GTK2 performance issues on low-end computers running X11, but not Win32

I am currently the owner of a 300 MHz Thinkpad 600E, with 192 MB of RAM. With Windows 2000 and the latest version of Opera installed on it, this computer is responsive enough for day to day use, and can handle _javascript_-intensive websites like Facebook. With Abiword installed it makes a halfway decent desktop.

Unfortunately Windows 2000 is obsolete, software support is falling off, and security is nonexistent. So, the Thinkpad now runs OpenBSD. And for an old computer it works pretty well... Until I open any GTK2 application. GTK2 applications such as PCManFM render very, very slowly, even when using only bitmap fonts. Click on a menu, for instance, and it takes 3-5 seconds for it to open.

That is for PCManFM. Abiword is completely unusable on OpenBSD. That it should be perfectly fine on Windows 2000, and unusably slow under X11, puzzles me. So, I have three general questions...

1. What causes this issue?
I don't see why application behavior should vary so hugely depending on the OS. What's going on behind the scenes?

2. What could developers do about this? More specifically:
- How could program developers write faster GTK2 (or GTK3) applications for *nix?
- How could GTK2 or GTK3 developers theoretically address performance issues with the toolkit? Would it be possible, for instance, to have an environment variable that globally enabled or disabled double-buffering?

3. What can end users do about this right now?
There probably aren't many people using *nix on Pentium IIs, but there is a visible and annoying difference between GTK2 performance on Windows and on *nix even on more powerful computers (for instance, my Eee 1005HAB). Using only bitmap font might work for some apps, but not for ones like browsers and word processors that use all manner of different fonts. Is there anything I could do to make Abiword, at least, usable on the Thinkpad?


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