This is my first question, so I'm sorry in advance if my question is not good/descriptive enough.

I'm having problems getting Xfce systems on Virtualbox to run smoothly. What I mean by slow is that moving or resizing windows looks very "laggy", basically just windows jumping from one place to another. This seems to only happen on Xfce systems or more specifically, Xfwm.

--- Host's spec ---
Macbook Pro Retina
Mac OS X Mavericks
2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
8GB 1600MHz RAM
Intel Iris Graphics

--- Guest's spec ---
64 bit OS
10GB fixed VDI size
128MB VRAM (both 12MB/128MB tested)
3D acceleration (both on/off tested)

--- The tests I did, where every OS have the same spec ---
OS (WM) | Good performance [Y/n]
Debian 7.3 (Metacity) | Y
Ubuntu 13.10 (Compiz) | Y
Ubuntu 13.10 (LightDM) | Y
Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon (Mutter) | Y
Xubuntu 13.10 (Compiz) | Y
Xubuntu 13.10 (Xfwm4) | n
Linux Mint 16 Xfce (Xfwm4) | n
The CPU usage of guest from moving windows is about 10% and resizing is about 2%. The CPU usage of host is very small and can't be bothered to get a number. I found out that moving or resizing isn't really affect by the CPU usage, it's consistently that slow. I wrote a huge loop and let the CPU run at 100%, the movements of the windows still look the roughly the same.

The results are leaning toward the conclusion that the poor performance is caused by XFCE, but this doesn't make any sense to me, as XFCE supposed to be lightweight and all. There is a final test I did where I installed compiz on top of Xfwm and it actually made it smooth, which means it must be from the Xfwm. Is this similar to the problem that Virtualbox can't run KDE properly? (I've read that somewhere, and have tried to install openSUSE and Kubuntu)

I am not interested in finding a smooth linux OS on Virtualbox but rather to understand and maybe even fix what is going on with Xfce.

Have I installed guest additions?
Obviously yes, or else the rest of the OS wouldn't run smoothly as well. I can use full screen and resize windows, plus other additions' goodnesses. I'm certain that I installed it correctly, as I have been through a tutorials (including Virtualbox docs) on each of the OS and installed every OS at least twice to ensure everything is done correctly. In addition, this command: "lspci" returned: 00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: InnoTek Systemberatung GmbH VirtualBox Graphics Adapter

Have I looked around?
Yes, in fact, for about 7 hours non-stop on Google while testing other OS.

Have I checked out the settings of the guests, i.e. effects?
Yes, every OS I basically tested with all effects on and off, doesn't make the slightest difference.

Have I tried other hosts?
Unfortunately I won't have my Windows desktop with me for another week or so and I really want to know the answer soon. I guess the host could make a difference, but from my experience with running Ubuntu fully configured with compiz and other tools, both machines have negligible performance difference.

The end...phew...
So sorry about this long post. The answer could well be very simple and short, that I don't need to type this much, but I really like to be specific as I hate people coming to me and ask obvious questions such as "Have you tried restarting?"

  • 1
    What Window Managers did you use with the Distros that did perform well ? I'm going to guess that XFWM is not taking advantage of the hardware acceleration, but that's a total top of my head guess. – Lawrence Dec 27 '13 at 0:48
  • @Lawrence Thank you for your comment, sorry I missed those. I have edited my post with the window managers for each distro. I have been trying to find out whether it is that, but I can't find anything rigorous. – Nelson Yeung Dec 27 '13 at 1:27
  • Since you are interested in improving Xfce, I hope you'll post your findings at Xfce forums and the Xubuntu mailing list. You could also post at ubuntuforums.org where quite a few Xubuntu users hang out. – user151227 Dec 27 '13 at 2:06

From this question in AskUbuntu I would say that XFWM4 is not taking advantage of 2D hardware acceleration.

You may need to enable it. From the other question -

To enable go to: Applications -> Settings -> XFCE Settings Manager
Then run: Window Manager Tweaks - Compositor (tab) and Enable

Actually, after further research, I would say 2D acceleration is not available in VirtualBox, hence the slow graphics.

From the VirtualBox Doco -

4.4.2. Hardware 2D video acceleration for Windows guests

Starting with version 3.1, the VirtualBox Guest Additions contain experimental
hardware 2D video acceleration support for Windows guests.
  • I have read that post. I've tried to check the box, but "The virtual machine is set up to use video stream acceleration. As this feature only works with windows guest systems it will be disabled." I tried to run the system after ticking that anyway, but it is still the same. – Nelson Yeung Dec 27 '13 at 1:41
  • Is acceleration enabled or disabled in VirtualBox ? – Lawrence Dec 27 '13 at 1:42

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