Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Jun 2009 14:10 UTC, submitted by TuxJournal.net
Window Managers We're all pretty much versed in the worlds of GNOME, KDE, and to a lesser degree, Xfce, and while there are lots of alternatives, none of the smaller ones really seem to gain much traction beyond their fans. An exception is LXDE, a small and resource efficient desktop environment.
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Comment by flynn
by flynn on Wed 24th Jun 2009 14:55 UTC
flynn
Member since:
2009-03-19

I used to be a big fan of Xfce, but I stopped caring about 'light-weight' DEs awhile back because it's so hard to keep them that way. Most mainstream Gtk based applications use not only Gtk, but the Gnome libraries as well. If you try to install one of them it will pull in the whole Gnome dependency chain. Instead you have to go out of your way to find light alternatives that use only Gtk and no Gnome libraries. Sometimes it's easy to find a Gtk app with the same feature set as a Gnome app, but other times it can be damn near impossible.

I just gave up. I use Gnome now and frankly don't care about its 'bloat'. On a modern computer it does not feel slow at all, and the while it uses up more ram, I have oodles of it to spare. What was the point of buying 4 gigs of ram if I'm not going to use it? With 4 gigs of ram available the difference between a 50 mb DE and a 200 mb DE really starts to become minuscule.

If all you have is 1998 era hardware then it might be worth it to mess around with LXDE and Xfce, but on a modern computer it really doesn't matter.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by flynn
by kenji on Wed 24th Jun 2009 15:23 in reply to "Comment by flynn"
kenji Member since:
2009-04-08

...On a modern desktop, I would agree BUT on a notebook or any portable computer battery life is of great concern. DE's that use less resources extend battery life. It is less of a performance concern as it is a portability one. Plus ARM and MIPS netbooks would almost demand a lower resource DE.

But still, I don't care too much because I care about usability.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Comment by flynn
by dagw on Wed 24th Jun 2009 15:39 in reply to "Comment by flynn"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

With 4 gigs of ram available the difference between a 50 mb DE and a 200 mb DE really starts to become minuscule.

This I agree with

If all you have is 1998 era hardware then it might be worth it to mess around with LXDE and Xfce, but on a modern computer it really doesn't matter.

This I very much disagree with when it comes to Xfce. In my opinion xfce is every bit as usable a desktop as Gnome. I use xfce, not because of any sort of "light weight" or anti-bloat stance, but because I genuinly find it to be the the most usable of the three main DEs.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Comment by flynn
by qunying on Wed 24th Jun 2009 16:05 in reply to "Comment by flynn"
qunying Member since:
2008-06-04

I just gave up. I use Gnome now and frankly don't care about its 'bloat'. On a modern computer it does not feel slow at all, and the while it uses up more ram, I have oodles of it to spare. What was the point of buying 4 gigs of ram if I'm not going to use it? With 4 gigs of ram available the difference between a 50 mb DE and a 200 mb DE really starts to become minuscule.


I think is this kind of tolerance of the user that leads to developer care less to develop more efficient application. Saying go to get a more powerful cpu and more ram and you would get smooth experience is not the right way to solve problem. And that is why after so many years of hardware improvement, we still experience more or less the same speed feeling on desktop usage.

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Comment by flynn
by FooBarWidget on Wed 24th Jun 2009 20:27 in reply to "RE: Comment by flynn"
FooBarWidget Member since:
2005-11-11

"I think is this kind of tolerance of the user that leads to developer care less to develop more efficient application. Saying go to get a more powerful cpu and more ram and you would get smooth experience is not the right way to solve problem. And that is why after so many years of hardware improvement, we still experience more or less the same speed feeling on desktop usage."

Which totally makes sense considering how expensive development time is compared to hardware costs. I can write an app in C in 200 hours and spend another 100 optimizing it to death. But why should I if I can also spend $40 on a hardware upgrade, and write the app in Python in 60 hours, which still performs acceptably?

A lot of people complain about this increase in "bloat", but I call it lowering development costs at the expense of increase resource usage. Considering that computers are meant to serve humans it makes total sense.

You may argue that open source software is free, so there's no "development costs". This is not true: the developer of said software may have invested tremendous amounts of time, which are also costs.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by flynn
by ggeldenhuys on Wed 24th Jun 2009 22:17 in reply to "RE: Comment by flynn"
ggeldenhuys Member since:
2006-11-13

And that is why after so many years of hardware improvement, we still experience more or less the same speed feeling on desktop usage.

I can't agree more. I am a commercial and open source software developer. I am disgusted with the amount of bloat-ware out there! Our current computers could give us 100x the speed improvement with more optimized applications.

Just look at MS Windows for example: Win95 installed in less than 100MB of hard drive space. Win98 around 160MB, Win2000 around 200-300MB, Vista 4-8GIG, Win7 around 15GIG. It's totally ridiculous!!! It's just sloppy coding!

