Second ‘e’, ‘r’ & desktop environments

We’re going to explore several desktop environments that can be used with Linux in the next five blog entries. But first a few words about Eerie’s goals and on how the DEs will be compared.

‘E’ is for ‘energy-efficient’

For normal desktop pcs often not much of an issue, an energy-saving system can be crucial if you plan to use it on any pc that operates using a battery (e.g. a laptop). Still I think that a little economical optimization does not hurt at all. Wastefulness is never a good thing and today even more and more commercial developers try to “go green”. IMO this is something that should be declared a goal right from the beginning: Software should not only be designed to be optimized for speed and size, but also to be energy-efficiently.

‘R’ for ‘resource-saving’

Got an old pc with less than 512 MB RAM? It can most likely run Linux, but usually it’s no fun. In times of tabbed browsing even just surfing the net often needs an incredible lot of RAM. Some applications actually demand amounts which are totally unacceptable on low-RAM systems. What to do in this case? Get some lighter programs, of course! But if we’re trying to optimize our system for low resources usage right from the start, one of the most important decisions is surely which DE we’re going to use.

Test candidates

I’d like to compare some of the DEs out there, especially in terms of how heavy on resources they are. It would be nice to compare how energy-efficiently they perform, too, but right now I have no idea on how to measure this easily. So for my testing, the ‘r’ has to suffice for now.

Yes, I know some of these are not at all suitable for an elementary system, but I’d like to include as many as possible to allow for a higher comparative value. The DEs which I consider to include in my test are (click for the project home pages):

So here we have 15 possible desktop environments to compare (did I miss anything that would be interesting?). I don’t know if I succeed in getting all of them to run on my test platform, but we’ll see.

Test system

I’m using VirtualBox for my tests. First I created a new VM and installed Gentoo (sticking more or less to what the handbook recommends). It’s based on kernel 3.3.8 and except for what the stage-3 archive contains, I’ve only installed sysklogd, logrotate, dhcpcd and lilo.

For the beginning, the base system has the USE variable set to:
-gtk -gnome -qt4 -kde -X.
I’ll modify it according to the needs of the particular DE to install.

These are the values that I got using cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h for this basic test system (with two logins):

System: Basic Gentoo Linux (kernel 3.8.8)
MemTotal: 1029388
MemFree: 1004248
Buffers: 1760
Cached: 8396
Rootfs: 2264068 / 2,2G

As the next step, I’m going to clone the VM several times and start setting up the various DEs.

What’s next?

The next entry will deal with the modern GTK+ desktop environments.


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