I have meddled with the same difficulties also.
I am using windows 98 for all applications that I cannot get on Linux. The machine is a 900mhz box and upgrading to winXP scares me, because I care about the power I get (speed, speed!!!) and don't get off at fancy smancy cool graphics which slow down my machine...
Graphics are nice, when you can afford it (the machine has spare power)...
And that is exactly what we are talking about
Fancy GUIs are slowing machines down and that is why Linux with KDE / Gnome is *can* be so slow. It just looks incredible, hell, I have my linux box looking better than WinXP, because it gives you 100 more ways to customize the themes etc...
Generally to say, computers are not yet ready for these heavy graphical frontends,24bit deep. A 2.5 ghz Machine might be, but everything below, naw..
WinXP is slower than win 98 of course, got to be. It was always like this... How can Microsoft and the hardware producers (working together, it's all in good business) convince you to upgrade to a faster CPU when you say:
Hey, my box is fast enough, with this WinNextGenXYZ that I just installed, it even runs faster. I do not need more speed. Then watch the hardware sales decline.
So the put on feature, features, features that you will never use, but run anyway. And most of all, the size-bloat is attributed to anything with graphics.
First they were 8 bit deep, then 16bit deep, then 24bit.... larger larger larger....
Just watch as in 5 years there will be OS with helpfiles in Video Format and that is going to rock the HD and RAM producers world.
A one hour video is about 1 gbyte in size. Imagine all these files in video format, which is much more friendly than text, right?
Anyway, as said before, win98 is nothing compared to Linux. I use it everyday and it is EXTREMELY unstable... Don't believe me?
Try it yourself: open up a webbrowser, open up 14 sites, open word, open exel, open an audioplayer, open some exporers and see that bitch crash... I got 256 megs of Ram, and that does NOT MATTER at all, because win98 is not scalable, it has built in limits.
Linux is comparable with WinXP only, not win2k, because win2k looks like shit and linux does not.
Yes, XServer is kind of heavy, but you can choose another windowmanager, that does not use so much colors, themes, details etc... I guess KDE and Gnome want to show off these days to make people move to linux (that is looks nice, UNIX X traditionally always looked technically (meaning, ugly)
Problem is, that this bogs down smaller machines, as you have seen. Windows 98 is kind of light, and I use it most for gaming (that is why I cannot switch this one machine to linux ;-(((
Linux is super for server, no questions. Desktop, there are some questions still and problems. Many people don't use it for the desktop, and therefore companies don't produce software for linux, which does make people not use linux as a desktop ..... etc.etc.
Adobe does not make photoshop for linux, because
1. lots of work rewriting everything,
2. not many people would buy it (use linux on a desktop)
Do it as me, use wine or crossover office (commercial, www.codeweavers.com
It let's you run windows software on linux (not emulation, better)
and that works pretty good. You can run whole M$ Office, Photoshop, Lotus Notes (which I use to work), Quicken, and some other stuff...
Funny to say, but my 1.8 ghz laptop does not shine in WinXP, you don't feel the speed and with Linux RH9 and the emulation, it runns faster ;-)
what do people use CPU power for (the one that you don't see so useful, "why buy more....")
Rendering Raytracing (making movies), encoding DivXs, encoding MP3s, OCR, etc... all these use up a lot of juice.
A possiblility that I thought about is:
Using one big machine, install this crossoveroffice with license for every user on it, then access it with many thin clients over the LAN. You have to buy on big box and the rest can be crap old systems, all they have to do it diplay and take input.
This also exists in Windows, Citrix it is called or so, but it is faaar too expensive and I would never trust a windows computer (server) for speed, efficiency, stability or security.