Debian "Jessie" settles on Xfce

The tweaking of Jessie continues.


A couple of weeks ago, I started on the road to upgrading from Debian “Wheezy” to Debian “Jessie”. Initially, I installed Jessie on an 8GB VirtualBox image and took it through it’s paces, what ensued was a complete change over to this new operating system.

My most important use for Debian, is as a LAMP development server. The Lenny VM has served me well for 5 years, administration was done via the command line and Webmin. Moving to Jessie, I decided on installing a desktop environment, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Mind you, I could continue using the LAMP dev server from the command line just fine, but what running “X” does, is give me a better user experience with Virtualbox. Running a desktop environment, with the Virtualbox extensions installed in the Linux guest, allows for seamless mouse cursor movement. When using the Linux guest from the command line, you lose your cursor, pressing the right ctrl key regains the host cursor. Trivial, but a nuisance.

Once I settled on running the LAMP sever with a desktop, then came the question, which desktop? When I installed Jessie on a shiny new 100GB VDI, I opted for the Gnome desktop. I ran Gnome 3.14 for the last couple of weeks, it’s really nice, but it’s more suited for bare metal, and running fine on my laptop, but not on a VM that has to mimic system calls. Screen drawing in Gnome was noticeable, and the Gnome Shell used up precious VM memory.

Ultimately I decided on Xfce 4.10, the screen drawing is super fast and the memory footprint is negligible on a VM with 2GB of ram. The Jessie VM has my second 20 inch monitor all to itself, one xfce4-terminal window open for commands, another xterm window running top, and the Thunar file manager taking over some duties from midnight commander.

When I got involved in web development, many moons ago, we had to run a physical Linux machine in house. Then we started rolling our own AMP stacks on Windows, what a mess, no two people had the same configuration. Then XAMPP came along and made things easier and uniformed, but it didn’t take the place of a real Linux server, there were idiosyncrasies.

Today, with faster processors, more than 640K of memory, and virtual machine software, we have the best of all worlds. Time to fire up Zend Studio and get to work.

Don’t you know
Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain’t nothing like the real thing