I take pride in my code and try to optimize all my applications using my preferred programming language. After all, I became a programmer because I enjoy doing it - and doing it well.

Reply Parent Score: 0

RE: Comment by flynn
by Doc Pain on Wed 24th Jun 2009 18:30 in reply to "Comment by flynn"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

Most mainstream Gtk based applications use not only Gtk, but the Gnome libraries as well.


Furthermore, the transition from Gtk 1 to Gtk 2 is usually complete. Sadly, this brought some discomfort, so functionalities (accessibility) that have been present in Gtk 1 are not longer present in Gtk 2, making things more complicated.

I'd like to give you an example: We're talking about X-Chat 1 and 2. In 1, you could select a server / channel to join by doubleclicking it from the list. In 2, you are required to move to the "Connect" button and click this. Because when you doubleclick on the list entry, it transforms from an entry to an input field. Okay, fine, let's try to add a new server. So we first transform the list entry into an input field by clicking it again (1st click = select, 2nd click = transform). Now we want to select some text like "irc.blafoo.bar" from a web page and want to click the middle mouse button in this input field to make the text appear there. Oh, big problem! While moving the mouse into the web browser, our X-Chat dialog window lost focus and the input field is a list entry again. Okay, don't worry. First select the text. Now back to X-Chat with the text in the edit buffer. Left "transform" click, erase the example context, middle click... middle click... Hello? Nothing! What? Doesn't work? Hmmm... worked well in 1 where list entries and input fields were separated. Okay, what a gain of comfort, need to enter it manually.

Or let's have a look at Gimp 1 and 2. Deachable menues are a fine thing. Let's try that: We click on "File", then on the dotted line above the first menu entry, done. The menu is detached. How can we move it? In 1, we could simply move it by the window decoration applied to it, but in 2, there's no titlebar on the menu. Let's try to move it with the dotted line... nope. Only chance (for those who know it): Press Alt and move with the left mouse button.

As we're talking Gimp 2 and the fact that you mentioned - Gtk apps using more and more Gnome stuff - let's try printing with Gimp. File, Print with Gutenprint... with what? Okay, never mind. The printing dialog looks quite the same as in 1, but... what's this? "/usr/local/bin/lpstat: Unable to connect to server" lpstat? CUPS? But I have apsfilter! Very uncomfortable for those who don't use CUPS in favour of a Postscript printer or a printer filter different from CUPS.

This is a nice example that a Gtk application heavily relies on a completely different program - CUPS.

If all you have is 1998 era hardware then it might be worth it to mess around with LXDE and Xfce, but on a modern computer it really doesn't matter.


If you're talking about resource requirements, you're right. But in terms of look & feel, of (avoiding) overcomplexity and of wanting to see an effect of having bought better hardware, I may disagree. What's the point of upgrading the hardware when your modern software runs at the same speed as before? Wouldn't you want to have it run faster? (I may say that I am not a regular Gnome user, so my opinion isn't worth much here.)

In the past, whenever I upgraded software ON THE SAME HARDWARE, it ran faster. Today, it always runs slower. Even if the new release of the OS gives my system a speed boost, it's taken away immediately by the "modern" applications that don't do much more than their predecessors (and sometimes even to less, or do it in a much more complicated way).

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by flynn
by FooBarWidget on Wed 24th Jun 2009 20:56 in reply to "RE: Comment by flynn"
FooBarWidget Member since:
2005-11-11

Or let's have a look at Gimp 1 and 2. Deachable menues are a fine thing. Let's try that: We click on "File", then on the dotted line above the first menu entry, done. The menu is detached. How can we move it? In 1, we could simply move it by the window decoration applied to it, but in 2, there's no titlebar on the menu. Let's try to move it with the dotted line... nope. Only chance (for those who know it): Press Alt and move with the left mouse button.


Are you using some kind of weird broken window manager? GNOME's default one, Metacity, shows a window title for detached menus. So does Compiz. I think KWin does too if I remember correctly. This covers about 99% of the window managers that non-power users would use.

As we're talking Gimp 2 and the fact that you mentioned - Gtk apps using more and more Gnome stuff - let's try printing with Gimp. File, Print with Gutenprint... with what? Okay, never mind. The printing dialog looks quite the same as in 1, but... what's this? "/usr/local/bin/lpstat: Unable to connect to server" lpstat? CUPS? But I have apsfilter! Very uncomfortable for those who don't use CUPS in favour of a Postscript printer or a printer filter different from CUPS.

This is a nice example that a Gtk application heavily relies on a completely different program - CUPS.


Which makes me wonder why you don't use CUPS. If you deviate from the standard, you (or the apsfilter developers) are responsible for making sure that it works. I don't think I have any right to call Microsoft Support if I replaced explorer.exe with LiteStep.


