KDE Plasma 5.4.1 running on my Sabayon machine

KDE Plasma 5.4.1, an example of a modern DE.1

A desktop environment (DE) is a crucial component of any modern operating system, including Sabayon. It provides a graphical user interface (GUI), with which you, the user, can interact with the various components of the operating system, as well as several pieces of application software. All of the top twenty most popular Linux distributions, by page hit rankings on the DistroWatch website, except for Arch Linux, come with pre-installed DEs. Most modern free DEs came to be in the mid-late 1990s or later. In this post I will compare the various desktop environments that are available for use on Sabayon, it is worthwhile noting that all these comparisons are with the latest versions of these DEs available on Sabayon. For example, when I discuss GNOME, list its features and make comparisons I am really referring to GNOME 3, the latest version of GNOME available, and not the previous version GNOME 2.

Definitions

What precisely constitutes a “desktop environment” varies, according to whom you ask, but for the purposes of this blog I will define the following as the minimal components of a “complete desktop environment” (cDE):

  • A windowing system (WS). For example the X Window System (X11) or Wayland. Some cDEs may be compatible with more than one of these.
  • A window manager (WM), such as Fluxbox, KWin, Mutter, OpenBox or Xfwm. Some cDEs are also compatible with more than one of these.
  • A file manager (FM), such as Caja, Dolphin, GNOME Files (Nautilus), Nemo, PCManFM or Thunar.
  • A widget toolkit (WT), such as the GIMP Toolkit (GTK+) or Qt.

While an “incomplete desktop environment” (iDE) is one that has at least two of these components, but not all four.

Core applications (CAs) are a feature of several cDEs that is not strictly required in order for a DE to be a cDE but can add to the appeal of the DE. They are pieces of application software that provide core, or basic functionalities such as:

  • Disk management. An example of such software is GParted.
  • Document viewing. Examples of such software include Evince and Okular.
  • Music playing. An example is Rhythmbox.
  • Shell access. These applications are called terminal emulators and include GNOME Terminal, Konsole and LXTerminal.
  • Video playing. An example is GNOME Videos (Totem).
  • Web browsing. An example is Konqueror.

Formatting

The different DEs will be mentioned in different sections, each with the following subsections:

Background

This is where I discuss the history of the DE and related information.

Components

This is where I discuss the different components of the DE like its WS, WM, FM, WT and CAs.

Features

This is where I discuss available customization options. I also discuss how easy it is to install extensions, themes and applets/widgets for panels.

Obtaining it

How do you get this DE on Sabayon?

Advantages (Pros)

A summary of what can be said about the DE that is positive. For example, for lightweight DEs I may say low resource usage.

Disadvantages (Cons)

A summary of the negative points of the DE.

Ratings

This is where I give a numerical rating for five aspects of the DE and an overall satisfaction rating, all six are out of 10, with 0 being terrible/non-existent, 10 being perfect.

The five aspects are:

  • Availability: how easy is it to install this software on Sabayon?
  • Customizability: how easy is it to customize this DE? How extensively can one customize the DE?
  • Features: how feature-packed is this DE? Does it have its own set of CAs and if so, how usable are they?
  • Speed and resource usage (SRU): does this DE boot quickly? Does it use a lot of CPU/RAM? Does it require a lot of free disk space to install it? For this aspect a score of 10 means minimal resource requirements, instant boot and a score of 0 means unbootable due to high resource requirements. I may also include the results of running ps mem for DE-related services such as Xorg, its file manager, clipboard, session, display manager, etc. I may miss the odd DE-related service, however, so please do not take my figures as verbatim. ps mem is a Python script I downloaded from GitHub that provides the RAM usage for a program, given its process ID (PID). To get the process IDs I ran ps -efH as root. The output of ps mem for multiple PIDs is tabulated. I ran this as soon as I could (after all I had to get the PIDs first, which takes some time) after booting, so as to minimize its results.
  • Stability: how prone is this DE to crashes and other bugs?

Website(s)

Under this section I provide the DE’s Official Website, Wiki and other useful websites.

Complete Desktop Environments

Budgie Desktop

Budgie Desktop running on Sabayon

Budgie Desktop 8.2 running on Sabayon

Background

Budgie is a desktop environment, built around GNOME 3 (instead of on, it is not a fork) and created by Ikey Doherty in 2015 for an independent Linux distribution called Solus (Evolve OS). Its user interface more closely resembles that of GNOME 2 than of GNOME 3, but it bares even more similarities to the user interface of Chrome OS.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Mutter.
  • File manager: GNOME Files (Nautilus).
  • Widget toolkit: GTK+3.

