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Is the Linux Desktop Getting Heavier and Slower?

michael posted more than 10 years ago | 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."

cancel ×


Yeah. (-1, Offtopic)

Sevn (12012) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386513)

So's your momma.

Re:Yeah. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386558)

nobody has a sense of humor anymore. the mods will get ya.

Re:Yeah. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386599)

So you want my momma to kick your ass again?

Re:Yeah. (-1, Offtopic)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386654)

Heh heh... the "offtopic" mod indicates that somebody acknowledges "yes, you're right, my momma is a fat ass but it indeed was offtopic and should be discussed in another context".

I'm gonna make a career out of psychoanalyzing moderations on /.

That's why (3, Insightful)

Nea Ciupala (581705) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386518)

I like using GNUstep/Window Maker on my *nix boxes. It looks great and it's a lean, mean window moving machine.

Re:That's why (1, Insightful)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386676)

I'm running FVWM with similar results. I quit using Gnome when I realized that
any window manager can give me 4 terminal windows at the same time.

My take is that people who use computers as tools avoid using desktop
environments like Gnome and KDE because they just get in the way of getting
things done. People who use computers as toys seem to like the desktop
environments because there's lots to explore and play with.

Compared to Windows (3, Interesting)

Cmoll (646399) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386527)

In light of the Windowes System Requirements, is this really that big?

Re:Compared to Windows (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386570)

Yes, it is comparable. And you are not getting any more. Possibly not even as much. This is a sad fact - but not for me. I'm using ratpoison and lynx.

Linux desktop reform NOW! One unified clipboard methodology with user definable semantics!

Re:Compared to Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386586)

Yes. The XP desktop is a lot more nimble than gnome or kde.

Re:Compared to Windows (4, Insightful)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Compared to Windows (1, Troll)

TruenoSuave (675729) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386707)

In my experience, Win2k isn't terrible with 128M, but its far from ideal, XP on the other hand is unusable on machines with 256 mb without significant tweaking. Same goes for Linux.

If you want to run an os on a machine from 2000, use an OS from 2000.. how hard is that to grasp?

Re:Compared to Windows (4, Interesting)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386728)

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).

Re:Compared to Windows (2, Insightful)

FishFlier (604422) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386667)

With today's modern PC's, it's not too far out there. I think one of point the author was trying to make was that with requirements like that, you lose one of the advantages of a Linux based system. You can no longer claim (using the big 3 distro's) it's faster. Sure you could use Xfce or a similar streamlined window manager to get some of the speed back, but if you want same polished look and feel (IMHO), and really want to sell Linux on the desktop and workstation, you're going to have to make that performance/visual usability sacrafice.

you are missing the point! (3, Insightful)

BigBadDude (683684) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386674)

the gui stuff should NOT eat so much memory.

it just shows that the kde/gnome/whatever guys are trying to compete with each other and windows by throwing in the latest fanciest stuff without really thinking.

let me repeat it: desktop software should NOT eat that much memory. it only shows the low quality of the code.

Re:Compared to Windows (5, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386715)

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.

i think (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386536)

linus should sue the gnome/kde developers for destroying his work (no kidding)

Blame Darl McBride (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386548)

Why not give him a call at home, at 801-580-4767?
Yes, this is his real home number.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386726)

flux? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386551)

Fluxbox is still light and clean... with a bit of tweaking ;)

Well duh (4, Insightful)

MoxCamel (20484) | more than 10 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386636)

So I guess the term for Linux is "feature-rich" but the equivalent term for Windows is "bloated".

Re:Well duh (4, Insightful)

beforewisdom (729725) | more than 10 years ago | (#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 (3, Insightful)

MoxCamel (20484) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386694)

So I guess the term for Linux is "feature-rich" but the equivalent term for Windows is "bloated".

This is probably flame-bait, but yeah, there is a difference. Feature-rich implies choice. I can pick and choose the features I want. Bloat implies unnecessary cruftiness that I have no choice but to have on my system. Konquerer is a feature. IE is bloat.

Re:Well duh (0, Flamebait)

BigBadDude (683684) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386716)

then you must be one of those lazy gnome coders:

my could is not BAD, no no no, not BAD, and i cant hear you... la la la la...

what i dont understand is how something so AWFULLY BAD like gnome made it into a distro.

