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Month: December 2011

LXDE and Xfce: The other desktops

From: Darrell Anderson <humanreadable@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2011 13:50:04 -0800 (PST)
Over the past few months I have read several articles like this:

I'm not sure Xfce is a cholesterol free desktop or that LXDE is ready for prime time with non geek users. Yet I am sure that Trinity is receiving little comparative press coverage.

I'm not calling for a marketing campaign, but I would like to request all team members focus on making R14 the best release yet. To me that means three goals:

* Eliminating many, many paper cut bugs.

* All packages build with minimal fuss.

* Provide an improved web site.

The paper cut project never got off the ground. Paper cut bugs discourage non geek users. They don't care or want to understand the nuances of programming or why something fails to function as intended. Paper cut bugs are a public relations nightmare. People vote with their feet. :(

Struggling to build packages is a good way to ensure little exposure because the desktop then is not available to users. A significant portion of the discussion in this list is build issues. Simple things like autotools looking for Qt4 rather than Qt3 are frustrating to non geeks. Remember that until Trinity is provided as a regular prebuilt package option in most distros, end-users are left to build the packages on their own. That means the wiki needs attention too and should be revised for non geeks.

We have been discussing web site changes and a possible RSS feed. Those plans likely will fall into place shortly. :)

Despite what reviewers declare, I don't see Trinity "competing" with KDE4 --- or GNOME. I see the "competition" as Xfce and LXDE. I use the word "competition" in a friendly, comparative way. Long-term we should be asking ourselves questions such as whether there is anything those desktops do better than Trinity? Is there anything those desktops do that Trinity does not? Trinity does not have to be at the top of all comparison lists, but should look favorable all around.

There is one thing those two desktop environments do better than Trinity: start and exit faster. I don't know whether that observation merits an enhancement request. While I agree too much discussion is wasted on the topics, I'd like to think both can be improved in Trinity.

In the article I linked the writer mentions that "One developer in China has ported LXDE to a device with 128 RAM, 400 MHZ CPU." How does Trinity perform with such hardware? I have PI and PII machines sitting here with 256 MB of RAM. I have run 3.5.10 on those machines for several years and 3.5.10 is, well, sluggish. I suspect my problem is the video cards in my machines and I haven't fully tested yet. Yet I am guessing Trinity will fare only a tad better than 3.5.10.

The author also quoted somebody as saying "if Windows 98 and XP work quite well on old machines, why does my Linux desktop need a 1.0 GHz CPU + 1GB RAM?" I agree. I think Trinity can be a significant player in keeping old hardware running. If LXDE is going to be touted as ideal for that kind of hardware, then is that a topic for discussion for Trinity too?

One thing Trinity does well is conform to the traditional desktop model that most users are accustomed. That means users familiar with Windows. I never have had a problem with Linux desktops continuing that model and to me, the original 1969 desktop model derived in the PARC labs and copied by Microsoft and Apple developers still works wonderfully well today.

Not to mention that Trinity is far more configurable than Xfce and LXDE.

There are several distros focusing on being lightweight or fast. The simple message of that focus is many users do not like bloat but they also do not want to deal with the "crippled" world of window managers only. In the end, will distro maintainers offer Trinity as an option because Trinity satisfies such goals? If Trinity is easy to build, will Trinity be offered as an alternate desktop in major distros too?

Opportunity is waiting. Let's strive to make R14 a desktop reviewers want to review and praise. :)