It uses the same core applications as GNOME 3.

Features

Fairly minimalistic, in its features, and customizability options compared to GNOME 3.

Obtaining it

It is available from unofficial sources for Fedora 20 and 21 (not the latest release 22) and openSUSE 13.2. It is also available from the Arch User Repository (AUR) for Arch Linux users. It is also the default desktop of Solus and is available from Entropy for Sabayon users. For Gentoo users it is available from the sabayon overlay, package name budgie-desktop. Consequently to install Budgie Desktop using Entropy run:

root #  equo i budgie-desktop

while to install it using Portage run (assuming you have not already got the sabayon overlay added):

root #  layman -a sabayon
root #  emerge –sync && layman -S
root #  emerge budgie-desktop

Note, however, that Budgie Desktop will not work with the version of media-libs/clutter provided by the gnome overlay.

Advantages (Pros)

  • Simple and intuitive to use
  • Stable

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Not very customizable
  • Still uses a fair amount of CPU and RAM.

Ratings

  • Availability: 8.
  • Customizability: ~5. Insufficient experience with this DE for me to be sure.
  • Features: 5. It does have core applications, but they are all borrowed from GNOME so I do not believe this DE deserves that credit.
  • SRU: 4. Lower score based on its dependency on GNOME, but my ps mem test gave this result:
  • Stability: >8. Never had any issues, myself, with it crashing. Then again I have not used it enough to be confident about its stability.
  • Overall: 6. In my books, less customizability is a disadvantage, hence why the lower rating.

Website(s)

Cinnamon

Cinnamon running on Sabayon

Cinnamon 2.6.13 running on Sabayon

Background

Cinnamon is a fork of GNOME 3 created in 2011 for Linux Mint, due to user dissatisfaction with GNOME 3’s new user interface. Despite being forked from GNOME 3 it has a user interface that more closely resembles that of GNOME 2.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Muffin, a fork of Mutter.
  • File manager: Nemo, a fork of GNOME Files (Nautilus).
  • Widget toolkit: GTK+3.

Several components of GNOME Core Applications were forked too.

Features

Cinnamon is very customizable, with several available themes and applets (for its panel) available via a built-in (built-in to system settings) installer. The application menu is also customizable.

Obtaining it

No official Cinnamon flavour of Sabayon exists, but it can be installed using Entropy and Portage. Via Entropy it can be installed with the command:

root #  equo i gnome-extra/cinnamon

while with Portage it can be installed with:

root #  emerge gnome-extra/cinnamon

Advantages (Pros)

  • Easily installable with Entropy and Portage.
  • Lighter on resource usage than GNOME.
  • Traditional user interface.
  • Very customizable.
  • Has its own set of core applications.

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • No official flavour of Sabayon is available with Cinnamon pre-installed.
  • Less stable than MATE and GNOME 3.

Ratings

  • Availability: 8.
  • Customizability: 9.
  • Features: 9.
  • SRU: 5. Has less resource usage than GNOME 3 and similar to MATE. My ps mem table is:
  • Stability: 6. I have had it crash on me, before.
  • Overall: 9.

Website(s)

GNOME

Figure 1: Screenshot of GNOME 3 running on Sabayon Linux

GNOME 3.16 running on Sabayon Linux

Background

GNOME (an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment) was one of the first free desktop environments developed for Unix-like systems such as Linux, along with KDE. It is officially developed as part of the GNU Project and was first developed as a GTK+ based alternative to the Qt-based KDE, due to the fact that at the time Qt was proprietary licensed. GNOME 1 was released in 1999, while GNOME 2 was released in 2002 and GNOME 3 was released in 2011. The release numbers of each corresponds to the version of GTK+ used as their basis: GNOME 1 used GTK+1, GNOME 2 used GTK+2 and GNOME 3 uses GTK+3.

Of these releases GNOME 2 was probably the most popular (and had a user interface similar to that of Microsoft Windows, with an application menu, task bar on a horizontal panel), with GNOME 3 causing a lot of controversy amongst users (most notably Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux kernel), due to its unconventional user interface (the “GNOME Shell” it is called) that broke with the traditional desktop metaphor. Due to this controversy over the GNOME Shell a few GNOME 2/GNOME 3 forks were made around the time of GNOME 3’s release to overcome this issue.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11, Wayland support under development.
  • Window manager: Mutter.
  • File manager: GNOME Files (previously called Nautilus).
  • Widget toolkit: GTK+.

GNOME also has its own set of core applications.

