The Linux Moderate

One Man Standing Up for Computers That Get Work Done

Transforming Xubuntu into DBCOS

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Part 5: Good Software for Slow Computers

Before we make up a new theme for our IceWM system, I thought it would be a good idea to install some of the alternate software that will make Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Operating System suitable for even old and crusty computers like my testing system.

Xubuntu’s mix of software is safe and familiar, and you don’t have to install anything else. But some of the programs that come with Xubuntu are heavy and slow on older computers. You may have to give up a few features to replace them with faster programs, but you may find that the speed is worth the minor sacrifices.

First, I’m going to add OpenOffice.org. This is a counterintuitive choice, since OpenOffice.org is huge and bloated by Linux standards. But my experience has been that, once it gets started (which I admit takes a while on an old computer), OpenOffice.org runs well even on anemic hardware. It’s a bit complicated to install the whole thing: see this article for step-by-step instructions.

Next, the Web browser. Firefox is still my favorite, but it can be big and slow. Kazehakase, a Japanese Web browser, uses the same Gecko rendering engine as Firefox, so Web pages look the same. But it’s a blazing speed demon. Its features are minimal, but for ordinary Web browsing they’re good enough, and you might really appreciate a Web browser that’s ready to go almost instantly even on an ancient computer like mine. Install the package kazehakase in Synaptic Package Manager.

Thunderbird, like Firefox, is full of features but heavy and slow. For email, I’m going to install Claws Mail, which is fast and easy to use. Claws Mail doesn’t send messages in HTML, so you won’t like it if you’re used to writing messages full of italics and formatting tricks. But most people just write text, and for them Claws Mail is perfect. Install the package claws-mail in Synaptic Package Manager.

The image viewer Ristretto, which comes with Xubnuntu, annoys me. It has to load thumbnails of all the images in the folder before you see the image you’ve tried to open with it. That can take a long time if the folder is, for example, the entire contents of a camera card. I’m going to replace it with GPicView, which is simple enough to be fast but complicated enough to do most of what you want from an image viewer. Install the package gpicview in Synaptic Package Manager.

We’ve already replaced the file manager Thunar with PCmanFM, which is faster. PCmanFM also has some useful features, like tabbed browsing, that you can’t get from Thunar. It even has the ability to manage the desktop, which we might find useful later on. Because the version of PCmanFM in the Ubuntu repositories had a crippling bug, we installed a later version from GetDeb.net.

Finally, if you don’t have it already, you should consider installing the VLC media player. It’s simple but incredibly versatile, and when you explore it you’ll be amazed by the depth of features. Install the package vlc in Synaptic Package Manager.

By the way, if you used the sample menu and toolbar file I gave you, when you restart IceWM all our newly installed applications will appear in their proper places. If you made your own menu, you already know how easy it is to add new applications to it.

Those are just a few quick additions, but we’ve actually changed all the major programs we’ll get real work done with. With the arguable exception of OpenOffice.org, all our new choices are much faster than the programs that came with Xubuntu. (I say OpenOffice.org is arguable because the Abiword word processor always slows to a crawl when I try to feed it a book-length document, which makes it useless for someone who makes his living writing books.) With these new choices, we’ll have a system that makes old computers feel young again and saves the environment by keeping tons of plastic and silicon out of the landfills. No need to thank me: that’s what I’m here for.

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Written by cbaile19

August 8, 2008 at 12:49 pm

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