Desktop environments on a diet

I have been very lucky. I have managed to not have had to purchase a computer (other than my wife’s) since 2000! I get hand-me-downs and corporate toss-aways when they are obsolete and/or replaced. I have only recently gotten computer with more than one core!

When a system struggles too much, I switch to a lighter desktop (Xfce or LXDE), but a number of systems are able to handle the modern environments. They could just be a little more “snappy” to make the interactions slightly more enjoyable.

Question: What tweaks, settings and/or configurations have you found that can help make your desktop environment “feel” lighter, and be more responsive?

Some tweaks that have little or no perceived improvement on a modern system (e.g. running 8 cores, more than 12GB of RAM and an SSD) can make a profound difference on weaker systems.

So what tweaks do you use to improve the performance on your system?

On Wed 17 Dec 2014 02:26:01 PM CST, dragonbite wrote:

I have been very lucky. I have managed to not have had to purchase a
computer (other than my wife’s) since 2000! I get hand-me-downs and
corporate toss-aways when they are obsolete and/or replaced. I have
only recently gotten computer with more than one core!

When a system struggles too much, I switch to a lighter desktop (Xfce or
LXDE), but a number of systems are able to handle the modern
environments. They could just be a little more “snappy” to make the
interactions slightly more enjoyable.

Question: -What tweaks, settings and/or configurations have you found
that can help make your desktop environment “feel” lighter, and be more
responsive?
-

Some tweaks that have little or no perceived improvement on a modern
system (-e.g. running 8 cores, more than 12GB of RAM and an SSD-) can
make a profound difference on weaker systems.

So what tweaks do you use to improve the performance on your system?

Hi
With ATI gpu’s running radeon, set the power to low, set swapiness
down, and a ssd of course :wink: If the system can handle more ram (see
dmidecode and check manufacturers specs) ~8GB.

For day to day stuff my laptops are only dual core, but rock along
nicely at 1.9GHz, for packaging and building locally the more cores the
better…

It really does vary on your use case… I find the GNOME shell fine,
seems snappy to me?


Cheers Malcolm °¿° LFCS, SUSE Knowledge Partner (Linux Counter #276890)
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 12 GNOME 3.10.1 Kernel 3.12.28-4-default
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please show your appreciation and click on the star below… Thanks!

The laptop isn’t bad… it’s handling things. Plus the SSD is a nice touch :slight_smile:

I just got a couple of old desktops from work with wiped hard drives I am re-purposing, and a really old (and severely weak) netbook I am trying to make it “useable”.

One trick I’ve heard of, but haven’t implemented lately, is running /var (log files) in RAM. I’ll have to see if I can dig up the notes that goes over that.

Music Server! lol!

On Wed 17 Dec 2014 03:56:02 PM CST, dragonbite wrote:

The laptop isn’t bad… it’s handling things. Plus the SSD is a nice
touch :slight_smile:

I just got a couple of old desktops from work with wiped hard drives I
am re-purposing, and a really old (and severely weak) netbook I am
trying to make it “useable”.

One trick I’ve heard of, but haven’t implemented lately, is running /var
(log files) in RAM. I’ll have to see if I can dig up the notes that
goes over that.

Hi
Or wind down what is being logged if it’s running ok…?

What model netbook?


Cheers Malcolm °¿° LFCS, SUSE Knowledge Partner (Linux Counter #276890)
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 12 GNOME 3.10.1 Kernel 3.12.28-4-default
If you find this post helpful and are logged into the web interface,
please show your appreciation and click on the star below… Thanks!

An old Gateway… 1.2 GHz AMD Athalon(?).

My oldest system is 2004 vintage, 32-bit.

I turn off desktop effects in KDE, though mostly because the radeon driver has problems with them on.

I sometimes use “Icewm” rather than “KDE”. I’m not sure that it make a lot of difference. The login is much faster with “icewm”. But once everything has started, “KDE” seems to be pretty efficient. They have somehow managed to put most of the overhead in desktop startup.

The really big difference is using “zypper patch” rather than Yast online update. Yast is a dog on that system, perhaps due to insufficient RAM (1.2G).

My next oldest is 2007 vintage, 64-bit, 2G of RAM. It is still quite spritely in spite of its age. Newer systems are faster, but nothing is seriously slow on that 2007 box.

I have not considered an SSD on either of those. The 2004 system still uses an IDE disk, while the 2007 is SATA-1. I’m not sure whether SSD is even worthwhile for anything less than SATA 3.

If you want to install openSUSE 13.2
Use xfce remove things you don’t need before proceeding
customized the app you want to install, when done.
Add e19 from the openSUSE repo and use it instead of xfce.
You will have a light and pretty DE.

https://flexion.org/posts/2014-03-memory-consumption-of-linux-desktop-environments.html might give some inspiration for “what to use” but dumb numbers are dumb. If you look at KDE it has akonadi and what follows active. You should of course disable, then lovely mysql database vanish too. “Desktop Search” can be disabled in KDE. There will be more to do in KDE here and there. So if a bigger DE has some flexibility when it comes to tuning, that might level the field somewhat compared to lighter DEs.

Also tables or general statements, like on forums, do not show is how memory is handled over time. If memory leaks or other evils pop up left and right what use is boot up result? If you use a horrible ram eating program at all times then no tweaking will help. Think I have settled for KDE because it let me easily remove its “bloat” and then it is light enough. But right now there is one process which just slowly grow and grow, “kded4” or power management. Think it is fixed by KDE just not out the door yet. I trust system monitor tool more than KDE :slight_smile:

I tested MATE on Debian recently and “connect to server” feature in file manager was not installed per default. So I did it. Hello to 9 new gvfs processes :slight_smile: - and more ram used of course. MATE is nice but if you try it out check memory usage of those panel applets. Not what I would call light. Things change per your actions. May be not always for the better.