Features

GNOME 3 is fairly customizable (it is worthwhile noting that some of this customization is done through the GNOME Tweak Tool which may need to be installed separately to the DE) and extra extensions can be installed from within the interface of certain web browsers, including Mozilla Firefox (to install Firefox with Entropy run root #  equo i www-client/firefox, it is not recommended to install it with Portage, as compiling Firefox from source takes several hours on most systems), although it is worthwhile noting that such customization cannot be done from within Sabayon’s default web browser, Google Chrome.

Obtaining it

An official GNOME edition exists of Sabayon and it can be installed on an existing Sabayon installation with Entropy/Portage. The Entropy/Portage meta-package for GNOME is gnome-base/gnome, so running:

root #  equo i gnome-base/gnome

or:

root #  emerge gnome-base/gnome

should install it. Several extra core applications can be installed by installing the meta-package gnome-base/gnome-extra-apps. With Entropy run:

root #  equo i gnome-base/gnome-extra-apps

while with Portage run:

root #  emerge gnome-base/gnome-extra-apps

Advantages (Pros)

  • Own set of CAs
  • Fairly customizable, including from within a web browser.
  • Readily available to Sabayon users, as a live ISO for Sabayon exists with GNOME pre-installed and for those users that did not install the GNOME edition they can install it post system-installation using Entropy or Portage.
  • Stable
  • Unique in its user interface

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Heavy on resource usage. Usually RAM usage tests rank GNOME, KDE and Unity as being nearly tied for the position of heaviest DE.
  • Unconventional user interface may be more difficult to get used to.

Ratings

  • Availability: 10.
  • Customizability: 8.
  • Features: 9.
  • SRU: 2. Boots fairly slowly and resource usage is high.
  • Stability: 8. Never had it crash on me.
  • Overall: 8.

Website(s)

KDE

KDE Plasma 5.4.1 running on Sabayon

KDE Plasma 5.4.1 running on Sabayon

Background

KDE, along with GNOME, is one of the two most important desktop environments in my books. Its development began in 1996, when Matthias Ettrich, a then student at the University of Tübingen founded the KDE Project, which develops KDE, the desktop, along with several core applications for the desktop. KDE originally stood for “Kool Desktop Environment”, a play on the name of the then popular proprietary desktop environment, used on Unix/Unix-like systems, the “Common Desktop Environment”. In July 1998 the Project published its first official release of this DE, KDE 1.0. The first three major KDE releases (KDE 1.0, KDE 2.0 and KDE 3.0) were named “K Desktop Environment” but the fourth and fifth releases of this desktop were called “KDE Plasma”.

Unlike GNOME, KDE is based on the Qt widget toolkit, which was originally partially proprietary licensed until in 2000 it was finally released under GPLv2. Similarly to GNOME each new line of KDE (like 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, …) is based on a new line of Qt (respectively, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, …).

Components

  • Windowing system: X11, Wayland.
  • Window manager: KWin.
  • File manager: Dolphin.
  • Widget toolkit: Qt.

It also has its own set of core applications, such as the terminal emulator, Konsole, the document viewer, Okular and the screenshooting software, KSnapshot.

Features

KDE is extensively customizable. Window bars, the panel, keyboard shortcuts, GTK+2 and GTK+3 themes (for GTK+ based programs) and icon theme are all fully customizable. This customization can be done quite easily, and extensively, through GUIs. Its system settings utilities (through which you can customize all the aforementioned features) also have built-in installers, with which users can search for new themes and then install them.

Obtaining it

An official flavour of Sabayon exists that as of the 15.10 release, features the KDE Plasma 5 desktop. Until August/September 2015 the only way to obtain KDE Plasma 5 on Sabayon, besides building it manually from source code yourself, was to install it with Portage, but now you can also install KDE Plasma 5 with Entropy, which saves an awful lot of time. This was because Entropy still stored KDE Plasma 4, the previous version of KDE. If you look at the Sabayon forums you will find several people complaining about the transition to Plasma 5, but I have always thought it was for the best. After all Sabayon has claimed to be “bleeding edge” in as far as how up to date its system software is, and leaving KDE Plasma back at version 4 seemed like a major contradiction to me. KDE Plasma 5 tends to be less stable than KDE Plasma 4, however, but in my opinion, at least, its aesthetics and other features are superior.

