Keeping it Small and Simple


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..


Setting up SCIM on Debian

Filed under: Chinese, Debian, Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 01:46

I’m struggling to keep my Japanese and Chinese alive while learning Ga, programming and trying to uphold my hard-earned reputation as hopelessly lazy. In order to be able to input Chinese and Japanese text on my Linux boxes I use SCIM. There are now lots of good instructions out there, but I’ll outline what I did to get SCIM up and running just in case somebody is still struggling with it.

I’m not sure if these instructions apply to Gnome or KDE. Most likely, Japanese and Chinese are not user-friendly enough for Gnome, and KDE offers you a GUI tool to configure your input methods that is so complex you need a triple-degree in nuclear physics to figure it out. The following should work on a normal X window manager, which is the preferred way of using Linux for normal people.

Install SCIM and related packages

The best thing to do first is aptitude search scim. You will at least need scim itself. For Japanese I use anthy, and for Chinese I use scim-chinese and scim-chewing. I also have a few other packages, like scim-gtk2-immodule and scim-qtimm (you might need to grab that one from the Sid repos) installed.

Adapt the following to your own requirements. Note that there are several other input methods available with SCIM as well, such as Korean. Unfortunately, I don’t know Korean (yet) so it is not something I currently need.

aptitude install scim scim-anthy scim-chinese scim-chewing scim-gtk2-immodule scim-qtimm

Get fonts

You can do aptitude search ttf | grep Japanese to find Japanese fonts. A similar search will give you Chinese. You might also be able to find some others floating around at various places on the ‘Net.

Aptitude install the ones you want. You can, and probably should do a bunch of fine-tuning as well, such as organizing your fonts, so that the best fonts get selected. I normally only do such things once I get annoyed enough. That hasn’t happened quite yet.

Edit .zshenv

The way it *should* be done, all according to the people who really know, is to set environment variables in /etc/X11/xinit/xinput.d/*. But I’m a non-conformist, and moreover far to lazy to change something that works for me. I stuck the following in ~/.zshenv:

export XMODIFIERS='@im=SCIM'
export GTK_IM_MODULE="scim"
export QT_IM_MODULE="scim"

Of course, I could have added these lines to ~/.xinitrc instead. But these are just environment variables. No harm can come from them being set in ~/.zshenv. I’ve never had any problems.

At least I added the following to ~/.xinitrc:

scim -d

I put this before exec startfluxbox. There is no need to append a & since the -d will daemonize scim.

Activate scim

Simplest way to do this is to exit your window manager, source ~/.zshenv and restart X.

% . ~/.zshenv
% startx

Success stories

  • rxvt-unicode (some people say it doesn’t work, don’t know why. It works fine for me
  • (g)vim, which is what really matters. I use gtk2-vim so it’s a gtk2 application.
  • opera, although the fonts look ugly (guess I need to play around with that a bit). Opera uses qt3.
  • Iceweasel/Firefox, without the fonts looking ugly.
  • Netbeans, which proves that it works with Java/Swing as well. Fonts *cough, cough* don’t look too good, however..
  • gjiten, which is a gtk2 application
  • qt4-config. Seems to be the only thing I have available to test that it works with qt4.
  • tkremind, which shows that it works with Tcl/Tk as well.

So, SCIM works with the important applications (urxvt, gvim) as well as tk, gtk2, qt3, qt4 and Java/Swing applications. It does not seem to work with fbrun, however (not that it matters at all to me, just had to test it). If everybody had stuck to motif/lesstif I wouldn’t have had to test so many applications.


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.


The only thing I don’t like about Opera (the browser)

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 12:48

Although I have Firef.. um.., Iceweasel [ :-( ] on my system, I tend to use Opera most of the time (at least when I need a graphical browser).

It’s a nice browser, does what I need it to, and is much more lightweight than Firefox. It also seems to render pages much faster. The few times when I hit a site that does not render well on Opera, I can always switch to Firefox for that particular site.

However, there one thing that does get to me. I have the following bindings set up in ~/.fluxbox/keys:

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

These bindings allow me quickly to switch between American English, Swedish and Ga keyboard layouts. This works well in *every* single application I use, except for Opera. Rxvt handles it, Gvim handles it, Firefox handles it, Zim handles it, so why not Opera? Opera just keeps printing [, and ; even when I have Swedish keyboard selected and would expect å, ä and ö.

I wonder if it is a Qt thing? I don’t really use many Qt applications, and Opera would be the only one where I need to switch between different keyboard layouts. I’m using Opera 9.5beta, but have had the same issue with previous versions.

It’s too bad, because apart from that I’m happy with Opera. But, why, why, can’t I use standard tools and expect Opera to behave like everything else? Opera developers, for next year’s Yule, could you *please* fix this minor dent in you browser?

Oh, yeah, I got *inspired* to write this because I had to type a post in Swedish and had to go through the type-characte-rselect-switch-to-opera-middle-click hell once more! :-(

Oh, and lest I forget: Happy Yule to all!

Edit: see my next post for a solution and why Opera is not to be blamed.

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