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Is the Linux Desktop Getting Heavier and Slower? 1555

Posted by michael
from the atkins-diet dept.
Johan Schinberg writes "Bob Marr wrote an interesting editorial about what many of us have have noticed lately: the three most popular Linux distros are getting "fatter" in terms of their memory footprint and CPU demands for their graphical desktops. Fedora Core 2 isn't usable below 192 MBs of RAM while Mandrake and SuSE aren't very far off similar requirements either. There was a time when Linux users would brag that their favorite OS was far less demanding that Windows, but this doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Modern distros that use the latest versions of KDE and (especially) Gnome feel considerably heavier than before or even than Windows XP/2k3. Sure, Longhorn has higher requirements than XP (256 MB RAM, 800 MHz CPU) and the final version will undoubtly be much more demanding, but that's in 2-3 years from now. For the time being, I am settled with XFce on my Gentoo but I always welcome more carefully-written code."
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Is the Linux Desktop Getting Heavier and Slower?

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  • That's why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nea Ciupala (581705) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:06AM (#9386518)
    I like using GNUstep/Window Maker on my *nix boxes. It looks great and it's a lean, mean window moving machine.
    • by xeeno (313431) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:38AM (#9386986) Homepage
      Because people keep insisting that they be as friendly and action-packed as a typical windows desktop.
      As long as the powers that be insist upon making popular desktops do everything without the need of a shell window, then they are going to be bloated. I don't care how pretty KDE is, it actually irritates me when after a default install of it I have to go hunting through the menus to find the well-hidden shell.

      This is what you guys get when you keep preaching that linux is just as friendly as windows so everyone should switch. You get the same kind of bloat windows has.

      • by silicon not in the v (669585) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:29AM (#9387685) Journal
        This is what you guys get when you keep preaching that linux is just as friendly as windows so everyone should switch. You get the same kind of bloat windows has.
        WAKE UP! If you read the editorial, you totally did not grasp what he was talking about. It's WAY beyond "the same kind of bloat". It's much worse. Systems that can fly with Win98 or WinNT are barely usable with newer Linux distros. This isn't about being "as bad" as Windows. This is about dropping off the cliff beyond that. It used to be that people not using Linux was because they haven't tried it, or couldn't learn to use it. Now, you're getting people who want to use it, have tried it, and had to abandon it and go back to Windows because their machine couldn't handle Linux. That is the inexusable part.

        I'm trying to adapt to Linux, but it's painfully slow. I've got a 300MHz K6-2 with 192MB RAM, but I'm going to have to try a slim window manager because KDE bogs everything down. My complaint is that it seems there aren't many window managers that are in a middle ground. I've looked at several of the smaller window managers, and they seem way too spartan. They're barely better than a straight Xserver. Can't you get wallpaper, desktop icons, a Start menu, and taskbar without the thing sucking resources like a sponge? That right click program menu is a waste of time because you have to minimize the apps you're running to right click for that menu.
        • by misleb (129952) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:35AM (#9387766)
          Try XFCE4... http://www.xfce.org/
        • by molarmass192 (608071) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:40AM (#9387836) Homepage Journal
          I've got a 300MHz K6-2 with 192MB RAM

          Christ, why are you running KDE on a K6? XP would bring that box to it's knees too. You need to use a lightweight window manager like IceWM or XFCE. KDE (or GNOME) has never had a goal of being "lightweight" so far as a know. IceWM offers a Win98-sh WM and pretty good about staying off the CPU, ditto for XFCE. You should be able to get a decent system running if you stay away from not only KDE and GNOME desktops, but their apps as well since they tend to launch a hefty support layer with them. Stick with QT, GTK, and Motif apps and it should work fine. FWIW, I had the exact same CPU in a box I gave away 2 years ago. It was a fine starter system when I bought it in 1996 and the fact that it run pretty much unaltered for 6 years is pretty impressive for what was a low end system when I bought it.
          • by molarmass192 (608071) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:45AM (#9387901) Homepage Journal
            Here's a great link [xwinman.org] I just found that covers a bunch of Window Managers. There's several on there I've never even heard of. There's also a lot of really ugly ones!
          • by _xeno_ (155264) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:05PM (#9388122) Homepage Journal
            I've got a 300MHz K6-2 with 192MB RAM

            Christ, why are you running KDE on a K6? XP would bring that box to it's knees too.

            No it wouldn't. My father ran a test XP system back out when it was still Whistler on a 400MHz or so Pentium II system with 256MB of RAM. It ran absolutely fine.

            XP, for the most part, will work fine on older systems provided you have at least 192MB of RAM. Any less than that and you'll be forced to swap to run any pretty much any application. As long as you have plenty of RAM, you should have no problem running Windows XP, even on older hardware.

