Xubuntu at Computer Reach

The Xubuntu team hears stories about how it is used in organizations all over the world. In this “Xubuntu at..” series of interviews, we seek to interview organizations who wish to share their stories. If your organization is using Xubuntu and you want to share what you’re doing with us please contact Elizabeth K. Joseph at lyz@ubuntu.com to discuss details about your organization.

Last month we started a dialog with Kevin Driscoll, PC/Linux Technical Consultant, and Dave Sevick, Executive Director, of Computer Reach to learn more about how they’re using Xubuntu in their organization. The following is an exchange we had with Kevin over email, huge thanks to him for taking the time to share details about their work with us.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the work that Computer Reach does?

computer-reach-RGBComputer Reach is a volunteer organization in Pittsburgh that refurbishes computers for use by non-profits. Local companies, school districts, and individuals donate their used computers to us. We recondition them and use imaging software to put standardized software on them, mainly for educational use. The operation started in 2001 doing just Macs but for the past several years has a strong PC-Linux operation. More about Computer Reach at computerreach.org.

What influenced your decision to use Open Source Software in your organization?

The cost and complexity of licensed software made open source software the only real solution for us. Funding is low and the price point for new equipment keeps falling, making it more challenging to sell (or fund) used computers. LibreOffice and Linux are the main open source software that we use, but it is the core of what makes us an educational operation as well. Our volunteers are not always technically capable. Learning how to use software is key to attracting in new volunteers. Since they can freely download and use any of the open source software that they learn to work with while helping Computer Reach, it is a great enabler for them. As a further benefit, the fact that volunteers that come to help improve their own capabilities and thus their work situation helps us raise funds from those willing to underwrite community education and career development.

What made you select Xubuntu for your PC deployments?

Initially, Edubuntu was the Linux distribution that was used because of bountiful online resources and the included array of software for school-age children. More recently, in order to be able to run similarly on computers from 5-15 years old, we had to choose a desktop environment that was intuitive but also light-weight. Xfce was the environment I thought lent itself best to efficiency as well as features. We have used it to put together a desktop that is equally intuitive to Mac users as it is to Windows users, since most users of our computers are coming to Linux from one of those platforms.

computer_reach_xubuntu_2015

Can you tell us a bit about your Xubuntu setup?

We have three images which help us cover PC’s as old as 15 years. Most of our computers are 5-10 years old and run what we call “32x” (32-bit Xubuntu). Computers with 64-bit processors and more than 2GB RAM get “64x” (64-bit Xubuntu), while older computers get “32Lite.” Both 32x and 64x are based on Xubuntu 14.04 LTS so we can expect updates through early 2019. (Ed. Only packages shared with Ubuntu will receive updates, Xfce and other components are only supported until 2017.) “32Lite” is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS since it is the last version with clear support for non-PAE motherboards often present in older systems.

All of the systems use the Whisker Menu and a panel to launch common apps. LibreOffice and the Educational Desktop are on all systems as well. We put Wikipedia for Schools (offline) on the “x” versions so users without internet access can still used that offline version like an encyclopedia. (It is not on the “Lite” version so the system can run on machines with as small as 10GB hard drives).

We create a supervisory user account, a standard one, and enable the guest account so the organization that gets the computer can decide what level of control they want their users to have.

Is there anything else you wish to share with us about your organization or how you use Xubuntu?

Thanks to the help of many past local volunteers, we have a system that lets us image Linux onto just about any PC made in the past 15 years. As mentioned before, we only have 3 images that we use. If you think about the tremendous variety of brands and models of computers made in that time frame, it is astounding how many combinations of equipment our (often non-technical) volunteers run into. Yet after a quick PXE-boot, Clonezilla automated script runs on those computers, it will reboot into a completely operational Linux environment is amazing! Xubuntu is so resillient to be able to run, without prompt for drivers, on so many different kinds of PC’s! Now we are trying it on some Macs as well. Who knows how for we can go with it?

There is lots more information on our website (including the News page) and social media sites – Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – with examples of where our computers are in use as well as our volunteers doing the work.

To learn more, download their Edubuntu-Xubuntu 14.04 Quickstart Guide (14M).

Introducing Xubuntu core

Xubuntu core is a slimmed down version of Xubuntu that doesn’t come with all the additional features of a full and modern desktop. We essentially only ship Xfce and the basic look and feel of Xubuntu, so there will be no office suite, media players, et cetera.

