Friday, November 02, 2007

Linux: Installing fluxbuntu (Gutsy)

Introduction

I own an old Compaq Armada e500. This portable used to have 512 MB of RAM, but the other month, half of it failed on me and died. So, this left the portable quite useless. Running Ubuntu with Gnome is quite painful, because you spent most of the time waiting. Even the so claimed lightweight Ubuntu, Xubuntu, doesn't run as smooth as it should.
The other week I came across a post on the dutch Ubuntu forums, talking about fluxbuntu. This Ubuntu version claims being more lightweight than Xubuntu, so I decided to take it for a spin.

Installation

fluxbuntu boots in a non graphical installer. If you ever installed Debian, this installer will look very familiar. I think Ubuntu's alternate install CD also uses this "ncurses" based installer. Although the installer is text based, installing fluxbuntu is not more difficult than installing any other distro using a graphical installer. It also has the same basic questions; what's your keyboard layout?, where do you live?, where do you want to put it?. It even did a good job detecting the correct settings for XWindows.

SLIM login manager

After the necessary reboot, I was presented a nice splash screen and a simple, but nice login manager. fluxbuntu does not use xdm (Xubuntu) or gdm (Ubuntu, Gnome) but the very lightweight: Simple LogIn Manager (or SLIM). Being lightweight is the only advantage I can see for this login manager. One major disadvantage is that the version shipped with fluxbuntu (1.2.something) does not support PAM. So if you're authenticating against NIS or LDAP, you can kiss this login manager goodbye :)
After searching the web for a while, I discovered that the most recent version (1.3.0) supports PAM. I couldn't find any Debian package though, so I had to compile it myself. SLIM does not include a configure script, so you'll need to read the INSTALL to find out and install the necessary dependencies. If I recall correctly, you'll need xorg-dev, libpng-dev, g++ and libjpg-dev. After doing a make install, just reboot (or init 1 and CTRL+D) and you're up and running the latest SLIM :)

fluxbox

fluxbuntu uses fluxbox as default windowmanager. fluxbox is a fork of the elder blackbox window manager which I used a long time ago. I've always liked blackbox and also like fluxbox very much. The UI looks very clean and the people from fluxbuntu have done a great job creating a default theme for it. Unlike Ubuntu, it's green.

PAM and ldap

Since Gutsy, they've done some changes to the libpam-ldap and libnss-ldap packages. Apparently they are now grouped in one meta package and the both use the same configuration file /etc/ldap.conf, instead of /etc/libnss-ldap.conf and /etc/pam_ldap.conf. I think this is a very good idea, since both files contained the same settings anyway. So you ended up either maintaining 2 files, or symlinking the one to the other. Anyway, I am not going into detail on configuring an LDAP client install, but if you're migrating from Feisty or older to Gutsy, it is something to keep in mind when trying to reuse your old configuration files.

Conclusion

This is the lightweight distro I have been waiting for. Even on older machines with less RAM, it runs smoother then Xubuntu which is, IMHO, becoming quite heavyweight as well. I do realize that fluxbox is probably not as intuitive as KDE, Xfce or Gnome, but intuitiveness has never been my main concern.

1 comment:

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