Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Desktop Linux – still absent from the scene

There were times where Linux was just a dot on the radar. Back in those old days you were to be happy if you could get X (XFree86 was it called?) running, let alone play videos or heavens forbid, games. Years came and went Linux evolved and so did its window manager, desktop environments and graphical user interface software. In recent years everyone is singing a happy song about a mythical creature known as Desktop Linux. Soon after a new year has come everyone is rejoicing naming it the year Linux will be ready for the desktop. And we have being hearing this happy cheers for at leas three years now. Still no desktop Linux on the horizon. How come?

One can go and name reasons why there is still no desktop Linux yet for as long as he wishes to continue doing so. Last night before going to sleep I was thinking of one – desktop graphics user interface performance. For the general public out there who are not devoted Linux fans (like I am for example) there are a few things that matter: ease of use, speed and looks. Almost everyone on the OS market has got the ease of use done arguably right by now. Linux has at least got GNOME with its UIG (or was it HIG). The other two: looks and speed are still missing in action.

Mark Shuttleworth himself once said that in order to achieve better market penetration Linux must get prettier. Well this has happened to some extent. The KDE team managed to roll out version 4.1 of their software a few days back and even though I am no KDE fan at all I have to admit that it looks good. On the GNOME end of the fence there are also nice improvements with every version being more polished then the last one. Mint Linux for example has a gorgeous default GNOME look. If looks is your game then stop by the Enlightenment shop where you will be sure to notice all the eye candy.

Speed and I mean desktop software performance is absent though. You are free to disagree with me and throw and kind of speed tests and benchmarks at me but I stand firm behind my opinion. Whatever way of measuring you may have my one and true meter for desktop speed is how speedy I feel it is.

With compiz enabled my desktop is as speedy as my Nokia E50 and my phone is not that fast! Do not get me wrong on this one, my PC is no dawn of computing era machine, I have an Athlon X2 BE 2300 with 2GB of RAM and a flashy new 640GB Western Digital hard drive running off an AMD 780G motherboard. I hear the crowd roaring. Yes. I am using integrated graphics and the best one I think (so does Anandtech) but this should not make my desktop sluggish when switching windows for example. Turning compiz off or using the proprietary drivers does not help all that much, you get a speed “increase” and it is noticeable but let me break it for you:

It is no way near as quick as, the now 7 years old, Windows XP.

I know XP is as old as the universe and we now have all this new functionalities that we can use with GNOME and recent KDE versions... enough crap. M$ uses these marketing tricks to lure you into buying that bloated piece of crap “software” called Vista.

Speed is missing on the Linux desktop, it is missing in giant quantities. I know there are Enlightenment, Fluxbox and etc. who can make your desktop really snappy but is this all we have got? With all the developer resources behind GNOME, KDE, X, graphics cards drivers... I do not think so. The community can perform better and I am waiting for the moment when I'll be having a snappy GNOME desktop using my integrated graphics and it would be faster then any XP, any day.

Until then no desktop Linux for anyone. Period

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