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..

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