Monday, October 22, 2012 |
I had a lot of fun developing Lubuntu Tips, but I'm letting it lapse into an indefinite hiatus. I started the blog out of an indebtedness to the open source community and the Lubuntu community in particular.
However, I'm moving on from Lubuntu. All the reasons that drew me to the distro in the beginning (lightweight and not Unity) is pushing me toward a more thoughtful, beautiful distro: elementaryOS.
After sticking with Lubuntu for a few releases, I was disappointed by the slow development, the improving but still drab appearance, and the overall lack of vision. I believe elementary has the potential of breaking the Linux mold and creating something very special and elegant.
One of the small things that annoys me about the default Lubuntu theme is the black border around windows (below, left).
Instead, I prefer the lighter border (above, right). It looks more nuanced and sophisticated, especially on lighter backgrounds.
Here's a screenshot of the new theme as part of the entire desktop.
To get that look, one option is to download my altered openbox theme and replace the themerc file inside:
Remember, to paste a file into a root directory, you will need root access (Tools -> Open Current Folder as Root).
If you want to change the borders manually, you will still need root access to the themerc file. Edit it by searching for border.color and change the values to #CCCCCC. There will be a few of them.
The basic font selection is fairly spartan in a fresh Lubuntu install. But it certainly doesn't need to remain that way.
The easiest way to install fonts is via the Synaptic Package Manager (Menu -> System Tools -> Synaptic). A quick search for font will reveal almost 600 font packages available for install. However, it is a bit difficult to know what any of these fonts look like. Are they decent? Worth the space?
One package is certainly worth your while, however. The ttf-mscorefonts-installer contains standard fonts we've all grown to love (or hate) like Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman, Veranda, and a few more.
To install, simply right-click the mscorefonts pacakge and select "Mark for Installation." Agree to the additional packages, if any, and hit the apply button at the top of the Synaptic window.
Another method to install fonts -- my preferred -- is the manual method. This method takes a little more time, but it also allows you to preview fonts and only install the typefaces you love.
First, we need a legal method for acquiring free fonts. There are a lot of font sites out there. Here are my favorites:
[An aside here: You may be asking yourself why there is a Windows and a Mac option, but no Linux download option on some of these sites. To the best of my knowledge, the Mac option includes additional "resource files" that are no longer required for later versions of OS X. They are also not required for Linux. The Windows option is your best bet.]
So let's find a cool font. I like the "Mama" font on Urban Fonts and downloaded it.
Now, go to your newly downloaded .zip file, right click it, and chose the "extract here" option.
You will see your new fonts in your Downloads directory. Select and copy them.
To install them, direct the file manager to the location:
There are places where you can also install fonts in your home directory, but a font installation into your root directory will ensure the font is accessible to all programs and all users.
We now need to open this location with root access (Tools -> Open Current Folder as Root).
At this point, it really doesn't matter where you paste the fonts. The directories inside the fonts folder are really for organizational purposes. Therefore, I like to create my own font folder. Right click -> Create New -> Folder.
Name your folder whatever you wish. I like "My Fonts."
Finally, paste in your copied fonts.
Open up your favorite writing program, and you're in business.
A personal note: Some of you may be wondering why we should care so much about fonts. Check out the film, Helvetica. It's an incredible documentary about modern typefaces and their influence. Highly recommended.
I was thinking yesterday about the place of Xubuntu inside the Canonical family. With popular traditional desktops like Mint and ElementaryOS and truly lightweight distros like Lubuntu, who uses Xubuntu anymore?
...but then there was this pole. Xubuntu still boasts a hefty following. Maybe it's tradition?
Regardless, if you use Lubuntu on a regular basis, throw your hat in the ring.
Lubuntu and "lightweight" have become synonymous, equivalent words inside the Ubuntu community. But is that all Lubuntu is? I'm arguing here for a reexamination of Lubuntu's user base and an adoption of an augmented self-definition: Lubuntu is a lightweight and TRADITIONAL desktop enviornment.
Of course, one of Lubuntu's main tenets will always be lightweight-ness. There is story after story of the distro breathing new life into legacy hardware, netbooks, etc. An Ubuntu-alternative for my netbook was the single reason for my introduction to this fantastic OS. So let's be honest and reasonable: Part of Lubuntu should always be defined by its weight.
However, a quick glance at Lubuntu'spopularity tells a story of skyrocketing adoption. In fact, it is the most popular Ubuntu-based distro inside the Canonical-backed family, beating Xubuntu by a hefty margin. But why?
There are certainly a few possible reasons for this. But I would argue that one important, meaningful reason is this:
Lubuntu provides a standard DE alternative to Unity and Gnome 3.
We all witnessed the skyrocketing popularity of Mint in the aftermath of Canonical's Unity push. Lubuntu has filled in the void as well. The Linux community has defined Lubuntu by both its traditional DE and its weight, not merely the latter.
So what are the implications?
Lubuntu users are often disgruntled Unity and Gnome3 users who are looking for a smooth transition.
New Lubuntu users are looking for rich features alongside light weight.
Understanding the Lubuntu team is small and developments are slow, what are some paths forward for this incredible distro?
Composting. A quick look at my most popular posts reveals an overwhelming number of users want a composting manager. Can we not make composting an option for those who are looking for modest eye candy? Inclusion of the lightweight xcompmgr with a simple option to enable/disable does not move Lubuntu away from its roots, but it does reach out to a new user base.
Artwork. Lubuntu has long suffered from Windows 95 mockery. Thankfully the team is making huge strides in this category.
Adoption and integration of innovation. Lubuntu users don't want, nor do they need Ubuntu's rich features, but certain items are no-brainers: Complete Ubuntu One and Dropbox integration into PCManFM, a modified adoption of WebApps, and a comprehensive system preferences window.
Dual-monitor support. I know this is a problem plaguing Ubuntu as a whole, but the lack of support in Lubuntu is even worse.
"Making the Switch" wiki. The Lubuntu Wiki is great, but it needs a greater focus on incoming Unity and Gnome3 users. "I did X in Ubuntu, how can I do X in Lubuntu?" These are the questions a lot of users are asking.
So, is Lubuntu a lightweight Ubuntu? Yes, but it is also more than that.