Re:Well duh (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386721)

I use linux because it is lighter, especially on a 486 laptop I still use sometimes.

The newer kernels actually work BETTER than the older ones on such slow hardware; they take no more memory and seem more responsive (scheduler improvements? pre-emptible kernel?.

I'm just glad the bloated GUIs aren't built right into the sleek & functional kernel. I am one of the lucky guys who gets to choose linux for my work environment, and I like fvwm2 (with my custom setup) even on fast machines. I just don't like all the crap hogging screen real estate.

Then there's my AMD K6233 home server. It would be an outright tragedy if I were forced to use up its 64 megs of ram for a bloated GUI, considering it doesn't even have a monitor. Yet that little system runs quite a huge range of services.

Slackware (5, Informative)

ArmageddonLord (607418) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386559)

This is why I stick with slackware linux. It's still the cleanest smoothest runing linux distro I've ever used.

Re:Slackware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386663)

Slackware + fluxbox are godsent to a lowspec notebook!

Windows XP v. KDE or Gnome (5, Interesting)

pw1972 (686596) | more than 10 years ago | (#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!

Re:Windows XP v. KDE or Gnome (1)

malamute5 (781936) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386688)

I agree; I tried to use Mandrake 7x a few years ago on a 233mhz and it took about 10 minutes to load. I ended up just disabling everything and going to command line. Even though windows isn't as stable, it's sure as hell a lot smoother.
I would suggest to the Linux distro people at Mandrake, Red Hat, etc. to cut to the chase and not include as much stuff in the basic install. The default settings for installing Mandrake didn't include neccessities like gcc, but did include a bunch of useless addons when I installed.

So? (3, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

I for one... (4, Funny)

Brie and gherkins (778845) | more than 10 years ago | (#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?

the sad part is (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386568)

i don't really feel im getting much in return

Fluxbox (5, Insightful)

Avsen (556145) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

That's if you're using graphical apps... (1, Redundant)

DroopyStonx (683090) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386580)

Use the console and you can run any modern distro on a 486 if you wanted.

It's kinda obvious that memory will be used up (and quite a bit of it) if you use a flashy GDE like Gnome/KDE.

I run Gnome all the time and quite honestly I'm surprised that it uses the same memory as WinXP to run. It's not an easy task to get graphic intensive applications to run on very little memory.

way too damn graphical (1)

svelt (777403) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386588)

i have fedora core 2 now, slower than ever. too many useless pictures that do nothing. > fluxbox!!

Mainly the startup times... (5, Interesting)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386590)

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 ;-)

Answer (3, Funny)

toupsie (88295) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386591)

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.

Re:Answer (0, Flamebait)

generic-man (33649) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386695)

There already is a "Type R" desktop. Gentoo is for ricers [] .

Well... (1)

Aeiri (713218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386592)

That's because you are using the wrong distros and window managers.

Slackware running the development version of Fluxbox is extremely fast.

Re:Well... (1)

Psiren (6145) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386681)

Fluxbox is a window manager. It manages windows. KDE and Gnome are desktop environments. Please, please, please will people understand the difference. If you want to compare fluxbox and metacity or kwin then fine, it's a fair comparison. When fluxbox can do everything that Gnome or KDE can do, in less memory, then you have a reason to brag.

True, but it is a fact of computer programming (4, Insightful)

warpSpeed (67927) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386593)

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.

Re:True, but it is a fact of computer programming (1)

xiando (770382) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386696)

Now why would you install X on a *server*?

Like I wrote in my 1337 howto (I use that at signature atm) a server should only be connected to a power cord and as many ethernet cables as possible. Spend the money on better keyboard, mice and monitor for your desktop(s), that's the ones you will be using. Servers should only sit silently in a corner and do their job year after year without being noticed.

I used to run XWindows on 8 megs of RAM (2, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386596)

I used to run XWindows on 8 megs of RAM. (circa 1994)

I think the complaint that Linux desktops are getting too fat is spot-on. Then again, does anyone really run GUI applications on their important Linux servers?

