image file on the desktop? – or consider it important enough to remedy? It’s the little things that drive a person crazy. I might also consider KDE without the bells and whistles.

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