I bought this old laptop in 2012. It’s originally coming with Ubuntu 12.04. At that time, it’s the most suitable laptop for my job. It’s fast, powered with 2GiB RAM and Intel Core i3 1.4Ghz. However, I began to abandon it in 2015 after buying a new MacBook. Since that time, I never use it anymore until several days ago when I made this decision. I am going to revive it once again and make it running with the latest Ubuntu version. So, how do I do it?

Clean install with Ubuntu 12.04

I do this first because the laptop is pretty slow. It’s easier because I’ve moved all of my data elsewhere. 

The installation process is pretty straightforward. I install it using Live CD. After the installation, it can’t connect to the wireless network in our home. A little exploration on Google helps me to solve the problem. I need to install the wireless driver first.

Because the wireless driver is proprietary, Ubuntu didn’t have it yet. Fortunately, I have some spare LAN cables to connect the laptop to our home router. 

Once the installation of the missing driver completes and the laptop can connect to the internet through Wi-Fi networks, I see some Ubuntu updates popping up.

Updating the Ubuntu

The next step I go through is updating Ubuntu. First, I update it to 14.04. Then I continue it to 16.04. Once 16.04 installation is complete, I re-run the Software and Update again to see if there’s a newer version. In the end, I end up updating to 18.04.

The whole process takes almost 8 hours. The most consuming time is not the time to download the updates. The time to extract and install them is the longest time to consume.

I don’t complain about this. I force it to run an operating system that’s released six years later.

Sluggish

After I make sure there are no more updates to install, I begin to use it. I start with opening the default browser: Firefox. It’s very sluggish. Firefox needs almost 15 seconds to be ready to use.

I expect this but this is not good. There must be a way to solve this problem. So, the next thing I do is exploring the way to speed up the Ubuntu 18.04

Failed optimization

Unfortunately, almost all of the optimization tips I read on the internet doesn’t make any difference. It’s still sluggish and slow to the point where I get annoyed. This is seriously bad. What should I do?

Well, I begin to read the requirement for Ubuntu 18.04. The minimum requirement for the CPU is 2 GHz. While this old laptop only has 1.3 GHz. The RAM should be at least 4 GiB while it only has 2 GiB.

Hopeless

After knowing the laptop is simply lack of the minimum requirement, I begin considering to give away this laptop or just throw it to the junkyard. 

I know I can run it with older Ubuntu or any other older operating system. However, those old operating systems don’t receive any security updates or patches anymore. This makes me think the laptop has reached its end until I remember something interesting: the desktop environment.

Replacing the Desktop Environment

Ubuntu is not like Windows. It has a separated DE. This means, even without the DE, it will be fine. It won’t break. Therefore, I try exploring the DE alternatives for Ubuntu.

My exploration ends up with one conclusion. The lightest DE for Ubuntu is Lubuntu. But I am not sure at this point if it’s possible to switch from Ubuntu GNOME desktop to Lubuntu. It turns out this is possible.

Many people suggested doing the clean installation for Lubuntu. They say it’s a better and easier way to switch from Ubuntu to Lubuntu. Others even say both of them are a different system.

But the official documentation says otherwise: 

Both Lubuntu and Ubuntu share two major important things: the same Core System and the same Repositories. Lubuntu and Ubuntu belong to the same family and talking about each as totally different two systems are not correct since they have some things in common. Thus, we use the same Forum Area and share many Wiki Pages.

The only differences are only these two:

  • Different DE – Lubuntu uses LXDE while Ubuntu uses Unity (or GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04) as the default DE.
  • Different Default Applications. I can install and uninstall those default applications later so no need to worry.

With those pieces of information in hand, I decided to proceed to switch the DE to Lubuntu.

After installing Lubuntu

I don’t expect this much but the result does surprise me. Not only the sluggish problem goes away, but opening any application is almost an instant. 

I feel it as a brand new laptop. The responsiveness is almost comparable to my MacBook. The only drawback is this Lubuntu doesn’t have any visual effects. But who cares about it. I don’t need it and never been a fan of it.

It’s even faster after I removed all packages which belong to Unity, GNOME, and other default applications I don’t need.

Verdict

Now, I can use this old laptop I bought in 2012 as a spare laptop. Or, if I am bored working with MacBook and need a change of pace, I will work using this Lubuntu laptop. 

So, if anyone has been through in the same situation, they should give it a try installing this Lubuntu DE.

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