The problem is X (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386597)

If you GUI weenies would stay away from the bloated monstrosity also called X, you wouldn't need a gig of RAM for Linux. Quit being such pussies and get back to the terminal!

Re:The problem is X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386679)

AMEN SIR! damn pussies... all of ye!

Linux used to be light as hell (2, Interesting)

ALecs (118703) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386607)

I remember cramming SuSE 5.3 on a 386 with 4MB of RAM (No, I'm not kidding).

I totally agree with the poster about GNOME/KDE, though. I haven't run KDE since the 1.x versions. I currently use blackbox and I've found it to be very lightweight and, most importantly, it doesn't get in my way. It manages my windows - that's it!

I've tried XFCE, fvwm, windowmaker and many many more. I've settled on BB for now.

Sure seems like I should be getting more bang for my CPU buck though. What's been taking up all the space in software these days?

User Choice (2, Interesting)

HogGeek (456673) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386609)

I think any GUI is going to get "heavier" over time, as more features and functioanlity are added.

But what appeals to me is the option of not having to use a GUI. Being a long time user of U*NX and U*NX like operatiing systems, that is the biggest appeal to me.

what is more concerning to me is the lost of functions that some applications/programs are migrating to, for the whole "ease of use" thingy.

its a trade off (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386610)

If you want all the bells and 'pretties' you pay for it in resources.

If you want to compare to the 'old days of UNIX' we didn't go for all the extras that were not really *needed* , so yes, we were much more efficient...

But in today's consumer market, 'pretties' is what sells..

And keep in mind this isn't a 'Linux thing' it's the same story regardless of what you choose to use, if you start layering on a bunch of GUI stuff..

Not on Gentoo (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386611)

Things are faster than ever thanks to the CPU optimized builds!

Re:Not on Gentoo (2, Funny)

Apostata (390629) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386683)

Quote: Things are faster than ever thanks to the CPU optimized builds! ...and a babbling brook of clear spring water greets me everytime I turn on my system. It talks to me in a beautiful dulcet tone. It even works as a bank machine...with free money no less! Wow!

Move to Vancouver, hippie.

It's the infernal "Desktop Enviornments" (2, Interesting)

bahamat (187909) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386612)

Really, what is kdeinit for? Why do I need a gnome-settings-daemon? Can't the settings be written to a file like every other program on the planet? Does your file manager need to run 24/7?

While I admit that I've been evaluating Gnome 2.6 the past few days, and I've tried out XFCE, my consistent favorite is WindowMaker.

half the supposed benefit of Linux... (2, Interesting)

MarkEst1973 (769601) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386614)

half the supposed benefit of Linux is the ability to bring old boxen back to life, because they can't support bloat from Windows anymore.

I have an old eMachine 500mhz machine that is chugging along fine with Fedora, and I'd like to have it running forever since it's still a useful processor, after all.

If a Linux distro becomes as bloated and heavy as running Windows... well, there goes one of the cooler benefits of Linux...

So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386616)

I don't care, I'm feeling light and fast with Debian using evilwm on a Pentium Pro 200.

Is the Linux Desktop Getting Heavier and Slower? (1, Funny)

Sevn (12012) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386617)

Is the Linux Desktop Getting Heavier and Slower?

This is an important question. It's something we have to think about moving forward. I'd definitely have to say:

So is your momma.

The point is... (4, Insightful)

SnakeNuts (44263) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386619)

I think the important point here is missed: At least under Linux you _have_ a choice.

Re:The point is... (1)

polyp2000 (444682) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386643)

I was basically about to say the same thing; The real beauty of linux is you can have it as streamlined or as resource hungry as you want.

time to (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386620)

Outsource OpenSource.

Linux has the Option (4, Funny)

The_Real_Nire (786847) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

And movies used to cost a nickel (1)

Apostata (390629) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386626)

Look, if you want to experience the 'old days' of linux, uninstall X. Or, if you need X, use Fluxbox or some other low-overhead window-manager.

Bloat is the price of not only trying to match the leader (MS) feature for feature, but also staying ahead of competing distros. When KDE x.x comes out, all of the users of a distro cry out for it to be implemented - the people who package the distro have their hands tied as a result: do they hold-off from a leading-edge system for sake of performance, or do they give the users what they're crying for? Usually, the latter wins (note: some distros, like Debian and Mandrake, get around this with experimental package depositories for those looking for a nose-bleed).