KDE Plasma 5, both in Entropy and Portage, has a meta package (kde-plasma/plasma-meta) that will draw in all the essential components of KDE Plasma 5 for you. Note the use of the word “essential”, some components like application software such as Calligra Suite and Okular are not included as “essential” components of the DE. To install KDE Plasma 5 with Entropy run:

root #  equo i kde-plasma/plasma-meta

while to install KDE Plasma 5 with Portage run:

root #  emerge kde-plasma/plasma-meta

I personally have found that KDE Plasma 5 is more stable when installed with Portage, so if you find your Entropy installation of KDE Plasma 5 is buggy, I would suggest you uninstall it (unfortunately running root #  equo rm kde-plasma/plasma-meta is not likely to be sufficient to remove all components) and install it with Portage. Although I would suggest you report any issues you have with KDE Plasma 5 at the Sabayon forums or at Sabayon Bugzilla before you do this. Preferably also wait a day or so before you uninstall it with Entropy and install it with Portage, just in case a solution to your problems can be found in a reasonable amount of time.

EDIT

The last time I had tried to install KDE Plasma 5 with Entropy, was when it was still hosted in an unofficial repository. Now, to overcome one issue I have encountered with Portage-installed KDE Plasma 5 (namely ksmserver crashes) I unmerged KDE Plasma 5 components, ran spmsync (root #   equo rescue spmsync) and installed it with Entropy. Since I installed KDE Plasma 5 with Entropy I have not encountered the ksmserver bug, or any other bugs.

Advantages (Pros)

  • Easy to obtain on Sabayon, with the release of the first ISO to feature the Plasma 5 desktop on the 28th of September 2015.
  • Easily and extensively customizable
  • Own set of CAs
  • Frequently updated
  • Microsoft Windows-like user interface, which may be helpful for those most familiar with Windows

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • High resource usage
  • Stability issues: crashes common, as are other bugs

Ratings

  • Availability: 10.
  • Customizability: 9-10.
  • Features: 9-10.
  • SRU: 1-2.
  • Stability: 7. Since I managed to overcome that ksmserver issue, this DE seems more stable to me. I have had one crash so far, though, since this fix but it was probably because I was running so many programs at once (far more than I could get away with before).
  • Overall: 9.

Website(s)

LXDE

LXDE running on Sabayon

LXDE 0.55 running on Sabayon

Background

LXDE (which stands for Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) development began in 2006, when Hong Jen Yee (who goes by the nickname PCMan) released a new file manager called PCManFM, which would be the first component of LXDE to be released. LXDE was developed to be a lightweight, yet complete desktop environment, with lower power requirements and most tests have found it to be the lightest of the free complete desktop environments. It is based on GTK+2, although a Qt-based fork exists (called LXQt, it was developed due to PCMan’s dissatisfaction with GTK+3) and is mentioned later in this post.

In previous releases of Sabayon, an official LXDE flavour was also available, but currently there is no such official flavour available.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Openbox.
  • File manager: PCManFM.
  • Widget toolkit: GTK+2.

It also has its own set of core applications, including Leafpad (text editor), LXMusic (audio player) and LXTerminal (a terminal emulator).

Features

LXDE is fairly customizable, although some of this customization cannot be done via GUIs and must instead be done via modifying configuration text files. For example, if you want to customize keyboard shortcuts edit ~/.config/openbox/lxde-rc.xml (although, if you are currently running LXDE, you will also need to run user $  openbox --reconfigure for any changes to take effect). This is because ObKey, a GUI-based program for editing Openbox keyboard shortcuts, by default edits ~/.config/openbox/rc.xml, instead of the real locale, ~/.config/openbox/lxde-rc.xml. While if you want to customize the LXDE Panel you can do so graphically via system settings, or you can do so textually via editing ~/.config/lxpanel/LXDE/panels/panel.

Obtaining it

No official flavour of Sabayon with LXDE pre-installed exists, but it can be easily installed via Entropy and Portage. To install it with Entropy run:

root #  equo i lxde-base/lxde-meta

whereas to install it with Portage run:

root #  emerge lxde-base/lxde-meta

Advantages (Pros)

  • Lightest of the cDEs
  • Energy efficient
  • Stable
  • Has its own set of core applications

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Fairly basic in its features
  • Infrequently updated
  • Some customization must be done textually

Ratings

    • Availability: 7-8.
    • Customizability: 8-9.
    • Features: 8.
    • SRU: 7. Here is the tabulated results of ps mem:

  • Stability: 8.
  • Overall: 8-9.

