Linked by Howard Fosdick on Sat 7th Jun 2014 00:53 UTC
Xfce Over the past several years, mobile devices have greatly influenced user interfaces. That's great for handheld users but leaves those of us who rely on laptops and desktops in the lurch. Windows 8, Ubuntu Unity, and GNOME have all radically changed in ways that leave personal computer users scratching their heads.

One user interface completely avoided this controversy: Xfce. This review takes a quick look at Xfce today. Who is this product for? Who should pass it by?
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Not so light under the hood
by Hypnos on Sat 7th Jun 2014 03:18 UTC
Hypnos
Member since:
2008-11-19

While the XFCE components are lightweight and modular, they have some not-so-light dependencies. The power manager depends on consolekit, polkit, udisks and upower; polkit in turn depends on spidermonkey, a JavaScript interpreter! Similarly, the Thunar file manager automount plugin depends on consolekit, polkit and udisks.

I use XFCE, and agree with the author that it does a good job of staying out of the way. But I have removed Thunar and the power manager in favor of commandline alternatives.

Reply Score: 9

Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

While the XFCE components are lightweight and modular, they have some not-so-light dependencies. The power manager depends on consolekit, polkit, udisks and upower; polkit in turn depends on spidermonkey, a JavaScript interpreter! Similarly, the Thunar file manager automount plugin depends on consolekit, polkit and udisks.


And sadly, those dependencies make it less portable in regards of non-Linux operating systems. :-(

I've been a big fan of XFCE (v3) and Xfce (v4), but in my limited experience, it has become less usable on FreeBSD (my primary OS). While it works as a whole, some functionalities (especially power and disk related) require specific tweaking outside of Xfce to "make it work by different means", and those are very unpleasant means. Some months ago, I had tried to get "everything" running with FreeBSD 10, but I had to move to Gnome because Xfce didn't deliver the expected results anymore, while requiring many system services and using more resources than I would have thought. So it's not just about the amount of dependencies it will install, but also about the services it requires to run. That might be no problem when running Linux on a recent PC, but for older computers (non-multicore, less than 1 GB RAM, no 3D graphics card and so on) it's definitely not so good, especially when not running a tailored Linux (no mainstream "big ass" distribution which includes, installs and runs everything plus the various kitchen sinks).

Furthermore, I must admit that I miss the simple, yet "powerful enough" interface of XFCE (v3) which was a configurable CDE lookalike. Sadly, it isn't maintained anymore - requires Gtk 1, has no Unicode support and does not integrate with "system services" like Xfce (v4) does. Still it was very fast, had "hooks" to make things work (like dealing with disks with xfmount) and didn't require much learning. In this "traditional" sense, it was a perfect replacement for users coming from a Sun Solaris background (with CDE), but also easy to adopt for people coming from "Windows" land. (And I still have a P2 system running it on top of FreeBSD 5 including office, multimedia, graphics and programming applications - works perfectly.)

Earlier versions of Xfce (v4) were also on the FreeSBIE live system CD, and it's still a good GUI environment for systems run from optical media: to try out Linux, to use it as an emergency system, or simply for testing purposes.

Reply Parent Score: 8

tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

Honestly, that's more an issue of the BSD folks IMO; the source is there.

Reply Parent Score: 2

bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

The problem with keeping older computers is thus...pretty much anything made during the so called "MHz Wars" from 93-06 had ZERO time devoted to power saving so if you sit down and do the math the amount of useful work you are getting for the amount of power you are using? its just not worth keeping.

Lets say that older PC you are talking about is a late model P3, say a 1GHz. According to CPU world the CPU of a Coppermine 1GHz P3 uses 25w and of course this 25w is constant since there is no energy saving features in these chips. To give you something to compare it to an AMD Sempron quad in socket AM1 uses 25w WHILE giving you full HD (the Sempron is an APU) AND four cores AND an extra 400MHz per core AND full surround sound AND GB ethernet AND...see the problem?

Frankly the older systems made before the advent of the Core series on the Intel side and pre AM2 on the AMD side are really not worth keeping, the amount of power you use versus the amount of useful work just doesn't add up.

Reply Parent Score: 3

hobgoblin Member since:
2005-07-06

This seems to be the curse of "open"desktop.org.

