Never clean out your closet. I did, and finally found the three original Ubuntu 6.06 ShipIt disks I ordered years ago, hiding under an empty CD spindle. And of course, having those in hand, I started thinking about the Ubuntu of four years ago, and the Ubuntu of now, and wondering. …
Yep. That’s some massive weight gain. You see Dapper Drake on the left, running on this computer, within a neat and petite 75Mb out of 192Mb on cold boot. On the right, a quasi-modern core duo with a relatively roomy 512Mb needing over 154Mb just to start up.
Normally I don’t condone the use of Ubuntu Gnome on machines as old as 2001 — performance is acceptable but not stellar, if you must know; startup in under 3 minutes, with most applications taking under 10 seconds to get going, etc., etc. — but this is almost too dramatic to leave alone. With only 192Mb total in the system, 6.06 can still run Rhythmbox and a mess of Gnome crud with relative speed and a generally perky desktop experience.
I also mention this because the 10.04 system I run in that photo is also exceptionally chunky — chunky to the point of grinding to a halt if I try to do too many things at once. This is obviously an issue of available memory and I don’t necessarily fault Gnome for it, but I do know that if I use Firefox and try to transfer large files across USB, the system more-or-less freezes until one or the other is finished. Network transfers are likewise sketchy, when the memory load is high.
My neighbor who is using 9.10 on a 2.2Ghz Celeron mentioned the same thing, saying the jump to 10.04 makes the system even more sluggish — even if it does clear up some issues with video artifacts. Redrafting the system to use something even lighter might be the only option, short of dumping more memory into the machine … which wouldn’t really help much, since it’s not an issue of free space left over. It’s just fat software.
But this is what I have whined about for years now, and to no avail. Software appears to be written not only to the availability of the hardware, but also the general power of a new, run-of-the-mill system. Give an inch, take a mile — or should I say, give 256Mb of memory, take a gigabyte.
I suppose there’s nothing really to be done about that. Grass-roots campaigns for lighter software sound good on paper (on blogs?), but for every revolutionary crying out for a lighter, faster desktop, there are two or three clamoring for newer features and a system that requires less intellect and more intuition to use. The masses have spoken. Let them eat cake.
Add to that the minions of contemporary closed operating systems that preach “minimalism,” and I suppose it’s only to be expected that over time, metabolic syndrome sets in and things start to go pear-shaped.
But then again, who knows? Maybe in another four years I’ll be posting a screenshot of a necromanced 10.04 desktop, pasting it side-by-side with an Ubuntu 14.04 system and saying, “See how light things used to be?”