Website(s)

LXQt

LXQt 0.9 running on Sabayon

LXQt 0.9 running on Sabayon

Background

LXQt is a Qt port of LXDE, that was created due to Hong Jen Yee’s dissatisfaction with GTK+3. It is a fairly lightweight DE and was first released in 2013. It was originally based on Qt 4, but as of 2015’s version 0.9 release it is based on Qt 5 and has dropped support for Qt 4. Another now defunct desktop environment, based on Qt, called Razor-qt was merged with this project.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Openbox.
  • File manager: PCManFM-Qt. A Qt rewrite of PCManFM.
  • Widget toolkit: Qt 5.

As for core applications, from what I can tell they have not been ported from LXDE yet, if they ever are going to, that is.

Features

I have not had enough experience with it, to know much about its features, but seeing how it lacks its own core applications I would probably say they are likely to be limited.

Obtaining it

It can be installed with Entropy or Portage, both with the meta package, lxqt-base/lxqt-meta. With Entropy, run:

root #  equo i lxqt-base/lxqt-meta

while to install it with Portage, run:

root #  emerge lxqt-base/lxqt-meta

Advantages (Pros)

  • Second lightest of cDEs
  • Energy efficient

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Unstable
  • Some customizations must be done textually, not graphically.

Ratings

  • Availability: 8.
  • Customizability: 8? I have not used this DE enough.
  • Features: 8? I have not used this DE enough to know, though.
  • SRU: 6. Here is my ps mem table:
  • Stability: 5. I have found it less stable than LXDE. For example, I think the screenshot shown earlier of this DE, shows a graphical bug, due to the black, empty space in the bottom panel.
  • Overall: 8.

Website(s)

MATE

MATE running on Sabayon

MATE 1.8.0 running on Sabayon

Background

MATE (pronounced in a way that rhymes with latte, not late) is a fork of GNOME 2 made in 2011, that is developed by people that liked GNOME 2 but were dissatisfied with GNOME 3. It was originally developed by an Arch Linux user, but it has since been ported to most major Linux distributions and even a few BSD derivatives, including Sabayon for which there is an official MATE edition.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Marco, a fork of Metacity: GNOME 2’s WM.
  • File manager: Caja, a fork of Nautilus.
  • Widget toolkit: GTK+2.

MATE has its own set of core applications, all forked from their corresponding GNOME 2 core applications.

Features

MATE is fairly customizable, with several available themes for almost every visual component of the DE. Several different widgets are available for its panel, although they cannot be installed from within a web browser like with GNOME 3. There is no official installer for widgets and other extensions/themes.

Obtaining it

An official MATE flavour (or spin) of Sabayon has been recently revived. MATE is also available in the official Entropy repository and in the official Gentoo Portage overlay. The Entropy/Portage meta-package for MATE is mate-base/mate, so running:

root #  equo i mate-base/mate

or:

root #  emerge mate-base/mate

should install it.

Advantages (Pros)

  • Lightweight compared to GNOME 3.
  • Fairly stable.
  • Traditional user interface, making it more intuitive for users to use.
  • Has its own set of core applications.
  • Is available as an official flavour of Sabayon and is easy to install via Entropy and Portage.

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Not as customizable as GNOME.

Ratings

  • Availability: 9-10. While it is now as available to Sabayon users as GNOME, there is no guarantee a MATE edition will always be available.
  • Customizability: 6-7. Not as customizable as GNOME 3, from what I can tell. Has no built-in installer of themes, applets and other extensions, nor can new themes, applets and other extensions be installed from within a web browser interface.
  • Features: 8.
  • SRU: 5. Lighter than GNOME, its resource usage is similar to Xfce, although in most comparisons LXDE is lighter than MATE. Here is the results of my ps mem test:
  • Stability: >8. Stable from what I can tell.
  • Overall: 8.

Website(s)

Xfce

Xfce running on Sabayon

Xfce 4.12 running on Sabayon

Background

Xfce‘s (which originally stood for the XForms Common Environment) development began in 1996, as a free Linux clone of the Common Desktop Environment (a then proprietary DE, now LGPL licensed). It was originally based on the XForms toolkit, but since version 3.0 (released in 1999) it has been based on the GTK+ toolkit. In recent times its development has become fairly slow, with new releases being made every couple of years or so. Its latest release 4.12 was made in February 2015 and provided complete support for GTK+3, and many of its programs had been rewritten to use GTK+3.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Xfwm.
  • File manager: Thunar.
  • Widget toolkit: GTK+3.

It also has its own set of core applications including Mousepad (text editor), Parole (media player) and Xfce Terminal (terminal emulator).

Features

Xfce is fairly customizable. Most (if not all) of this customization can be done from a GUI.

