DDD #1: Situation of the Linux Desktop

It took me a bit longer to write this post (and when I finally did, I forgot to post it to the public). Sorry for that. But now it’s here – and like I promised, it’s introducing a new EERIE subproject!

Situation of the Linux Desktop

No, I don’t want to predict when the “final breakthrough” will happen nor do I care much for current market shares. And no, I’m also not going to repeat what Linus said about this topic – we all know it and if somebody really doesn’t, it’s easy to find out.

To be precise: I don’t mean the situation of the Linux Desktop at all but rather that of the Linux desktop. So – what’s noteworthy here? Well, I can’t put it better than a headline I read in a German magazine quite a while ago: “the desktop is fragmenting / splintering”!

Major desktop environments

Over the years many people have complained that Linux is not “successful” because there’s no standard desktop. There may or may not be something to this claim. The important thing is that it was raised in a time when there were essentially two big DEs which had such a high user base that other desktop environments were only playing underparts. Those two were KDE and GNOME.

Things have changed since then and ironically not in the direction that one of them established itself as the clear “winner”. What happened in fact is more like the contrary…

Forks

First KDE Plasma was released and left a lot of people perplexed. Some didn’t like the new style. Others found the system requirements to be ridiculously high (at that time). People who had used KDE for years were not happy with the direction Plasma was taking and were looking for alternatives. Some changed their default DE, some wanted to go on with KDE 3. Efforts of the later resulted in a new project: Trinity DE!

The other big desktop environment followed the same path; the idea was to modernize things. Some people liked the new GNOME 3, many others hated it (that word is not an exaggeration). The results? Same thing: Some former GNOME users were unhappy and switched their default DE and a few others decided to go on with GNOME 2’s codebase – and thus MATE was born.

Upward climbers

Of course this way DEs that were previously more or less underdogs were getting more and more popular. This is especially the case with Xfce which has been around for quite some time but has attracted many former GNOME 2 users since the release of GNOME 3. Another winner is surely the rather young LXDE: Anybody interested in Linux has at least heard of this light-weight DE today.

Other than that there are more noteworthy players now. First, there’s Unity. It’s one more modern DE that benefits greatly from nowadays being the standard desktop of the extremely popular distro Ubuntu. Another one is Enlightenment which already has a formidable user-base.

Outsiders

Apart from the DEs previously mentioned, new readers of my blog may be surprised just how many other desktop environments there are out there (I’ve blogged about them). Are those inferior to the more popular ones? Hell no!

The biggest problem with them is just that they are not well-known! However there are other problems as well. Many distros (especially the smaller ones) do not offer packages for these. Getting them to run on your distribution can be rather tricky and take some time and effort. In case of novice users it can also prove to be a barrier hard to cross.

The solution

Luckily many DEs offer Live-CDs so that you can easily take a look at them. But having to download multiple ISOs for that reason is also an unnecessary inconvenience. What about a single DVD image that comes with all Linux desktop environments?

This way each of them can be tested easily! It also has the advantages that you won’t miss some less-known DE and that you can compare them directly.

For those reasons I’d like to introduce project “DDD” which stands for “Desktop Demo DVD“!

What’s next?

I’ve already prepared the ISO for the DDD version 0.1. Expect it to be available during the next days!

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Linux desktop comparison (pt. 3): Qt-based DEs

This is part 3 of our desktop testing series. We’ll deal with the 4 Qt-based desktop environments in this entry.

These are:

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

KDE Plasma

KDE was the first big Linux desktop project. In the beginning it was inspired by CDE (Common Desktop Environment), the classical Unix desktop. Depending on the at that time unfree Qt toolkit, many people stated that a free DE should rather be based on something else (This was in fact why the coding of GNOME begun). Qt was later released under the GPL so this is no longer an issue. KDE has become a heavy-weight DE in the meantime – it consists of a huge amount of applications and there’s probably nothing you would ever miss there. All these programs are coordinated so that they provide a assortative experience and feeling. Since KDE version 4 the whole project has been renamed to “KDE Software Compilation” and the former actual “K Desktop Environment” is now known as “Plasma Workspaces”. KDE has always tried to offer a visually appealing desktop. Many people also like it because it is multi-functional, very configurable and highly customizable. Others call it a classical example for unneccessary bloat.

