I have an older windows laptop onto which I'm installing ubuntu within a VM. My goal is just to use terminal-based linux tools such as vim and shell scripting. I don't give a hoot about any gui for this box.

So I first installed ubuntu minimalcd and chose "Basic Ubuntu Server". Upon boot, the text-based terminal came up and I logged in, but the problem is it only gives me 80 columns. I want to do terminal mode vim but have a couple hundred columns to take advantage of my large monitor. If you happen to know how to do that, please see my question here .

This post is assuming that the other question is not answerable, and that I will need a desktop to get more than 80 columns in a terminal window. So if that is the case, I want the lightest weight one possible, because this is older hardware and all I want is the ability to have nice big text-based terminal windows for editing text. From the ubuntu minimal CD, I see options for Edubuntu, Kubuntu, etc. Which one of the available desktops would be a good choice for my needs?


Edubuntu is just Ubuntu really, and Kubuntu runs the KDE environment, all of those are not lightweight.

If you are going for a desktop then you might be more interested in something like lubuntu or Xubuntu. Out of those I would think that Xubuntu is the lightest, although I'm not totally sure on that. Either way, both of those are extremely light-weight and designed for older hardware


For your needs I suggest you to have Lubuntu which needs a 256MB of RAM to work as i know. If you would like to have total Lubuntu stuff then you can use

sudo apt-get install lubuntu-destop

If you don't want any Lubuntu stuff then , type this in your terminal

sudo apt-get install lxde

If you're looking for really light weight, then just skip a desktop environment altogether. You can just install Xorg and a terminal emulator such as terminator or even xterm. You don't need a display manager or even a window manager for your purposes. You can launch the emulator from X's startup script. Then, login and run startx.

If gou want a bit more look into one of the very many lightweight window managers. I used to use IceWm a long time ago, but there are lots of options to choose from.

  • This sounds promising. I really do not want a desktop at all. I installed xterm, but when I try to run it I get "Xt error: can't open display" and "DISPLAY is not set". Googling tells me to set DISPLAY in my bashrc, but I am not running a bash shell at this point, right? I believe I am running tty, since the server has just started? If it is not obvious from the nature of my questions, I'm somewhat of a linux noob. – Kevin Pauli Nov 22 '12 at 17:24
  • The way I recommend is to manually log in, then run startx. Doing so will start the X server, which is a prerequisite for running xterm, and it will also set DISPLAY to the proper value. In your X configuration file, put the commands to launch xterm or a window manager. If you forego a window manager, you'll have to experiment with xterm's geometry options since you won't be able to move or resize it without a window manager. – Scott Severance Nov 22 '12 at 23:20
  • By the way, the correct value for DISPLAY is usually :0 but I think your problem was that X wasn't running in the first place. – Scott Severance Nov 22 '12 at 23:24

XFCE might be what you are looking for. If you want to try it out, here is the command to install it:

sudo apt-get install xfce4

Once you complete that, logout. On your next login, click on the white Ubuntu icon.

enter image description here

You should then see a menu that allows you to pick which desktop you wish to use.

enter image description here

Click on "Xfce", and then continue entering your password.


How about skipping X altogether and staying with a CLI or server install only using vim (or my favorite text editor - emacs) as your "desktop".

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