Obtaining it

An official Xfce edition exists for Sabayon and on an existing install of Sabayon Xfce can be installed via Entropy and Portage. To install Xfce using Entropy run:

root #  equo i xfce-base/xfce4-meta xfce-extra/xfce4-notifyd

while to install Xfce using Portage run:

root #  emerge xfce-base/xfce4-meta xfce-extra/xfce4-notifyd

Advantages (Pros)

  • Easy to obtain, as an official Xfce edition exists of Sabayon.
  • Lighter on resource usage than some of the more popular DEs.
  • Traditional user interface.
  • Customizable.
  • Has its own set of core applications.
  • Stable

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Some may consider it “boring” in its aesthetics. Although I think this is just because of the default theme given to it on Sabayon. You are free to make it less boring, for example Manjaro Linux uses Xfce and I quite like its aesthetics (see here for a screenshot).
  • Infrequently updated.

Ratings

  • Availability: 10.
  • Customizability: 8.
  • Features: 7.
  • SRU: 5.
  • Stability: ≥8. I have never experienced any stability issues with it myself.
  • Overall: 8-9.

Website(s)

Incomplete Desktop Environments

Enlightenment

Enlightenment 19 running on Sabayon

Enlightenment 19 running on Sabayon

Background

Enlightenment (or E) is a window manager, that first began its development in 1996 and its first release was made in 1997 by an Australian-German software engineer named Carsten Haitzler. There are four major releases of Enlightenment used in modern times: E16, E17, E18 and E19. E16 is still under active development, as is E19 and the future release E20, contained in the Enlightenment GitHub repository. E17 is still very popular, due to its stability and is the basis of Moksha, a WM used by the Ubuntu (LTS)-based distribution, Bodhi Linux.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11 or Wayland (Wayland support is only complete with E19).
  • Window manager: Enlightenment.
  • File manager: Enlightenment File Manger.
  • Widget toolkit: None.

It also has its own set of core applications, with the most notable one being terminology. Some of these applications are incredibly unstable, however.

Features

Enlightenment is somewhat customizable, much of this is limited to textual customization (although I must say I have not learnt how to do much of this customization, yet). Available themes for Enlightenment are limited, aside from those for E17 (which can be found here).

Obtaining it

E16 and E19 are the most readily available on Sabayon from the Entropy and Portage repositories. E17 and E18, are probably best installed manually from source code, or via adding unofficial overlays (most notably rainyday) to layman and then emerging the version of Enlightenment you want. See, for example, this forum post I made asking how to install E17 on Sabayon. E16 can be installed by simply running root #  equo i enlightenment or root #  emerge enlightenment, via Entropy and Portage, respectively. While for E19 you must specify the version of Enlightenment you want as being 0.19, otherwise it will pull in E16 for installation. Using Entropy it can be installed with:

root #  equo i enlightenment:0.19

or (with Portage):

root #  emerge enlightenment:0.19

Advantages (Pros)

  • Its chief advantage is that it is fast
  • It is also stable and E16/E19 are fairly easy to get

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Lack of customizability
  • Difficulty in obtaining E17 and E18.
  • Unconventional interface can make it tedious to get used to.

Ratings

  • Availability: 7. E16 and E19 are fairly easy to get but E17 and E18 are difficult.
  • Customizability: 4.
  • Features: 7.
  • SRU: 6. Most tests I have seen have found it uses less RAM than LXDE, granted they were using different versions to me. ps mem gave a total RAM usage of 153.3 MB for E19, here is the table:
  • Stability: 8. Never crashes for me.
  • Overall: 7.

Website(s)

Fluxbox

Fluxbox running on Sabayon

Fluxbox running on Sabayon

Background

Fluxbox is a stacking window manager for the X Windowing System. It is included in a default install of Sabayon, including Sabayon Minimal. It was forked from Blackbox in 2001 and was designed to be a lightweight interface for Unix/Unix-like operating systems.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Fluxbox.
  • File manager: none.
  • Widget toolkit: none.

It has no core applications.

Features

It is easily customized, textually, by editing files in the directory ~/.fluxbox. Beyond this it is very basic, with minimum features.

Obtaining it

As mentioned it is included in the default installation of Sabayon, so there should be no need for you to obtain it yourself.

Advantages (Pros)

  • Lightweight
  • Stable
  • Simple to customize

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Basic, no core applications or even a file manager.

Ratings

  • Availability: 10.
  • Customizability: >6. I have not enough experience with customizing Fluxbox, to really comment on this, but I know that most customizing must be done textually.
  • Features: <4. No core applications or even a file manager.
  • SRU: 8. Low on resource usage, see for example this ps mem result.
  • Stability: 8. I have never had it crash on me, before.
  • Overall: 7.

