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DE's and Ram use

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KBD
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DE's and Ram use

#1 Post by KBD » Tue Jun 19, 2018 11:13 pm

Lately I've had several surprises when it comes to DE's and ram use. My thought in the past was heavy desktop interfaces were Gnome, Unity, Cinnamon, KDE, and lighter desktops included Xfce, MATE, LXDE. My favorite desktops have been Xfce and MATE for several years now. I've always liked KDE, but to get it to run lighter, shutting off animations and effects and other tweaks were generally involved, so I have mostly stayed with MATE & Xfce and occasionally LXDE.
But more recently I came across this:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Ubuntu/comment ... u/dy7iye5/
based upon a video in this Reddit post comparing ram use in Ubuntu and its spins for 18.04:
https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments ... u_lubuntu/
That caused concern as all the gtk3 based distros were using more ram, and notice Lubuntu (LXDE) is using less ram as it's still based upon gtk2, or so I've been told. But look at KDE/Kubuntu, how in the world did it overnight become the new lightweight distro?

So I've been testing the new Mint betas. And comparing them to other installations on the same hardware. For instance, MATE Debian 9 with fresh boot and no apps other than system monitor running is 700mb on my Thinkpad, not a bad number. KDE same situation, same hardware 700mb ram. What's more, Kubuntu 18.04 is also just 700mb ram same scenario.
New DE's on Mint betas: MATE is 900mb in identical scenario above. And with just 3 Firefox tabs open it hit 2000mb ram. It didn't take me long to see it was causing web pages to crash on a different computer with just 2gb ram. Cinnamon Mint beta 19 was 900mb, exactly the same as MATE. Newer MATE does not feel like a lightweight DE any longer.
So I tested Xfce of the Mint 19 beta and it was running at least 100mb more than Mint 18 Xfce on the same machine.
On a machine with 8gb of ram none of these numbers make a big difference, but on older hardware with meager specs it makes a big difference.
My question, is this all because of gtk3? I have seen comments where suggestions were made that Gnome is pushing more stuff into gtk3, and thus into the DE. You guys know more about this sort of thing than I do, is gtk3 to blame for higher ram use on DE's that depend upon gtk3? Or is there another reason?
If so, the QT based distros like KDE and LXQt may be the lightweight DE's of the future.
I appreciate your thoughts.

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Re: DE's and Ram use

#2 Post by Timmbits » Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:10 pm

It could also be that the WM is pulling in only what is necessary when it detects low RAM, and your numbers might be a little bit misleading. You are concerned with system resources, and ultimately, performance.
But if your WM has to swap code with disk all the time, because most of what it would load into RAM isn't being read into it, then you're no further ahead. You're just running a memory-hungry program at a slower speed (hard disk access times are by a factor of 1000 times slower than RAM access times).

I've seen RAM usage comparisons where KDE uses up double what Gnome uses, which is about double that of Cinnamon, which is about a third more than XFCE, which is about a third more than Mate. And OpenBox will be a quarter of that (of the smallest one). But it probably partly depends on your methodology too (see note at bottom).

MATE uses less than XFCE. But, if you've used Mate, you come to realize that something that's been around for a while has extra value, in terms of the way everything's been thought out, and stability.
I was disappointed in the stability of Cinnamon in Mint 18.2 (which was supposed to be stable by then), and have given Mint a try again with 18.3Mate. After using it for about half a year, it's starting to fall apart on me and I'm about to make a switch (considering MX, hence why I'm here today).

So yeah, Mate uses a little less RAM than xfce in the comparisons that I have seen, but I'd rather have it use an extra 100MB, have something tried and true, than something that is going to fall apart on me after some use.

If you really want to have something efficient on your memory-limited 2GB system, take a look at AntiX.
If you're like me, and don't find it noob-friendly enough to your liking, there is Bodhi which requires a minimum of 256MB, but preferably double that to run. There is also Slitaz, which is only 80MB fully installed, and using very little RAM when running (that's what I'm putting onto an eeePC 1000he that I have, with 2GB of RAM). There was also PepperMint... used to be fast, stable, well-designed, but it's become bloated too, just like almost everything else these days. It was super-fast until about version 5, and after that performance drops off immensely as the version numbers rise.

Proposed testing methodology:
I suspect that a more reliable way to test the memory footprint of a WM/DE, is to not try it out in a constrained memory space (because that will just offset loading some of it's components and increase disk-reads, dramatically reducing performance), but rather on a system with a generous amount of RAM. Then load some programs, a bit of everything, like a browser (1 tab suffices), something text, an image viewer, graphics editor... then close them all, and see how much RAM it takes up after everything got pulled in. Then you can see a better comparison of which is leaner, which is bloated. Also make sure it's the same applications in the version for each desktop environment - this is so that they have the same memory leaks, or whatever, in each window manager, to keep things fair. That's also why you don't want to open a bunch of tabs in your browser - potential memory leaks. Don't go and install a KDE program under Mate, because that will pull in a bunch of KDE-dependencies in addition to what Mate already loads, and bloat the Mate, making for an incorrect comparison.

