Updated: May 22, 2015
Going through the alphabetical jungle, we've reached letter X, so it's time to give Xubuntu, an Xfce-flavored version of Ubuntu, its due attention. We've seen the original distro in action, as well as the Plasma-armed Kubuntu, and so far the results are rather mixed.
Now, expectations are high, at least for me. Xubuntu has been an excellent performer in the last few years, climbing to the top of my charts time and again. It won the best Xfce award for 2014, and it came second in the annual contest, including a fair amount of your votes. So, it'd better not disappoint.
Live session & install
No, it does not disappoint. Unlike Kubuntu, Xubuntu did not fret about UEFI, Secure Boot or anything of that sort on my G50 machine. Like a champ, it shot into a quick and lithe live session. Now, the live session isn't as cool as it should be. Gone is the purple theme, and instead, you get a more toned-down blue and black. But my biggest problem was the fact mounted volumes all showed up, and when you have a dozen, it looks ugly and crowded, plus the Install shortcut icon is aligned to the left. That's ugly.
But these were small niggles really. Apart from that there were no other things that annoyed me in the live environment. The desktop is fast, and you can feel that even when data is being loaded from a simple thumb drive. High expectations, high results, right.
The installation was also pleasant. Xubuntu offered to install side by side with all the rest, which is something that Kubuntu did not suggest. Then, I created an extra partition without any hassle. Fifteen minutes later, the setup was complete.
After the reboot, I had Xubuntu Vivid now controlling the boot sequence, even though I had its bootloader set up in its own root partition, but this is how EFI rolls, and you can fix this relatively easily.
The fun part
Now, the stuff we all waited for. Xubuntu, working for real. The desktop suffers from the same removable volume icon thingie, but that's easily remedied. Moreover, the distro popped the update prompt immediately, which is a good thing.
Package management & updates
In general, I think Ubuntu and Xubuntu offer the most sensible combo in this regard, somewhat ahead of Muon available in Plasma and KDE desktops. Ubuntu Software Center is fast and rich in programs, and you can quickly replenish or add anything that's missing in the base image. Plus, updates, which are fast and robust.
Xubuntu isn't well known for offering an exciting repertoire of programs. Vivid Vervet is not different. Although some of the software is quite good, and designed for lightweight desktops and old systems, the basic arsenal is somewhat meh.
You have Firefox and Thunderbird, which is a good start. GIMP is there, too, but it should have been removed, and LibreOffice offered instead, given the choice between the two, rather than Abiword and Gnumeric. You also get Pidgin, Parole, gmusicbrowser.
Luckily, the good stuff is only a few clicks - or commands away. Within seconds, I had the desktop enriched with VLC, Skype, Steam, LibreOffice, and Cheese. Throw in some extra polish in the form of new wallpapers, icons and decorations, and things brighten up considerably. But more about the customization later on.
If you've ticked the right boxes during the installation, Xubuntu 15.04 will play your media without problems. I tried HD video (Xvid + Lame inside a WebM container), MP3 and Flash on Youtube, and all of these played well and without problems. The music player also comes with a billion skins.
Stability, hardware compatibility
Xubuntu worked fine, except two issues. One, the Realtek Wireless card regression, but it can be fixed by using the necessary modprobe configuration file tweak. The second one affected the music player, which would sometimes refuse to close, but this only persisted for a brief while. After installing updates and rebooting, the problem vanished forever.
Apart from that, Xubuntu 15.04 was rock solid. The hardware worked properly, starting with the UEFI boot. Then, Fn keys, suspend & resume, the whole deal. Web camera, but you've already seen that just moments ago. Really neat. I'm quite pleased.
For those of you who care about this, no issues. Even better than Ubuntu, I have to say, as there were no glitches, no weird popups. I tried Windows Phone, Android, iPhone, and of course, Ubuntu Phone. No problems. Connect, copy files, whatnot. Great.
Like most if not all Xubuntu editions, Vivid Vervet remains fast. Very fast. Programs open instantly, and that's with an i3 processor and a mechanical disk. Responsiveness is the dog's bollocks. Memory wise, Vervet tolled 400 MB and the CPU ticked close to zero most of the time. The first figure is a little tricky to compare to what we had on the T61 box, but if you compare to other Ubuntu flavors, it's much leaner, and significantly more sprightly.
Now, given the fine, stellar performance, it's interesting to see how well Vivid Vervet behaves in its Xfce guise. Does this fast and lean desktop give more juice? Well, apparently not that much. My early estimates show it can squeeze about 4 hours worth of gentle use, which is more or less equivalent to what we've seen with other distros, but let's not forget that 15.04 seems thirstier than previous kernels. Still, decent but not mind-blowing.
Samba, Rumba, baila me
Samba performance is excellent, much better than most other distros normally achieve at this particular distance and signal strength. They usually give about 1-2 MB/sec only. Speeeeeeeed!
Works fine, including the neat Samba trick we saw in Ubuntu 15.04. Lovely. I thought my printer would not be detected, but nope, no problems. This is how it's meant to be. Simple and, once again, quick.
Very simple, very easy, very enjoyable. Xubuntu is a breeze to configure. Lots of tiny improvements that bring joy. For instance, you can add wallpapers from anywhere you want, including remote locations. Quite neat.
And a whole bunch of beautified desktops:
I have to say, Xubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet shattered my expectations. Obliterated them. Overall, I was expecting a distro that would be about as good as its parent. Instead, I got this fine piece of digital machinery, which purrs and meows and growls like a turbo-charged tiger, if this silly metaphor makes any sense. Or is it an analogy?
Now, one tiny software glitch, plus one big regression that affects the entire family. That's the sum of my complains. On the plus side, Xubuntu fully supports the hardware, including the tricky UEFI stuff, it's fast, robust, elegant, rich in software and features, simple and fun to use, and it works well with anything I've thrown at it. By far the best distro of this year. I don't give out 10/10 lightly, but I'm inclined to do that right now, even though the few tiny problems we've had prevent me from doing that. However, the whole package reminds me of Fuduntu, really. Pure and simple and just good. 9.99999/10. Try it, you won't be disappointed. We're done here.