Distro Experience (2 Part Series)
2 Weeks back I wrote about my experience of running Lubuntu on my 2-1 laptop.. While the whole experience with Lubuntu is great and is my daily driver now for all my personal work that I do, but then last week I saw news about Zorin OS 15 Lite edition being released. I read about a very interesting distribution called MX Linux. While reading about MX Linux I came across antiX which with its support for persistent USB storage was a very interesting proposition which I wanted to explore.
My acer tablet is a 2gb Intel Atom based tortoise where memory hogging modern OS would struggle to work. If I open 6-7 browser windows, a code editor and few more apps, my system just froze. Lubuntu was still able to handle this, other distributions like Fedora, Zorin OS 15 just froze after some time. With Lubuntu at least I got some better performance comparable to Windows 8 OS. Based on my experience LXQt Desktop environment used by Lubuntu is one of the best desktop environments for low power tablet like mine. But this came with its own share of issues, first inexplicably Firefox tables crashed once in a while. The inbuilt QTTerminal hung in between deployments and any new tabs on the terminal will just show blank screen. All of this I can attribute to the fact that I do not have any swap memory setup and the original OS was installed on a microSD card. The only way for now I am surviving this by using Opera Browser and using terminator terminal emulator. But the Distro hopper in me wanted to see if there are any better option to try out that will work on my slow tablet.
Running on Xfce and with claim that this can run even on 15 year old systems, I was really impressed by the reviews where there was promise of running the latest and greatest look and feel of a modern OS on a slow system like mine.
CPU: 700 MHz Single Core - 64-bit or 32-bit RAM: 512 MB Storage: 8 GB Display 640 × 480 resolution
I was sure that my system had all the requirements satisfied, and after downloading the 64 bit ISO image, I tried the Live CD. From the start I faced the similar problems which I faced in Zorin Core OS 15 (no flash screen/black screen before I can get the desktop by switching power button) but the live CD experience of Lite version was much better than Core version. Hence I installed the full version on to a sdcard and went ahead with the boot process. The first problem I faced was that my EFI boot order was altered and also after booting to Zorin OS, the desktop flashed a
freedesktop DBUS error. That pretty much killed my enthusiasm for going ahead with any further setup or troubleshooting.
While exploring about antiX I read rave reviews about its unique all command boot menu and its live usb persistence feature. I downloaded its live image from the below link . For burning all the above isos instead of using Rufus, I used unetbootin in linux and for formatting the disks and partitioning I used KDE partition manager, both of which are great tools for preparing a Live Linux USB. After burning the ISO image when I boot antiX I was pleasantly greeted with its command line Live CD configuration tool which by no means is for a noob user. But for someone like me who is not a power Linux user, I felt the instructions and menus very intuitive and helpful. For the first time I felt a power user and in control of the configuring my Linux. The sad part though was that it did not natively detect the screen resolution and all the time the screen was hazy and I had to use
xrandr command to align the desktop from vertical to horizontal to align to my 2 in 1 laptop configuration.
But the host of desktop environment options and the window first approach instead of desktop first approach and the minimalist feel immediately made me love the desktop. The cpu, memory, hard disk consumption widget was also a great thing about its desktop. The good thing was, it came loaded with programming and system administration tools which never made me to go to my AppImages. The memory footprint of the desktop was small and even Firefox was snappy. Personally I loved antiX and its minimalistic yet feature rich take on Linux desktop and not being another Windows or Mac clone.
MX Linux is a new distribution which is a collaboration between antiX and former MEPIS communities. The promise of antiX and debian was too good to ignore after using the fast and versatile antiX distro. It uses a slightly modified version of Xfce feels a bit more modern looking in look and feel than antiX. But what surprised be was that, after Lubuntu, MX Linux was the 2nd best distribution which worked out of the box without any additional modification. It had the similar terminal based boot setup for live USB and carried similar features and options like antiX for persistent USB but unlike antiX it natively detected the screen resolution and had a more crisper login screen. antiX & MX Linux both have default root & demo users and show up the login screen to log into Desktop.
While the xfce desktop was minimalistic , the list of apps by no means were less. I could find all the tools that I may need for my day to day work. But the icing was the MX Tools panel. MX Tools has some very nifty tools if you are a disto hopper and wish to build live USBs. And this was one of the only distros where I found such a nifty feature in live USB. The Remastering feature was probably the most important feature as it helps to create a live HD feature so that in case you want to backup or roll-back to previous version of your live cd you can. This is something I would like to explore more. As MX Linux is based on Debian, it also made easy for me to download my favourite development tools using the apt package manager. And its file manager was quite similar to the Lubuntu PCManQTFM which made the file browsing experience quite a breeze.
MX Linux distribution seems to target Medium Desktop environments but it had no issue in running on my Intel Atom based tablet. While the touch screen feature did not work and for screen rotation I had to depend on
xrandr else it was a very lovely experience. I have come to love how the task bar is at the side and you have the who desktop to yourself to focus and immerse into the window you are currently watching without any distractions. Also the CPU and memory utilization was light.
Coming to the productivity part of the blog I personally felt MX Linux to be the best performing Linux distribution which packed most of the tools that we come to expect out of a full fledged Linux distro without the bloat of a slow running distribution. This is the best distro who is wishing to get more work done without the fuss of how your desktop looks and feels and helps you make the transition from the beginner to a power Linux user very easily. Its extensive documentation and the fact that its based on Debian, made be keep it as my secondary Linux distro to fall back if ever I face hurdle using Lubuntu. I am sure very soon MX Linux will become my goto distro as I am more of a Debian guy than Ubuntu. For me MX Linux is the best and the most light weight Debian distro to run on my humble Intel Atom Tablet.