Linux desktop comparison (pt. 5): Exotic DEs

This is the final part of our desktop testing series. We’ll deal with the rather exotic desktop environments in this entry. Most of them are built on top of some unusual toolkits.

These are:

For test criteria and the basic Arch system, please refer to the first part of this test.

OpenCDE

OpenCDE was a project to recreate the proprietary Unix desktop CDE. However the original CDE has been open-sourced recently and OpenCDE is likely to be discontinued since its developers joined the developement of CDE. It is however a very light DE but also quite incomplete.

The OpenCDE desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit virtualbox-archlinux-additions libxpm
pacman -U opencde-620-4-i686.pkg.tar.xz

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up OpenCDE (with a second login on tty2) and used disk space after removing pacman cache. Here are the values I got with cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h:

Arch Linux + OpenCDE (620)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 971424 kb
Buffers: 7348 kb
Cached: 28084 kb
Rootfs: 739756 / 723M
RAM used at startup: 59228 / ~58 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 85468 / ~83 MB

CDE

CDE or “Common Desktop Environment” is the original Unix desktop that was often bundled with retail Unix versions. It was quite innovative in its time but today it shows that the opened source code of the program is really dated (it was last worked on in about 1999). And while this DE is not extremely popular with Linux users, it does have a certain user base and is actively worked on again. It comes with the full load of tools that were part of the DE back then.

The CDE desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit virtualbox-archlinux-additions
pacman -U ncompress-4.2.4.4-1-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U openmotif-2.3.3-archcdepatched-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U cde-git-20120828-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up CDE (with a second login on tty2) and used disk space after removing pacman cache. Here are the values I got with cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h:

Arch Linux + CDE (2.2.0a-alpha)
MemTotal: 1030548 kb
MemFree: 956616 kb
Buffers: 8748 kb
Cached: 34344 kb
Rootfs: 756248 / 739M
RAM used at startup: 73932 / ~72 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 101960 / 100 MB

Equinox DE 2

The Equinox Desktop Environment is the result of a project aiming to create an extremely light-weight DE. It has been around for a while but never got much attention. With version 2.0 released this year the project proved to be alive even though many people thought that it was already dead. This new version is a huge step ahead: EDE 2 is now fully FreeDesktop.org compatible. It just offers a simple DE – no more, no less. A very promising project!

The EDE 2 desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit virtualbox-archlinux-additions libxpm
pacman -U edelib-2.0.1-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U ede-2.0-3-i686.pkg.tar.xz

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up EDE 2 (with a second login on tty2) and used disk space after removing pacman cache. Here are the values I got with cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h:

Arch Linux + EDE 2 (2.0)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 959044 kb
Buffers: 8084 kb
Cached: 30896 kb
Rootfs: 832676 / 814M
RAM used at startup: 71608 / ~70 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 178388 / 174 MB

Étoilé

Étoilé aims to be a resource-saving, modular and easy to use DE. It uses the GNUstep toolkit and kind of resembles the Mac OS X style in many aspects. The last stable build is quite old now and the newest versions are not in usable shape right now (not even recommended by the developers). So if you like the idea of this DE, it’s more or less something to keep in mind for the future.

The Étoilé desktop

Installation

I have not been able to compile and install it on a current Arch machine. The screenshot is from a modified Ubuntu version from 2009. It *might* be possible to get the DE to work with a current Arch system, but that would most likely be a lot of work and it surely is far beyond my skills. If anybody is up to that challenge – please tell me! I would be very much interested to get the last stable version 0.4.1 (spring 2009!) working!

Mezzo

Mezzo was a DE that tried to go new ways. It places control icons in all four corners of the screen; system-related items are in the upper left, file-management in the upper right, restarting / shutting down in the lower right and applications in the lower left. It avoids nested menus and tries to abandon the concept “the desktop is a folder”. This innovative DE was developed as part of the now discontinued SymphonyOS and was never really available outside of it.

The Mezzo desktop

Installation

I have not been able to compile and install it on a current Arch machine. The screenshot here is from the 2008 edition of SymphonyOS which was the only one I could still find on the net. There has been a 2011 release as well, but I had no luck finding it. Honestly, I have not even been able to even find the source code for Mezzo, the DE I’m actually interested in. Looks like it’s gone (which is a real shame). Perhaps it’s not gone for good?

Conclusion

We have two DEs that could not be tested this time; Étoilé and Mezzo are interesting projects for sure but not available right now.
OpenCDE is really tiny in every aspect – with less than 60 MB of RAM needed and just about 80 MB installed (including Xorg)! However it also doesn’t offer much and is most likely dead. CDE does well with little more than 70 MB of RAM. It’s quite old now but actively developed again – yet it’s uncertain if it can be turned into a modern DE without breaking the CDE concepts. And then there’s EDE 2. This one is very frugal with about 70 MB of RAM needed. A great DE with a classical feeling perfectly fit for systems with low RAM.

What’s next?

The next entry will be a summary of all five parts of our test.

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