Performance increase: changing from custom ubuntu to something else

Discussion in 'General Linux' started by Yesyesloud, Dec 13, 2013.

  1. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    Hello there.

    Skip to "advice request" to avoid storytelling.

    Although I am new to linux, having been using it for half a year only, I have already tried out many famous, infamous, barely known and even dead distributions. But not for long. I played with minimal installs and interesting, powerful "lightweight" desktop environments like E17. I sorted out annoying wireless driver issues through git (helped by actual expert fixes) before the official solutions were released on newer kernels. Installed user friendly linux variants for people who never even considered using such OS. Custom resolutions, refresh rates and aspect ratios were set on stubborn machines only after serious driver tweaking. I learned how to compile about anything from source.

    Although all those achievements are quite minor, I am familiar with the basics and a bit more, as it seems, so I am considering moving on to a linux OS able to provide my laptop with the best possible performance, featuring low ram consumption when idle after boot (as of now, 160MB), applications loading faster, snappier rendering for web browsers etc.

    The basis of my current system: a minimal install of ubuntu along with lubuntu-core, some xfce applications (like xfce4-appfinder), and a proprietary ATI driver compiled from their website latest release, which always works better for me than the ones available on the repositories, although they were supposed to be the same.

    Most of my current complaints consist in video issues (no backlight control after sleep and desktop freezing when hdmi is disconnected), but I can live with that, since a lot improved after I started using ATI official releases (backlight control, for instance, wouldn't work under fglrx from repos). Right now, my only wish is for the best performance.


    Advice request:
    First, some hardware specifications: A8-4500M APU with built in Radeon HD 7640G, 1333Mhz 6GB RAM, 500GB HDD, 1366x768 led display, Atheros AR9462 wi-fi/bluetooth.

    Which distribution would perform better than ubuntu lxde variants on such laptop? I mainly use it to watch high definition videos, surf the web and play games, so everything loading up and rendering faster is my aim.

    I heard fedora (with its "custom kernel" by red hat), arch, crunchbang and gentoo are fine alternatives, but I would like to know from more experienced users which could do the - fastest - job, and by that I mean people who have tried different distributions for long periods. Anything from debian to slackware is welcome, just tell me your long term impressions. Difficulty level is not a problem.

    I would like to avoid testing everything, that's why I submited this thread, please respect that.

    Experience is valued over synthetic benchmarks, but no link will be suggested in vain.



    Thanks for taking such a long read.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2013
  2. lobo

    lobo Active Member

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    Best Answer
    Just build an optimised kernel. If you go for Slackware this shouldn't really be necessary as the kernel is good for desktop systems. Debian's kernel however is a configured to be a trade off between desktops and severs, so it might not be the best for desktop performance.

    You will find Debian familiar (it's what ubuntu, mint, et al are based on) whereas Slackware will be completely unfamiliar territory and will be somewhat of a learning curve.

    I would advise against fedora as it's quite a bloated distro like ubuntu. Arch is not a stable distro and is in a state of constant flux - so if you want proprietary VGA drivers to work consistently between updates, that's worth some consideration before diving in.

    As CB says, the biggest memory and CPU hogs are the big desktops, so fluxbox, openbox or another light WM are perhaps your best option or if you still want desktop functionality, perhaps LXDE or Xfce.
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  3. Cyber-Berserker

    Cyber-Berserker Active Member

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    With a 1 1/3 GB processor and 6GB of RAM, your machine is capable of running almost anything, if not anything. The same configuration will have roughly the same performance on most systems. For your machine, the biggest factor that will affect speed (from my experience and research) is the GUI. The bigger the GUI is; more features and more processes running, the more resources it needs. I suggest beginning by concentrating your efforts on the GUI. Try several of them and see which one(s) you prefer. A window manager might be what you are looking for. Try things like Fluxbox and Openbox. Fluxbox requires less configuration than Openbox (It even has a panel, so can function without any tinkering, if you like a bare environment.), but Openbox has virtually unlimited potential for modification. (But requires learning to do so.) There are many other WMs, but I am not familiar enough with them to offer advice.
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  4. arochester

    arochester Well-Known Member

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    Small point:
    E17 is a Windows Manager and not a Desktop Environment. If...you are interested in knowing the difference... look at http://xwinman.org/index.php

    Try Fedora and/or Crunchbang as LiveCDs to see how they work (or don't!). The default Arch needs a long installation process. You could try Arch based distributions like Manjaro, Bridge, ArchBang (like Crunchbang) or Antergos. https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Arch_Based_Distributions_(Active) . Gentoo is a different animal and can be more difficult than default Arch.

    As a Windows Manager I quite like, one of the lightest, JWM: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Joe's-Window-Manager-(JWM)
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  5. pane-free

    pane-free Active Member

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    "Right now, my only wish is for the best performance."

