Want to bring that old netbook back to life? Practice with Manjaro LXQt and LXLE

In writing two recent articles on Linux with some recommendations for a novice and my experience of trying Linux on a netbook, I have said several times that Manjaro LXQt might be a good candidate.

I did not include it in the suggested list because the base Manjaro distribution had just announced its 16.06 version, and I was waiting for the LXQt version to catch up with me. Then this week, a big neon duh the light went on in my brain. Manjaro is a streaming distribution, and the LXQt version was just released at the end of May! All I had to do was install this version and then get the latest updates. I actually had exactly that already, as I installed LXQt version 16.05 on one of my Acer Aspire netbooks right after it was released last month. Sometimes I’m afraid I killed a few too many brain cells … but I forget that too, so it doesn’t matter.

I have also received several comments and emails recommending LXLE for the N150. I’ve never tried LXLE before, so I thought this was a good opportunity to try both at the same time. So here we are again.

First, a little background on these two distributions.

lxqt.png

Manjaro LXQt is a community edition of Manjaro Linux, which comes in Xfce and KDE versions and then in a multitude of Community editions with other desktops. Community versions also differ from the main Manjaro distributions by the specific packages, utilities, and applications they include, either by necessity (Gnome-based rather than KDE-based, for example) or by purpose (lightweight distributions choose lightweight applications. , or even leave some applications completely). What Community Editions keep are the excellent Manjaro kernel, repositories, and the Scalable version distribution model.

the LXQt desk is essentially an implementation of the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (LXDE) based on the Qt libraries. The idea behind this is to provide a faster and more modern desktop than the previous one. LXDE desktop computers. It was created as a merger of the LXDE-Qt and Razor-Qt projects. I only tried it for the first time about a month ago, but my impressions so far are very good.

lxle.png

LXLE is derived from Ubuntu (yes, I know, YAUD, but I’m breaking my personal rule just this time).

Its purpose, as stated on their web page, is “Relive that old PC!” It’s still based on an Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) release (via Lubuntu, as I understand it), and it follows the updates that Ubuntu makes to those LTS releases.

The current version of LXLE is 14.04.4, although one can assume that there will be a 16.04 version before much longer.

What LXLE adds to the Ubuntu / Lubuntu distribution is some customization and optimization of the LXDE desktop itself and careful selection of applications. Also, since they focus on older PCs, their forums can be a good source of information and support from people with similar hardware.

Obtain distributions and prepare installation media

Manjaro LXQt is in the Manjaro community downloads, and is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The image is approximately 1.1 GB for the 64-bit version and 700 MB for the 32-bit version. These are hybrid ISO images that can be copied directly to a USB stick or burned to a CD / DVD. It will boot and install on both MBR and UEFI systems without a problem – and I have done both types of installations myself.

the LXLE Download The page lists versions 14.04 and 12.04, also in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. This is the only download page I can remember that includes a ‘captcha check before starting the download.

The images are 1.7 GB for the 64-bit version and 1.4 GB for the 32-bit version – noticeably larger than the Manjaro LXQt images. Again, the images can be copied directly to a USB drive or burned to DVD. However, the LXLE installation images are not UEFI compatible. This is probably not a big deal as their target is older PCs which are most likely to be MBR systems. If you want to install on a UEFI firmware system, you need to configure the system for legacy boot. I think the LXLE forums include some pretty complicated instructions on how UEFI boot works after installation using legacy boot, but my advice would be if you absolutely need / want UEFI boot, it’s not the distribution you want to choose.

Of course, the topic of this article is my Samsung N150 Plus, and it’s an MBR system, so I didn’t have to deal with the UEFI issue, and I didn’t have any issues with the installation. I have noticed that the installation time is much longer for LXLE than for Manjaro – over 30 minutes versus less than 15 minutes, but as long as you consider it to be a one-time task, this difference doesn’t It’s not a big problem either.

Starting and running the installed system

Both of these distros are live media, so if you want to try them out, watch the content and see how it works on your hardware, you can do that easily.

To provide at least some sort of simple benchmark for boot speed, I’ve timed several of the other Linux distros I’ve already installed on the N150. Manjaro Xfce starts up from the initial Grub menu to the login window in about 40 seconds, then takes an additional 15 seconds after login to bring up the desktop and be ready to use.

One of the slowest is openSuSE Tumbleweed, which takes a full minute to go from the Grub menu to the login window, then almost a minute after logging in until the desktop is ready. Believe me, by today’s standards, waiting almost 2 minutes for a system to boot up seems like an eternity.

