Comparison of Linux Lite 4.0 with Ubuntu 18.04
My good ol’ Acer Aspire 5745 laptop featuring Intel Core i5-450M processor with 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HDD, 15.6″ LED display and Atheros Wi-Fi 802.11g came without licensed Windows OS and does not regret it one bit. For a while now, it has run a variety of Linux distributions and mostly alternates between Ubuntu and Linux Lite.
I have divided the HDD into a 120 GB root partition for OS (the “/” partition) and 200 GB partition for my files (the “/home” partition). This way, I can format the root partition if I need to change the OS without affecting my work files stored in ‘home’ partition.
The laptop has faced Debian-based Ubuntu and it’s derivatives. I have tried Ubuntu 14, Lubuntu, Mint, Pepper Mint and Linux Lite. I also run an “apt proxy” on a Raspberry Pi at home which serves as a package cache and saves tons of bandwidth when upgrading multiple Linux distributions around the house. Settling on Debian – Ubuntu as a distribution base was a decision I made after trying out Redhat and Slackware derivatives. The decision was primarily based on active development, hardware compatibility, desktop UI etc. and settling down to a mature distribution like Ubuntu derivatives has certainly proved to be a good choice for me.
For a while, I was running Linux Lite 3.4 and then I moved to Ubuntu 17.10 to try out new Interface which seemed a bit ‘same old, same old’ and caused me to move back to ‘Linux Lite 3.8’. I waited with baited breath for Ubuntu 18.04 which was supposed to replace the Unity Desktop with Gnome 3 and make Ubuntu lean and un-obtrusive. Sadly Ubuntu 18.04 was a huge disaster on my computer. Ubuntu 18.04 had numerous changes due to ‘advancements’ and I just could not wrap my head around them.
- Ubuntu 18.04 requires significantly higher resources. 2 GB RAM just does not cut it and it realistically requires 4+ GB if you want to launch multiple applications and keep them active.
- The desktop seems like Unity with Gnome tacked on. The top-menu does little except flash the name of the active app, date-time etc.
- The launcher bar (aka Activity Bar) is obscenely big and must be reduced in size drastically to become usable and reduce the theft of screen real estate.
- The UI Theme appears dated with bulging elements featuring grey gradients. The interface looks like a poorly done version of Windows XP.
- The icons, fonts on the desktop are very large and appear odd on 15.6″ LED displays with 1366 x 768 pixels resolution.
- While the fonts and their sizes can be customized, the desktop icon size cannot be customized and they are really large.
- Ubuntu 18.04 features a full-screen start menu like Windows 8.0. The menu can be triggered by pressing the Windows key or the icon in launcher bar. Your installed programs appear as a homogenised alphabetically sorted list with Goliath sized icons that is super painful to browse.
- Ubuntu has removed all options for users to configure the User Interface using the Settings App. Users now have to install “Gnome Tweak Tool” or “Unity Tweak Tool” to configure choose themes, UI toolkit etc. These tweak tools can also be used to configure options related to Desktop Wallpaper such as automatically changing wallpapers.
- Ubuntu 17+ has significant privacy issues. The OS tracks operations such as files opened, application issues. This data is also uploaded automatically unless the user digs around in Settings and disables them. Even then, GTK apps track recent files on their own and cannot be disabled from Settings unless the user tinkers with GTK config files which have really scratchy documentation.
- Ubuntu 18.04 does not come bundled with common apps like GIMP, InkScape, VLC etc. and these must be installed. Ubuntu also does not come bundled with Microsoft Core Fonts and as a result, documents created in Microsoft Office / LibreOffice on Windows may appear drastically different.
- Ubuntu now uses ‘”apt” as well as “snap” to find and install apps. Because it lacks a unified mechanism to install / un-install apps, it may be a little confusing to some.
- Ubuntu 18.04 feels significantly slower than Ubuntu 17.10 and quite a bit slow when compared to Linux Lite.
I waited patiently for Linux Lite 4.0 to release and when it did on 31-May-18, I grabbed my copy via torrents and replaced Ubuntu 18.04 without any further delay.
Linux Lite 4.0 is a breath of fresh air in the muddled Linux distros scene. Featuring the latest Kernel, a completely revamped UI, a whole bunch of meaningful changes – the OS is the best of the breed.
For the purpose of testing, I used my Lenovo laptop featuring Intel Core i7-7500U CPU, 16 GB RAM and 2 TB HDD with Windows 10 Home OS. I installed Oracle VirtualBox Version 5.2.12 r122591 and installed Linux Lite 4 as well as Ubuntu 18.04 on identical Virtual Machine (VM) configuration. To simulate a relatively low/mid end desktop computer, I configured the VMs identically with 1 physical CPU, 1 GB RAM and 10 GB HDD. I enabled VirtualBox features such as 3D Acceleration, Bridged Networking, Windows ICH Audio, USB 2.0 Controller. I also installed VirtualBox Guest Additions on each OS.
The operating systems installed were Linux Lite 4.0 64-bit and Ubuntu 18.04 64-bit Desktop Edition.
While the OSes performed initial configuration of Network, Display, Sound etc., I eventually changed the display settings to 1024 x 768 pixels, Single Monitor and Single Workspace. I also used VirtualBox’s inbuilt Screen Capture and Video Capture tools to document my experiments and experiences.