            If you could get a useable experience running Windows 98 or Windows 2000 on your system, you should (with enough RAM) be able to get a usable experience with Windows XP.

  • Compared to Windows (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cmoll (646399) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:06AM (#9386527)
    In light of the Windowes System Requirements, is this really that big?
    • by vasqzr (619165) <vasqzr@nets c a p e .net> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:13AM (#9386632)
      Windows 2000/XP is very quick with 128MB. Like some users have reported, less than 256MB and the latest Linux distros are pretty un-responsive as a desktop. Blame the newer KDE/GNOME.
      • by nelsonal (549144) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:19AM (#9386728) Journal
        I've never had much luck with 2000 and less than 256 mb of ram, it does seem pretty tolerant of slow CPU speeds (I ran it on a P2 with 384 MB just fine). My boss is running it on a P3 with 256 and it's pretty unresponsive once outlook and ie are open (not to mention any other office programs). I would expect Linux feature rich desktops to have similar requirements to Windows, but thought the big advantage was if you don't need that you are not stuck installing/loading all sorts of features you do not need (use Ice or FVWM or something light).
        Back in the day StarOffice 5.2 ran about 10 times faster on a Windows 95 install than on a Linux install, I still don't understand that one. Am I the only person who liked SO5.2 desktop replacement system? Not that I don't like OpenOffice (it's my main office suite).
    • by garcia (6573) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:19AM (#9386715) Homepage
      In light of the fact that w/o tweaking, fiddling, or thinking my XP machine routinely outperforms a supposedly much faster Linux machine on the GUI side of things.

      I have a 2x400 Celeron running XP and a 1.8Ghz Celeron running Linux.

      Linux is obviously more rock solid and has a lot less problems with forced restarts due to updates and whatnot but I just don't think it responds as well as XP seems to.

      I know, I know, the Slashbotters will tell you that MSFT plays games with how apps load because they are partially in memory or whatever... No offense but if I have to take a small memory hit to make my apps load faster than a machine with 1/3 the speed then so be it.
    • Stupid Apologists (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pavon (30274) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:55AM (#9387228)
      As expected on slashdot there are whole ton of stupid comments exonerating Linux for one reason or another. Instead of addressing each of them individually, I will hit a bunch in in this post.

      In light of the Windowes System Requirements, is this really that big?
      Why does it matter what the requirements on the box say? KDE/GNOME are as slow or slower than windows when run on the same hardware! So the fact that windows has hich system requirements doesn't excuse the fact that Linux has higher ones.

      But it isn't as heavy if you don't run those Desktops and applications.
      That is not a fair comparison. It is easy to be lighter weight when you don't do as much.
      If you need to do everthing that you can do in windows, then Linux is signifcantly slower (mostly footprint and loading time) than windows.

      But Windows preloads thier applications.
      That is a good argument for Mozilla vs. IE on windows, but in most cases is not valid. Like the submitter stated, even third party applications tend load quicker on windows that most linux applications do in windows. I have used Linux for years and I can't tell you how many times I have gotten tired of the slow responsiveness of KDE and GNOME and have reverted back to my old TWM (or even more lightweight) ways. Where-as on the same machine Windows 98 or 2000 were quite responsive (just not very usefull for what I was doing).

      Secondly there is no reason that Linux could not preload common applications to make them run faster, and if that makes the system more responsive they should do so. But I really don't think that would completely solve the problem, it would just make the boot time longer, and boot for a Linux desktop is already longer than for Windows XP or OS X.

      So basically it comes down to the fact that it is (relatively) easy to write full-featured software and it is easy to write light-wieght software but doing both is hard. Microsoft is doing a better job than the open source desktops in that regard.
  • Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MoxCamel (20484) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:08AM (#9386552)
    Yes, Linux distros are getting "heavier." If you're trying to sell a distro, or if you want your GUI to be more feature-rich, then it's going to be heavier. However, this doesn't make the operating system slower, and the end-user has the ability to customize the OS to their tastes. This is the key difference between Linux and that other OS.

    I haven't heard someone say they use Linux because it's somehow "lighter" since about 1997. The face of computing has changed, and the Linux distros have changed with it. More and more users are using Linux because it's getting more feature-rich. This is not a bad thing.

    • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:13AM (#9386636)
      So I guess the term for Linux is "feature-rich" but the equivalent term for Windows is "bloated".
      • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by beforewisdom (729725) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:17AM (#9386686)
        I'm a gnu/linux user but I have to agree with this sarcastic comment. Getting a 1/2 dozen text editors, each with a bizarre user-mean interface is "freedom" and "choice". Similar situations with windoze are indicitive of bloat fwiw.
    • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skiflyer (716312) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:21AM (#9386754)
      Well, I use Linux because it's lighter. Now you've heard it in 2004.

