Author Topic: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in  (Read 249 times)

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Offline Jason Wallwork

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Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« on: October 06, 2020, 06:55:22 pm »
Since my main computer is on the fritz, I've been using Linux Lite 20.04 on a Toshiba ultra-lite with these specs:

Intel Core i3-2367 CPU @ 1.40 Ghz (dual core with hyper-threading)
4 GB RAM
Intel 3000 graphics chipset
Toshiba SATA 128 GB drive (no idea of speed)
13" LCD screen @ 1368 x 768 max resolution
HDMI, VGA video outputs
2 2.0 USB ports, 1 3.0 port
SD card slot

Note that I don't like the keyboard or touchpad on this laptop. The LCD screen is okay but I'm still used to a higher resolution. So I used a wireless keyboard and mouse and used HDMI to a Samsung 24" monitor at 1920 x 1080 resolution.

This baby has very old and very bad specs as you can tell from above although it has lots of ports you wouldn't expect. Admittedly, I was spoiled with the now limping main computer (i5 quad-core @ 3.2 Ghz with 12 GB RAM and decent but budget video card. And that's even when setting the CPU at maximum speed instead of dynamic and drive at maximum speed (never goes to sleep). But it works, and not as terribly as I though it would.

I started with Kubuntu 20.04 that comes with the Plasma Desktop Environment. Too awful. Looks great but takes 5-10 seconds or longer to load anything other than a text editor or the file manager. Changing video sizes in YouTube takes a couple of seconds going from regular size to full screen although it wasn't laggy except when you switched. Unworkable from my perspective. Played Netflix fine, though.

So I looked for light distros for old computers.

I started out with Bodhi Linux, an ugly distro with inconsistent apps, but that required very little RAM or processor speed - it could run under a 1 Ghz single-core processor with 512 GB RAM minimum but 1.5 Ghz with 2 GB RAM was recommended (going by memory here). As they promised, it ran well but ugly as heck and hard to use. It uses Xfce but with lighter apps. And it's more customizable in appearance than Plasma, which says a lot, and more configuration settings than any distro I've ever seen including many I didn't understand. In the end, it was just too different to anything I have used. So I abandoned it.

Linux Lite was a frequent suggestion so i decided to go with that. The installer was the same you'd see with with Ubuntu. Easy to setup and with check-marks for codecs and downloading updates during install, an option that shows down the install quite a bit. I set it to take up the entire drive without any separate swap or home partitions. Linux Lite, not surprising for its name, has low hardware requirements.

Once I stared up, I was greeted by a beautiful Xfce desktop. The generally don't like the usual appearance of Xfce but the Linux Lite team has made it look amazing. On the desktop, the default wallpaper was pleasant, if plain, and the default theme was pleasant on the eyes, not like Ubuntu or Linux Mint. Maybe a dozen other wallpapers are available, many which are just alternate sizes of the default desktop but most of them are relaxing nature pictures along with a city-scape. The fonts used look great. They must have taken great pains to setup the font-hinting for this size of display along with a good font choice. The fonts only looked worse when I used a web browser, Vivaldi. Firefox didn't look any better.

When you first start Linux Lite, you are greeted with a snazzy Lite Welcome box that tells you about the distribution and will step you through some common tasks you want to do right-away: install updates, install drivers, set a restore point, install language support and choose a light or dark theme (light is the default). It also has buttons that will take you to Support documents and online support as well as their hardware database. You can also click boxes to contribute code, go to social media or provide feedback. There are also icons which will take you to common social media sites and Youtube. You can come back to this screen anytime in the Settings area.

Linux Lite has the usual menu setup with a bar filling the bottom, a pop-up vertical menu with grouping of alike programs on the left and the actual programs on the right. It has shutdown and logout buttons on the bottom of this popup menu along with a search box. One smart touch is a My Computer grouping on the menu which links directly to the sub-directories in /home such as Documents, Pictures, Downloads and Videos.

It comes with all the software you'd expect so you can look at pictures, videos, play music, browse the web and produce documents using LibreOffice, 6.4.6.2, which is recent. Gimp is surprisingly installed as well as a Windows Paint-like program called gnome-paint. You can see my fantastic abstract art below. I also appreciate that it comes with Timeshift for making snapshots of your OS state in case or problems. You guys will jump with glee when you see that it comes with Synaptic, too.

The creme-de-la-creme of Linux Lite is its own add-on programs, which while simple, provide some direct access to common functions under Settings. They include Lite Software, to install a best-of-the-best list of programs or remove installed apps; Lite Network Shares, to share files to Windows machines; Lite Widget, which enables/disables a Conqui-like transparent box in the bottom right that shows memory used, CPU usage, and update status. It looks at home with the screen, any wallpaper and the panel. And of course, it comes with the usual customisation and hardware configuration popups common to all Xfce setting screens. It also has a simple Firewall that you can turn on.

