April 10, 2011

Linux Mint XFCE (201104) vs. Xubuntu 10.10: Battle of the XFCE-using distros

Linux Mint XFCE (201104) vs. Xubuntu 10.10: Battle of the XFCE-using distros

Earlier today, I decided to give both Xubuntu 10.10 and Linux Mint XFCE (201104, which just came out several days ago) a try, as possible alternatives to the upcoming changes to GNOME (the GNOME Shell/GNOME 3) and Ubuntu (Unity). I’ve tried XFCE several times in the past, but I always wound up going back to GNOME/Ubuntu. I ran both distros from their 64-bit edition DVDs/CDs for testing.

Linux Mint XFCE (201104)

Pros:

  • Codecs come preinstalled.
  • Mint feels a bit more responsive than Xubuntu. I was impressed by the speed of everything.
  • The use of Debian instead of Xubuntu to base Mint’s version on makes it seem to stand on its own more than just being “Xubuntu with a green theme slapped on it.”
  • This version of Mint comes with GNOME software preinstalled, including Rhythmbox and Totem. Wondering if they’re figuring on a big exodus of Ubuntu/GNOME users quite soon…
  • Rolling updates will keep things updated perpetually.

Cons:

  • An annoying system beep noise that I tried to turn off, but couldn’t figure out how, even after a brief Google search.
  • Not sure if XFCE period allows for custom system sounds (the way Ubuntu and/or GNOME took such away)? Would like to think they have a feature my even mid-90s Macintosh had…
  • XFCE as a whole apparently doesn’t have spatial browsing, a feature I use on Ubuntu (yes, so I’m old-fashioned). Always felt like more trouble/harder to copy files between directories in the Windows-derived “one browser-like window for a desktop interface” setup that’s become the “norm” since Windows 95/98. Still, this seems a minor point compared to the changes in GNOME/Unity, or something I could get used to, I suppose.
  • Linux Mint’s interface for changing settings seems a bit more scattered/complicated (almost KDE-like) than the Ubuntu variants.

Xubuntu 10.10

Pros:

  • I’m used to the Ubuntu environment already, so Xubuntu isn’t too big a shift.
  • A bit more lightweight than Ubuntu-proper.
  • The settings seemed more intuitive (or my being used to Ubuntu’s way of things) than Mint’s.
  • I could shift back over to Ubuntu easily (via installing its desktop environment) if I wanted.
  • A stable release (even if not a LTS one) might be better in some ways than Mint’s rolling updates.

Cons:

  • Feels a bit more sluggish (at least running off the CD) than Mint.
  • I have to wonder what Xubuntu’s future will be like given the changes to Ubuntu (and Kubuntu’s growing pains awhile ago).
  • I couldn’t figure out if the sound settings issue is the same for here as in Mint (no way to set custom sounds).
  • Same for spatial browsing. I suppose it’s not a Thunar feature (the file manager XFCE uses).
  • No codecs preinstalled, nor GNOME programs (more XFCE programs like Exaile), though this point is easily remedied.

Overall, while XFCE has some differences from GNOME that give me pause (the spatial browsing issue the most prominent one), I think I can see myself moving easily to XFCE, given some of its improvements since my last test. I should note as well that Mint, now based on Debian instead of Xubuntu, has rolling updates to allow it to stay perpetually updated. Meanwhile, Xubuntu has a new version (11.04) out in a few weeks. The latter’s new version might change my above comparisons. While I’m leaning toward Xubuntu, it’s a hard decision to make…

Tags: LinuxLinux MintTechUbuntuXfceXubuntu