      I don't use Linux desktop because it's lighter (at least not KDE & Gnome)... but I do still love the fact that I can have a fully up to date and function operating system on my old first generation pentiums with 64-120 Megs of RAM which act as firewalls/webservers/databases/fileservers and the like.

      I hate that there's no current version of windows which can make those boxes usable to do anything.
    • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Azghoul (25786) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:27AM (#9386855) Homepage
      Classic "You're wrong there is no problem" response from the linux man. I'm a linux guy 100%, and I'll update your obviously silly 1997 comment: I use Linux because the whole process is "lighter". This is mainly because I know what's loading, but I can't stand how slow it's becoming.

      How can you take obvious evidence of people hating the bloat and how slow Gnome/KDE are becoming and say, "No, you're wrong."

      That's exactly the attitude that drives people back to Windows...
  • Slackware (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArmageddonLord (607418) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:08AM (#9386559)
    This is why I stick with slackware linux. It's still the cleanest smoothest runing linux distro I've ever used.
  • by pw1972 (686596) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:09AM (#9386561)
    I can attest to this article.
    My machine dual boots Win XP and Mandrake 9.1.
    I'm using Gnome and sometimes KDE for Mandrake and when I'm in WinXP the system is a lot more fluid then in KDE or Gnome. I'm sure there are somethings I could to to tweak KDE or Gnome, but at least as far as Mandrake is concerned, out of the box, they drag ass!
    • by Vann_v2 (213760) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:23AM (#9386784) Homepage
      A lot of it is illusory. When dragging windows around, for example, XFree86 seems slow because it renders the whole process poorly. Things jitter and blink and just look horrible. In Windows and MacOS X things look nice and smooth. However, if you actually measure these things, XFree86 is faster. The same can be said for a lot of things. That is, they seem slower because the way XFree86 does things (which, by the way, is being worked on extensively thanks to people like Keith Packard).
      • by happyfrogcow (708359) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:50AM (#9387156)
        The jittery window dragging... that may be true for kde and gnome, i don't know. I do know that running Enlightenment (no kde or gnome) i get smooth moves. This is on a crappy rage mobility video card from 3 years ago, with something like 8 megs of shared video memory, and a modile duron 800MHz, with 128M RAM. So maybe it's the window manager acting as a bottleneck for redrawing. But as you said, that is why it is good to have separate layers that can be independantly improved.

        Another thing, if something "seems slow" to the user, then for all intensive purposes you might as well say "it is slow". If it gets the task done faster, but leaves the system unusable for 2 seconds, who cares? thats 2 seconds that you are forced into "serial mode" instead of a "parallel mode" of work.

        You make a good point, I just don't think it can be a general statement.
      • by GoofyBoy (44399) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:14AM (#9387471) Journal
        >A lot of it is illusory.

        Isn't that the point of a windows-based system?

        >XFree86 seems slow because it renders the whole process poorly

        So how isn't it slow? How does a display system just "appears" slow to the user, but it actually isn't?

        >if you actually measure these things, XFree86 is faster.

        And what measurement is that?

        If it appears slow, why isn't it slow?
      • by RhettLivingston (544140) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:42AM (#9387866)
        Slower/faster cannot be measured by clock speed alone. If it feels slower, it is slower. The reason is that there is more going on than just the movement of a window. There is a person moving that window. That person is likely thinking and may even be reading something on that window while they are moving it. If it is flashing and ugly, just the distraction from a thought train in progress may in fact "slow" that person's process down. It might even derail a thought and cause something to be missed that was vital. A concentration on speed instead of the holistic process of the common computer user (as opposed to the specialist) is part of the reason Linux is behind on the desktop.
    • by Xzzy (111297) <sether@tru7[ ]rg ['h.o' in gap]> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:25AM (#9386821) Homepage
      > I'm using Gnome and sometimes KDE for Mandrake and
      > when I'm in WinXP the system is a lot more fluid
      > then in KDE or Gnome.

      I did the KDE/Gnome thing for a while, until one day when I was dorking around with some opengl stuff and playing with some test apps.. I think at the point I noticed the problems with KDE or Gnome the most was when I was testing a physics library that's out there.

      Under Gnome or KDE (default config, though under Gnome I did kill off as many services as I could) I would quite literally get 3-5 fps on a test app that was dropping blocks out of the air and bouncing them around. It was unusable. On a lark, I swapped to twm for a few minutes to see if the issue was my machine or the window manager.. instant 50 fps boost running the same program. I've now sworn away using KDE or Gnome, and settled on one of the "lightweight" managers out there.