Altogether, Linux Lite is a beautiful and pleasant distribution to use. It's not as fast as Bodhi Linux but works right away without much effort in finding out how to do what you want. I find a bit of lag with the heftier programs but I blame that on the hardware, not on Linux Lite. I also think the onboard graphics might not be able to handle the higher resolution. I'll try a lower one later this week and let you know know how it goes.

If you need something for an old computer or just run to insanely fast on something more recent, you would be remiss if you didn't give Linux Lite a try. Enjoy!



"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline ssfc72

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2020, 09:18:40 pm »
Thanks for the detailed review of the Linux Lite Distro, on your Toshiba notebook computer, Jason.   That notebook while maybe older, does have decent specs. 4G Ram is lot better than most older notebook computers. The CPU speed is not bad either. Is the drive a mechanical or SSD?

Is the shutdown icon a 1 click operation, from the desktop?
Is the trackpad default, a one click operation to start a program or does it take a double click?
Are you using it's wireless  card to connect to the home router/internet? 
« Last Edit: October 07, 2020, 03:04:04 am by ssfc72 »
Mint 19.1 on a Dell 14" Inspiron notebook, HP Pavilion X360, 11" k120ca notebook (Linux Lubuntu), Dell 13" XPS notebook computer (MX Linux)
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Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2020, 04:54:11 am »
Thanks for the detailed review of the Linux Lite Distro, on your Toshiba notebook computer, Jason.   That notebook while maybe older, does have decent specs. 4G Ram is lot better than most older notebook computers. The CPU speed is not bad either. Is the drive a mechanical or SSD?

Is the shutdown icon a 1 click operation, from the desktop?
Is the trackpad default, a one click operation to start a program or does it take a double click?
Are you using it's wireless  card to connect to the home router/internet?

The RAM is good but 1.4 Ghz on a dual-core is fairly slow. I think it's possibly more hobbled by the video processor. The Raspberry Pi 3 uses a 1 Ghz dual-core processor in comparison granted it's built on an ARM platform so a direct comparison isn't entirely fair. The drive is an SSD. Not as fast as the one on my main machine but it'd be painful to use if it wasn't for that.

It's a 3 click operation to shut it down. Menu -> Log out -> Shutdown. Of course, one could use 'sudo shutdown -h now' to skip all that keeping in mind that you'd likely lose your session. You could create a script to do a fast shutdown. You'd have to run it as administrator and the script would have two lines:

Code: [Select]
#!/bin/bash
shutdown -h now

Pressing the power button on most laptops will also power it down although you might have to configure this so it doesn't just go to sleep. A desktop should do the same. That's just one button! :)

I don't use the trackpad so I don't know if it's a 1-click operation. I've found with the trackpad on that when I type, the cursor bounces around the screen and I can't type properly. On the menu, I don't know to choose the group, then click and then click again to run the program. I just glide to the program through the grouping to click it. Moving around the file manager (Thunar) was double-click until I changed it.

I was using the onboard wireless to connect to my internet modem+router but it's easy enough for me to use an ethernet cable. Since I just leave the laptop on the side of the couch, it doesn't have to be wireless.



"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2020, 05:03:50 am »
I should mention that it didn't come with Vivaldi. The distro included Firefox auto-installed.

I found it pretty heavy so I decided to try Vivaldi. It doesn't feel any lighter but Vivaldi is kind of a neat browser with features not unlike the original Opera web browser. It doesn't have the built-in torrent feature or VPN built unlike Opera. Although, I'd caution anyone against using the latter. Free VPNs aren't a good place to trust piping your data through - how are they making money? Vivaldi is also Open Source.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline fox

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2020, 07:24:11 am »
Thanks for the review of Linux Lite. It does look very nice as you noted. It shows that XFCE can be nicely customized; another good example of this is Manjaro.

You mentioned a font problem on Firefox. Try installing the Ubuntu fonts; I think they will improve its appearance. I tried that on openSUSE and it helped.
Ubuntu 20.10 on 2019 5k iMac
Ubuntu 20.04 and 18.04 on Dell XPS 13 2 in 1

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2020, 10:25:15 pm »
Thanks for the font tip. I've fallen away from Firefox but I might try it out of curiosity. Maybe I'll just see if I can duplicate the fonts I'm using in the main system on Vivaldi. Btw, Vivaldi actually uses Firefox's sync service. I still wish I could find a more featured browser that supported google or firefox extensions but still one that was lighter. Modern browsers are such pigs which you don't notice until you're using a light distro. You notice it when starting the browser compared to other light programs in a light distribution.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2020, 01:19:22 pm »
I just wanted to provide an update on my experience. I'm a week and a half in and still enjoying Linux Lite. I've gotten used to the slower performance on this laptop but I probably wouldn't have if I was using Kubuntu on this laptop. Honestly, I don't notice the lag anymore.

