When desktops go bad!

Ah, the joys of being your own sysadmin. I guess.
For the last 2 years, I’ve been doing probably 90% of my desktop work on Windows based systems. Unfortunately Intuit, my former employer, is a very strong Windows shop, and even though they were mostly okay with me running Linux on my desktop machine, the added time / effort necessary to make it all work together just wasn’t there.
Now that I’m on my own, I can switch back to my natural environment, a Linux desktop.

The problem, of course… Which one? Linux doesn’t have a standard desktop ala Windows products. You can be totally productive with an 80×24 text screen like an old terminal, or you can go full
graphics desktops.
I wanted to get very used to running ‘lean slick’ desktops, since that’s what my CONGO terminals will most likely be running, so after fiddling around, I ended up using IceWM, a fairly straightforward, nice looking desktop manager.
I liked it. When running the basic tools I use for day to day work, that being X-Chat for IRC, Firefox for webbrowsing, Evolution for email, and VIM for editing, I ended up with a nice, multidesktop, clean desktop that worked fairly fast, and looked pretty nice. So I settled down and started working in that environment.
Problem. After a couple hours of work, I noticed that my X-server (for the non-geeks, if you’ve actually gotten this far, the X-server is the graphics system that -everything- uses for displaying) was growing in size. Not just growing, expanding at a SCREAMING rate. In 3 hours of heavy work, and I’m certainly a power user, the X-server had gone from a normal size of around 40 meg, to over 900 meg. That’s bad, since my IBM Thinkpad T20 only -has- 512meg of memory in it. That means swap city. *rattlerattlerattle*.
A week or so of fiddling, changing apps, and other goodies resulted in no joy. Sometimes I could go a whole day without needing to restart, sometimes only a few hours.
Finally, yesterday I decided to Figure It Out. After enough twiddling, and getting things down to the bare basics, I figured out it was actually IceWM, that nice window manager I had been playing with, that had a horrific memory leak everytime you switched virtual desktops. It woudl lop off another 4-5 meg of memory. BAD! BAD!
So out goes IceWM. Alas. But I’m -mighty- happy I figured out the leak. It was frustrating.
But with such setbacks, joy comes. I’m back to an environment I always thought was the best of the best, and that is KDE – The K Desktop Environment. I’m constantly impressed by how good this system is, in the file browser, in the tools menus, in everything. Just polished and clean. Yes, it takes longer to start, because it has many supporting apps within it. But once started, it’s lovely to work in.
As I sit here, I’m typing away in Firefox, listening to the MP3 archive stored on the server downstaris (woo, 80’s mix!), IRC is happily runing, and I haven’t had to log out in 3 days. Memory usage is a mere 40meg for the X-server.
Ah bliss.


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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