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.
DISCLAIMER: Be prepared. There is whining ahead. I want to preface this by saying that I’m not interested in having a discussion about why I don’t gush with love over KDE 4, and I’m not particularly interested in suggestions for forcing it to work for me. This post is more about me wrapping my head around planning for how my use of Linux is going to change now that I’m going to have to re-think a lot of things about what has been my favorite Linux distro for years.
Why I’m disappointed
I guess I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, because I knew that Pat Volkerding has been working with my least favorite desktop environment and it’s been in
/current for a while now.
But I guess a part of me still was holding out a childish hope that KDE4 was going to be included in
/testing only, and that the default version of KDE for the Slackware 13.0 release would be KDE 3.5.10, the last decent release of that desktop environment. Given Patrick’s tendency to play it safe in regular Slackware releases and stick with only stable, fully-developed and thoroughly tested applications and desktop environments, I would have thought that something like KDE 4 — a desktop environment that’s still easily a year’s worth of hard development away from being a suitable replacement for KDE 3 — would be back-burnered in Slackware in favor of what is known to work and work well.
I probably shouldn’t be upset about this; it’s Linux… if I don’t like it, I can just make my own distro, right? If I want to spend the hours and hours it’ll take for that, sure. Well, I’m not to the point of making my own distro yet. But this does mean I’m going to have to significantly change my Linux usage, starting with replacing a bunch of stuff.
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.
I posted a screenshot in my Fluxbox article a month ago, but Fluxbox is just so tweakable and so sharp looking I feel the need to post another screenshot just to illustrate that.
This is Fluxbox v1.0.0 with the “sid_fluxarnation” style, running on top of Slackware 12.1. I don’t recall where I got the sid_fluxarnation style, but you can easily find one like it, among about a billion others by going here or by following any of the other links in the “styles” section at the bottom of this page on the Fluxbox site.
Also in that screenshot, you can see I’m running GKrellM 2.3.1, using the K5-FVWM theme for it which I downloaded from Muhri.net.
As always, if anyone has questions regarding how to configure or tweak their Fluxbox setup, let me know. It’s easier than you might think! Cheers!