Strangely, Mandrake 10 runs waaaay faster than any of the v8 or v9 releases.

The myth of everything being smaller and faster (1)

beforewisdom (729725) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386628)

It is a myth that everything is smaller, faster and can fun on lighter footprint hardware with gnu/linux.

IMHO this comes from gnu/linux having a complete set of command shell programs which allows SOME use of low footprint hardware.mozillas just don't cutit ( neither does opera ).

choice ... (1)

psycho_tinman (313601) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386633)

But we have choice, whereas Windows users do not necessarily have the means to lower their memory footprint.

I personally prefer XFCE, a friend of mine swears by Blackbox [] . Minimalistic, sure.. But you can't reasonably expecet to optimize both effects and memory footprint/CPU usage.

If you want the eyecandy, get a machine that can handle eyecandy style graphics. But rest assured that you will always have the choice to run on a leaner machine. Not necessarily the same environment, I consider that unrealistic, but you will run Linux.. and for an added bonus, you can even run KDE and Gtk apps on those "minimal" desktops.

Of course, if someone went into this massive optimization and profiling splurge on a major desktop, I can't say it would hurt the performance any... but on the rare occasions that I run KDE, I think it's reasonably fast for my machine, so I don't worry.

Those are minimum reqs (1)

Frennzy (730093) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386634)

The 256MB/800MHz minimum requirements listed for Longhorn are minimum requirements. (redundancy and emphasis intentional)

Have you ever run a Windows OS on minimums? The term 'excruciatingly, mind-numbingly slow' comes to mind.

That aside, one of the only ways to see a more mainstream uptake of Linux (and isn't that what all /.ers want?) is to add those same bloat features that keep the great unwashed tied to their Windows boxen. However, to my limited experience, Linux still seems to make far more efficient use of the code it has, regardless of the absolute size of that code.

What do you expect? (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386635)

Most desktops have the multi-layered bloat of GNOME with object dispatchers, stacked APIs AND the same structure for KDE as well.

Once upon a time applications and window managers were configured using text files... now we use bloated, illegible XML files that require a parser with a signifigant memory footprint to read.

Linux advocates are going to need to adjust their criticism of Windows to suit the times. Instead of one "registry", linux has a half dozen. Instead of DLL hell, linux has constantly changing libraries that break binary compatability.

It's up to you how fast you want your desktop (4, Informative)

xiando (770382) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386637)

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...)

GNOME heavy? (3, Interesting)

Tet (2721) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386638)

Modern distros that use the latest versions of KDE and (especially) Gnome feel considerably heavier than before

See, this just comes across all wrong to me. I use neither, as both are too bloated for my tastes. But of the two, it's KDE and not GNOME that the slower and bloatier. I'm curious as to how anyone can see it the other way around. Certainly on all the hardware I've tried, KDE is measurably slower. As a completely unscientific test:

leto:~% time for i in 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ; do konsole -e date; done

real 0m7.535s
user 0m4.559s
sys 0m0.762s
leto:~% gnome-terminal -e date
leto:~% time for i in 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ; do gnome-terminal -e date; done

real 0m4.399s
user 0m3.215s
sys 0m0.733s

GUI get bloated? Thats unpossible! (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386641)

What are you talking about, its not like the're sticking bloging or P2P [] into the GUI or anything dumb like that....

Memory footprint needs to be addressed. (1)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386642)

He's right -- the memory footprint needs to be addressed. This could potentially be one of those areas where the open source method can really shine -- you have people interested in making it prettier, more functional, etc. and you have other people that are efficiency freaks, looking for the memory hogs and slimming them down.

I'm curious as to how much of that big memory footprint (say, on a typical GNOME desktop) is code, and how much is user data. The reason I'm curious is because if the bulk of it is code (do an ldd of your favorite desktop app and see how many shared libs are linked in!) then you have a very compelling case for multiusser. All those aging doze98/NT4 desktops can become LTSP [] thinclients, and you put all the apps on a big server. Yes, the server needs to have a lot of memory, but not (256 MB * number of users) because all the program space is shared. You've got one copy of glib, one copy of gtk, etc. for the entire user community, instead of one copy resident on each desktop. As long as everyone is running mostly the same set of apps, the per-user delta for memory usage on the server becomes merely the amount consumed by user data.