The obvious benefit is that this ISO (about 600MB) will be faster to download – especially interesting for those with limited connectivity – and fit on a CD.

We have been working on this for a while, which is why you can already install it starting with Utopic. There are community ISOs for Vivid (see below), and starting with Wily, our plan is to produce official release ISOs!

Is this related to Snappy, Ubuntu Core, or Convergence?

Nope, sorry for the confusion in the name!

OK, so how do I install it now?

The recommended way is to download the mini.iso, install, and when prompted, install the Xubuntu minimal installation task. If you’d prefer to wait until after the installer finishes to install the Xubuntu core task, you can simply type sudo apt-get install xubuntu-core^ (don’t forget the caret!) and away it’ll go.

Optionally for Vivid, if you don’t want to use the mini ISO or won’t have internet during install, you can install from the community ISOs, made available by a Xubuntu developer.

Xubuntu 12.04 End of Life

A few days after we welcomed Vivid Vervet 15.04 as the latest stable version, we see the oldest of our LTS versions go EOL. Xubuntu 12.04 “Precise Pangolin” had a three-year support cycle which concluded on April 26.

While it will continue to receive updates from the repository, we will no longer be providing any Xubuntu support for packages. Packages provided via Xubuntu-owned PPAs will also be discontinued.

All users are advised to upgrade their installation to the current LTS, Xubuntu 14.04 “Trusty Tahr”. This version will continue to receive support from Xubuntu until April 2017. See our article for 5 things to do after upgrading from 12.04 to 14.04.

Please reach out to us via one of our various support channels if you need assistance upgrading.

Xubuntu 15.04 released!

Xubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet
Xubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet

The Xubuntu team is pleased to announce the immediate release of Xubuntu 15.04!

The release is available for download by torrents and direct downloads from http://xubuntu.org/getxubuntu/.

As the main server will be very busy in the first days after the release, we recommend using the Torrents wherever possible.

For support with the release, navigate to Help & Support for a complete list of methods to get help.

Highlights and Known Issues

Highlights

Xubuntu now uses Xfce 4.12, which was released on February 28. The new release has brought both some new features and many bug fixes over the old 4.10/4.11 components. For a complete changelog for Xfce 4.12, see the 4.12 changelog on Xfce.org.

In addition to the new Xfce release, the 15.04 release has the following highlights:

  • New/Updated Xubuntu Light/Dark colorschemes in Mousepad, Terminal
  • Mousepad colorscheme set to Xubuntu Light by default
  • Better appearance for QT applications out of the box (default to GTK theme)
  • Redundant File Manager (Settings) menu entry removed

Known Issues

When upgrading, the notes plugin is removed from the panel (Bug 1446598) To work around this, simply add the notes plugin back to the panel. Your data is kept intact.

For a complete changelog between Xubuntu 14.10 and 15.04, including a list of new package versions, please refer to the Release Notes.

Xubuntu 15.04 Beta 2

The Xubuntu team is pleased to announce the immediate release of Xubuntu 15.04 Beta 2. This is the final beta towards the release of 15.04 in April.

Please note the important install known issue at Bug 1436715: “Vivid DVD fails to reboot or shutdown w/o hard reset”

If you are at all unsure about a hard reset, the options are

  • Install Beta 1 and dist-upgrade
  • Wait for the bug to fix and install from a daily
  • Wait for Release Candidate

The Beta 2 release is available for download by torrents and direct downloads from
http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/xubuntu/releases/vivid/beta-2/

Highlights and known issues

New features and enhancements

Between Beta 1 and now, the final release of Xfce 4.12 has been packaged and uploaded to 15.04.

Known Issues

The detailed release note including other less critical known issues can be found here.

New application versions in the Xubuntu packageset

  • Thunar (1.6.6)
  • tumbler (0.1.31)
  • Xfwm4 (4.12.1)
  • xfce4-panel (4.12.0)
  • xfconf (4.12.0)
  • xfdesktop4 (4.12.0)
  • xfce4-panel (4.12.0)
  • xfce4-settings (4.12.0)
  • xfce4-session (4.12.0)
  • xfce4-power-manager (1.4.3)
  • libxfce4ui (4.12.1)
  • libxfce4util (4.12.1)
  • garcon (0.4.0)
  • Parole (0.8)
  • Mousepad (0.4)