- Linux Lite 4.0 64-bit ISO is a 1.31 GB download versus 1.78 GB download for Ubuntu 18.04 64-bit ISO. The earlier download of Linux Lite 3.8 64-bit ISO was a 1.0 GB download compared to the 1.39 GB download of Ubuntu 17.10 64-bit ISO. Subsequent studies revealed that Linux Lite packed a lot more apps in it’s torrent that weighed in 500 MB less than Ubuntu!
- Linux Lite 4.0 came bundled with 4.15.0-22-generic #24-Ubuntu kernel versus the slightly older 4.15.0-20-generic #21-Ubuntu SMP kernel in Ubuntu 18.04. Software versions are not an issue in Linux since it is easy to upgrade the installation to the latest version of the packages.
- I installed the OSes on the virtual disk in default configuration. Ubuntu and derivative distros do not create Swap partition anymore and instead create a Swap file that is proportionate in size to the physical RAM available. In my case, the swap file size was 472 MB (2 GB RAM).
- After installation, Linux Lite occupied 5.5 GB (59%) disk space of the 9.8 GB HDD, while Ubuntu occupied 5.0 GB (54%) disk space.
- For some reason, Ubuntu felt really sluggish. The UI / UX was like dragging a dead rat through molasses. Applications took time to launch, took time to close and appeared to be unresponsive occasionally. Using the “top” command, I noticed that while Linux Lite reported a 15 minute load average of 0.08 (8%), Ubuntu reported a load average of 0.34 (34%). This means that Ubuntu OS reported 34% CPU usage even when idle for 15 minute at a stretch. A Sun Spider 1.0.2 benchmark test on the pre-installed Mozilla Firefox browser in both the OSes reported 708.9 milliseconds testing time for Linux Lite while Ubuntu took nearly 70% longer at 1209.2 milliseconds. Considering that both the OSes were configured on exactly identical VMs and run on similar code-base, this is hard to explain.
- Upon first start, Ubuntu started in a nearly unusable 800 x 600 pixel resolution. I had a tough time even trying to access the Settings panel and trying to change the display mode. Due to poor UI design, this is actually very difficult to do unless you are running the OS in a 1280 x 720 or higher resolution. On the other hand, Linux Lite started in wide-screen default resolution that appeared to be similar to 1366 x 768 pixels.
- I use “htop” instead of the regular “top” app and was pleasantly surprised to see it pre-installed on Linux Lite while it was missing from Ubuntu.
- The list of missing system services and apps on Ubuntu also included “samba”, a PDF Printer Driver, OpenGL Mesa Utilities, Microsoft Core Fonts. All of these were pre-installed on Linux Lite and as a result it was very easy to emulate the work-process of Windows based computers.
- In “Graphics” category, both Ubuntu and Linux Lite came pre-installed with Scanning, Image Viewer and PDF Viewer applications. However, only Linux Lite came pre-installed with GIMP graphics editing package. Other graphics packages like InkScape, Dia, Krita had to be separately installed using “sudo apt install” command line.
- In “Internet” category, both Ubuntu and Linux Lite came pre-installed with Firefox web-browser and Thunderbird Email client. However, only Ubuntu came pre-installed with Transmission torrent client. Other important Internet apps like FTP Client, Instant Messenger Client, IRC Client etc. had to be separately installed.
- In “Multimedia” category, Ubuntu came pre-installed with “RhythmBox” app to play music while LinuxLite came pre-installed with “VLC Media Player” app. Ubuntu did come with a “Videos” app but it was unable to play simple MP4 files featuring H.264 video codec and stopped demanding installation of the codec separately.
- In “Office Productivity” category, both OSes came pre-installed with LibreOffice 6. However, LibreOffice did not include the “Drawing” app which Ubuntu did.
- In “System Utilities” category, Ubuntu came pre-installed with Ubuntu Software Center which is incomplete and messy like Windows Software Center but better than “Synaptic Package Manager” which Linux Lite came with. Synaptic is a powerful tool, but sorely lacks the GUI experience demanded by basic-level users. Linux Lite also came pre-installed with a System Backup app titled “Timeshift”. This app can make incremental backups automatically and keep your system safe from catastrophic failure.
- In “Games” category, Ubuntu came pre-installed with AisleRiot, Mahjongg, Mines and Sudoku app while Linux Lite did not come with any pre-installed games apps.
- In “Development” category, quite interestingly, Ubuntu did not come with even the basic “gcc” and “make” tools required to configure and compile Linux components such as Kernels, Drivers etc. Linux Lite came with a fairly rich applications development set that included GCC and Python.
It is important to note that Linux Lite comes with an app titled “Lite Software” which offers to install a curated list of apps that are best in their respective categories. App selection includes:
- Audacity for audio-editing, Openshot for video-editing, Handbrake for video encoding, Clementine for music playback, Kodi for media center, OBS Studio for live broadcasting, Spotify for digital music service.
- Chromium for alternate web-browser, Dropbox for cloud storage, Filezilla for FTP client, Pidgin for instant messenger, Skype for video conference, Deluge for torrent client, Tor web browser for private browsing, Guvcview for webcam control, Remmina for RDP client.
- Games pack that includes Solitaire, Mahjongg, Chess, Mines, Sudoku and Tetris.
- Pinta for paint application, PlayOnLinux for running Windows app on Linux, Restricted Extras containing proprietary codecs, Steam for cross-platform gaming client, VirtualBox for virtual machine etc.
Side-by-Side Performance Test Video: