Fluxbox and dockapps

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.

Obtaining and installing GKrellM, WMix, and WMWeather

GKrellM is a versatile and useful source of information about your own system. It’s a vertical application, so it doesn’t take up valuable space, and it’s themable and highly configurable. I like it because it can tell me if my aging CPU is running hotter than I like, and it can tell me if there’s any unusual disk activity or if I’m suddenly running critically low on memory resources.

WMix is a useful little volume control application that allows the user to raise and lower volume simply by mouse wheeling over it. It can easily cycle through the various channels too, so with a click or two you can switch from your master volume to PCM to CD volume. In Fluxbox I used to use Kmix (KDE’s default volume control applet), but since I’ve been moving away from KDE lately, I figured I’d hunt for something else, and found that WMix fits in well with Fluxbox as a dockable app, and works great on top of it.

I’m also used to having a weather widget of some sort, having grown accustomed to KDE’s default applet in that department too. In my search for a suitable Fluxbox-friendly alternative, I came across WMWeather. WMWeather can be pointed at your weather information resource and give you basics like current temperature, dewpoint, humidity, wind speed, and even wind chill (if you live in place where that matters, like I do). Like WMix and GKrellM, WMWeather is also docakable, so it lives happily in the Fluxbox slit like the others.


If you’re running Ubuntu, you can install all three of these applications by opening up a terminal and running these commands, one at a time, and go through the normal apt-get process for each:

sudo apt-get install gkrellm

sudo apt-get install wmix

sudo apt-get install wmweather

If you’re not running Ubuntu or another Debian-based system, you’ll likely need to download and install these applications manually. I’ll be a nice guy and save you guys some hunting around by linking them here. All of these used to be readily available from Dockapps.org, but that site seems to have vanished, so this should save you some trouble.

GKrellM: Many distros package a version GKrellM out of the box, but just in case, it can be downloaded at GKrellM.net. There are packages available for a variety of different distros and architectures (there’s even a Windows installer), or you can download the source code and compile it yourself.

WMix: A big list of download mirrors is available here. Since I’m not sure how many of those still work (a few of those look pretty old), you may end up searching around the web some more for it like I did, otherwise I have it hosted on my web server here for your convenience. The file is the source code for it, so it’ll need to be compiled and installed.

WMWeather: I ended up downloading the source code for WMWeather from here, mostly because I couldn’t find it anywhere else. If that fails for whatever reason, like WMix, I have also uploaded the source code for WMWeather to my web server here to download at your leisure.

Configuration and Tweaks

If you’re playing around with Fluxbox at this level, I’m assuming you can probably handle extracting, compiling and installing those apps from source, so forgive me if I’ve leaped forward over that bit. I can provide some more instruction on that if need be, just post a comment and I’d be happy to help you out… it isn’t as hard as you might think, even if you’ve never done it before.

But once you have all three installed, you can configure them.

GKrellM is very themable; I frequently switch themes on mine, all of which I downloaded from Muhri.net. Any GKrellM theme can simply be extracted into the /~/.gkrellm2/themes directory. You can switch themes by right-clicking on GKrellM while it’s running and selecting “Configuration” and then “Themes”. If you put the themes you downloaded for it in the correct place, they should appear in the list of available themes from which you can choose.

The rest of the configuration options in GKrellM are pretty self-explanatory, once you’re in the Configuration window. Play around with it. You’ll find that there’s a lot you can do with this handy application. One thing you’ll want to make sure of, however, if you’re going to be using GKrellM as a docked application, is that the “Set window type to be a dock or a panel” checkbox located on the “Properties” tab under “General” is unchecked. I’ll get into more of this later.

WMix doesn’t require any configuration; it pretty much runs as-is. There’s no config file for it of which I am aware, and its usage is pretty intuitive.

WMWeather gave me a little trouble at first. It is configured via a plain text config file cleverly labelled wmweather.conf. However, unlike on my Ubuntu machine, where that file was simply located in /etc/wmweather.conf, I disovered that editing that file on my desktop computer did absolutely nothing, had no effect whatsoever on the behavior of the actual application.

I poked around a bit and discovered that the config file that actually needs to be edited on my Slackware box was located in /usr/local/etc/wmweather.conf. Make a note of that. You may want to disregard the one in /etc/.

At any rate, the very first thing you’ll want to do to that file is enter the four digit designation for your local weather information resource. Go to the NOAA.gov site recommended in the config file and look up what that should be for your location. Then edit wmweather.conf and enter that after where it says station = (mine is simply “KSTC”).

Below that, in mine anyway, metric was set as the default for some reason. I commented that line out with a “#” in front of metric, saved my changes, closed the file, and when I ran WMWeather it displayed everything the way I wanted it.

There are other things you can do with WMWeather that I haven’t gone into or even tried (I decided to keep mine pretty basic). Check out the man page for WMWeather for more info, or simply go to a terminal and type man wmweather and you’ll find lots of stuff to read.

Now that we’ve got all three installed and configured, we need to get Fluxbox set up so that it knows what to do with them.

Next page: Where the dockapps live: the Fluxbox slit

One thought on “Fluxbox and dockapps

  1. Pingback: Mint Enlightenment « The Linux Critic

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