      I'm sorry, but if the desktop software is that inefficient then there's no way linux is ever going to improve its status.
      • no, they aren't (Score:5, Interesting)

        by eean (177028) <slashdot@@@monroe...nu> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:40AM (#9387020) Homepage
        They aren't that inefficient generally. Sounds like you ran into a bug of some sort. I play Neverwinter Nights in one X session (in Windows and Linux both, I suppose, you can use a game as your 'window manager') while multitasking with KDE in another X session (try doing that in windows!). It runs fine and doesn't have really any slow down if I ran NWN just by itself.
      • by pavon (30274) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:18AM (#9387514)
        That is very wierd, and I don't deny that it was happening, but it is not representive of normal performance.

        I have written open apps and there was not noticable difference between running them in gnome compared to twm, and I use both. Furthermore, I remember setting up X to startup running quake3 with no window manager whatsoever, and only saw a 10% increase in performance compared to running in gnome.
  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:09AM (#9386565)

    Those people that want mean, lean systems can install the distro they prefer. The commercial distros need to complete with other commercial operating systems, including Windows. So if they need an equivalent amount of memory, I have no problem with that.
  • by Brie and gherkins (778845) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:09AM (#9386567)
    am fed up with Linux bloatware, I'm going back to the command line. ASCII art rendering of jpegs is all I need, hell you can print a load out and staple them together and have a flick book movie. -Or is it all that Ephemerides software that comes as standard?
  • Fluxbox (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Avsen (556145) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:10AM (#9386577)
    Personally -- I prefer fluxbox's minimalism. It doesn't really matter what the distros ship with because at least you're given an option on going with a lean option or a feature-ridden one.
  • by FyRE666 (263011) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:10AM (#9386590) Homepage
    I use FC2 on my desktop at work and I'm often irritated by the long startup times for many apps. Although the machine there isn't anything special (P4 2.8Ghz, 384MB Intel onboard video, 40GB HD) it's a bit much to wait around 15-20 seconds for OpenOffice to load (yes, I do increase the memory settings), or 8 seconds for Ethereal (gui). Once things are cached it's not too bad, but still nowhere close to say MS Word's sub-second load time on the same hardware. I was under the impression that FC2 prelinked newly installed apps too, which should help to avoid these long load times.

    It doesn't seem confined to Linux either; I use w2k as my main desktop at home (also have an FC2 desktop and Gentoo on my server/router) and opensource apps seem to have the same long load times. I won't compare Firefox to Explorer for obvious reasons, but the delay is noticable. I use Agent (a closed source usenet client) and it loads in 2-3 seconds for me, in contrast to Thunderbird email client which easily takes 3 times as long. This is strange since Agent has much more data to load (subscribed to 15 newsgroups, some very busy and so have thousands of messages - including bodies on disk).

    Once apps are loaded in Linux or Windows, they perform well; It's just a shame that the initial startup times are the first experience you have of an app, and if you're drumming your fingers, it's not creating a good first impression.

    That said, I still prefer Linux ;-)
    • by tjwhaynes (114792) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:23AM (#9386786)
      I use FC2 on my desktop at work and I'm often irritated by the long startup times for many apps. Although the machine there isn't anything special (P4 2.8Ghz, 384MB Intel onboard video, 40GB HD) it's a bit much to wait around 15-20 seconds for OpenOffice to load (yes, I do increase the memory settings), or 8 seconds for Ethereal (gui). Once things are cached it's not too bad, but still nowhere close to say MS Word's sub-second load time on the same hardware.

      And why do you think that MS Word pops up instantly? Think about it - it's a large program split over multiple files, all of which have to be accessed before the program can be run.

      Now consider how long it takes to open a New window in OpenOffice.org once it is loaded.

      Finished thinking? Good.

      At this point, you are hopefully at the right conclusion - MS Word is already mostly loaded when you clicked on it to run. Almost all MS apps preload large sections of the core functionality in a standard install to improve responsiveness once the system is up and running. Alas this approach is also taken by a load of other apps on Windows with the net result that even though the desktop in Windows XP pops up faster on boot than previous iterations of the Windows OS, it can often be a couple of minutes before the hard drive stops popping and thrashing and the system becomes quiescent (and usable).

      Real start up times for apps are difficult to gauge even when they aren't preloaded. OpenOffice.org is a slow starter although it is leaps-and-bounds better in version 1.1 than it used to be when it was first released and I hope that the improvements in start time continue . That said, on days when I'm writing a lot of documentation, it gets loaded in the morning once and gets used all day without complaint. If I accidently shut it down, most of the files used are still in the linux file cache and restarting it is a matter of a couple of seconds of turn over.

      Cheers,
      Toby Haynes

      • by the_argent (28326) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:40AM (#9387024) Homepage
        I used to think this way too about why word loaded faster than OO. It's already got it's pieces parts loaded into memory...

