Questions after the 4.10 release

A short post to answerer some questions I’ve ready in comments on the 4.10 release news across the internet. If you have more questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

A new stable release after 16 months? And no 4.8.1 release…

This is because Xfce has a different release model than for example GNOME or KDE when it comes to stable releases. Because of the limited team of developers we want to spend the least time possible on releasing packages. Big stable releases like other desktops do consume a lot of time, even with the small-ish amount of core packages in Xfce.

Therefore after 4.6 the following was decided: we only do 4 big releases (3 preview releases and 1 stable release) and after that only stable releases for individual packages. So the desktop version is 4.10 (notice the lacking micro-number), individual components could have higher 4.10.x numbers.

As an example, the last 4.8 stable release of xfce4-dev-tools is 4.8.0, the same as in the 4.8 fat-tarball release. The latest 4.8 release of xfce4-panel is 4.8.6 (6 stable releases after 4.8.0, which was in the 4.8 fat-tarball).

We know this is harder for starting users, who prefer to grab 1 tarball with all the latest versions, but instead need to crawl through /src/xfce and need to find the latest version. For distributions this is a lot easier: packagers are subscribed to the xfce-announce mailing list or peek identi.ca and once in a while they need to update 1 of the packages.

Nonetheless this is still a point where we can improve so I’ll see if I can provide more information on the website (announcements and links to the latest package versions).

4.10 only had 2 preview releases, because no critical bugs appeared and translations were in a good shape. Enough reasons for me to skip pre3 and release 4.10 instead.

Online Documentation Wiki

Just to be clear about this: we understand online docs are not a solution, but it was the best we could do in a short time. Hopefully the wiki-based setup will attract more contributors (who previously feared docbook or mallard, yes we tried that too) and lead to a complete set of documentation . When we feel satisfied with the content of the wiki we’ll look into a “wiki snapshot” for offline usage and ship that in an xfce4-docs package.

Gtk3

First 2 things: no Xfce 4.10 is not using gtk3, only the gtk-xfce-engine theme engine supports gtk3. Secondly we will discuss if Xfce 4.12 will be ported to gtk3. I’ll explain the latter:

Technically gtk3 is nothing different then gtk2 when it comes to programming. The hard parts are porting of some custom widgets (drawing and size allocation), replacements of some deprecated symbols and link to gtk3 libs. All things a user is not going to notice if we do it right.

Gtk3 is also not faster than gtk2, maybe there are some areas were it got a bit faster, but so there are areas where performance decreased a bit. Nothing shocking here.

An issue I’m aware of is theming issues in gtk3. From what I understand this changed back and forward in gtk 3.0, 3.2 and 3.4. So we need to decide which version we require to get this working consistently, because people will complain if only the Raleigh theme can be used :).

From the Xfce point of view there is (again) the resource problem for porting all plugins, because if for example the panel is ported to gtk3, also the plugins need to be ported. Not all goodies are maintained, but usually they work and distros can compile them. If in 4.12 suddenly 50% of the external plugins are not working that will be another thing users will notice.

At any rate, don’t get overly excited about gtk3, it’s just gtk 2.26 with a huge api break :). Once we decided which version we use in 4.12, I’ll post it on the blog.

LXDE still consumes less memory

*sigh* I’m not going to rant on this because as a user you should choose the desktop that makes you happy, but anyway it annoys me a tiny bit. So just to throw some information:

LXDE and Xfce are both based on the same toolkit and provide roughly the same set of features. That as a start makes it technically almost impossible to be much better or worse regarding memory usage. I think this whole myth started by comparing two distributions (clue: strcmp (distro_a + 1, distro_b + 1) == 0).

I’m sure Xfce consumes a bit more memory, because more processes are started. Especially when external plugins are added to the panel: a design decision to make the panel more stable.

I don’t know or care where this comparison started, but if somebody does this again the the future, please compare the actual memory usage and don’t use free. Or even better: don’t compare memory usage at all because it is pretty useless.
That said: if I start a default LXDE and Xfce 4.10 desktop (default Arch Linux packages) and use ps_mem.py, Xfce consumes 2 MiB more memory (same or desktop-equal applications are started). Do whatever you want this is number, as long as you compare apples and apples.

