Is Lubuntu THE Lightweight Ubuntu? [Editorial]

Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012 | Posted by Aaron Hampshire | Labels:
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's popularity 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.
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