When I go back to my main machine eventually, it'll feel like lightning! I will likely use Linux Lite on it, too, but it won't be anytime soon so I might change my mind. The graphics card needs replacing and I discovered the power supply does, too. I also want to get a case for it that doesn't weigh a million kg. It's a nice case that it's in now, with lots of room, but if I try to move it, I can put my back out if I'm not careful. Go ahead and tell me how I'm out of shape; I know you want to. :)

Linux Lite is smooth, pretty and it keeps out of your way. It has customization but it's minimal so you don't waste time toying with settings. But it gives you more choices than Gnome so you can make it fit your preferences both in appearances and your work process.

The file manager (Thunar) is a bit underfeatured. For example, it doesn't have a split screen ability. And if you change folders and like the view format to change by folder, you can't do that. I tried a better file manager, PCmanFM but it has lag loading and feels heavier so I probably won't bother.

While it's light, it's not as light as you might think. Just after login, it is already using 800 MB of RAM, which is pretty close to Kubuntu. However, I think that's due to Xfce, which we've discussed before, isn't as light as people think.

This doesn't have much to do with Linux Lite specifically so skip past it if you're not interested.


Sidestep: The deep freeze

I was having periodic freezes. One just happened. It's not a total lockup when it happens. Basically, entering text in the browser slows to a crawl as does opening menus or even just moving the mouse. This time, I wasn't running a lot of programs: Brave browser with 4 tabs, Spotify, the file manager and Task Manager. Timeshift, Todoist, Tutanota, SpiderOak One Backup and Deja Dup backup were running in the background. Now that I think of it, that is quite a few programs! But I can't remember ever having that kind of freezing in Kubuntu with the same programs but I had 12 GB there and only 4 GB here. And my processor is only a 1.3 GHz dual-core here.

But I figured out the cause of the freezing, and it's not Xfce or Linux Lite. Spotify was using 2 GB of RAM! The laptop was doing a lot of disks swapping as well as the swap was up to 1.8 GB. As soon as I closed Spotify, the freezing disappeared. RAM use is 1.3 GB and the swap is 1.7 GB but it's clearly not being used much right now. The swap size doesn't go down right away. So there is a reason for Swap. The system was difficult to use but it was still running because of the swap file so I didn't have a full crash. I don't know why Spotify was using that much RAM; I'm pretty sure that's not normal. It may have just been a memory leak. I will give it a try again later.


Back to Linux Lite

I run it at 1200x800 resolution instead of 1920x1080 both to use fewer video resources and because it's easier to read the text. It has a DPI setting to size-up text but I find that doing causes the text to look less sharp. I can work at this resolution. I still miss having a second screen though but I'm sure Linux Lite would support it because it does on the laptop screen and monitor screen together. But I find that awkward as I don't have a good place to put the laptop on.

All-in-all, it's a lovely distribution to use.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 01:38:20 pm by Jason Wallwork »
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline fox

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2020, 04:17:54 pm »
The screenshot looks nice enough. If this is at 1200x800, it looks good enough.
Ubuntu 20.10 on 2019 5k iMac
Ubuntu 20.04 and 18.04 on Dell XPS 13 2 in 1

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2020, 05:20:11 pm »
Oops. I checked and it's actually 1440x900. I forgot that I just tried 1280x800 previously but some configuration windows need a bit more room. So, unless I want to use ALT-click and drag to them off-screen a bit, I needed a higher resolution.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2020, 05:44:44 pm »
I forgot to mention Lite Tweaks earlier.

As you can see in the attached screenshot (click to zoom), it has a lot of tweaks you can apply.

Some of the entries are actual tweaks like TLP for laptops which Fox has written about on the Forum elsewhere. And others are simple, but useful, tasks. For example, Locate Large Files. . The checkboxes don't tell if a tweak is "on"; the description does. The checkboxes are so you can pick what tweaks you want to turn on or off or run.

I read somewhere that the zRAM service is supposed to help with performance on older computers so I turned it on. I don't really know how it helps.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline buster

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2020, 10:25:48 pm »
I used Linux Lite on an old computer that was given to me. Enjoyed it for 2 or 3 years. Always found it good till the laptop croaked. However, as a virtual it has trouble working with win 10 using drag and drop. An xfce issue. Also missed the split screen home window.

Why do your pics show the desktop not filling the screen?
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Offline Jason Wallwork

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Re: Linux Lite 20.04 LTS on Old Computer 1 day in
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2020, 10:28:20 am »
Why do your pics show the desktop not filling the screen?

Sorry? Do you mean that the wallpaper isn't filling the screen? I don't generally do that because I'm more of a "function over style" kind of person. The wallpapers included are lovely but they don't really show the distro features.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata