Thursday, 23 May 2013

XFCE works where KDE4 and Gnome3 fail.

Here is a shot of my Desktop as of this morning.

The Argument

Yesterday I wrote about how KDE was really failing me as a desktop, how it was so clunky and difficult to use, and continually crashed, as well as the significant faults that would randomly appear out of nowhere.
I then ventured that perhaps SolydX would be better (which it wasn't, being obviously descended from Ubuntu [through Linux Mint] despite being debian based). After that I decided on pure debian XFCE. Here is my review - remembering that this is my main OS now.

The Review

 When I first used XFCE, many years ago, I was quite impressed at it as a desktop. It seemed like a clone of Gnome, but one that ventured to be more lightweight and (if possible) more usable. Of course this was back at the time when linux ventured to be THE most usable desktop, the most free and placed that as its prime directive, freedom above all. Rather than today, where usability and freedom are second to platform availability. Which is why Unity and Gnome3 exist.
XFCE today then, it hasn't changed much..it seems easier to get around with, and has extra oomph to it. Whereas Gnome3 took up about 700mb of Ram at startup XFCE uses 295mb. I think KDE used less, but I have to admit I never checked.
To use XFCE does require a dash of proficiency in linux systems. Don't expect your hand to be held. Its one of those systems that you have to sit with and say "right, I will be using you for a long time, so now its time to get to know you". Because the default programs are going to be lightweight, and harder to use, for instance, or non-existent. For instance I had no email program, no rss reader, no .deb package installer, no games, no volume control (easily added in the panel applets menu). Please understand that this is no slight on XFCE or debian - I much prefer this situation.

One issue I had was youtube, in HD I had screen tearing. I tried the compositor but due to Wheezy having XFCE 4.8, the compositor was useless against this problem. So I had to install Compiz.  Compiz dominates the Window decoration, and sadly I can't change the font for it, which means my title bar is not uniform with the system - a shame - but not the end of the world thanks to the other advantages provided by using this system.

Literally, some of the heaviest programs, Firefox (known as iceweasel on debian) loads near instantaneously, Gimp, loads within 3 or 4 seconds. my cpu monitor holds at 800mhz almost always, whereas Gnome3 and KDE had it 2.4 ghz approx 50% of the time.

Battery life, is around 3 hours on xfce, on gnome it was more like 2 hours. Essentially, this is like going from the system requirements of WIndows 7, to the requirements of windows 2000, whilst being able to use the same programs, and have the same features.

One criticism I have, is that xfce uses ALSA and not Pulseaudio, which means I can't boost my sound output like I once could. This could probably be solved by following some online walkthrough and dealt with in about half an hour, so I'm not too miffed. Also, I doubt a newbie would be installing a system like this so its quite alright.

Any personalisations you would have in debian straight, you can probably implement here. It is harder to use than ubuntu, but not because it is more difficult, its just a matter of adapting to a new environment. anyone who has used linux for any length of time will adapt easily.

The reason I left Gnome  was due to problems playing back videos in VLC, all those problems are gone using  XFCE.

The reason I left KDE was because it was bloated, and buggy, all those problems are gone using XFCE.


The conclusion

XFCE may not be pretty, but its powerful. if you can use gnome or kde with any level of speed and 'oomph', you will be travelling at warp speed with XFCE. Whereas in 2009, Gnome2 was the power user's environment, in 2013 it's XFCE, without a doubt.

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