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Re: DE's and Ram use

#3 Post by dreamer » Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:31 pm

I don't think GTK 3 by itself uses much more RAM than GTK 2. The problem is usually something else. Maybe some GTK 3 desktops bring in more dependencies. Also the underlying distro may change. I remember comparing Ubuntu MATE 14.04 (GTK 2) with Ubuntu MATE 16.04 (also GTK 2, but with systemd). UM 14.04 was around 360 MB and UM 16.04 around 550 MB after cold boot with the same services enabled. Today those numbers are even higher. So I feel good about my MX 17 install using the same amount of RAM as Ubuntu MATE 14.04 (in every distro I always disable some start-up services I don't need).

So the problem with GTK 3 isn't its own RAM usage, but that the desktop becomes "Gnomified" and pulls in additional dependencies. Xfce is famous for being modular (KDE isn't) so hopefully Xfce developers keep this modularity with GTK 3.

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Re: DE's and Ram use

#4 Post by KBD » Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:46 pm

dreamer wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:31 pm
So the problem with GTK 3 isn't its own RAM usage, but that the desktop becomes "Gnomified" and pulls in additional dependencies. Xfce is famous for being modular (KDE isn't) so hopefully Xfce developers keep this modularity with GTK 3.
That's what my underlying concern is: Gnomeification :) MX is wonderfully light weight. I've been looking at Mint 19 Xfce and Xubuntu 18.04 and not the least impressed with either of them. MX suspend works properly for me out of the box, but not Mint 19 Xfce, and Xubuntu 18.04 xfce has a bug report already about issues with suspend. Plus my comparison between Mint 18 & 19 Xfce shows more ram use in the newer version.
Antix is wonderful for low ram use and I have it on an old Chromebook with 2gb ram. Lubuntu 18.04 is also excellent, only using about 250mb ram on boot. But Lubuntu will be transitioning to LXQt and I suspect it may be a year or longer before LXQt begins to look and feel mature. It is one to watch though.

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Re: DE's and Ram use

#5 Post by asqwerth » Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:22 am

KBD wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:46 pm
dreamer wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:31 pm
So the problem with GTK 3 isn't its own RAM usage, but that the desktop becomes "Gnomified" and pulls in additional dependencies. Xfce is famous for being modular (KDE isn't) so hopefully Xfce developers keep this modularity with GTK 3.
That's what my underlying concern is: Gnomeification :) MX is wonderfully light weight. I've been looking at Mint 19 Xfce and Xubuntu 18.04 and not the least impressed with either of them. MX suspend works properly for me out of the box, but not Mint 19 Xfce, and Xubuntu 18.04 xfce has a bug report already about issues with suspend. Plus my comparison between Mint 18 & 19 Xfce shows more ram use in the newer version.
Antix is wonderful for low ram use and I have it on an old Chromebook with 2gb ram. Lubuntu 18.04 is also excellent, only using about 250mb ram on boot. But Lubuntu will be transitioning to LXQt and I suspect it may be a year or longer before LXQt begins to look and feel mature. It is one to watch though.
I think it's mainly that the Ubuntu base is getting less efficient and heavier. That's why Mint XFCE may feel slower than MX even though both use XFCE.

Caveat: I've not tried Mint XFCE or Xubuntu. I do know that even when I was testing Lubuntu and elementary 14.04 around 2014 on my old 1GB RAM Pentium4, everything felt slow. Playing a Youtube video made my computer fan wheeze and huff (literally). On the other hand, it was fine on MX14 and even Kanotix (debian base, KDE4). Note: the 12.04 Ubuntu series was fine, and I was happy with WattOS (lxde+ubuntu) and even elementary 12.04. For me, it was from around the 14 series that Ubuntu just got very bogged down. After I got my new PC in 2015, of course RAM was no longer an issue. I installed Mint 17 Cinnamon (which is fine although based on Ubuntu 14.04) but didn't like Mint 18 which I tested in Virtualbox. I swore off elementary (also tried version 16) which seemed to me to be getting slower and more preoccupied with looks than reliable performance.

To be fair, MX17 consumes slightly more RAM than MX16 as well. I think base systems are just getting more complex. However, MX17 is still considered a pretty efficient, power-thrifty and fast distro, unlike the feel of the newer Ubuntus.

Regarding Gnomification: I think Xubuntu's XFCE might be a combination of older gtk2 xfce bits and some newer gtk3 xfce parts, so it's possible that might affect performance. A member paulxfce posted a link to his new theme for XFCE in this forum, but he stated that his themes were primarily created for Xubuntu, which was already using gtk3 whisker menu.