Yes, Linux is getting bloated and we need to address that. However, when thinking about Linux as a Windows replacement, it's crucial that you have to play up Linux's strengths rather than simply rip-and-replace and try to have Linux poorly emulate Windows's strengths. One of Linux's biggest strengths is its powerful mix of good multiuser capabilities plus good network transparency at every layer of the system. This (along with lower acquisition costs, of course) is probably Linux's best available ticket to the mainstream desktop.

Fair Question: So what? (1)

LazloToth (623604) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386644)

Hey, I understand the Unix philosopy, appreciate tight code, etc. But look - - memory is cheap and getter cheaper. For what it delivers, most computer hardware is not exorbitantly priced. We see silly stuff happening, like $500-plus video cards for consumers. But, overall, nobody cares much when they hear they'll need 256 mb RAM or more for their home machine or their business workstation. As long as the software is DELIVERING something, who cares? Does anyone ever look for a new laptop or desktop that has the bare minimum specs for the work they're doing TODAY?

fluxbox/blackbox - greased lightning. (1)

flyingace (162593) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386645)

Use fluxbox/blackbox with all your favourite apps from gnome/kde all keybound using bbkeys. The desktop will work like greased light ! tis what I do !

Linux on Older PC's (3, Interesting)

Schlemphfer (556732) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386647)

And as Linux distributions get heavier, they lose another compelling advantage -- the ability to run on legacy hardware.

Fr'instance, I have a Thinkpad 600 with 64 MB of RAM. The thing is just sitting in a box right now because I've been unable to find a distribution that will run gracefully on this machine.

And when you think about it, 64 MB is a still a helluva lot of memory to be incapable of running a reasonably current OS. I'm sure (and I sure hope!) that somebody could recommend a Linux distribution that's suitable for a machine like mine. But it says something that I spent at least a couple of hours looking at various obscure distributions, and couldn't find one that did the trick.

X Windows (1)

Swamp (19020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386649)

Linux gets bloated as soon as you install X Windows.

My first (text-only) install ran OK on 4Mb RAM, though 2Mb was the minimum. Now the kernel is bigger and we use SSH, so you'd expect to need a bit more RAM, but otherwise nothing has changed.

Re:X Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386723)

Linux got 'slower' while Windows got 'faster'?

Good thing you guys changed your opinion so that doesn't matter anymore.

Performance Work (5, Informative)

DreadSpoon (653424) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386651)

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.

Are we going to let MONO push those figures even m (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386652)

As soon as Longhorn is out, MS will have a hugh lead in the memory consumption area. Are we going to blindly follow them, as usual, or are we going to stop and ask ourselves "do we need to make everything in .NET/MONO?"

I'd say the answer is NO! Java and .NET was invented to compensate for programmers not capable of handling C++. But when you are there, with an obscure bug crying for help, gdb/whatever isn't comming for your aid.

This post best evaluates the editorial (2, Insightful)

UnderScan (470605) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386653)

I am amazed that people do not realize that it becomes difficult to run NEW 2004 software on old 1999 hardware.

Perhaps the best post on this from the OSNEWS discussion on this editorial:
- - - - -
Anecdotal evidence --> meaningless conclusion
By Andrew (IP:
Posted on 2004-06-10 09:46:37
Summary of the arguments presented in this thread:

- My X yearx old computer with Y MB RAM is slow with the latest Z Linux distribution.

where 3 < X < 6,
and 64 < Y < 256,
and Z is an element of the set of full-fledged Linux distributions like Fedora, Mandrake, SuSE, you name it.

The meaningless conclusion is: "Linux is getting very fat".

How the author jumps from his anecdotal evidence to his meaningless conclusion is clearly fuel for a long thread, seeing as this thread is growing fast...

Of course... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386655)

As long as the question is "Can we do something we haven't done before" and not "Is this really useful or cool in any way?" it'll continue to grow. And face it, everything looks cool when it's new. Since computers have been improving so fast, there's always been something new.