Not much accomplished in over 1 year

Sorry, I also work the entire week. But I don’t blame myself, Xfce is a fun project for all of us and if people move to another country, have a day job, a life, school/exams or simply don’t feel like working on Xfce not much progress is made.

Personally I don’t have the feeling not much was done in 4.10, we didn’t break anything major and a lot of the todo’s for 4.10 were completed in the release cycle. The focus was polishing and that’s what we did!

Updates:

  • 01-05 13:34: Added “Not much accomplished in over 1 year”.

25 thoughts on “Questions after the 4.10 release

  1. Thanks Nick and all the Xfce team. Amazing result with such a small number of developers. Can’t wait for the xfce 4.10 Xubuntu ppa being active (I’m a bit afraid compiling xfce 4.10 from source can generate problems when upgrading to 12.10)

  2. Well done, all of you guys!
    How about polishing some of the apps and plugins before going into Gtk3 to make Xfce a more powerful and more complete desktop?
    Gnome is neither very stable nor appreciated somehow after the big change, will Xfce not follow Gnome’s old road to ruin?

  3. Thanks, guys! Not breaking things that work and gradually — as time and resources permit — improving those that don’t is exactly the reason why I’ve been using XFCE since its 3.x days.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Good job just by your small team!
    As if we need not care about the comparison between Xfce and Lxde.

  5. Thank you for another very fine-tuned release…as you wrote you “didn’t break anything major and a lot of the todo’s for 4.10 were completed in the release cycle.”, so overall I’m very pleased with my Xfce desktop running under Arch.

    Xfce is THE environment which I put on all my friend’s machines and very pleasurable to use…I’m saying it after being with Linux since ’99 and tried lot of stuff (KDE, GNOME, LXDE, Openbox, Xmonad…), Xfce simply rox. ;)

  6. Thank you all for your work on this amazing desktop environment. Nowadays, when the other popular environments has been transformed into 3D tech demos, XFCE just does it job fast and simple.

    Just ignore those LXDE fanboys, and keep up the great work!

  7. Thank you very much for your hard work. It is greatly appreciated. I hope next Debian stable release will include xfce 4.10

  8. Don’t let people get you down on the progress being made, memory comparisons, etc…

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  9. Sounds like a solid release of Xfce. I’ll be happy to use it once it gets into the repos of my distro.

  10. XFCE is my favourite desktop enviroment, simple, fast and funny.
    The only thing i miss is a native menu editor.
    Go on with your great job.

  11. the extra 2mb is for attitude and style, which LXDE lacks in several key areas.. most notably, the yucky logo.

  12. what’s with Squeeze???

    Version 0.2.3 is from 2008 –
    no newer Archive Manager in XFCE 4.10 ?!
    bad… really bad… :-( I need a good Archive Manager in my Desktop Enviroment (I’m using Porteus-XFCE-v1.2-rc2-x86_64)

    lg

  13. I cannot tell you how much I value your work on Xfce. I’m glad you have both good humor and frankness in response to the criticisms.

    Thanks for all you folks do!

  14. XFCE is my favourite Desktop Enviroment: simple, fast, responsive, modular and funny.
    I miss some things like a native menu editor and more and easier configuration modules, but i find it more productive than Gnome or KDE.

    Go on with your great work!

  15. Well done. I’ve been running Xfce on Gentoo since version 4.4 without any major flaws or whatsoever. Please keep up the good work.

  16. Congratulations on the latest release! Can’t wait to try the 4.10 PPA…..

    I appreciate the comparisons to LXDE by Nick and other devs. The DE’s look quite similar and a little discussion / documentation about the differences and philosophies is good for both. No need to be sheeple fanboys of a DE – we’ve got Apple for that :-).

    One very elegant GNOME 2 panel feature (IMO) is adding an applet – point to the exact location on the panel and it steps through all other options. Perhaps XFCE Panel is moving in that direction …

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