As for KDE, Plasma5 is more modular than KDE4 was, and some parts of the whole KDE suite which I totally do not want, now can be avoided. For example, konqueror and their whole calendar and contacts thingy is not necessary. I don't know about now, but when KDE first released their Neon distro (I installed the developers' stable edition), the default apps did not even include those 2 items. Firefox came by default. I think there was no Amarok on the iso either.
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Re: DE's and Ram use

#6 Post by oops » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:14 pm

Timmbits wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:10 pm
... There is also Slitaz, which is only 80MB fully installed, and using very little RAM when running (that's what I'm putting onto an eeePC 1000he that I have, with 2GB of RAM).
Right, I also like Slitaz - OpenBox, for my small eepc (as frugal install)... the V5.0 is a rolling release, with an option for loram but the only issue with Slitaz, is for the files sharing Samba - Cifs not very user friendly, and the package are sometimes based on old versions.
I am using it right now ;-)

Code: Select all

inxi -xxx -m ; inxi --full -v 7 
Memory:    Array-1 capacity: 4 GB devices: 2 EC: None
           Device-1: DIMM0 size: 2 GB speed: N/A type: DDR2 (Synchronous)
           bus width: 64 bits manufacturer: N/A part: N/A serial: N/A
           Device-2: DIMM1 size: No Module Installed type: N/A
           bus width: 64 bits
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
System:    Host: slitaz Kernel: 3.16.55-slitaz i686 (32 bit gcc: 4.6.3)
           Desktop: LXDE (Openbox 3.6.1) info: lxpanel dm: N/A Distro: 5.0
           ...
root@slitaz:/home/tux# cat /proc/meminfo 
MemTotal:        2061164 kB
MemFree:          946524 kB
MemAvailable:     944920 kB
           
           
But I also like the light and powerful Antix for my eepc;

Code: Select all

System:    Host: eepc Kernel: 4.10.5-antix.1-486-smp i686 bits: 32 compiler: gcc v: 6.3.0 Desktop: IceWM 1.4.2 
           dm: slim Distro: antiX-17_386-full Heather Heyer 24 October 2017 
Machine:   Type: Laptop System: MICRO-STAR product: MS-N033 v: Ver.001 serial: FFFFFFFF 
           Mobo: MICRO-STAR model: U-123 v: Ver.001 serial: FFFFFFFF BIOS: American Megatrends v: 4.6.3 
           date: 05/06/2010 
cat /proc/meminfo
MemTotal:        2054816 kB
MemFree:          100856 kB
MemAvailable:    1323300 kB
Last edited by oops on Sat Jun 23, 2018 10:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
$ inxi -Fxxxz : System: Host:XEON ... Distro: MX-17.1_x64 Horizon

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Re: DE's and Ram use

#7 Post by KBD » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:31 pm

asqwerth wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:22 am

I think it's mainly that the Ubuntu base is getting less efficient and heavier. That's why Mint XFCE may feel slower than MX even though both use XFCE.

Caveat: I've not tried Mint XFCE or Xubuntu. I do know that even when I was testing Lubuntu and elementary 14.04 around 2014 on my old 1GB RAM Pentium4, everything felt slow. Playing a Youtube video made my computer fan wheeze and huff (literally). On the other hand, it was fine on MX14 and even Kanotix (debian base, KDE4). Note: the 12.04 Ubuntu series was fine, and I was happy with WattOS (lxde+ubuntu) and even elementary 12.04. For me, it was from around the 14 series that Ubuntu just got very bogged down. After I got my new PC in 2015, of course RAM was no longer an issue. I installed Mint 17 Cinnamon (which is fine although based on Ubuntu 14.04) but didn't like Mint 18 which I tested in Virtualbox. I swore off elementary (also tried version 16) which seemed to me to be getting slower and more preoccupied with looks than reliable performance.

To be fair, MX17 consumes slightly more RAM than MX16 as well. I think base systems are just getting more complex. However, MX17 is still considered a pretty efficient, power-thrifty and fast distro, unlike the feel of the newer Ubuntus.

Regarding Gnomification: I think Xubuntu's XFCE might be a combination of older gtk2 xfce bits and some newer gtk3 xfce parts, so it's possible that might affect performance. A member paulxfce posted a link to his new theme for XFCE in this forum, but he stated that his themes were primarily created for Xubuntu, which was already using gtk3 whisker menu.