The KDE Plasma desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus virtualbox-archlinux-additions kdebase

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up KDE Plasma (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 + KDE Plasma (4.9.0)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 650340 kb
Buffers: 18348 kb
Cached: 181256 kb
Rootfs: 2001712 / 2.0G
RAM used at startup: 380312 / ~371 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 1347424 / 1.3 GB

Razor-Qt

Razor-Qt is a rather young project with the aim to deliver a light-weight DE based upon the Qt toolkit. So far it is rather “bare bones”: it doesn’t come with a lot of its own applications (e.g. no default file manager!) or its own WM (Openbox is suggested). It just offers a simple, light-weight DE; nothing more and nothing less. It’s a bit like “LXDE on Qt” – in its early stages. Definitely a promising project!

The Razor-Qt desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus virtualbox-archlinux-additions openbox
pacman -U razor-qt-0.4.1-3-i686.pkg.tar.xz

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up Razor-Qt (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 + Razor-Qt (0.4.1)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 911849 kb
Buffers: 9724 kb
Cached: 58784 kb
Rootfs: 885320 / 865M
RAM used at startup: 118803 / ~116 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 231032 / 226 MB

Unity 2D

Unity2d is merely the “fallback mode” of the Unity UI on machines that do not provide hardware accelerated 3D graphics. Except for it being build upon Qt, it’s more or less the same thing without too many differences. It is more than questionable whether this desktop will continue to be developed in the future.

The Unity2D desktop

Installation

pacman -U freetype2-ubuntu-2.4.10-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U fontconfig-ubuntu-2.8.0-10-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U libxft-ubuntu-2.3.1-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U glew1.7-1.7.0-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus virtualbox-archlinux-additions
Additional repository “unity”: http://unity.xe-xe.org/$arch
pacman -S $(pacman -Slq unity)

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up Unity2D (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 + Unity2D (6.0.0)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 616580 kb
Buffers: 25884 kb
Cached: 163848 kb
Rootfs: 2862336 / 2,8G
RAM used at startup: 414072 / ~404 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 2208048 / 2,15 GB

Trinity DE

The Trinity DE is a fork of the former KDE series 3. Not everybody was happy with what Plasma is all about – not even every KDE user. Because of this some people have volunteered to continue development of KDE 3 under the name Trinity DE. The next version which is expected some time this fall should fix all incompatibilities so that KDE 4 and Trinity can be installed on the same machine. HAL will still be used in this version but will be replaced in the future. Quite some new features have been implemented since the latest 3.x release of KDE. Trinity DE is for KDE 3 what MATE is for GNOME 2: More than just a “keep-alive-project”! If you used KDE in the past but did not like the way that Plasma took, take a look at Trinity!

The Trinity desktop

Installation

Additional repo “tde3513”: http://archlinux.us.to/3.5.13/i686/
pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus virtualbox-archlinux-additions tde-base

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up Trinity (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 + Trinity (3.5.13)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 823912 kb
Buffers: 18272 kb
Cached: 97764 kb
Rootfs: 2720876 / 2.6G
RAM used at startup: 206740 / ~202 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 2066588 / 2.02 GB

Conclusion

The Qt-based DEs are quite a bit on the heavier side in terms of general RAM usage. Trinity is rather high and KDE Plasma even higher, just as one would expect. Only Razor-Qt is a lot more slim than the others and doing rather good. I guess, we don’t need to even talk about Unity2d and the demand of RAM…

What’s next?

The next entry will cover some of the less common desktop environments.