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My Happy Retreat to Linux Lite (5.4)

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Jason:
In early Spring this year I decided to go on a hunt for a distro to replace Linux Lite. I was using 5.1 at the time and you can read what I thought of it in this extensive review.

Why did I want to subject myself to this pain? There were a couple of problems that annoyed me in Lite that suddenly popped up. I was going to just do a re-install of Linux Lite but then I thought why not try a new distro and see if I can find something even better.

So I started my hunt hoping it wouldn't be a wild goose chase. You can read about the other distros in this  Xubuntu 20.04 review with links to reviews of each. One I didn't mention was Mageia which was horrible. It was supposed to be a descendant of the old defunct Mandrake Linux so I thought it would let me install multiple desktop environments (DE). But it certainly didn't live up to its ancestor. While you could log into several DEs, it was buggy and the app menus weren't consistent between them. What's the point of being able to switch if you had to also re-configure the program menu for each?

Well, to make a long story short (you know I'm kidding, right? I'm back to Linux Lite. While Xubuntu worked fine, and I did use it for a few weeks, it didn't have the options that Linux Lite adds which you can read about in the aforementioned Linux Lite 5.1 review. Nothing I reviewed was better and some were certainly worse. They each had their issues and other than Xubuntu weren't tolerable. Until I get back on my faster computer, I'm staying. I still miss Plasma but I've grown to find Xfce a sufficient DE. And it's enhanced in Linux Lite. I'm home again. And satisfied. For now. :)

If you haven't tried Linux Lite and you're up for a distro hop, check it out. On fast machines, you'll find it a lot faster. With that hardware, windows will likely pop up before you click on them. ;-) With old hardware, probably even 10 years old or more, you'll find it very usable. It's certainly better than a Raspberry Pi! Graphics is the only area where it doesn't work well (mainly switching to/from full-screen, especially in YouTube) but that's because of the specs on my laptop which are:

Toshiba Ultra-Light Laptop

Intel Core i3-2367 CPU @ 1.40 GHz (dual-core with hyper-threading)
4 GB RAM
Intel 3000 graphics chipset (uses shared RAM up to 1.5 GB)
Toshiba mSATA 128 GB drive (no idea of speed)
13" LCD screen @ 1920x1080
HDMI, VGA video outputs
2 x 2.0 USB ports, 1 USB 3.0 port
SD card slot
802.11n wireless
100 MB Ethernet

Because of the slower video chipset and having to use shared RAM, graphical stuff is slower but still works. Since it uses shared RAM, it has less RAM available for other tasks so there's a limit to how many tabs you can open.

For example, if you have maybe 4-6 standard weighted programs including a browser with 8-10 tabs opened on light media pages, you're fine. Do more and things start slowing down, sometimes drastically. I've had tabs hang at this point, a program might crash or the system becomes so slow you think it's frozen solid but the hard drive light reveals otherwise. The mouse reacts to clicks or opens a menu 5-10 seconds after you do it. Sometimes the mouse won't even move until that delay. That makes it hard to close apps to raise it from the dead. That's because of swapping. I've seen it go to 2 GB! if I wait a minute or two, it will tell me the browser isn't responding so I can close it and get back control. If you have more RAM than I do, you should be able to have no issues at all, even with video that uses shared RAM.

Linux Lite is the cat's meow!

P.S. Please comment on this post. It took me a while and I love feedback. When I hear nothing, I wonder why I even wrote it or if anyone read it. So let me know if the post is even helpful and whether you might try Linux Lite or what you thought of the other distros I looked at in between my journey. If there's anything you want to know, ask away, including for screenshots of it.

fox:
Thanks Jason for the update. I think I tried Linux Lite as a live distro. Seemed good, but I never installed it. Except for a brief period when I went to Mint on my 2015 iMac, I have stuck with Ubuntu. If I had older, slower hardware, I would be tempted to try Linux Lite. But Ubuntu has been a reliable workhorse on all of my hardware, and the hardware recognition problems on my regular computer (2019 iMac - speakers, microphone, wifi card, brightness adjustment) haven't been solved in any other distro I've tried, including any Ubuntu-based distro like Linux Lite.

Still, I like to try other distros from time to time to see how they work and more particularly, how they set up the desktop. Right now, I'm still working with Manjaro as my alternate distro because it isn't Ubuntu-based and because I can play with Plasma on it. (There is some minor interference of Plasma on Gnome when the former is installed on top of vanilla Ubuntu.) So Jason or anyone else, please post a review of your experience with any distro you try!

buster:
A few years ago I was given an old laptop and put Linux Lite on it and thought it was the cat's pajamas - quick and stable. Only downside is it will not upgrade to the next major release, though the incremental upgrades are simple. Maybe a reinstall without formatting /home would work.

For some this is a negative. Many distros have a process to get from major release to major release without too much trouble.

Jason:

--- Quote from: buster on August 25, 2021, 03:03:02 pm ---A few years ago I was given an old laptop and put Linux Lite on it and thought it was the cat's pajamas - quick and stable. Only downside is it will not upgrade to the next major release, though the incremental upgrades are simple. Maybe a reinstall without formatting /home would work.

For some this is a negative. Many distros have a process to get from major release to major release without too much trouble.

--- End quote ---

Yes, I can see that. I believe the creator(s) really want Linux Lite for Windows users who don't want to upgrade their Windows systems for various reasons. I know that most distro creators probably say that, too. But without an easy way to upgrade, this might be a deal killer for new people to Linux.

Every new version of Linux Lite (4.x to 5.x) uses the most recent Ubuntu LTS release as its base. So there is probably something more involved that we don't know about that makes upgrading from one LTS underneath to the next. It might be just a case that they prefer to only test the final release rather than also test an upgraded release. But it's definitely something they need to work on since most distros let you do this although some require console commands to do it as you have experienced.

As for reinstalling and keeping /home, it definitely works. Changes to your Desktop Environment (DE) are stored in /home in hidden files. So if you use the same DE, you won't get that fresh-out-of-the-box experience. A new distro or upgrade might have changed a look to the desktop that you'll miss out on but it should work fine. You can even create a new partition for /home (or even a completely new drive), move the files and then edit the /etc/fstab file so that it mounts that new location as home. That's handy if you forgot to make a seperate partition for /home on the intial install.

There might be conflicts if there is a different version of the DE but I suspect not. They would likely have made backwards compatibility by now for that. In any case, you can turn on hidden files in your file manager and you'll see files/directories beginning with a dot (e.g. .config). Delete those and you'll start anew. But I recommend just renaming them until you know things work (e.g. .config.bak). If something goes wrong, just change the names back.

Jason:
I've attached screenshots showing the extras that Linux Lite comes with which make some tasks easier or are just nice bonuses. They have "Lite" in the name. The other configuration buttons are settings included with the Xfce Desktop Environment. I've included what a couple of Lite tools look like. As always, click on the thumbnails for full-size versions.

The welcome screen is a nice touch, too. It doesn't have anything we experienced users would need other than possibly links to docs but it's a great option for those starting out and lets you choose between a light and dark theme. I love dark themes even though some apps are cranky with them.

In order of attachments appearance:

1. Full config tools with the icons for the Lite ones.
2. Lite System Report - handy for knowing certain specifics about your hardware for troubleshooting and getting help
3. Lite Widget - you can see it in the bottom right. Classy.
4. Lite Tweaks - Lots of options here including some I hadn't heard of like zRAM

More screenshots on next post

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