Macs and Quartz Extreme is just one example, Longhorn another. We'll continue doing new things as long as we can. After that, we might start doing something useful. I rather liked WinSCPs UI, and it's exactly the same as Norton Commander(?) 15 years ago.

Try comparing it to woman's skirts. By now, it's all been done before, everything from mini-mini skirts to mopping the pavement. Computers are still experimenting trying out new things. Once they hit the limits, they'll start going "retro" on us. Until then, new sells...


There is a balance (2, Insightful) (311067) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386657)

Currently I run crux [] , this is a nice alternative to the bloated distros out there. It's a "build what you want" (aside from the 'base' and 'opt' packages). Personally I gave up on RedHate about 2 years ago, it's way too bloated and slow. I run crux with xfce4, it's light and fast, on my 500mhz laptop that does make a difference, especially when you are trying to get something done while compiling firefox :).

Seriosly, you need more space to build a fluid, friendly OS / windowmanager, but you don't need bloat.

I like having a nice core set of tools, I don't need three gui calculators and 5 CD playing utilities. There is a lot of bloat, and it's not doing anyone much good.

IceWM (1)

ThisNukes4u (752508) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386660)

IceWM is also a good choice for a lean window manager. I don't particularily care for fluxbox because its interface is extremely far-out, as in way different than what I'm used to. IceWM isn't exactly the best as far as that is concerned either, but its better.

Choice (1)

matticus (93537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386661)

The thing is that you can install any of the big Linux distros and install a lightweight desktop environment. I'm sure if you were using older versions of GNOME or KDE they had less hardware requirements as well. You have the choice-eye candy/ease of use/interoperability versus speed. This choice is as old as GUIs themselves. I still run Windowmaker on Debian on a 2.8GHz P4 because I don't use a file manager or any of the other modern niceties of GNOME or KDE. But can I fault them for that? GNOME and KDE are quite fast on my machine. I don't use them because of choice. I used the same setup on my Pentium 133 with 56MB RAM and it was just as usable. It's STILL just as usable. It's like complaining Doom 3 requires a much faster machine than Quake 3, when Quake 3 was written for the fastest hardware of the time, which now is considered dog slow. Quake 3 still runs on it though, and Windowmaker 0.8 with 2.6 is faster on that P133 than Wmaker 0.6 with 2.2.

Features (1)

gregfortune (313889) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386662)

I gotta say the feature set of KDE is not something I'm even remotely willing to give up. The beginning of the KDE 3.x series was a little worse than it is now and KDE just keeps getting more powerful. If I wanted to suffer with the standard features of the desktop on Win XP/etc, I might be doing a little thinking about something like Xfce which is more capable than Windows and keeps a very small footprint. Works great on an old laptop where KDE/Gnome won't even load.

It's all about features and I like what I've got. I've got the RAM to work with anyway and KDE will have to use up the 3 empty RAM slots in my box before I give it up :)

WindowMaker (2, Informative)

Gudlyf (544445) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386671)

This is why I've been reluctant to get off of WindowMaker [] for my "desktop". It has a small footprint and it's fast.

I'd love to use something like KDE or Gnome, but every time I give it a try, it's just so bulky and slow, comparatively.

eyecandy is not substitution to efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386673)

Maybe is a programmer's ego thing that makes them add every eyecandy/feature you can imagine, the old see what I can program and what you don't, but all this just to browse a web page or check emails in most cases?.

I think distributions should focus on the basic functionality and let users go crazy if they want every feature possible, not the other way around. Else the common Joe with the common box will feel isolated and stick to his "faithful" Windows 98, not everyone blows money at the last piece of hardware out there you know.

I for one... (0)

Saluton_Mondo (728648) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386677)

I for one welcome our heavy distro overlords!

My Experience (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386680)

I have a 100 MHz PC I use for web browsing on a stationary bike. It has a very small amount of RAM. No combination of Linux and Mozilla could provide me with a better graphical user experience than Windows 98...Linux was very, very slow on this machine.

And we care? (1)

amblin (1997) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386685)

Memory is cheap 256MB of RAM can be had for, as little as, $50. Gnome 2.6 runs resonably well, better than W2k, on my P3 laptop with 128MB ram.

