I am always on the lookout for a new way of doing things when it comes to personal computing, and one of the best ways to do so is to experiment with different window managers for Linux.
Since I have my laptop set up as an Ubuntu test platform, and since APT makes it easy to download and install applications and not find myself in dependency hell, my laptop seemed to be a great way to play around with a window manager about which I’ve been reading for some time: Openbox.
Those of you who are familiar with LXDE will have some experience, albeit limited, with Openbox, as LXDE is based on it (with a bunch of other cohesive applications and a consistent look and feel integrated to complete the transition from “window manager” to “desktop environment”), but Openbox will seem much more familiar to users of Blackbox and Fluxbox, predominately in the sense that Openbox is built very light and minimal, with a desktop bare of icons, and a user-defined right-click menu that is used for launching applications. Like Blackbox and Fluxbox, Openbox is also dockapp friendly, and as a window manager it runs very fast on limited hardware.
I’m a big fan of Fluxbox, so I thought it worthwhile to give Openbox a try, if nothing else to give me material for a Linux Critic writeup, and instead I found that I just liked using Openbox, so this turned out to be more than just a review.
So a few days ago, Slackware 13.0 was released. Unfortunately, Patrick Volkerding greatly deviated from the basic philosophy to which he’s faithfully adhered for years with nearly every release — one of stability, simplicity, and only including elements in the distro that are thoroughly tested and functional — and replaced the highly stable, robust, and fully tested KDE 3.5.10 with the much less stable, buggy, half-baked and in fact barely usable KDE 4.2.4.
I wrote the other day that I considered this a minimum of a year or so premature, and had decided sight unseen that this was a bad decision, based on my extensive attempts at using KDE 4 releases as recent as 4.3 (on OpenSUSE 11.1).
Turns out I was right. KDE 4.2.4 on Slackware 13 is a disaster. I did a full install of Slackware 13 last night on VirtualBox and found KDE 4.2.4 to be just as unusable on Slackware as I had found it to be in Kubuntu when I tried it out a couple of months ago. Not surprising, since I didn’t expect that Patrick would have been fixing the massive usability issues intrinsic to KDE 4 just by including it in a Slackware release; that just isn’t a realistic expectation. Still, I had to get a baseline, and that baseline was about what I had expected.
Then, I set about finding a way to upgrade KDE 4.2.4 to KDE 3.5.10 on Slackware 13. I was successful in this today, and here is my writeup of how I did it.
In exploring a renewed interest I’ve developed in Fluxbox recently, and spurred by some new stuff I learned from reading Patrick’s wonderful Fluxbox tweaking post a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d do a writeup on another capability that Fluxbox has that I’ve never delved into: dockapps.
Fluxbox has as a part of its toolbox a friendly home on its desktop for dockable utility applications that can provide information, handy functionality, and even dress up the otherwise normally spartan Fluxbox user space. I don’t use many dockapps, but it’s worth using the ones I have as examples in this writeup, if nothing else just to demonstrate how to set this up and take advantage of this capability.
So in this post, I’ll be discussing three dockapps: GKrellM, WMix, and WMWeather.
I was looking around for ideas for something to write up today, so I asked a friend of mine about his most recent Slackware setup experience. He told me, “my sound isn’t working at the moment, but I really haven’t delved into that at all”.
Which got me thinking. This is a common question among people who are using Slackware and aren’t that intimately familiar with it. I know, this has been written up about a billion times, but not here, and it’s a nice basic HOWTO that I think really belongs on Linux Critic.
By popular demand, I downloaded, installed, and worked with the new Hannah Montana Linux distribution, and decided to post a review of this product, as well as some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of this niche Linux distro.
To aid the reader in following this review visually, I have taken numerous screenshots and included them here.
I was able to download the ISO for HMLinux from the Sourceforge homepage of it. I downloaded “v2″ of it, using Bittorrent. It downloaded quite rapidly, only taking 15 minutes or so, leading me to believe that it is well-seeded as a torrent.
The ISO is a combination LiveCD and installation CD. I think it’s nice when distro developers/packagers do this, as it gives one the chance to see if the distro is going to work on one’s hardware simply by booting from the CD, and making that determination BEFORE one actually has to install anything to the hard drive.
Continuing with my attempt to document the problems I’ve run into running Fluxbox on top of Ubuntu 9.04 and their solutions, I figured I’d present two more things I’ve encountered and resolved since the other day’s rather annoying touchpad fiasco.
These two were both relatively little things, but they’re the kind of things that tend to drive me nuts. The first was a problem with the screen automatically locking (using Xscreensaver‘s built-in lock function — even though I had all such functions disabled), and the second was an issue with sound being muted and the master volume being set to 0% every single time I rebooted — necessitating my manually unmuting it and raising the volume if I wanted sound every day.
As I had mentioned in yesterday’s post about configuring Fluxbox on Ubuntu 9.04 on my old Toshiba laptop, I had one nagging issue I couldn’t figure out, namely the rather simple fact that the touchpad wouldn’t stay disabled.
I know this isn’t a big deal for most people, but for me it’s a rather vexing one, and it bothered me that I had to manually do so every single time I logged in.
So this afternoon I took a deep breath, did some more Google searching on the subject, and arrived at an overly-complex (but doable) solution.
Even though the jury’s still out on my opinion of Ubuntu 9.04 on my laptop, I finally had enough of GNOME today and configured Fluxbox on it and set it as my default window manager.
I’m running into some weirdness with that even, however, which may color my opinion of Ubuntu as a result… things that I’m not accustomed to fighting with when using Fluxbox.
When I was first preparing to switch to Linux many years ago, I went into research mode and looked around the net a bit. At the time, part of the allure of Linux were the crazy cool desktops people had. After I switched I tried Gnome, then KDE, and was depressed at how uncool and *dozelike they were. Eventually, I discovered that all those amazing desktops were the result of Fluxbox (or the other *box forks). I switched immediately.
To my surprise, I found that not only was I able to get a really cool appearance, but Fluxbox made all the things I wanted out of a window manager, and some I didn’t know I wanted, simple. It turned out that I was not the only user to have noticed those operating system limitations and failings I’d been grumbling about for years, particularly with *doze. The Fluxbox crew apparently knew my pain and had gone about addressing all of those complaints.
When I first started using Linux, I used Red Hat and Mandrake, both of which booted into a graphical environment by default.
One of the first things I noticed about Slackware when I first installed it was the fact that it booted into a command line only interface by default. From there, I had to log in, and if I wanted a GUI, I had to type “startx” and then it’d start X-windows and go into whatever my default window manager was.
I remember being a little confused about this at first; it wasn’t a problem, but I knew there had to be a way to change that. I figured I’d write up a brief few paragraphs on that subject, since I ended up having to dig around the web some at first to figure that out.