A couple weeks ago, we took a look at Lubuntu, a lightweight Linux distribution based on Ubuntu.  Since then, the operating system has undergone major changes that merit a revisit of its features.  Here's a second look at the Ubuntu variant that just might replace Xubuntu.

When I wrote about Lubuntu previously, I was impressed by its performance and ability to run on minimal system resources.  That's already a major point in its favor against Xubuntu, which can appear underwhelming to users looking for a lightweight desktop.

My one major criticism of Lubuntu when I first tried it out was its aesthetics.  Maybe I'm just a shallow guy, but looks do matter, especially in operating systems, and the iteration of Lubuntu that I tested initially was filled with overly geeky artwork.

Lubuntu's New Look

But that's all changed in the most recent build of the Lubuntu Lucid live CD, alpha 3, which was released on February 25 and is available here.  The new Lubuntu looks like this (apologies for the dual mouse cursors; the black one is Lubuntu's):

Lubuntu Default Desktop

Here's another screenshot offering a more thorough look at the new art:

Lubuntu Applications

In my opinion, this color scheme and artwork are much prettier than what I saw two weeks ago.  They're something I could use everyday without feeling like a totally unfashionable geek.

Additional themes are accessible from Lubuntu's appearance preferences utility:

Lubuntu Appearance Preferences

Finally, here's a quick look at the login screen, which is also pretty pleasing to the eye--especially given that the developers are working with minimal system resources:

Lubuntu Login Screen

Note the several different options for desktop sessions.  When I tried, only "Lubuntu" and "Lubuntu Netbook" (and "Default," which is Lubuntu) worked, but the suggestion that the Lubuntu developers aim to release implementations of Gnome and KDE on Openbox is exciting.

Other Changes

Beyond the visual, Lubuntu's developers have updated the operating system in other significant ways.  For one, as perceptive readers will have noticed in the first screenshot above, Lubuntu now sports NetworkManager instead of wicd.

As much as I love wicd, I have to agree with the developers that NM is better.  NM offers exceedingly easy configuration of VPN connections and the like, which wicd does not.

Also noticeable is the replacement of Firefox with Chrome as the default Web browser (Firefox is no longer installed at all):

Chrome on Lubuntu

Finally, the Lubuntu developers have created a special interface for netbooks.  I haven't had much time to explore it yet, but hope to do so soon.  Briefly, though, here's what it looks like:

Lubuntu Netbook Remix

There are still two long months between now and the final release of Ubuntu 10.04, which means there's plenty of time for future changes to Lubuntu.  But so far I really like what I see, and am starting to regret not having a computer old enough to justify switching to this still-unofficial Ubuntu variant.