If you're talking about resource requirements, you're right. But in terms of look & feel, of (avoiding) overcomplexity and of wanting to see an effect of having bought better hardware, I may disagree. What's the point of upgrading the hardware when your modern software runs at the same speed as before? Wouldn't you want to have it run faster? (I may say that I am not a regular Gnome user, so my opinion isn't worth much here.)


The point is lowered development time. Suppose that back in 2000 you had to write your app in C in 200 hours and spend another 100 hours hand-optimizing it. If in 2009 you can write the same app in Python while spending only 60 hours, and the performance is comparable, then why should you write it in C? The time that you've saved can be spent on, say, implementing more feature requests, enhancing usability or fixing bugs.

The point of modern hardware is not necessarily to speed things up, but to lower development costs. To make it easier to develop software. You no longer need expensive and highly skilled programmers to get the same things done.


In the past, whenever I upgraded software ON THE SAME HARDWARE, it ran faster. Today, it always runs slower. Even if the new release of the OS gives my system a speed boost, it's taken away immediately by the "modern" applications that don't do much more than their predecessors (and sometimes even to less, or do it in a much more complicated way).


No idea what you're talking about. I remember that back in 2003 I had 128 MB RAM and my GNOME and KDE desktops kept swapping after some usage, which slowed everything down. With every hardware upgrade I've gotten since then, my desktop had only become faster. Never had things become slower.

I'm very suspicious of any "bloat" claims about GNOME and KDE 3 (don't know about 4). Their resource usages haven't increased significantly since 2004 or something. In the past few years they've even spent time optimizing memory usage and I/O times.

The only exception is Firefox, but I blame Flash. It's always Flash sites that make Firefox slow; if I avoid the Flash sites then Firefox is very snappy.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by flynn
by Morgan on Thu 25th Jun 2009 13:30 in reply to "RE: Comment by flynn"
Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

If you're talking about resource requirements, you're right. But in terms of look & feel, of (avoiding) overcomplexity and of wanting to see an effect of having bought better hardware, I may disagree. What's the point of upgrading the hardware when your modern software runs at the same speed as before? Wouldn't you want to have it run faster? (I may say that I am not a regular Gnome user, so my opinion isn't worth much here.)


That's the thing that's always bothered me about the hardware/software rat race. Looking at it from a gaming standpoint, take an old game like Quake II vs a modern game like Crysis. Back when Quake II was released, any decent 3D card and a Pentium 120MHz could net you smooth graphics at around 30fps, very playable. A couple years later when it hit the bargain bin at $10 and people like me could afford it, a Pentium 200MMX and a Voodoo 3 PCI card would play the hell out of it at 60fps with beautiful graphics. Today, I can fire it up on the main PC, a budget nForce 720a based system with a single core AMD processor and using the onboard video, and get close to 200fps with all the visual bells and whistles turned on.

Now take Crysis, which when released would barely run on the best hardware available at the time! Fast forward two years and you still need very expensive, current hardware to come close to seeing it in all its glory. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes 15 or more years before we see better than 60 fps with all effects enabled on less than top of the line hardware.

Then again, I'd hope that in 15 years we will have moved away from x86 altogether.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Comment by flynn
by lemur2 on Thu 25th Jun 2009 00:05 in reply to "Comment by flynn"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

I used to be a big fan of Xfce, but I stopped caring about 'light-weight' DEs awhile back because it's so hard to keep them that way. Most mainstream Gtk based applications use not only Gtk, but the Gnome libraries as well. If you try to install one of them it will pull in the whole Gnome dependency chain. Instead you have to go out of your way to find light alternatives that use only Gtk and no Gnome libraries. Sometimes it's easy to find a Gtk app with the same feature set as a Gnome app, but other times it can be damn near impossible. I just gave up. I use Gnome now and frankly don't care about its 'bloat'. On a modern computer it does not feel slow at all, and the while it uses up more ram, I have oodles of it to spare. What was the point of buying 4 gigs of ram if I'm not going to use it? With 4 gigs of ram available the difference between a 50 mb DE and a 200 mb DE really starts to become minuscule. If all you have is 1998 era hardware then it might be worth it to mess around with LXDE and Xfce, but on a modern computer it really doesn't matter.


KDE4 seems to be going in the other direction. It is by no means small and it does not lack features, but nevertheless it is getting faster and faster (especially as the graphics driver issues which used to slow it down are finally getting resolved).

If you use a recent distribution with a quick boot, and a decent working graphics driver that enables hardware accelerated graphics, in conjunction with the preload daemon on a system with 1GB or more RAM, recently KDE4 has become as "snappy" and responsive as any lightweight desktop system ... yet it is far more feature complete.

Look for some Qt-based applications and run them under KDE4 ... it solves this issue quite well without compromising on functionality or usability.

Reply Parent Score: 4