Charlie Kravetz Discusses Xubuntu

Ubuntu held an Ubuntu Open Week for 10.10 on IRC. One of the sessions was “Xubuntu-Alive and Well,” a panel led by Charlie Kravetz, Xubuntu’s project lead. A lot of very interesting ideas and insights into Xubuntu came out of the session, including Kravetz’s views on how Xubuntu users might differ from Ubuntu users; good lightweight applications that aren’t Xubuntu defaults; and, of course, what’s new in 10.10.

I’ve pulled out some of Kravetz’s comments that I found most interesting:

On Xubuntu users

Xubuntu does not specifically focus on new users or users migrating from Windows; alternative distributions such as Ubuntu may be more appropriate for first time Linux users. Ubuntu with its Gnome desktop is very simple to use. You have limited ability to change options, and that is a good thing for some users. Xubuntu gives you choices. We do not aim at the new Windows to Linux user, (especially first time Linux users who may be particularly at risk of experiencing difficulties due to lack of general experience). They need that simplicity that Ubuntu offers them. We do think we offer the more experienced greater choices and ability to customize.

Xubuntu does not exclusively target users with low, modest, or high powered machines but instead targets the entire spectrum with a strong focus on enabling lower end machines. Xubuntu’s extra responsiveness and speed, among other positive traits, can be appreciated by all users regardless of their hardware. Are there other applications that could provide the same functionality? Most definitely. We are using applications that are light in resources, and relatively easy to configure for most users. You are welcome to use other applications if you desire. As a matter of fact, we do routinely check our applictions as well as others to see if they still belong in Xubuntu.

On Xubuntu’s footprint:

We will not downsize Xubuntu just to say we are smaller, or we can run older equipment than someone else. The target audience for Xubuntu is users who are interested in having a modestly light weight, slim, fast desktop experience. Those users should be able to retain the usability and functionality that is required to provide an easy to use desktop environment.

It would be really nice to clear up that idea that Xubuntu is “only” for old hardware. It works equally well on new hardware.

On Xubuntu and GNOME

New users are often surprised to find that Xubuntu includes a number of gnome applications. These are included simply because if an application works well, and is considered lightweight, it fits. Any application can be included, and it does not matter if it starts with gnome, xfce, or anything other letters.

Yes, [Ubuntu and Xubuntu] look similar, with two panels and a desktop. So does Kubuntu, with just one panel, and every other Ubuntu-based distribution I have seen. A desktop is a background with icons. That stays the same. The background does change, as does the functionality.

On Xubuntu’s relationship to Ubuntu and Xfce

We owe a great deal of Xubuntu’s success to the Ubuntu teamwork. Without Ubuntu leading the way, Xubuntu would not be where it is today. We are an official unsupported derivative of Ubuntu. This means we can use the repositories and Ubuntu sources, but we receive no funding whatsoever.

We work very closely with upstream Xfce. We upstream most of the bugs that concern Xfce, and work with the developers to insure that they get fixed as soon as possible.

On Future Xubuntus Featuring Xfce 4.8

Only time will tell. Xfce developers have not completed their work at this time, and there is not a good release date yet. If it is released in time, it will definitely be included in the next version of Xubuntu.

On what’s new in 10.10

  • Xubuntu 10.10 includes the Exaile 0.3.2 music player to make enjoying podcasts, streaming radio, audio books, and music library easier than ever before.
  • New to Xubuntu 10.10 is the movie player, Parole, which replaces the Totem Movie Player on the Xubuntu desktop to provide a more improved movie viewing experience.
  • We have also changed from the gnome-system-monitor to xfce4-taskmanager. We believe this provides similar, excellent functionality while being lighter on resources.
  • To allow for a more resource concious CD/DVD burning experience, Xfburn has replaced Brasero in Xubuntu 10.10.
  • Xubuntu also includes as default gimp, an application used for advanced picture editing and retouching photos.
  • Thunderbird is a lightweight mail/news/RSS client. It fits well with the fewer resources desired for Xubuntu, yet remains an easy to configure application for the new user.
  • We do include the new Ubuntu Fonts, but, they are not the default Xubuntu font.
  • Also, there is now a plugin for Exaile for UbuntuOne music.

On lightweight applications NOT included by deafult

A disclaimer is needed here – Xubuntu as a team does not officially endorse any of these in particular. They are being given as examples only:

  • chromium – an open source browser
  • claws-mail – a very nice mail client with many options
  • gmusicbrowser – An open-source jukebox for large collections of mp3/ogg/flac/mpc/ape files, written in perl
  • gpicviewer – A Simple and Fast Image Viewer for X
  • geeqie – a lightweight Gtk+ based image viewer for Unix like operating systems.
  • midori – a lightweight browser in development by Xfce.
  • Pino – a simple and fast X11 client for Twitter and Identi.ca

Any or all of these can be installed by the user. Please check the repositories before downloading or compiling applications.

Please note that the above applications are not presented as approved or recommended by myself or Xubuntu. There are given here as examples.

On why those applications aren’t installed by default

Since we have limited developer resources available, we use applications maintained by Ubuntu that fit our needs. The application must also have a good user GUI, if possible. The more complicated it is to configure the application for use, the less likely it will fit the requirement. Some of the above are still in development, and are not yet released as a stable version. That, too, must be considered before including the application in a stable operating system.