The overall Linux performance depends on the amount of system resources your desktop environment is using. Lightweight desktop environments such as LXDE consume less resources, and are ideal for older computers that can’t keep up with heavier Linux desktop environments.
This article describes how to build an Ubuntu-based LXDE system piece by piece. It is a longer process but the resulting system is as small and light as it possibly gets. I start by installing a regular Ubuntu 14.10 server system and add desktop functionality on top of it in small steps.
The installation of Ubuntu Server is actually very straight forward. You first need to download the ISO image from the Ubuntu Website and burn it to a CD. You can also copy the ISO image to a USB flash drive.
Boot the computer from CD or USB stick and go trough the install menus one by one.
Ubuntu Server 14.10 install
In part 1 of this article series I’ve described a minimal Debian installation using network install image. I started with a regular server, added the desktop environment, and installed some more common desktop applications. In this article I will continue with several enhancements to the previous setup. Most of the information in these articles applies to other desktop environments as well.
Home, Trash and Web icons used to be enabled by default on most Linux desktops – not anymore! I am often asked to add them back when I install Linux for some other people. They are part of the workflow, and I am not interested in changing workflows. I am simply interested in moving the user from Windows to Linux. This article describes how I do it for various Linux desktops.
To create the icons in LXDE, right-click on the desktop and select Create New/Blank File. Name the file Home.desktop. Right-click on the file and open it in Leafpad. Copy the following text in the file:
Similarly, create a new Trash.desktop file with the following content:
/usr/share/applications stores desktop files for all installed GUI applications. Copy firefox.desktop file in ~/Desktop folder. If you want to change the name appearing under the icon, edit Name= line in the file.
$ cp /usr/share/applications/firefox.desktop ~/Desktop/.
Most of my software development takes place on a Debian 7 “wheezy” running LXDE. It is stable and provides me with everything I need. I also keep a copy of Fedora on a different partition on my hard disk, the attraction being the latest versions of gcc and glibc. In this article I will take a look at the latest Fedora release.
Usually when installing Linux, my main concern is the RAM memory. In my work I need as much as I can get. One option would be to start with a regular server install, and add X11, LXDE and everything else on top of it. Building such a system from scratch is not exactly difficult. However, today I’m lazy, and I’ll go for a Fedora LXDE Spin install. I will remove after installation everything I don’t need.
The download page is here. The installer still has some problems, for example updating an existing partition tends to get it confused. First boot in the new system I open a terminal and run free command. It uses 220MB of memory, which is not so bad.
The procedure is simple, I look at ps aux output and remove or disable everything I don’t really need.
First one to go is Clipit. It is a clipboard manager that tracks your every key stroke. As you start the system, it tells you politely what it intends to do, and it advises you not to type passwords. I have no idea why would anybody run this on his computer in a post-Snowden world. So, I open a terminal, su and
# yum remove clipit
A friend of yours tells you one day he’s heard so much about Linux and he’s decided to install it on his Windows machine. His computer is already a few years old, a Windows 7 or maybe a Windows XP, and he’s come to you for advice. Could you please help him to install it? No problem, happy to oblige!
The only concern I would have is the RAM memory. It is virtually impossible to persuade anybody to add more memory to an old box, we better make sure the desktop environment we chose will not be slower than his Windows. A memory comparison of various Debian desktop environments helps in this moment:
Debian 7 Memory (MB)
I usually install for them Debian because it is rock solid, and it will more than tamper with some of the bad habits they accumulated as Microsoft users. Once Debian installed, using it is as easy as using Ubuntu. Installation is no different once you go trough it once or twice.
In my neck of the woods the Internet doesn’t get any faster, and my six year old dual-core AMD computer still holds up nicely. I don’t like Gnome 3 and I don’t care about Ubuntu’s run everywhere there is lots of memory vision. Linux is all about choice, and I do have plenty of them.
In this series of articles – part 2 here – I’ll take a look at Debian. Debian is one of the oldest Linux distributions still in active development. It is a popular distribution for personal use among software developers. It is also the most popular Linux web server platform. Debian has a great community and the amount of software packaged far exceeds any other Linux disto out there.
As usual I’ll keep an eye on memory. I’ll start with a basic server install, I’ll add X Window followed by LXDE desktop environment. What I am after is a picture like this:
openSUSE 12.3 Desktops Memory (MB)
The numbers represent the memory consumed by the system immediately after it was started and the user logged in.
openSUSE is a great distribution with a great community. It is well known for its excellent Gnome and KDE support. As such, it is never described as a lightweight distribution.
In the latest versions, openSUSE installation media started to offer support for lighter desktop environments, such as LXDE and XFCE. These environments have almost the same application selection as the Gnome version, under a much lighter memory footprint.
If you are looking for a lightweight distro, this is not the time to give up on openSUSE, especially if this is your favorite OS. Try the LXDE/XFCE environments, as lightness goes they are definitely in the same league with Lubuntu/Xubuntu and Fedora LXDE/XFCE Spins. You can do even better, if you build your own desktop starting from a regular server install and adding only the necessary desktop components.
In this article I will describe how to build a light LXDE desktop on the latest openSUSE 12.3 release. I will start with a server install, and I will go trough the process of adding an X Window server and LXDE desktop environment. It is not difficult, and at the very least, it is an opportunity to learn more about a Linux system.
The same way can be done with any other window manager. The result will be different, as each WM/DE has its own memory footprint.