[sf-lug] LXDE Rocks !

Akkana Peck akkana at shallowsky.com
Tue Jun 29 19:53:30 PDT 2010

Rick Moen writes:
> (Note that I specifically mentioned AbiWord and Gnumeric as more-suitable 
> choices on relatively low-spec machines, so as to attempt to avoid the

Yep, totally agree. Back then I *had* to use OpenOffice for a while
(publisher that insisted on using MS Word and change tracking) and
I'm glad that's over.

Though my real advice on word processors is: ask yourself, do you
really need to use a word processor most of the time?  Could you get
by with html or plaintext? I see so many people firing up OO (or
Word, for non-Linux users) to write a two-line note to themselves.
A lot of people (especially coming from Windows or Mac) don't even
know what "plain text" means, or that a text editor is an option.

> 1.  Many Linux newcomers seem to never get around to even figuring out
> _how_ to take charge of what processes launch at startup time, let alone
> doing so.  Which is why I keep hearing extreme solutions like
> Puppy Linux / DSL / Tiny Core on 128 MB RAM machines, instead of just
> being selective about what runs.

That's a big factor in boot speed, too. You can cut boot times by
a lot by disabling services you aren't using.

> 2.  Many Linux users, not just newcomers, have absolutely no idea how to
> read the memory columns of 'ps' and 'top', and thus cannot say where
> their systems' memory is being used.
> (I see that your slides attempt to address that.  Good.)

I do try to address it. But it's unfortunately not an easy question
to answer. Linux memory is complicated and there are so many
different ways of answering the question "How big is this app?"

One of my favorite easy methods: Run "free" and record the "used",
"-/+ buffers/cache" value.  Then run the program you're wondering
about (firefox, OO or whatever), run free again and see how the
numbers changed.  That's arguably more reliable than what top, ps,
gnome system monitor, gmemusage, xosview etc. give you.

(I wrote)
> > For a really small machine, like 128M, there's some advantage to
> > starting with lightweight distros -- not because they have fewer apps,
> > but because they're set up to run with lightweight kernels and without
> > requiring all the extra daemons like gconfd and hal and gvfs that
> Yes, though it's not necessary to revert all the way down to lightweight
> distros to accomplish that.  You can disable most of that junk with
> conventional but less-bloated distributions such as Debian, selecting an
> appropriate runtime kernel from those provided precompiled, and then
> turning off undesired kernel features at the module level.

Unfortunately it's not all kernel features. For instance, if you
don't run hal on Ubuntu, then you won't get device nodes for a
front-panel flash card reader -- unless you know how to hack your
udev rules, in undocumented ways that change with each Ubuntu release.
If you don't run plymouth on Ubuntu lucid, your boot goes quite a
bit faster but sometimes mysteriously hangs for a while, or forever
-- turns out it's just fsck, but fsck doesn't print output any more
because that all goes through plymouth, so all you know is that
your boot process has frozen. If you don't run gnome-vfs, you can't
drag files to GIMP (e.g. from Firefox) because Ubuntu's gimp doesn't
fall back on wget or curl. If you don't run gconfd, you have to
dismiss a warning dialog every time you run firefox or various other
gtk apps. And so on ... There are workarounds for everything, but it
takes some work to set up and maintain them.

And I want to stress that I do agree with you -- it's worth it
to take a full distro and pare it down, and that's what I do myself.
But I do understand why some people might want to take the mini-
distro approach ... and put up with the separate set of problems
that entails.


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