Keeping it Small and Simple

2008.01.27

An evening with Window Maker

Filed under: X Windows — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 23:11

Many, many years ago, WindowMaker was my favorite window manager. For some obscure reason that I cannot remember, I began using blackbox more and more, then moved on to fluxbox. I had a few tours of KDE and Gnome, but eventually came back to fluxbox.

I was doing a few random searches with aptitude this evening a stumbled upon WindowMaker again and just couldn’t resist the temptation to play around with it again. So I aptitude installed it, edited ~/.xinitrc and fired it up with a startx.

The initial nostalgia shock was almost too much. Here was a window manager that I had stared at almost 24/7 for at least 2-3 years. I grabbed the Extras tarball so that I could get it to exactly the way I used to have it running.

For a while I was contemplating going back to WindowMaker. Sadly, I don't think that will happen. Over the years I've just grown too accustomed to fluxbox (which is another great window manager, btw). I've handcrafted my fluxbox menu and I've built up keybindings for all the things I need. I launch rxvt with ALT+T, irssi with ALT+i etc. In short, I hardly ever have to grab for the mouse. Setting all that up in WindowMaker again feels like too much work.

But it sure was fun. And WindowMaker feels so snappy, it's amazing. Fluxbox feels old and slow by comparison. If you have some real old hardware with limited RAM and a video card from a previous era, give Window Maker a try. It will not disapoint you. And using WindowMaker for a while did inspire me to make a few changes to my fluxbox set-up.

First of all, my favorite WindowManager theme was Night, which comes on the Extras tarball. I especially liked the wallpaper because it is dark and simple. It also has a calming effect on me. I also decided to get a few dockapps again. Seems the dockapps warehouse is gone, but there are some other sites. Also Debian packages some of them. I was able to get some of the ones I used to run in the WindowMaker dock.

Screenshot follows:

Fluxbox 2008.01.27

Fluxbox with a few dockapps. Style is mussel. One rxvt window, busy scrotting this screenshot. Here's a closer look at the slit:

Fluxbox 2008.01.27: The Slit

The following dockapps are running here, all available in Debian:

  • wmmoonclock: shows the moon phase
  • wmcalclock: date and time
  • wmnd: monitors network interfaces
  • wmtop: top three processes
  • wmfire: shows CPU load

I would have liked to have wmscope there as well. It does exist in Debian, but when I launched it, CPU usage show right up. Also, it didn't really seem to work right. A little bit of quick research revealed that it doesn't seem to work with ALSA, only OSS, which of course was *the* sound system for Linux back in those days.

I also used to have a dockapp for mail notification (I think it was wmymail or something like that). Now that I'm on a bunch of mailing lists and recieving new mails almost constantly I'm not sure if a biff for the slit makes all that much sense.

Well, it was fun and my "new" fluxbox look will serve as a reminder of WindowMaker, the totally great window manager that I wish I had the patience to get used to again..

2008.01.08

Why I keep using fluxbox

Filed under: X Windows — Tags: , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 19:14

I’ve been using fluxbox for quite a number of years now. Before I discovered fluxbox I had mainly been using fvwm, Window Maker and blackbox, of course.

I love fvwm. It really is amazing in many ways. But, it’s very easy to end up spending all your time playing around with fvwm manager itself and not getting any time left over for other things. That’s what eventually drove me away. In short, fvwm turns into an addiction.

I used Window Maker almost exclusively for a few years. I found it an enjoyable window manager. However, gradually I began using blackbox (which I didn’t particularly like at first) more and more. And when fluxbox arrived I began using it and never really looked back.

If I were asked, I would probably not call fluxbox my favorite window manager. Fvwm or possibly Enlightenment would probably fill that spot. But, in half a day, you will have done all the configuration you will ever need to do with fluxbox, and then it just stays out of your way and lets you get on with what you have to do.

I have used the same style (mussel, can’t remember where I found it), for at least a few years now. Don’t see any reason to change it. I have hand-crafted my menu to contain only the applications I want there. I have keybindings to launch all the important applications (rxvt, mutt, irssi, etc). All in all, my configuration is such that I have to use the mouse relatively little, which makes me happy.

I tried using openbox for a while, but the fact that it uses XML for its configuration files really put me off.

Of course I have also played around a bit with a few of the desktop environments. The only one that seems interesting to me is GNUStep. KDE is, er.. a mess (sorry, but that is my personal opinion), and Gnome is sort of neat in a way but brain-dead (again, personal opinion) at the same time and way too clunky for me to use regularly. I guess Xfce is kind of neat as well, but I’ve never really taken the time to get to know it well.

Since I spend about 95% of my computer time using a terminal and a text editor (vim), desktop environments really aren’t my thing. I rarely use a graphical file manager. If I ever do need one, Rox filer does everything I could ever need.

So, since I use it almost every day, and it rarely annoys me, I’ve got to give thanks to all the people behind fluxbox.

2007.12.26

Using multiple keymaps in X

Filed under: X Windows — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 02:12

The other day I blogged about my frustration over Opera not recognizing when I changed keymaps with setxkbmap. Well, it turned out that not only Opera had a problem, but all Qt and Gtk2 applications. (I guess that tells a bit about me that I haven’t realized this until now).

My ~/.fluxbox/keys file contained the follwing lines, which worked well in the applications that I happen to use most of the time (rxvt-unicode, vim):

Mod4 G :Exec setxkbmap -layout gh -variant ga
Mod4 S :Exec setxkbmap -layout se -variant nodeadkeys
Mod4 U :Exec setxkbmap -layout us

I noticed one thing. If I changed the keymap before launching Opera, the browser would use that keymap. So if, at the time of starting Opera, I was using a Swedish keymap, then I would be able to enter Swedish keys in Opera. But changing the keymap while Opera was running had no effect.

The fix for the problem was simple, after a bit of Googling. I modified ~/.xinitrc to look as follows:

setxkbmap -option grp:switch,grp:shift_toggle,grp_led:scroll us,se,gh -variant ',,ga'
exec startfluxbox

Now the few Qt and Gtk applications that I use behave well! I can switch between US, Swedish and Ga keyboards in all X applications.

Moral: if somethings doesn't work as you like, don't get frustrated, get searching. Somebody has had the problem before, fixed it and documented it.

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