Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fine Tune KDE for Netbooks

Upated to KDE Software Compilation 4.9
As usual with KDE and Slackware, the dedicated army of one person (AlienBob) provided the packages to perform the upgrade... so I did took advantage of work bandwidth and download immediately.
I have to say that personally, I feel disappointed as with every update I did since kde 4.5 I’ve feel performance boost on my asus 1005ha (the old atom n270 based netbook). However, it may be because I’ve configured kde to be lighting fast on this little machine... or maybe it is just that the hardware lacks the power to feel the improvement.

Nevertheless, I thought I might blog about it and point out the “performance tweaks” as there is aparently none for kde as many windows 7 “fine tune for netbook”.

Fine Tune KDE 4.x.x on Netbooks

KDE comes with a netbook interface that I hate. I mean , it’s functional and has been tailored to the usage patterns associated with these little devices; plus the search and launch feature is kinda cool; but I hate it...
Nevertheless, I use my system with full desktop workspace; and, as expected, it runs faster than windows... XP or win7. The only time I cry for more processing power is when I have to compile something... or when I run a slackbuild (wich in essence is the same thing); which is pretty much what it is... after all, this machines were not designed for heavy computing task.

Anyways, a netbook have enough processing power to run KDE on full desktop workspace... at least on top of Slackware; however, here are some of my “tweaks” to smooth things.

  1. Drivers
    As this is slackware and the netbook use integrated intel graphics... no need to do anything here; however, that might not be your case. Look for the better drivers that suits you.
  2. Set your Graphical effects: Low display resolution and Low CPU.
I know it has to do with the shaders... but have not idea what it does; in fact, I can’t sense any difference on graphics with the different settings; but some little performance boost comes along with it.

      Open System Settings and click on "Application Appearance"
      Under Style, go to the "fine tuning tab" and set Low display resolution and Low CPU"
  1. Configure your Desktop Effects
    Some will say to disable desktop effects... I don’t agree. Desktop effects are something to brag about; specially when using a 300 bucks netbook. I myself use “Desktop Cube Animation” and some other fancy ones; however, desktop effects use GPU
To open the configuration pane, open "Desktop Effects" from system settings
  • General Tab
      This is where you enable/disable desktop effects and mess with the animation speed. Fast speed will give you some performance perception... however, I don’t change anything here.
  • All Effects Tab
      on this tab, I would recommend looking into three plugins
      • Blur:
        It is my understanding that this the most resource hungry effect in KDE although it looks cool and most systems handle it fine. However on a netbook I just disable it.
      • Transparency
          This one by default makes your windows translucent when dragged. I find that this is unnecessary even dough I use it. If you are looking for performance.. this one should get the ax.
      • Resize Window
          Enabling this one will speed resizing windows (performance perception). Under the configuration options you will find that you can use either the outline or a scaled texture.

  • Advanced Tab
    Here, I recommend to set scale method to "Crisp" for best results. The visual difference between these options is really negligible.
    Unchecking the “OpenGL 2 shaders” will give you some speed boost while booting. This netbook videocard is able to run OpenGL shaders 2 but I found that unchecking thisone helps a bit, specially when sistem is loading up.

    Note: Changing Compositing type to "Xrender" uses the CPU instead of the GPU for effects, although many effects will get disabled this is a very good idea on old graphic cards that are not supposed to be doing compositing; so not recommended as it will stress your little CPU.
  1. Speed up KDE start
    In "System Settings" under "system administration" launch the "Startup and Shutdown" settings and enter the service manager section. Disable the services that you don’t need, like"BlueDevil" as I don’t have bluetooth on this netbook.

  2. Remove unwanted animation
    Some of the oxigen animations are just not significant to the user experience.

    Press "Alt + F2" and type "oxygen-settings"

    Under the "Animations" tab disable the unwanted animations.

  3. Disable unwanted krunner plugins
    krunner is a powerful tool; However not everybody uses all the features that it offers. Disabling the plugins that you don’t use will free up some resources; for example, I use pidgin, then there is no need for Kopete contacts.

    Press "Alt + F2" and press the wrench on the left side. Disable all the plugins that you do not need.

As you could see for yourself, a lot of these “performance tweaks” are products of my guess and trial-error process. The truth is that my asus 1005ha is very capable of running KDE. (it marks 2.2 on the user index or something on win7); however, after all a netbook, resources are limited. Wasting processing power on fancy effects and pluggins that are laying there makes no sense and disabling them will improve not only performance but battery life as well.

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