One Year on- Linux Mint 11 LXDE

Image from the Linux Mint Website. Stable and Reliable Even After One Year

Over the years I have used a number of Linux distributions from Slackware, through the awful Linpus Lite that came with this netbook (Acer Aspire One) and Ubuntu. For various reasons I ended up having to get of all of them within a few months. This happened for variety of reasons ranging from the user interface progressively failing until I could only interact with it via the aid of “shift+tab” or the wifi breaking after 60-90 minutes of use and requiring a system reset. In all cases while Linux could do what I wanted it rarely lasted the pace, with the result I was generally left me underwhelmed and not infrequently I wished that I had bought the Windows XP version of the One instead. That’s why I think it’s perhaps an idea to share good news. i.e. when something actually runs as it should for nearly a year! In this case it is Linux Mint 11 LXDE. This is a special version designed for older or slower hardware and uses LXDE rather than other more flashy window managers. This in general reduces resource requirements and helps speed up the machine slightly. Having now run it for almost a year on this netbook for anything from programming to Google Docs, I can safely say it is the most reliable I have used yet. So just in case you are looking to update or even “age” your netbook’s OS I can thoroughly recommend it.

Good Points

  • So far almost no problems, except with Opera which does not seem to behave too well with the Window manager
  • Fast and responsive once it’s up and running for such old hardware
  • A software repository with many good apps that seem to work without any problems (well the sort of standard ones I use anyway)
  • So far no problems after any updates (if you stick to those rated 3 or better)
  • Wifi works without any problems
  • Lighter weight user interface when compared to other versions has sped up frame rates in some applications
  • Currently more stable than my iMac

Bad Points

  • This is not a sexy Mac OS User Interface, it’s basic but does the job
  • Some early UI issues e.g. duplicate items in the system bar (now fixed)
  • Some early issues after updates with the audio system (now fixed)
  • Not the fastest book-up time
  • Old version of Skype worked fine, Skype 4 works and has more options but there are some graphical issues.
  • Some issues with apps such as LiveStation, which stutters a bit when playing live video streams
  • The software manager is painfully slow
  • This is an old version so perhaps there are better ones around
  • This is not a long-term support edition so at the time of writing there are about six month of updates left.

I cannot say anything about the more recent versions of Linux Mint but if like me you have this rather old piece of hardware then I thoroughly recommend it. Stable, reliable and as yet no serious issues. I cannot say that this will be the case on all hardware, and certainly one reason for this review is that it works on hardware that to say the least was unlucky with earlier versions of Linux, so hopefully it will be useful for some people.

Tested on: Acer Aspire ZG5 (Linux), 1 GB RAM and 160MB HD. Four years on and for €200 one cannot really complain too much. Also for your information this blog is usually written on the Aspire and not my half dead iMac.

About Rod McCall

Rod McCall is a researcher in the field of human-computer interaction in areas such as augmented reality, mobile gaming in-car systems and virtual environments. He works for the University of Luxembourg and has previously worked for Fraunhofer and Runtime Revolution. He is an advocate of new technologies only when they have some practical benefit for individuals or society.

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