Manjaro LXQt takes about 30 seconds from Grub menu to login window, then 15 seconds from login to desktop out of the box. Less than a minute in total, and that sounds like a pretty reasonable wait.

LXLE takes about 45 seconds from the Grub menu to the login window, then 15 seconds from the desktop login. A little slower, but not enough to be a problem – and LXLE does play some music when it’s ready, so that must count for something.

Relative performance once it’s up and running is very subjective, and overall I’d say it’s roughly equal. It seems to me that Manjaro LXQt is a bit faster, even for very small / simple things like opening the window manager menu. The relative speed of launching new applications will depend much more on the selection of applications than on the operating system itself.

lxqt.png

Manjaro LXQt Desktop PC 16.06.1

Manjaro LXQt only starts with a top panel, which contains the LXQt menu, launchers for LXTerm, Firefox and PCManFM, and commands for desktop selection (preconfigured with four desktops), network manager, Octopi Notifier, removable devices, clock, sound and shutdown / restart buttons.

lxle.png

LXLE 14.04.4 Desktop Computer

LXLE begins with the top and bottom panels. The top panel contains the menu, icons for PCManFM and a random wallpaper (?), A pretty cool clock / calendar / weather group in the middle, controls and status icons for sound, Network Manager, ROXTerm , CPU / RAM usage monitors and a battery status indicator. The bottom panel is an app launcher and taskbar, and has a desktop switcher on the right end, configured with four desktops.

Content of distributions

At the lowest level, LXLE is at a disadvantage because they still distribute version 14.04, so it has Linux kernel 3.13.0 and X.org 1.15.1, while Manjaro LXQt has kernel 4.4.13 and X.org 1.17. 4.

Like I said above, I’m guessing there will be an LXLE 16.04 release soon, and that will fill that gap significantly – but based on the kernel Ubuntu 16.04 is running (4.4.0), they won’t catch up still not completely. Of course, if you are installing it on an older PC system, it might not be as important to have the latest Linux kernel. But even that can depend on what you plan to do with it, and since this is a very important difference in cores, you should keep this in mind when making a decision.

The difference in the included apps is interesting:

LXQt LXLE
The browser Firefox Sea monkey
Mail / News Sea monkey
Office AbiWord
Gnumeric
LibreOffice
audio Clementine Guayadeque
Video minivan
SMPlayer
Totem
Photo management Shooting wells
Graphic GIMP GIMP
Text editor Pad gedit
File manager PCManFM PCManFM
Packaging manager octopus
Pac-Man
synaptic
apt

This is Linux we’re talking about, and both of these distros have good repositories. So if you want a lighter browser on Manjaro, you can install Palemoon; if you can’t live without Firefox, it’s in the LXLE repositories. Likewise, if you absolutely must have LibreOffice, Manjaro has both LibreOffice again (5.0.6) and Fresh (5.1.4) in the repositories.

If cosmetics are important to you, LXLE includes a very large selection of wallpapers and a random wallpaper picker.

As a seasoned (read as: old) Unix / Linux CLI user, I would like to thank LXLE for installing and configuring ROXTerm on the Alt-c keyboard. By using this shortcut, you can get a terminal window in about a second without having to go through the window manager menus. Little things matter.

summary

Either would be a good choice for the N150. If I made the pick, it would be Manjaro LXQt, because I love (and trust) Manjaro, he’s smaller overall, he’s made a lot of the same choices I would in packages, and he just feels a slightly livelier overall on the N150. But other people might very well prefer LXLE since it is based on Ubuntu and they prefer package selection. It’s perfect.

The really important point here is that, as I have shown in this article and the previous one on this topic, there are a number of good choices available to run Linux on this Samsung N150 Plus netbook, and I can say from personal experience that using any of these makes the N150 a very pleasant and useful travel companion.

Compare that with the fact that this netbook originally came with Windows 7 Starter Edition, which was pretty much useless when it was brand new, and is certainly totally useless now. Now, is Microsoft constantly harassing people who bought Windows 7 Starter Edition to upgrade to Windows 10? Is there even a Windows 10 Starter Edition or other rational upgrade path on Windows for owners of this type of netbook?

On the other side of the fence, there are a number of different Linux distros that work great on this netbook, cost nothing, install easily, and won’t try to force you to upgrade. So take your pick.

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