As for KDE, Plasma5 is more modular than KDE4 was, and some parts of the whole KDE suite which I totally do not want, now can be avoided. For example, konqueror and their whole calendar and contacts thingy is not necessary. I don't know about now, but when KDE first released their Neon distro (I installed the developers' stable edition), the default apps did not even include those 2 items. Firefox came by default. I think there was no Amarok on the iso either.
Kubuntu 18.04 full install doesn't have Amarok either, which surprised me. They have definitely done something to lighten Plasma 5 as it lighter overall than in the past.
Yes, the newer iterations of Xfce is a blend of both gtk2 and gtk3. I remember reading the latest Xfce is now about 2/3 gtk3. MATE was shocking to me, every bit as heavy as Cinnamon, and I think they are both now fully gtk3 which concerns me for Xfce when it fully transitions to gtk3. My understanding is the LXDE developer was so fed up with gtk3 that is why he merged with Razer QT and is making LXQt.
You may be correct about Ubuntu getting heavier overall. Ubuntu with Gnome is a ram hog :(
On most of my computers I have enough ram to run pretty much anything I want, but I still want the lightest DE that meets all my computer needs. Also I want my laptops to run as cool as possible, and less ram and cpu use helps with that.

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Re: DE's and Ram use

#8 Post by Timmbits » Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:54 am

KBD wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:46 pm
That's what my underlying concern is: Gnomeification :) MX is wonderfully light weight. I've been looking at Mint 19 Xfce and Xubuntu 18.04 and not the least impressed with either of them. MX suspend works properly for me out of the box, but not Mint 19 Xfce, and Xubuntu 18.04 xfce has a bug report already about issues with suspend. Plus my comparison between Mint 18 & 19 Xfce shows more ram use in the newer version.
Antix is wonderful for low ram use and I have it on an old Chromebook with 2gb ram. Lubuntu 18.04 is also excellent, only using about 250mb ram on boot. But Lubuntu will be transitioning to LXQt and I suspect it may be a year or longer before LXQt begins to look and feel mature. It is one to watch though.
I don't know how you are reaching such absolute conclusions about Mint 19, when it is in beta at the moment, and a lot of stuff still being tweaked. You speak of it as if it's the final version.
About the new version needing more RAM... well... does anyone expect any different? New version, gobbles up more stuff.
The reality is, new "higher-level" languages are being used to generate code, to speed up development time, and the generated code as a result is bloated. It's been like that since the beginning of (computer) time.
That's basically what has me always resisting new versions of basically anything.
But Spectre is so serious, that we can't ignore updates at this time.

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Re: DE's and Ram use

#9 Post by asqwerth » Sun Jun 24, 2018 5:12 am

I installed in Virtualbox the beta2 of Manjaro 18, which will have a fully gtk3 version of XFCE.

After initial bootup and login, I let it settle down for a while before checking RAM in htop: about 453 MB RAM.


WIth Firefox (3 tabs), Thunar 1.8 and htop open, RAM usage is 980 MB.

If one of the 3 FF tabs is a youtube video left running, RAM is around 1.15 GB. Not too bad considering Firefox does use a lot of RAM.
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Re: DE's and Ram use

#10 Post by KBD » Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:04 pm

Timmbits wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:54 am

I don't know how you are reaching such absolute conclusions about Mint 19, when it is in beta at the moment, and a lot of stuff still being tweaked. You speak of it as if it's the final version.
About the new version needing more RAM... well... does anyone expect any different? New version, gobbles up more stuff.
The reality is, new "higher-level" languages are being used to generate code, to speed up development time, and the generated code as a result is bloated. It's been like that since the beginning of (computer) time.
That's basically what has me always resisting new versions of basically anything.
But Spectre is so serious, that we can't ignore updates at this time.
You are correct that Mint 19 is in beta and they could still improve it. My initial concerns were regarding what gtk3 might be doing to DE's depending upon it and moving to it, which xfce Mint 19 beta has partially done, and MATE mint 19 beta has done, as well a Cinnamon mint 19 beta. The latter two in my tests were using nearly 1gb of ram out of the box, and my initial question and concern were if this was because of moving to gtk3 which has been suggested elsewhere regarding higher ram use in comparisons between gtk3 based DE's in the links I posts for Ubuntu 18.04 and its spins ram use in the top post.
Regarding Mint Xfce 19 beta in particular one of my big concerns is that suspend is not working properly, which I've found was also the case with Xubuntu 18.04 release. I do hope Mint can fix this in their release as it is a deal breaker for me, where Mint 18 Xfce everything worked great out of the box and ram use was excellent. They do have time to fix it and I hope they do. Nothing I said is ranting against Mint as next to Debian and MX it is my favorite distro :)
And I'm with you as being wary of new releases of anything as the progression is toward more bloat, which is why I love LTS releases and Debian Stable in particular.
About Spectre, some older architecture is never going to get updates to fix the issue I understand, but I'm wondering if these threats have affected anyone in the wild? And I know some of the problem has been browser related and browsers have been updated for it. So I'm wondering what the real level of danger might be regarding these threats?

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