lubuntu_logo

With Windows XP now all but dead there’s going to be a lot of machines out there falling slowly down a security black hole; unsupported, but lacking the hardware or upgradability to move to Windows 7.

Much of this equipment should no doubt have been recycled long ago, but for some there isn’t any reason necessarily why it cannot be salvaged. In a world where we already throw so much away it is a shame to think of it all ending at the tip, which despite recycling efforts much of it will…

I have one such machine, an old HP Laptop I pinched from Switch a couple of years ago for mucking about on where breaking things wouldn’t matter.  As I hate throwing things away (not in the hoarder way), I’m attempting to rescue it with an OS more suited to its performance. Step up Lubuntu.

What is it?

Lubuntu is an Ubuntu based lightweight operating system, using the LXDE desktop. As you can read here it’s designed with low-spec machines in mind, and although stripped downs comes with a lot of common software ‘out the box’.

The Laptop?

A single-core, HP machine, with 1g RAM. A fresh installation of XP on this Laptop when it was picked up was already slow and chunky; as you’d expect.

Installation:

Disk images can be downloaded from the lubuntu site, with 32bit and 64bit iso file available direct and as torrents.

install


I downloaded and burnt the “lubuntu (Intel x86) desktop CD” iso, and booted the HP to lubuntu’s installation options. The usual disk and memory checking tasks can be found here, along with a nice feature to trial the OS before committing to a permanent installation. There’s nothing no the machine I’m worried about losing, so standard installation it is.

Errors:

This kernel requires the following features not present on the CPU: pae

Ahh yes. The latest Lubuntu (currently 12.10 stable) expects your CPU to handle PAE extensions. The HP doesn’t, obviously.

There are a number of custom iso file around, but a second option is to install lubuntu 12.04, and upgrade to 12.10 after installation. I picked up the “lubuntu-12.04-desktop-i386.iso “file amongst the many options available here.

Lubuntu also installs a number of third party applications during the setup process requiring me hunting out a network cable to hook up to the wireless router.

install14

Success:

Installation is simple if a little slow, with the usual regional and user setup as part of the process. Despite one ‘You’ve been installing language packs for 15 minutes now’ moment, we were all up and running in a little under 45 minutes.

What it’s got:

screen

This is a very lightweight OS so it’s not stacked. Chromium, basic word processing, GNUpaint.  The out the box theme is nice enough. Of course you can install additional software, but keeping this lightweight is obviously the key. LibraOffice or similar will probably be useful though.

Installing PHP I notice sudo is installed as default.

What I’ve Got:

A basic, secure, machine with a supported OS for internet browsing and basic office-y type work.

What I’ve Not Got:

Alienware. Damn shame.


Doing this wasn’t especially important, but it wasn’t especially difficult or time consuming either.
Is it faster: Yes.
Can I benchmark that against the XP installation: No.

I didn’t think to, but lubuntu is immediately slicker and less irritating to use.
Where machines can possibly be re-purposed, be that for charities, people on low incomes, or other instances, a lightweight OS like lubuntu may be viable. Perhaps most importantly it’s free.

Users who would perhaps only ever have used Windows may be a sticking point, but the lubuntu desktop layout is not so dissimilar, and it may give some of these machines another short time of useful life before ending up in the bin.