A project that seems to have been hijacked by various individuals on Red Hat's payroll. Hijacked in the sense that opendesktop.org was about creating cross-desktop systems, yet more and more their projects require a very specific set of dependencies found either under the Gnome or udev/systemd umbrellas.

Hell, LXDE is jumping ship to QT as we speak. Merging their efforts with Razor-QT in the process.

Reply Parent Score: 7

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Opendesktop has always been about coordinating the common forms of doing things in different desktop environments. So while Gnome, kde, xfce and others are all different having common ways of doing things that applications can use makes everything easier for app developers.

I don't think cross operating system compatibility has ever been part of that goal. I think its mission should always be to make the best open desktop experience possible. Now, linux has so much more funding behind it, that they can spend resources on the desktop and related technologies. the *BSDs don't have that luxury and end up getting left behind as they can't keep up with the pace of change.

So what to do? Hold back everyone because BSD lacks funds? Or sally forth and design the best desktops for open systems?

I say, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Reply Parent Score: 4

diegoviola Member since:
2006-08-15

This seems to be the curse of "open"desktop.org.

A project that seems to have been hijacked by various individuals on Red Hat's payroll. Hijacked in the sense that opendesktop.org was about creating cross-desktop systems, yet more and more their projects require a very specific set of dependencies found either under the Gnome or udev/systemd umbrellas.

Hell, LXDE is jumping ship to QT as we speak. Merging their efforts with Razor-QT in the process.


Qt.

Get it right.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Not so light under the hood
by Savior on Sun 8th Jun 2014 08:24 in reply to "Not so light under the hood"
Savior Member since:
2006-09-02

Might be not so light under the hood, but what I am asking is this: is it important at all? What need do these "light" desktop environments serve at all?

I mean, they are all fine and dandy, until you start your first program. Any modern browser takes more resources than the OS and the DE combined, perhaps several times so. If you want to edit documents offline, you are stuck with LibreOffice (no, gEdit or Abiword do not cut it) -- not exactly lightweight, either. If you do programming (not in Python), you will need an IDE; and if you are so unlucky to be a Java programmer, you will need something really heavy, like Eclipse. Games? Don't make me laugh.

So I guess these lightweight DEs are more like a beautiful wallpaper: it makes you feel better for the first 5 seconds after your desktop starts up. After that, it doesn't matter anymore.

Reply Parent Score: 6

kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Might be not so light under the hood, but what I am asking is this: is it important at all? What need do these "light" desktop environments serve at all?


I think some people have the nostalgic idea of still running on decade old hardware, probably without a modern web browser.

For the rest of us, there's SSDs and tons of RAM.

Reply Parent Score: 4

Hypnos Member since:
2008-11-19

There is a difference between resources going to software complexity and resources going to multimedia. Software complexity brings a host of problems: maintainability, security, and vendor lock-in.

We can examine your examples by these criteria --

* Gaming: optional, doesn't handle private information, other software doesn't depend on it => don't care, just need RAM and disk space

* Browser: essential, handles private information, other software doesn't depend on it => a reliability and security risk, must remain vigilant, but luckily there are a lot of drop-in replacements to choose from

* IDE/word processor: same as with browsers, but less easy to replace with alternatives. I use the Unix shell for coding and LaTeX for big documents, but understand that these are not viable solutions in many spaces.

* OS/desktop: same as with IDEs/word processors, but even more difficult to replace. Special care must also be taken since many parts of the OS and DE run with elevated privileges. This is where one should demand good design and execution, and invest in platforms that deliver it. So far Linux works for me (I use Gentoo), but I might move to FreeBSD in the future.

Desktops are more of a problem as they try to strike a balance between Grandma-usability and being maintainable. I understand XFCE's choices given their limited manpower, but they introduce a problem.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

I think the idea is that the desktop environment should not be the one consuming resources, but leaving those to things like the IDE, Office Suite, Games, etc.

Reply Parent Score: 2

jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

First of all, I do have hardware that gnome and kde don't run on and XFCE does.

Secondly, a lot of the applications that I do run such as Emacs and a terminal, that use relatively few resources.

Reply Parent Score: 2