        But if that's true, then why does word still load faster if I'm using the Crossover Office plug-in under linux? That removes all of the pre-loaded .dll arguments, now doesn't it?
      • by spectecjr (31235) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:18AM (#9387522) Homepage
        At this point, you are hopefully at the right conclusion - MS Word is already mostly loaded when you clicked on it to run. Almost all MS apps preload large sections of the core functionality in a standard install to improve responsiveness once the system is up and running. Alas this approach is also taken by a load of other apps on Windows with the net result that even though the desktop in Windows XP pops up faster on boot than previous iterations of the Windows OS, it can often be a couple of minutes before the hard drive stops popping and thrashing and the system becomes quiescent (and usable).

        Oh really?

        Here's an experiment for you.

        Download Process Explorer from www.sysinternals.com.

        Load Open Office.

        See all of those highlighted DLLs in the process tree? They're DLLs that the Windows application loader had to relocate because some idiot who doesn't know how to develop software for Windows decided that "hey, it can't be that hard", and didn't bother to learn how the operating system works.

        This can increase your load time by a factor of 20. (Not to mention that they have many more DLLs than they should conceivably need - they went overboard on refactoring everything).

        Now, the rest of the experiment. Do the same thing with MS Word.

        Oh look! NONE of the DLLs are highlighted at all. NONE of them required relocation. NONE of them required the application loader to spend a lot of time repatching the image to a new address in memory. What's more is that you can now use BIND to improve load speeds even more - by a factor of 5 for each DLL.

        Mozilla recently started making changes to do the same things in their builds. Guess what? Now, with Mozilla, you don't need to use QuickLaunch any more. And it's not because Mozilla is "pre-loaded" - it's because they finally woke up and decided that hey, Windows might just not work like Linux, and they should perhaps fix their app to work well on the platform they're targetting.

        Conclusion:
        Those who don't grok Windows are doomed to poor performance.
        Those who are arrogant enough to believe that most Windows developers are jumped up VB programmers will write code that runs like shit on the Windows platform.
  • Answer (Score:4, Funny)

    by toupsie (88295) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:10AM (#9386591) Homepage
    Yes! That is why I am not embarrassed to use Mac OS X and its Aqua interface. The problem really is an embarrassment of riches in the linux desktop environment. Like a rice rocket, you got slap on every piece of bling-bling your desktop you can find and the distros are catering to the trend. It won't be long before someone makes a "Type R" desktop.
  • It is just plain easier and quicker to write fat programs and deploy them quickly. It takes time to refine and reduce the foot prints of these programs. With hardware costs dropping there is not as much concern with trimming the foot print.

    Sadly it used to be that you could run Linux on just about anything. I install all my servers with out any kind of X environment because it pigs up too much space. It is a pain too because RedHat automaticaly installs all sorts of crap that is unneeded, so I have to remove it after a generic install.

    • by 3Suns (250606) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:51AM (#9387178) Homepage
      Yes and no. It's really an artifact of the software actually doing more. Desktops of the past used static, low-color bitmaps, aliased fonts, didn't thumbnail images in the file manager, weren't network-aware, etc. etc. Now we have transparent PNGs everywhere, slick-looking fonts and animated GUIs, and pictures and even movies previewed in the file manager. In order to do more, the desktops need to use more resources. This means caching alot in memory, which also takes time to load it there.

      It's easier to write a fat program that does XYZ than it is to write a sleek program that doex XYZ. But the past was a sleek program that just did X, so the comparison isn't exactly fair. This is why I disagree with Gnome's current trend of simplicity ahead of configurability. I don't think these two goals are mutually exclusive, and I believe it's important to make applications that scale downward as well as upward. A truly beautiful DE would scale up to where Gnome is now, which runs quite smoothly with all the features on a decent computer, but also scale down so that it ran as fast as Fluxbox or WindowMaker when you started disabling stuff. It's possible to disable features in Gnome, but doing so doesn't yield as great of a performance gain as it should.

      That said, Linux thrives on choice, so installing a thin DE shouldn't be hard. If it's hard on RedHat, then perhaps you should investigate a better distro... =P
  • The point is... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SnakeNuts (44263) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:12AM (#9386619) Homepage
    I think the important point here is missed: At least under Linux you _have_ a choice.
  • by The_Real_Nire (786847) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:12AM (#9386621)
    At least in Linux one has the option to switch between lighter environments such as XFCE, fluxbox, etc. when more power is required. And then you can switch back to KDE/Gnome to take your ever so 1337 screenshots.
  • by xiando (770382) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:13AM (#9386637) Homepage Journal
    Personally I run a minimal Linux desktop. I use Fluxbox as a Window manager, I do not have gtkrellm or any other fancy monitor utils running, I've got no desktop icons or other "bloat".

    Linux will be slow if you are running KDE with a truckload of panel applets. But this also applies to Windows: The more processes that are running, eating memory and using CPU cycles from time to time, the slower tasks you need/want to do will seem. This is obvious. It's also a matter of configuration and choice of Linux distribution.

