April next year will prove to be a pivotal month for many Linux distributions, but few are as best placed to build on their popularity as Ubuntu’s ‘lightweight’ spins ‘Xubuntu’ and ‘Lubuntu’.
In spring of next year Microsoft will, finally, euthanise Windows XP. Support will officially end. No more extensions, no more updates. While its long-needed demise will be welcomed by many, it will, as a result, leave millions of PC owners adrift and at the mercy of malware and vulnerable to viruses.
Tech evangelists, governments and mainstream journalists alike will find themselves dispensing advice about the seriousness of not using a ‘supported’ OS. And while most of this advice will consist of “buy a new PC” or “upgrade to Windows 8”, many will utter the ‘L’ word: Linux.
When it comes to Linux most will simply recommend Ubuntu. But is that the best choice? While it’s not a given that computers currently saddled with Windows XP aren’t capable of running regular Ubuntu, its graphics requirements alone mean that a good margin of them will be better served by a lighter, more nimble incarnation.
But what can users opting for one of those spins expect to find?
Xubuntu 14.04 LTS
The Xubuntu team are incredibly well organised when it comes to release planning.
The biggest change present in Xubuntu 14.04 LTS will be the inclusion of xfdesktop 4.11, the desktop manager of Xfce. Now, I know that sounds boring, and as far as user-facing changes go, it sort of is. But all of the ‘under the hood’ improvements it brings are important in an LTS.
Xfdesktop 4.11 features:
- Memory leak fixes
- Wallpaper cycling
- Support for renaming multiple icons at a time
- Additional removable device icons
- Trash emptying fixes
- Misc fixes and improvements
You can see a full run-down of the changes in this Git commit log.
Elsewhere on the desktop Xubuntu are planning on making the following changes:
- Adding Mugshot user account profile editor app
- Using MenuLibre (menu editor) instead of Alacarte
- Using Light-locker (lock-screen) in place of Xscreensaver
Also on the menu (if you’ll excuse the pun) is a proposal to ship Whisker Menu – a powerful XFCE app launcher replacement – by default. We recommend the Windows XP-style menu to you folks recently and, with an influx of Windows refugees on the way, adding it to the default desktop would be a smart move, helping converts feel at home.
On a related note, if you’re interested in helping test Xubuntu 14.04 LTS see this blog post.
Lubuntu 14.04 LTS
Lightweight LXDE-based Lubuntu will issue its first ever Long Term Support release in April 2014. As with Xubuntu and regular Ubuntu, it comes with a guaranteed five years of security patches, critical bug fixes and maintenance.
Aside from putting focus on ensuring stability and performance of the distro aside, don’t expect too much change on the desktop front. LXDE itself is moving along fairly slowly, and while bug fixes continue to land, new features or big refinements are not.
It seems the release is to follow in the footsteps of Xubuntu and use light-locker in place of xscreensaver. It’s a more elegant solution and, the team say, fixes a number some outstanding session-locking issues.
Fans of overhaul needn’t worry, though. The following release, Lubuntu 14.10, will be far more revolutionary as the desktop looks to switch from using the regular GTK-based LXDE to a newer, cuter version powered by Qt.