Gnome on Debian, installed using the meta-package, pulls in Mono. You used to be able to bypass this requirement by installing gnote instead of Tomboy, but Gnome now pulls in many other Mono-using apps, of which there are better replacements.
Since I feel Mono is bloated, slow, and anti-FOSS and Debian doesn’t want to remove the Mono requirement (although, yes, I can just not use the meta-package, but that’s just broken behavior), I have decided to try alternatives.
I purged Gnome the hard way by removing libgtk2 and libglib2 and doing several rounds of
deborphan --guess-all | xargs apt-get remove combined with
apt-get autoremove. In the long run this removed tons of crap I never used.
Next, I installed Xfce with
apt-get install xfce4 xfce4-goodies xorg desktop-base tango-icon-theme xfprint4, and also did
apt-get install iceweasel pidgin gwibber network-manager-gnome vim-gtk gtk-engines to get the apps I really did want installed. I also installed Slim as a replacement for GDM.
I changed my GTK, Xfwm, and icon themes to “Clearlooks”, “Default-4.4″, and “Tango” respectively. I set The Xfce Session Manager imported my Gnome Session Manager configuration, so apps I have set to startup on session start was maintained.
I also added the app launchers I had on my Gnome panel to the Xfce panel and moved the virtual desktop chooser to the far left, set my panel to be 24 pixels tall, and enabled composting inside Xfwm.
So, after doing all that, I have to say… everything is faster. Gnome had requirements that caused several daemons to start on boot, which increased the time between bootloader and X start, and GDM takes several more times longer to start than Slim. Xfce also starts near instantly compared to Gnome, yet it has the same functionality.
If I had actually bothered to time it, I would not be surprised if I get a usable desktop in half the time I did with Gnome. Xfce is clearly a better product with a lot less bloat.
Also, memory usage wise, I can run Xfce plus X, Pidgin, and NetworkManager in under 200 megs of RAM. Gwibber uses roughly 150 (I think it might be leaking), and Firefox being open with a single tab open uses around 75. A useful Linux desktop doesn’t have to be a bloated mess.
Update: I swapped out NetworkManager for WICD. WICD in total uses less RAM and doesn’t have the hald dependency. Once Xfce’s Power Manager switches to use the new API instead of through hald, that’ll be one less thing to load on boot (it wastes time, not memory).
I need to find a good replacement for Gwibber though, it leaks like crazy. I’ve been running it almost 11 days now, and it’s using a 1gb of memory.