    I use Gentoo but that's just my prefernece. It's much faster than other distributions for two reasons: A) I compiled it from source optimized for my hardware and more importantly B) the big placebo effect and pride that follows A).

    XFCE is another very good light choice for a desktop. Rox is a great file manager and much more snappy than Konqueror, Nautilus and other giants. I assume this too applies to Windows software, not that I got much knowledge of that OS -- I've heard it's gotten pretty spiff since 3.1 (last I've used, anyway).

    Another important Linux performance issue is RAM, many people fail to realize the amount of RAM you've got is just as important as how fast your CPU is. This, obviously, depends on what tasks you are doing, but if you count overall performance memory _is_ important. Like with all OS: Once you start swapping your tapping your fingers and getting annoyed.

    That's enough for now, since I want 3rd post (I asumme there's been like 20 new during the time I used to write this, but still...)
  • Performance Work (Score:5, Informative)

    by DreadSpoon (653424) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:14AM (#9386651) Journal
    I know at least in the GNOME camp there is constant work on improving performance, and especially in reducing memory usage.

    One thing you have to realize is that most users _want_ their desktop to do more. There's a reason only a small fraction of users still use TWM; it doesn't do what they want it to. And, if you want more features, you have to realize that it will require more resources.

    That said, there is a lot of code out there that was written first to Just Work(tm) with little thought of performance. Good practice indicates that, while you should keep performance in mind, real optimization and fine tuning should be done last.

    Current work for performance improvements in GNOME including sharing data between processes (say, icon themes), reducing system calls and X requests during startup, and general speed improvements in the various library calls used to make the applications actually work.

    More help is _always_ appreciated. There are several Plans of Attack available from GNOME developers who know what needs to be done but don't have the time. If you want to help implement those the other developers and users will be quite thankful.
  • KDE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 10Ghz (453478) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:20AM (#9386744)
    seems to be getting faster and faster. Jump to 3.2 was pretty big when it comes to performance. And Qt4 brings with it even better performance (application start-up time drops by about 20%) and mem-usage (down about 15-20%). KDE has been pretty aggressive recently when it comes to performance and optimizations. Of course KDE gets more and more eye-candy, but that stuff is completely optional.

    Is Linux less demanding than Windows? yes it is. If you want to, you can run the latest whiz-bang desktop from Gnome or KDE, and the performance will be roughy similar to Windows. Or you could use some lightweight UI, like Xfce. If you decide to run som graphics-heavy UI with lots of eye-candy, it's your choice, and you should expect it to be somewhat slower than some lightweight UI would be. But you have the choice.

    I for one think that the progress of features and eye-candy should not be held back by that guy who still runs Linux on his 200MHz Pentium. If he wants to, he can keep on using the UI he currently uses, or switch to some lightweight UI. Or, heaven forbid: upgrade his machine! If you have the hardware, you should have the ability to put that processing-power to use by using some kick-ass UI with lots of eye-candy.
  • Sad but accurate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bongoras (632709) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:21AM (#9386756) Homepage
    My first inclination was to hate this editorial... after all, I'm happily using Fedora Core 2 on my 512MB RAM 1.6Ghz P4. No problems here, it performs fine. But the more I read the more I found myself agreeing with his basic thesis.

    He's right. It *is* a shame that Linux needs more memory and CPU power than XP, yet still feels slower. It's also more annoying, btw.. in the time I've been writing this response, Rhythmbox with the mp3 gstreamer plugin, playing an mp3 from a samba share, has dropped audio three times for a second or more. My coworkers laugh at me when they send me .wmv video files and I say err, shit... I'm not positive this will play...

    Linux as a desktop os is bloated, slow and unreliable. As as Linux on the desktop advocate, I often feel like a vegetarian... sure, it's virtuous, but I'm stuck eating pasta and potatoes instead of lamb chops and meatball sandwiches.

    I'm just not sure of the solution. The author of the article is a little bit glib when he says "We need to put a serious emphasis on elegant design, careful coding and making the most of RAM, not throwing in hurried features just because we can." Easy to say. Hard to do. I know the Gnome developers and the rest of the thousands of people working hard for little or no money on the OS collectively known as GNU/Linux are doing their best to pay attention to elegant design and careful coding. The problem is that as many voices as there are screaming for elegant design... there are as many voices screaming for mono, java, and other "next gen" development tools.
  • Don't worry (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr. Neutron (3115) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:25AM (#9386830) Homepage Journal
    Everything will get much, much faster when Sun moves all Linux desktop applications to Java.
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dash2 (155223) <davidhughjones&gmail,com> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:26AM (#9386837) Homepage Journal
    Those of you who are posting stuff about Fluxbox, Windowmaker, Ratpoison, *insert your favourite WM here*, are missing the point, and need to RTFA.

