Fedora Desktop on XO

Erik Garrison erik at laptop.org
Tue Jan 6 15:04:00 EST 2009

On Tue, Jan 06, 2009 at 02:23:24PM -0500, Chris Ball wrote:
> Hi,
>    > Now, the question I have is why we would chose GNOME over XFCE.  I
>    > think there are significant differences in system resource
>    > consumption.
> We had a long thread about whether to use GNOME or XFCE on devel@ last
> month.  I suggested XFCE, and was persuaded that the disk image size
> of DebXO+GNOME is not significantly different than DebXO+XFCE, 

Yes, the NAND usage is comparable.  You end up using very similar
libraries.  In my tests even fluxbox-based builds required at minimum
2/3 of the NAND space of the GNOME builds.

In my experience the benefit is visible only at runtime.

> ... and that both run fine without swap, suggesting that we might be
> able to pull off GNOME on Fedora.  If we find it unbearable, I'm fine
> with using XFCE instead, but my impression was that GNOME is
> preferred.

I doubt we will find it unbearable.  And I somewhat doubt that even if
we do we will elect to switch after we invest development effort into
it.  So we should be very careful going into this to choose the most
suitable option, before we are locked into one system or the other.

I think it is telling that XFCE is designed expressly for limited
systems such as ours, whereas GNOME has a more general applicability and
is less optimized for our target.  The effort shows.

In terms of features, I have not experienced any significant difference
in my use of the two systems on the XO, except perhaps that the
appearance of GNOME is less configurable by the user in its default
setup.  Some may say this is a good thing as it decreases the potential
problems that can arise, but to me it seems a positive feature to make
the environment more enjoyable by young people.

... But frankly I don't care much about window manager features so long
as a lack of them doesn't get in people's way.  I want applications.  If
running one system means a quarter more available memory available to
user-chosen applications, then we have made a big win.

OK.  Enough rambling... My opinions await qualification by tests.

> (For the record, I'm not against investigating adding some swap for 9.1
> now that we have NAND partitioning available.  We'd have to be more sure
> of our estimate that it won't significantly shorten the lifespan of the
> flash chip, though.  What do people think?)

IMO: The NAND is not sacred.  It is there to be used.  If the chip fails
the repair is as simple as installing an SD card; and as time goes on
they rapidly decrease in price.  That all said, it is not my
understanding that the chip will fail catastrophically.  It will just
wear out, and its storage capacity will decrease.  Like the breaks on a
bike its use necessitates that it be burnt up very slowly.

(don't forget compcache ...)

>    > Even though XFCE is not a Fedora-supported desktop environment, it
>    > is readily supported in other distributions.  We could easily
>    > borrow the polish that XUbuntu has applied to its distribution and
>    > get a system equally usable as GNOME.
> Scott previously made a build stream ("faster") that contains both Sugar
> and XFCE and a way to switch between them, so this integration work has
> already been done.

I wasn't specifically talking about integration, but polish.  Ubuntu's
XFCE seems to be in a better state than Fedora's or Debian's as they
have integrated some upstream patches (most notably desktop icon
customization stuff).  They also use the GNOME menu system, which is
very clear and well-organized.  I don't know exactly the state of the
differences but they are significant enough to be notable from the
user's perspective.


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