Linux Desktops slow?

Tod Hansmann at
Fri Feb 3 21:00:36 MST 2012

I feel like I'm screwing something up here simply because the disparity 
is so large, so bear with me.  I've got a Lenovo laptop that's got one 
of the last Centrinos and doesn't support 64 bit.  I've also got a 
mini-ITX with an i3 in it.  Both have a gig or more of ram, and well 
supported hardware for Linux.  The ITX box even has graphics 
acceleration and is all fancy.

I've tried both with Ubuntu and Fedora Core, trying to do the "typical 
user" experience rather than something like my Gentoo Stage 1 from 10 
years ago.  It's an attempt to see where we're at for the 
less-than-tech-savvy, and quite frankly, I'm annoyed with how slow of a 
response these systems have.

I have run Win XP on both and it seems to completely out-perform the 
popular Linux variants.  Why are things not responsive and zippy when 
I'm doing nothing but browsing the web or editing text files?  I've 
tried ext4 and btrfs on both, the Lenovo has an SSD in it now, and I 
really haven't installed any special services.  My desktop experience 
from Gentoo in 2003 was a lot smoother, and well, I'm frankly 
disappointed, since Linux is supposed to be the leaner fighting machine 
for older hardware.  Win7 on the ITX box doesn't seem to have a problem 
running Firefox or Scite.  Ubuntu does.  We're talking a good 10-15 
seconds difference and then when switching tabs or whatnot in FF it will 
sometimes sort of hang for a second or two.

What am I doing wrong here, and how do I run a modern Linux desktop 
flavor without the unbearable slowdown?  Is this typical these days?  
When did we start slowing down?  (I admittedly have only run Linux in a 
server setup for a good 5 years now, so I am quite possibly just out of 
touch with the trends on Linux on the desktop.)

-Tod Hansmann

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