    There is a huge segment of the market with 64-128M PCs who don't want to be forced to upgrade their hardware just so as to run XP. If Linux could run responsively on that much memory, it could own that market. But instead, modern distros are too slow.

    For this segment, Fluxbox, dillo etc. are not an option - they need the user friendliness of a proper desktop environment (help browsers, tooltips, proper word processors etc). KDE and Gnome could provide that - but they need to control the bloat.

    To be fair, I hear KDE has improved a lot in this respect, and my mobile PII with 192M is reasonably nippy running Gnome and openoffice. So improvements will come.

    But talking about the command line and fluxbox and all that is just irrelevant.

  • Library bloat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by milgr (726027) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:32AM (#9386910)
    When I was running RH9, I obtained a TK script to monitor my CPU temperature, adjust the fan speeds, and display the current temperature. The display is tiny. In RH9, it took 57MB! I think that it should take less than 1MB.

    In order to save some memory on my system, I started rewritting the script into C, using GTK2 (a good excuse to learn this library). After implementing most of the functionality, I found that it took about 17MB. I wonder how much memory it would use if I ported it to motif (or athena widgets).

    Things are getting better. I just ran the original script on my now FC-2 system, and found that it uses 8MB.

    I realize that some of the memory in use is shared with other applications. I am starting to wonder if we have lost sight of memory usage.
    • Re:Library bloat (Score:4, Informative)

      by Moderation abuser (184013) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:33AM (#9387736)
      "I realize that some of the memory in use is shared with other applications"

      I ran a test on our systems here, the average for a Gnome application is around 85% shared, so only about 15% of the RAM is actually new memory, that doesn't stop Gnome having a large memory footprint overall though. I imagine it would be similar for KDE.

  • KDE / GNOME roots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrysrobyn (106763) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:56AM (#9387241)

    When I saw GNOME under development, I never thought to myself, "self, now that GNOME thing looks to speed things up". Never once did it even occur to me that all that PrettyFactor would be light on memory or CPU. Is the Linux Desktop getting heavier and slower? If you use GNOME or KDE or any other "user friendly" desktop environment, yes.

    I've got a 486/66 at home running a mail / web / name / shell server. He's keeping up pretty well, but I must admit that console dselect takes a minute longer than I would prefer to start up. For his every day tasks, even keeping up with updates, it's more than enough-- so really, this is a question of the GUI end of things.

    I wonder how well it would work to introduce one of those reviewers to a very well set up and themed tvtwm2 or whatnot. You know, without all the Kapps or Gapps. I bet the reviewer says it's snappy as a rubber band, but it doesn't do anything (most of those setups don't have any easy to find buttons, you have to click on a blank background to start anything). I think under that environment, Moz, OO, Wine, etc. work, but the plethora of free apps that make Linux interesting to the hobbyist seem to take advantage of the easy to use Glibs and Klibs. The reason for the "bloat" (i.e. heavier and slower) is the added functionality and eye candy.

    You can take your lean and mean Linux Desktop, but don't expect it to run all the pretty apps nor expect it to have anti-aliasing and PrettyFactor3.0.

  • A big part of this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arvindn (542080) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:16AM (#9387498) Homepage Journal
    is because there are so many different widget libraries still in use. Suppose the user is running kmail in gnome, and browsing with mozilla, with OO.o in the background. Hardly an uncommon situation. But that's 4 different widget sets, and a lot of memory could be saved if all apps used the same widgets as they do on Windows. Sadly, choice is often not good.
  • by LizardKing (5245) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:21AM (#9387565)
    I have a 1.2Ghz, 256Mb laptop running NetBSD and GNOME 2.6 which is blazingly fast. Looking at top, it's using around 150Mb to run a GNOME login, Firebird, Rxvt and the NEdit editor.

    In comparison, my 1.6Ghz, 512Mb desktop machine running Linux and GNOME 2.6 is noticably slower. The memory footprint with a similar list of apps running (Mozilla instead of Firebird) is around 400Mb.

    Linux used to be great on lower spec hardware than Windows, but since 2.4 it has become bloated and slow. Glibc is also an incredibly bloated implementation of a C library if compared to those that ship with BSD's. The kernel bloat could be a result of the extra complexity ti run on mid-range, multi processor machines. Glibc's excuse is somewhat less easy to pin down.