    One distro I really had fun with, performance-wise, is PCLinuxOS LXDE.

    Another possibility is Salix Ratpoison, for something different.

    Have fun!
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2013
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  6. lobo

    lobo Active Member

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    Slackware or Debian with a *box wm and custom kernel.
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  7. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    I had to refine my understanding of the difference between WMs and DEs to enhance minimal installs quite some time ago. Although called a WM on its project page, E17 became conceptually ambiguous and sure has developed enough to be broadly considered a DE (it has its own full blown panel; 2 application launchers, one of them a throughout search for about everything in the system; a file manager; a sound manager; a system monitor; a text editor; a terminal; dynamic wallpaper management; the nicest backlight dimmer; a preferred network manager etc). I'd say it's far from a barebone window manager which you must populate with your own gui stuff. As far as I know, a DE is no much more than a WM with preloaded software for general use.

    Thanks for the JWM suggestion, I may try that one.

    In case you tested them, did you personally find Gentoo, say, 'better' than Arch in any way?
  8. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    I couldn't skip advice from amanitas at all, which always remind me of Samorost... Fantastic game, that one.

    Salix Ratpoison is actual news to me, so I'm definitely testing it out. Impressons based on personal experiences are exactly what I'm looking for.
  9. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    I'm typing from an openbox system right now. I once performed a clean openbox install, it was actually fun learning to customize it for a month, but I prefer my current frankenstein, which I can still tweak as much as I want...

    On the other hand, I haven't loaded its sister (rather cousin) fluxbox yet. From what you say, it sounds very interesting, I heart lightweight systems.
  10. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    Could you please elaborate on custom kernel? Interesting approach.
  11. lobo

    lobo Active Member

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    Best Answer
    Just build an optimised kernel. If you go for Slackware this shouldn't really be necessary as the kernel is good for desktop systems. Debian's kernel however is a configured to be a trade off between desktops and severs, so it might not be the best for desktop performance.

    You will find Debian familiar (it's what ubuntu, mint, et al are based on) whereas Slackware will be completely unfamiliar territory and will be somewhat of a learning curve.

    I would advise against fedora as it's quite a bloated distro like ubuntu. Arch is not a stable distro and is in a state of constant flux - so if you want proprietary VGA drivers to work consistently between updates, that's worth some consideration before diving in.

    As CB says, the biggest memory and CPU hogs are the big desktops, so fluxbox, openbox or another light WM are perhaps your best option or if you still want desktop functionality, perhaps LXDE or Xfce.
    Yesyesloud likes this.
  12. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    That's it. When I was a fresh linux user, I tested Slax, an oversimplified distro for beginners, it featured KDE 4 and some old kernel, the reason I jumped off the boat. Fastest OS in my short experience though. I don't know why I forgot that one, maybe because I was lost among too many distros when I decided to "build" one. It's a pattern, many oldschool users passionately mention Slackware, I guess I'm adventuring in that strange world. I came to the conclusion a pure Debian install wouldn't add to performance, since I'm using a lightweight variant right now, unless a custom kernel makes incredible wonders, then I should give it a try. Thanks!
  13. Cyber-Berserker

    Cyber-Berserker Active Member

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    i have never used it, but according to its description, Ratpoison is a GUI that does everything possible to eliminate the need for a mouse. Hence the name. If that sounds good try it. If you like using a mouse ...:eek:
  14. lobo

    lobo Active Member

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    Slax is a livecd distro based on Slackware, I have no experience of it.

    If you're willing to make the jump from Debian based systems, then I would strongly recommend Slackware. I will try to write a guide on how to build a decent performance kernel when I get time. If you've never built a kernel before, then Slackware is probably the best distro to learn how to do it as there is no packaging involved whatsoever in building a kernel in Slackware (autotools method).

    Another good thing about Slackware is the fact that you can still do a full install (the entire Slackware distro is what you get on the install DVD) and not suffer any kind of bloat. This is because Slackware packages do not just enable their respective init scripts when installed (this does happen in distros like Debian, if you install something that runs as a daemon, post installation scripts will automagically assume that you want it to start at whatever runlevel). This approach works for Debian and works well.
  15. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    Slax is a pretty decent OS despite its newbie friendliness. One can confirm that by its iso image size (~200MB) and modular approach. Applications started blazing fast when I used it. However, I'd like to build a slackware system with a younger kernel. At first, I'll download the DVD for a full install as you suggested. I'll probably keep that if a custom build doesn't speed up the system consistently.
  16. Yesyesloud

    Yesyesloud Active Member

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    I'm a keyboard enthusiast, no worries on that department. If almost everything can be done quicker by few keystrokes, It must be a great distribution. It obviously supports mouse anyway.

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