Don't have the requirements to run the latest and greatest goodies, you have options. A cheap upgrade or run a less demanding environment.

Longhorn vs X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386687)

Well for one the Longhorn specs are way above of what you can even buy today.

But it's true you need lots of memory to work well. I don't bother unless I have 512 MB but I prefer 1 G. Now I have usability that I did not have before. I load a lot of apps and keep it going. I don't mind the extra RAM load as I have a lot more computer.

ITs not just the gui (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386692)

xinet is getting more bloated by the day.

Ask aynone who uses FreeBSD or NetBSD. I switched to FreeBSD and could not believe the improvement in bootup. The gui's are about as slow of course but that is only one part of the equation.

possix inet is more secure and many times faster.

That's because you didn't properly tune it (1, Informative)

ktulu1115 (567549) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386697)

Sick and tired of endless spyware and viruses, he wanted a way out -- so I gave him a copy of Mandrake 10.0 Official. A couple of days later, he got back to me with the sad news I was prepared for: it's just too slow. His box, an 600 MHz 128MB RAM system, ran Windows XP happily, but with Mandrake it was considerably slower.
I wonder... did s/he compile the lastest custom kernel for their hardware? Did they tune ATA I/O performance with hdparm? Did he disable non-essential daemons running in the background? I doubt it.

I had an old Dell notebook, Latitude XPi IIRC. Ran Windows 2000 albeit sluggishly... With a custom kernel and install of a recent RH/Fedora release it ran like a charm.

I don't think I've ever heard anyone describe their system with 128mb RAM and "ran XP happily" in the same sentence before. Definately friends of mine who have done plenty of PC repairing in their day would agree.

My suggestion is to install an older release of RedHat and just run up2date. Still not good enough? Try Gentoo.

Don't mark Linux off as a loss until you've properly tuned it. The same could be said for any OS for that matter.

Just my $0.02

Another Gnome Trolling Article (1)

Gilesx (525831) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386700)

Modern distros that use the latest versions of KDE and (especially) Gnome feel considerably heavier than before or even than Windows XP/2k3.

Why does it seem that lately, approximately once a week, an article appears on the front page of ./ with a subtle troll inside it? Are the KDE zealots really getting that desperate?

sluggish window manager? switch window managers! (2, Informative)

pomakis (323200) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386701)

The first thing that I did after installing Fedora is switch to my favorite window manager - fvwm! It's very lightweight, and very configurable (which is important to me because I'm very picky). It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of the likes of KDE or GNOME, so it probably isn't a good default for the mainstream, but my point is that the option is there. The same can't be said about the MS Windows environment!

(My only beef is that for some reason fvwm is no longer shipped with Fedora. I have no idea why. As far as lightweight window managers go, it's probably the most popular, and it's a single tiny RPM.)

not my gentoo... (1)

joeldg (518249) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386703)

evilwm [] has a small mem footprint and in speaking to people on freenode (developers) that is the WM to use (and I agree).
Bloat is just that and there is no reason for it.

Light is right (1)

cphenry (204895) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386706)

It is a little disconcerting, especially since a few years ago one of the most oft-quoted reasons given for using Linux is that you could use it on older hardware that couldn't use the latest version of Windows. Sadly, I think this happens with most software projects over the long time. Stay around long enough and keep adding features, and it eventually leads to bloatware. I think maybe some of the distributions could learn something from Mozilla project. In addition to offering Mozilla, they also have Firefox, the streamlined browser. I'd be nice to see a Fedora Lite or something like that.
Of course the real question is, what's taking up all that memory? Is it the new 2.6? The newer versions of GNOME and KDE? I tend to think the later rather than the former, but I really haven't given it much thought until now. Perhaps we need a new lightweight desktop/window manager, or maybe we should keep some of the old ones around.

All the nice stuff takes HP... (1)

fozzmeister (160968) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386708)

... Its a fact of life, but if you compare GNOME 1.X to 2 its amazing and well worth it, and even GNOME 2.2 to GNOME 2.6, the difference is amazing. Sure it may be a little heavy, and also if it was coded with speed as the #1 priority it'd be lighter, but its not, and its quite efficient for what it is. There isn't that much wasted really. and Nautilus (the only thing in GNOME which i've ever felt was slow) is way faster now than it used to be.