Keep close eye on DE options and running processes, also how they behave over time. Is my tweak.

I ran in to a mile long thread on other forum about Conky setups, 100s of them! http://crunchbang.org/forums/viewtopic.php?id=33811 thought is was silly and typical number juggling thingy. Have changed mind. Made a minimal panel sitting on top pushing down everything. Shows cpu usage for all cores, ram usage, caching, buffers and some more. Another less visible conky show X processes sorted by cpu and memory usage. After some time you learn what draw power and what is light - and also how numbers go up and down. If for example Firefox seem locked at 1.6GB there is or has been an issue. On Youtube what is diff. in cpu usage, HTML5 vs. Flash for various video quality settings - or may be even stock video driver vs. one from factory. And what does that Xorg actually do during this??? Things like that you can spot without lifting a finger, always nice. Can perhaps also put “what people say” to death. Like on KDE, do you ever notice Akonadi, Baloo, Mysql? - or is it only a bad “feeling”? :slight_smile: Or it was true, in 2012 but less now. Updates has bug fixes etc. so result can change for the better.

when we are talking about tweaking, kde is the king. i an running the opensuse KDE with the following tweaks:
disable all desktop effects
disable bouncing cursor

for me, that is all,

Have you considered OpenBSD? It comes with X installed, very lightweight version, and the installxx.iso is less than 230 megabytes!

That works with very old equipment!

On 2014-12-17 16:56, dragonbite wrote:
> One trick I’ve heard of, but haven’t implemented lately, is running /var
> (log files) in RAM. I’ll have to see if I can dig up the notes that
> goes over that.

I doubt it. If we are talking of old machines, ram is scarce. You’d get
a bigger general benefit using ram for cache, of every disk operation,
not only logs.


Cheers / Saludos,

Carlos E. R.
(from 13.1 x86_64 “Bottle” at Telcontar)

On 2014-12-17 15:26, dragonbite wrote:

> So what tweaks do you use to improve the performance on your system?

I have an old laptop which I use as 24*7 server. It has just 500 MiB RAM
and 80 GB HD, with a single core P-IV, supplemented with an external
500GB HD via USB. It does its tasks just fine, but the desktop is not
snappy (I use xfce). Not really the desktop itself, but trying to use
Firefox is, because it is memory hungry and the machine doesn’t have enough.

A tweak I have done in the past is recompile the kernel for the exact
CPU the machine has. But to be of consequence you need rebuilding a
bunch of other applications and libraries. You feel it if you run a lot
a certain app, and you can rebuild it.

The 32 bit distribution is built for a very low end common denominator
CPU, so that even a P-IV is more powerful; thus rebuilding for it has
some gain.

Arguably, of course: in some situations you notice, on others you don’t.


Cheers / Saludos,

Carlos E. R.
(from 13.1 x86_64 “Bottle” at Telcontar)

Follow up to https://forums.opensuse.org/showthread.php/503588-Desktop-environments-on-a-diet?p=2683633#post2683633

The thing about disabling power management in startup and shutdown does seem to lock down that kded4 process as in not leaking memory but there is a problem. When I log out and log in a new activity is created, with the lovely green wallpaper. Every single time so activities accumulate in evil loop. Turns out this is a side effect of disabling power management so “tweak” is **** and back to weird memory leak.

I wonder how many have done this because there are bug entries at KDE site about mystery activities being created on each log in. “race condition” some say. Only started after changing to SSD disk is another one. Not sure related but result a bit the same as this https://forums.opensuse.org/showthread.php/492387-Desktop-and-Icons?highlight=log+activities - something mysteriously going on for no logical reason but for me it was definitely disabling power management.

I lost the links but someone suggested to restart power management via a cron job. Like

qdbus org.kde.kded /kded unloadModule powerdevil &&
qdbus org.kde.kded /kded loadModule powerdevil

Search YAST for “kcron” which adds a new nifty option in System Settings. Not tested yet but is next move.

Not convinced but KDE is not happy with no power management either. Tweak is no good if bad side effects. Looking at https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=271934 notice YEAR I think Plasma 5 is most likely solution :slight_smile: This issue has mighty history. Minds and efforts I suspect is at “5” now. Can even google this and find same old complaints in new versions, some see GB of leakage https://plus.google.com/111441130100170983404/posts/32rwYU7iLex “sucks” may be KDE agrees :slight_smile:

https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=321781 has fix for auto creation of activities from logging out/logging in. Disable desktop effects! So obvious… I added a script to start up which enable again, seems to work.

if  "$(qdbus org.kde.kwin /KWin org.kde.KWin.compositingActive)" = "false" ]]
then
    qdbus org.kde.kwin /KWin org.kde.KWin.toggleCompositing
fi
exit

Can keep not using power management, anti-leaking “tweak”.

If pm is required and proves to leak something like:

kquitapp kded && sleep 5s && kdeinit4_wrapper kded4

seems to be only solution - besides logging out, logging in or restart.

I doubt there will be a fix this because they thought they already had, several times. Is not easy to troubleshoot http://kdepepo.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/troubleshooting-kded4-bugs/ but no power management solves leakage for many. Is not only “kded4” issue but seems to be most common.