LXDE on Pi, not the fastest cookie (but that's ok)

LXDE on the RPi, or to give it its full name: “Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment”. It’s what I have running on my Asus Eee PC that I mentioned last time, which BTW has Linux Mint installed to boot. And hence I was most pleased to see upon issuing the command startx that about 30 seconds later I was presented with the rather tasty Raspbery Pi Logo and a working graphical desktop. Now, my experience of the command startx has always been mixed. I have found that on any Linux installation upon which it is pre-configured it usually works, but that if installing X11 post-OS installation that things may well go awry (this is my experience and not to be taken as gospel - I’m an “advanced” Linux user and no expert and am still finding my way around the myriad configuration files of Linux).

Hence, I was very pleased to find that A) RPi has LXDE pre-installed, and B) that it worked first time. Marvellous :) (a word I use a lot) and kudos to the RPi team for having this foresight.

OK, so here I am inside LXDE - what do I have? Well with a network cable connected (DHCP worked automatically as it should, no configuration necessary on my home LAN) we have the Midori web browser available from an icon in the toolbar or from the System Menu (Windows translation if you are new to Linux: “Start”) / Internet / Midori. It’s a Webkit browser and hence has very similar rendering capabilities to Safari and Chrome right out of the box. It did not feel particularly fast and the CPU got nommed to 100% quite easily, but it is functional and rendered all of the sites I pointed it at without problem (minus Flash, which is not installed by default).

From browsing let us move onto programming. Given one of the the primary aims of the RPi is the education market (“BBC Micro successor”) it is natural that I headed straight to System Menu / Programming. From here I can see an IDE for Python and Scratch (amongst other entries). This is great: straight away, with no fuss I can learn Python and have somewhere to write my programs. Likewise, for those looking for a successor to Logo (read: educational sector) you the drag and drop Scratch programming language is likely just what you are looking for.

What else? Well Terminal is under System Menu / Accessories and unsurprisingly does exactly what it says on the tin. I mention this as it took me a moment to find, having been used to Terminal appearing at the root of the System Menu or as an icon in the bottom bar when I have used LXDE previously.

And there is a LOT more besides... and that will be a post for another time.

At this point I had better mention the speed of LXDE (as alluded to in the blog title). At present it is not particularly fast. Dragging windows leaves a grey ghost trail effect, and rendering in Midori was not especially quick. Apparently this is because hardware acceleration is not yet enabled, but I am assuming that this means it is coming soon(ish). This will give a great speed increase to the GUI desktop experience. However having said that, it is not bad, it is just that it is not good n’ polished yet. Plus it is mighty more feature-rich and capable than the awful internet browsing experience that my Samsung HDTV gives me (yes I now have the RPi in my living room.... HDMI output remember) and hence in this light it is actually pretty usable.
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