I do think that Linux Desktops tend to be heavy on RAM and light on CPU though, as apposed to XP which is more balanced on both, certainly its rare that my laptop (1.4 Ghz Pentium M) goes quicker than 600Mhz, but I never run out of RAM either (512Mb). And i do think that these are the sort of specs which are common (and thus GNOME should aim for).

Upgrade (1)

keoghp (457883) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386710)

Answer:- YES, But PC's are getting faster and faster, and if you are not upgrading/replacing your PC on a weekly basis you are not a true GEEK.

What we really need are graphics cards optimised for the 2D environment in general and specific OS's in particular.

There is lots of 3D dev's going on - perhaps the graphis people are letting us down.

The alternative of course is to revert back to that good old command line. At least then you had to think about what you were doing?

What is a first impression going to be like then. (1)

suso (153703) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386711)

When more an more users try to make the switch from Windows to Linux, are they going to be turned off because they thought it was going to be much faster, when in fact it wasn't much faster.

It's still more stable, but I'm already starting to see strange things creep into Fedora. I switched to Gentoo several months ago, but last night I installed Fedora on my wife's machine (There wasn't enough time to install gentoo). Now there are some weird problems with the GUI, like clicking on "add icon to panel" in gnome doesn't actually add the icon. I haven't had time to look into it, but it just seems like little things like that can ruin ones overall impression.

Needless to say, my wife was still impressed with how far Linux has come in the past few years since she last tried using it. So all of you developers are to be commended for your hard and diligent work.

linux guis on servers/ Vs. OSX (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386712)

I just installed mandrake on a 400 mhz pII with 128 megs of ram. The gui isn't fast, but it isn't horrible either. (It runs as a server so I don't have X windows running unless I need it). I've done some admin from the command line, but generally the gui makes things easier. It very fast as a server though.

Xwindows is an abstraction and cross platform and big (remote windows etc..) And the KDE/Gnomes are trying to add lots of functionality which invariably makes the memory footprint bigger. The more that gets added to the libraries the larger the memory footprint, if your using that functionality or not.

I use macosx for much of my development, I like it alot,(its sooo pretttyy) but its a ram hog (I'm running with over a gig of ram). So linux really isn't that bad comparatively.

Bloated (1)

katorga (623930) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386713)

Linux is simply bloated if you use a "desktop" release such as fedora or suse. Worse, Gnome and KDE lack consistent user interface guidelines far worse than windows does (no current OS matches the seamless consistency of interface of the original MacOS). 512MB seems to be the minimum memory to have for a full size distro.

I run what is basically my own distro, with a minumum of packages installed as the base load. It takes roughly 500GB of storage and 128MB of memory to run the OS effectively. I use Blackbox/Fluxbox as my wm for speed and simplicity. I also use Blackbox on windows as my shell for the same reasons.

buhuuu (1)

zal (553) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386714)

the reason that they are getting so heavy is that all that eye candy and stuff is what most people actually want.
You can Slim Down both KDE and GNOME quite considerably, and if thats not enough theres always your XFCE and even fvwm and friends.
So stop the girly whining and deal with it

Interesting. (1)

l33t-gu3lph1t3 (567059) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386717)

Perhaps the charges that Linux developers aren't innovating but simply trying to mirror microsoft are truer than I thought - they even bring in MS' feature-bloat..

Stop trying to be all things to all people. Choose a target market and go with it. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to be a current-generation windows alternative. Just realize that this is what desktop linux development is aiming at. Windows isn't big because of crappy programming - far from it. Microsoft is in the business of hiring the best software developers money can buy. Windows gets fatter because they're putting more into it. In that vein, so does Linux. Simple enough concept.

Here's a guide for using old computers: match the hardware and software. A 10 year old computer is probably best paired with 10 year old software. If you wanna recycle 10 year old hardware with new software, be prepared for a lot of work, or a lot of suck. Either way the result won't be very pretty, or speedy.

That's the price you pay... (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 10 years ago | (#9386720)

...for functionality.
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