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LXDE review: it zips, it flies! (base for client-side TurnKey appliances?)

At home we canceled our cable subscription a few months ago. We hardly ever used it any more. Instead we were downloading content to a makeshift media server and watching it on our own schedule. Many of the shows I like (e.g., Colbert Report) aren't even available over here.

Upstairs we had a gorgeous big screen HDTV set that was being powered by one of my old computers, a nice P4 machine with 1GB of memory that was running the TurnKey Torrent Server appliance on bare metal.

Then it died. Traced it back to the motherboard being fried by a faulty power unit. Facing an immediate home entertainment emergency, I rummaged through the basement and found an old P3 machine with 256MB of old-style memory (I.e., the kind you can't get any more of these days).

I transferred the hard drive but of course GNOME choked so bad with 256MB that I decided to just turn X off. So we still had our home server but the screen went down on our big screen TV. A sad sight.

Then a few days later I came across LXDE, a new and lightweight X11 desktop environment that really does use less memory:

The first test is simply to check how much memory is used after a fresh boot of the respective live CDs, all the way into the default desktop.

LXDE based Lubuntu: 57,908 KB
XFCE based Xubuntu: 156,852 KB
GNOME based Ubuntu: 153,840 KB

It wasn't available in 8.04 so I had never come across it before. I installed it on our ancient franken-server and I'm impressed.

The server not only works, it zips! It looks nice and modern, easy to configure, pretty much everything works out of the box (e.g., auto-generated application menus, virtual desktops, cpu monitor, date and clock).

Looks like an excellent candidate for the upcoming TurnKey Core Client. Unsurprisingly, Ubuntu are so impressed with it there's talk of a new Ubuntu derivative based on it called Lubuntu.


Jeremy Davis's picture

It is an impressive piece of work. I am amazed that the dev has managed to balance asthetics and performance so nicely (without cutting too many corners in either regard).

I have played with it a bit and I think there are still a few minor 'rough edges' to be ironed out. I have also found it not quite as easily customised as say Gnome (simple things like adding menu entries involve hacking rather than a nice GUI) but I'm sure that will improve with maturity. Also I notice that not all of the 'official' LXDE components have yet made it into Ubuntu (eg LXNM - LXDE's default network manager is nowhere to be seen).

Despite my minor critiques; overall it is incredibly light and responsive and very easy on the eye. Regardless of my comment above on customisation, it supports GTK+ themes and even Compiz so there is still plenty of options available to personalise it.

I think that it is a huge winner and I think that it is the ideal desktop choice for TKL Client. It is ideal for newer low power hardware and old machines alike. But even on modern, powerful hardware I think it will gain some traction over time.

I couldn't find this post at first, so when I set out to build the Sahana-Eden developer's environment based on TKL's Core, I started from scratch trying to rediscover which window manager your blog was about. I looked as several, and ultimately decided on LXDE - very glad that I did. Now that I've found the post, I feel very confident in my decision. It's a pleasure to use, adds very little to the size of the appliance, and seems to take care of most tasks on its own. I've posted the Sahana-Eden dev environment to our site here, along with build notes, usage notes, and some pointers.

No TKLpatch was produced for this one - the real work was in configuring Eclipse; I couldn't grock a way to script that. (Maybe an overlay?)

That's all to say this: great call on LXDE.

Erik Lacson's picture

Is there a resource out there on how to install this on a Turnkey Appliance. I have Turnkey Core running on VMWare workstation. I already installed via apt-get and tried running it via startlxde, but I am not getting anything except a blank command line. Would appreciate any help.


Thanks in advance,




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