    Chris
  • speedup tips (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kervel (179803) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:40AM (#9387835)
    why not turn this discussion in some kde/gnome speedup tips ?

    here are a few:
    - on KDE, a different style really matters. 'matters' not as in 'use -fomit-frame-stuff', but as in 'it really matters'. stop using keramik/plastik and use light V3, or QT windows. you will notice it very quickly, both in speed and in memory usage (very significant)

    - watch out with konq's process caching. keep an eye on the memory usage of cached processes, and if you see they are too leaky, disable konq proces caching. konq starts up quickly without caching anyway

    - tired of people saying 'its the nvidia drivers' for every performance problem ? i have to confirm this. I'm not talking about FPS in games or so, just basic GUI performance. for example, try the RenderAccel setting (also try disabling it, there are some problems that seem to occur only in some situations)

    offcourse, all of this is not an excuse, but at least it can offer some relief. i am no fedora user, but i wonder if some simple research on fedora could point out where the (perceived and real) slowness is coming from... i remember seeing success stories like "colorful KDE3 performance on low-end hardware", and i run KDE3 at home on a 233mhz 128mb ram at home (debian). But i also saw a (very) slow mandrake installation.. it must be possible to find out the cause.

    what tools could be used to investigate ? like xrestop, strace, profilers (but i have no idea how to profile a whole desktop and not a single application)

    ow, and some problems i'd like to know more about:

    - openoffice painting slowness. i can type quicker than openoffice can paint in some situations, in other situations its very quick. it doesn't even seem related to document size

    - gtk double buffering slowness... it started since gtk2, i don't know if it improved much (i don't notice it anymore on my new-faster pc, but i can see it in other setups)

    - some KDE apps (like kopete and kontact) have slow dropdown menu's, others have quick ones. very strange, i tought dropdown menus are just basic QT stuff
  • Memory is Cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mslinux (570958) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:44AM (#9387880)
    I buy computers for a large university in Virginia. Engineers, Bus, CS and Arch majors now must have a minimum of 1GB of RAM. This will get them through 4 - 5 years of college. It costs an extra 250.00 to buy a Dell D600 Latitude laptop with 1GB of Ram instead of 512MB.

    What's the problem? RAM is cheap and fast. It's natural to see apps such as KDE and Gnome and the Windows GUI use more of it.

    Also note that "Linux" is only a kernel... not an OS. Many on /. have posted this, but it needs to be said until all of the idiots out there that contiunally talk about "running Linux" get it through their thick, ignorant skulls. One should say that a Linux based OS that uses KDE is bloated... that would be true, but saying "Linux" is bloated is misrepresenting the issue entirely.

  • by Cloud K (125581) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:54PM (#9388856)
    It's part of a non-profit project...

    Anyway, if you want something that's fast, friendly and usable, I've found an excellent combination to be ROX (rox.sourceforge.net) and Sawfish as the window manager.

    I saw someone above who was trying to run KDE and GNOME on a 128MB K6/2-300... obviously that would be painful, but I've used a combination of ROX and Sawfish on top of Redhat 7.3 (might as well blatantly break the Redhat trademark rules since this is slashdot) with 32MB of SIMMs installed on a K6/2-300. It works great, and with Abiword, GNUmeric etc it's all someone on low income needs (or anyone else in general, for that matter).
  • by npsimons (32752) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @02:45PM (#9390500) Homepage Journal
    . . . in the middle with Debian.


    I've read most of the comments here at my default +5, and I have to say, I don't see how so many trolls and blatant lies got modded so high.


    I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "oh, he's just another Linux elitist who's going to condenscedingly tell me what to do." And you would be wrong.


    I'm not going to tell you what to do. I'm going to tell you what *I* do, and see if I can make any sense of the garbage that's getting posted here.


    I use Debian GNU/Linux (isn't it obvious from the sig?). Stable. Not unstable, not even testing. With a 2.4 kernel on P4's with a minimum of 512MB of RAM. And they all fly.


    I program. I write software for Navy weapon sims. I write software for my company on the side. I play NeverWinter Nights on my machine with an ATI Radeon 9700 Pro, while scanning photos, reading email and administrating the servers for my company and personal use. All of this flies, and [Microsoft] Windows doesn't even compare. And yes, I use Windows (ever heard of NMCI?). MacOSX? Don't make me laugh; I've used it, I've programmed in it, I used to administer a whole lab of it. It's slow and buggy. GNU/Linux runs fast and smoothly on the exact same hardware. GNU/Linux doesn't crash (unless I'm doing some obscure kernel hacking), and it doesn't "stutter" when I'm playing MP3's while image editing a 500MB file in GIMP.


    GNU/Linux allows me to do more and more things at the same time. GNU/Linux makes things possible that I never would have imagined possible on Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac OS X.


    But you know what? None of this matters. The only thing that matters to me is that GNU/Linux is Free as in Freedom.


    I don't know why you guys are having so many problems with GNU/Linux. All I can say is that I've had worse with Windows an MacOSX, and even if I hadn't, I would _still_ use GNU/Linux, because it's Free. Fortunately, in my not so humble experience, GNU/Linux is better in every sense of the word.

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