Why I Switched to Xubuntu

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, I thought it’s as good a time as any to discuss why I switched to Xubuntu.

Like most Linux users, I tend to distro hop. I had an XP/Ubuntu dual-boot for years. When I finished grad school and didn’t need SAS and Stata anymore, and when I had some free time to troubleshoot issues, I moved to a 100% Fedora install and got rid of XP (there were brief flirtations with Kubuntu and OpenSuse that ended after less than a week).

Fedora never quite made sense to me and the wireless wasn’t great with my ThinkPad T43, so I switched to Arch, which was nice, but a lot of work to maintain. Eventually a GNOME update broke my system and rather than fixing it, I returned to Ubuntu (The great thing about Arch is you have full control of your system. The horrible thing about Arch is you have full control of your system).

Ubuntu was great and stable, and soooo much less work than Arch, but it never felt as snappy as I thought it should. GNOME Do, the application launcher I loved, seemed to be crashing a lot, and a huge part of my embrace of Linux revolved around the beauty of GNOME Do.

But in general, I often felt my system was lagging; like there was too much going on behind the scenes. Even with Compiz turned off.

I wanted something easy and convenient like Ubuntu, but simpler. I wanted programs to snap open. If I wanted pauses between actions, I could have stayed with XP.

I wound up playing with a VirtualBox version of Xubuntu and I liked it a lot. It was responsive. It was snappy. And while I could still use GNOME Do if I wanted to, the native Xfce application launcher was pretty great.

Xubuntu 10.04 was a long term stable release, so it seemed like great timing to switch from Ubuntu to Xubuntu, via a clean install.

I made the move back in August and I haven’t looked back. The power of the Ubuntu repositories and the simplicity of Xfce have been just what I wanted.

Of course, like any Linux users, I’m always thinking ahead to my next distribution. I’m sure I’ll stick with Xubuntu, but I’m very intrigued by Linux Mint Debian, which I run virtually at work. It’s pretty nice, but I mostly love that I never have to worry about version updates. With Ubuntu, you always have to decide whether you’re going to move to the next version, even with the long term stable releases. With Linux Mint Debian, it’s a rolling release, so you’re running bleeding edge updates that have been vetted and tested (for the most part).

That’s a very attractive feature, but GNOME still feels bloated and laggy to me. I suppose I could just remove all of the GNOME stuff and substitute the Xfce packages, but that feels like a lot of work. I could also just run Debian myself and use the Testing repository, but at the end of the day, I’ve just been very spoiled by the variety available in the Ubuntu repositories.

So for now, I’m committed to Xubuntu, even with it’s slight bit of Ubuntu bloat, but with an eye on a solid rolling distribution that has some kind of Xfce spin.

But if I had to stick with Xubuntu forever, I think I’d be pretty happy. It works well with my ThinkPad and it lets me do what I need to do without my needing to overthink things. The vast majority of things I need to do (type, print, surf and download music) all happen without my micromanaging the process.

A few months in, I’m still very happy I made the switch to Xubuntu. As a one-time compulsive distro hopper, that’s really saying something.