Light weight Linux Desktop – Lubuntu

This is a guide how to install a bare minimum but usable LXDE desktop in Ubuntu very useful especially in cases like AWS instance desktop environment or virtual machine desktop in VMWARE and Virtual-box.

Ubuntu LXDE Desktop is light weight Ubuntu desktop guide for everyone who wants install minimum packages but have Graphic User Interface. The alternative choice is Lubuntu which comes pre built using [LXDE] (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) along with all recommended applications. The approach here is to achieve these objectives:

  • Use Ubuntu as a base system
  • LXDE as light weight desktop environment
  • Firefox, Network Manager as only necessary applications

Installing LXDE on Ubuntu

Installed lubuntu-core

sudo apt-get install lxde-core

It then had none of the extra software install. Originally I tried with --no-install-recommends but this left it too bare and seemingly with missing dependencies. After doing this I installed lxappearance and obconf to allow me to change the themes easily

sudo apt-get install lxappearance obconf

Install firefox without any recommended software as the addons are for Gnome.

sudo apt-get install firefox --no-install-recommends

Start LXDE

Install startx if no display managers are available

sudo apt-get install xinit

Select session manager

~$ sudo update-alternatives --config x-session-manager
[sudo] password for piotr: 
There are 3 choices for the alternative x-session-manager (providing /usr/bin/x-session-manager).

  Selection    Path                      Priority   Status
* 0            /usr/bin/startlxde         50        auto mode
  1            /usr/bin/lxsession         49        manual mode
  2            /usr/bin/openbox-session   40        manual mode
  3            /usr/bin/startlxde         50        manual mode
Press enter to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number: 0

Optional. If you have errors in xsession-errors to clear up

sudo apt-get install gtk2-engines-pixbuf

Logging Out LXDE

To log out from the session you can run the command lxsession-logout. This will show you a dialog asking if you want to shutdown, reboot, change session, etc.


Change Resolution in LXDE

LXRandR is the standard screen manager of LXDE. It manages screen resolution and external monitors.

sudo apt-get install lxrandr x11-xserver-utils

After installation you will it in Start > Preferences > Monitor Settings. There is a bug when it runs in vmguest – ‘Unable to find monitor information’ therefore we needed to install x11-xserver-utils to have native xrandr helping detect the monitor information. If you installed vmtools screen will resize to the window size from now on.

sudo lshw -numeric -c video
xrandr -q

Installing Network Manager

Install Network Manager this will be around 155Mb but without --no-install-recommends it is only ~10Mb. Then you need to restart X session by logging out and in. You will see NM icon in right bottom corner.

sudo apt-get install network-manager

By default it does not control network interfaces. Network Manager needs configuring after bare LXDE has been installed: Unmanaged_Wired_Network. The nm-system-settings.conf is now called NetworkManager.conf as written below:

Change Network Manager settings Start an LXTerminal session, then issue:

sudo vi /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf

In section [ifupdown] find the line managed=false and change to true and restart NM service:

sudo service network-manager restart

After a short while you should see “Connection established” message above the Network Manager applet tray icon.

Installing vmware tools

If you run your Ubuntu LXDE as Vmware guest you can install vmware-tools from ESXi, Vmware Player or Workstation menu. Then copy mounted CD, extract and install the tools.

mkdir ~/vmtools
cp /media/username/* ~/vmtools/
cd ~/vmtools/
tar -xzvf ./VMwareTools-9.6.1-1378637.tar.gz
cd vmware-tools-distrib/

Run installation script with all default options


You need to restart X sessions before any mouse or graphic changes take effect. Invoking vm-tools:


TO enable advanced features rg guest resolution fit, drag and drop, copy/paste:

  1. Manually start /usr/bin/vmware-user
  2. Log out anf log back into your desktop session
  3. Restart your X session
$ ps -e | grep X
20929 tty7     00:00:20 Xorg
sudo kill PID_here_20929
startx &