IceWM

Screenshot of IceWM.

Screenshot of IceWM

Background

IceWM is a free lightweight stacking window manager, by the Croatian software developer, Marko Maček. It is designed to be extensively customizable through text files.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: IceWM.
  • File manager: None.
  • Widget toolkit: None.

It also has no core applications.

Features

It is easily customized by editing text files within the ~/.icewm directory, although on Sabayon this directory must first be created by the user (for example, by running user $  mkdir ~/.icewm). There also several themes available for IceWM.

Obtaining it

It can be obtained from Entropy or Portage. To do so with Entropy run:

root #  equo i x11-wm/icewm

while to do so with Portage run:

root #  emerge x11-wm/icewm

Advantages (Pros)

  • Lightweight and fast
  • Customizable
  • Easy to get on Sabayon

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Customization must be done textually, for the most part.

Ratings

  • Availability: 8. Easy to get, but no official flavour of Sabayon with IceWM preinstalled exists.
  • Customizability: >8. Extensively customizable, it is even possible to get it look like Windows NT like operating systems.
  • Features: <2. No core applications are available for it, I have not had enough experience with this WM to know any other features of it that may be available.
  • SRU: 9. Very light on resources, see the following ps mem table.

  • Stability: >7. Never had it crash on me, but I have not used enough to be confident of its stability.
  • Overall: 8. As I said I have not had much experience with this WM, but from what I can tell it is grand for users with the time, inclination and skill to customize it, but not inexperienced Linux users.

Website(s)

Moksha

Moksha 0.1.0 running on Sabayon

Moksha 0.1.0 running on Sabayon

Background

Moksha, a fork of Enlightenment 17, is the default user interface of Bodhi Linux, a popular lightweight Linux distribution based on the LTS releases of Ubuntu. The word “Moksha” is Sanskrit in origin (just like Bodhi) and means freedom, emancipation, liberation or release. Compared to Enlightenment it is substantially more challenging to get on Sabayon as there are no Moksha ebuilds available in the Portage Tree or any Portage overlay managed by Layman. I have submitted a package request at bugs.gentoo.org requesting such a package be added to the OGO.

Components

  • Windowing system: X11.
  • Window manager: Moksha.
  • File manager: Enlightenment File Manager.
  • Widget toolkit: None.

It is also compatible with the core applications used by Enlightenment 19.

Features

Compared to Enlightenment it is lighter weight and provides are more conventional user interface when running the default theme of Moksha Radiance.

Obtaining it

Moksha must currently be configured, compiled and installed manually, from source code, for Sabayon users. I have managed to install it by abiding to the following steps:

Step 1: Getting the dependencies

Moksha has quite a few dependencies, but in my experience dev-libs/efl, dev-libs/e_dbus, dev-vcs/git, dev-vcs/subversion, media-plugins/evas_generic_loaders, sys-devel/base-gcc, sys-devel/gcc and sys-libs/libstdc++ are all you need to install yourself. efl can be installed with Entropy or Portage, while e_dbus must be installed with Portage as the version in the Entropy Store is not compatible with Moksha (Moksha needs version ≥1.7.10, the Entropy Store, as of 14 October 2015, only contains version 1.7.9). The way I installed them was with:

root #  equo i -av dev-libs/efl dev-vcs/git dev-vcs/subversion sys-devel/base-gcc sys-devel/gcc virtual/libstdc++
root #  emerge =dev-libs/e_dbus-1.7.10::gentoo =media-plugins/evas_generic_loaders-1.15.0

Step 2: Get the source code

To get the Moksha source code, one can either download the .zip or .tar.gz releases provided at GitHub or clone its GitHub repository. To get Moksha with Git run:

user $  git clone https://github.com/JeffHoogland/moksha
user $  cd moksha
user $  git remote add upstream https://github.com/JeffHoogland/moksha
user $  git fetch -p && git checkout 0.1.0 #replace 0.1.0 with the release you want

Step 3: Configure the source code

To do this run:

user $  ./configure

Now it is important that you read the output of this step, if you get any errors this will likely indicate you are missing a dependency. A list of the dependencies can be found in the README file contained in the GitHub repository, or here, but these dependencies are for Ubuntu systems, so you will need to do some research to get the required dependencies, if you are missing any. You may also specify where you want to install Moksha too at this stage, by adding --prefix=<INSTALLDIR> at the end of ./configure where <INSTALLDIR> is where you wish to install Moksha to. For example, Portage by default (if an ebuild existed, that is, for it) would use the INSTALLDIR /usr.

Step 4: Install Moksha

To do this run:

user $  make
user $  sudo make install

Step 5: Post-installation configuration

Moksha installed by just following steps 1-4 will have several bugs and other issues. What you need to do before you start Moksha is run:

user $  sudo rm -r ~/.e/e #this dir may include content from newer installs of E
user $  su #enter root
root #  cd /usr/local/share/enlightenment/data/config/default #this is dependent on the value of INSTALLDIR
root #  export JEF=https://raw.githubusercontent.com/JeffHoogland/bodhi3packages/master/bodhi-profile-moksha/usr/share/enlightenment/data/config/bodhi
root #  wget -c $JEF/e.cfg $JEF/e_randr.cfg $JEF/exehist.cfg
$JEF/module.battery.cfg $JEF/module.clock.cfg $JEF/module.conf.cfg $JEF/module.everything-apps.cfg $JEF/module.everything-files.cfg $JEF/module.everything.cfg $JEF/module.gadman.cfg $JEF/module.ibar.cfg $JEF/module.notification.cfg $JEF/module.pager.cfg $JEF/module.syscon.cfg $JEF/module.tasks.cfg
root #  exit #exit root
user $  cd ~
user $  git clone https://github.com/JeffHoogland/MokshaRadiance
user $  mv MokshaRadiance/MokshaRadiance ~/.e/e/themes/

The INSTALLDIR-dependent line is dependent as it assumes you did not specify the option --prefix at the configure stage and hence make used the default prefix value of /usr/local. If you specified a prefix then this line should be changed to:

root #  cd $INSTALLDIR/share/enlightenment/data/config/default

for example, if INSTALLDIR was /usr then this line would be changed to:

root #  cd /usr/share/enlightenment/data/config/default

Advantages (Pros)

  • Lightweight
  • Provides a conventional Windows-like user interface.
  • Is customizable
  • Stable

Disadvantages (Cons)

  • Difficult and tedious to obtain on Sabayon

Ratings

  • Availability: 3.
  • Customizability: 8.
  • Features: 8.
  • SRU: 8. Here’s my ps mem table:
  • Stability: 8. Never had it crash on me (yet).
  • Overall: 8-9. I rather like it.

Website(s)

Other Desktop Environments

This post only covers desktops that are readily available on Sabayon. Some DEs are not covered here, because I have failed to install them on Sabayon (A), or because, if I have managed to install them, they were too buggy for me to so much as get a screenshot of them for this blog post (B). Examples of A, include:

  • Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE). An overlay for this DE exists (gentoo-zh), but it is out of date and some of its dependencies are no longer available. If you have not heard of this DE, it is the desktop environment used by deepin, a Chinese Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. DDE is an independent DE (that is, it was not forked from any other DE, or built around any other DE) that is based on HTML5, WebKit and supports customization with JavaScript. While I have not managed to install DDE on Sabayon, I have managed to install it on a Manjaro Virtual Machine of mine and I found it very buggy.
  • Trinity. I have not even been able to find a Portage overlay for this DE. I have written a post on the Sabayon forums, requesting for help installing this DE from source code, but so far I have received no response. It is a fork of K Desktop Environment 3, that is available on several other Linux distributions, but apparently not on Gentoo or Sabayon.

While examples of B include:

  • Pantheon, an independent DE based on Vala and GTK+3 designed for elementary OS. I managed to install it using the elementary overlay (although I must say this was not completely without incident either, I had to file a few new issues at the GitHub repositories maintaining this overlay and those containing its dependencies, before I managed this) but it was very buggy and left my system with some broken packages, so I ended up removing it.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the grand people that have helped me at Sabayon forums with questions relating to this post, including (keeping in mind I am using their usernames for brevity):

as well as Ettore Di Giacinto whom helped me with an issue with Budgie I had. I would also like to thank Martin Wimpress, whom authored this blog post, which inspired me to use ps mem for RAM usage testing. Likewise I would like to acknowledge the contributions of Jeff Hoogland whom helped me with some Moksha errors I was encountering. I would also like to thank the developers of all the software I used, including Pádraig Brady, and other contributors to the ps mem GitHub repository, as well as the developers of Sabayon itself (such as Fabio Erculiani and others) and of these desktop environments, the maintainers of Entropy and Portage repositories/overlays I have used, the developers of WordPress, etc.

Opinion Poll

Footnotes

  1. Wallpaper from Calculate Linux 13 (from the calculate overlay, media-gfx/calculate-wallpapers package)
  2. Sabayon users are allowed to post questions here regarding Moksha