13 February 2008

Mmmm Minimalism

My laptop is sitting about 20 feet away quietly dd'ing /dev/urandom over /dev/sda so it's all nicely wiped before I send it back to get the DVD drive (nearly dead...just barely working enough for the Edgy live cd, but not the Feisty live cd, to run that command), hard drive (12 bad sectors), and motherboard (short circuited power jack) replaced. Don't buy a Gateway. In the meantime, I'm borrowing a friend's old laptop. When I say old, I mean it's a Pentium M with 512MB of RAM. It could handle Ubuntu, but I don't like GNOME as much when I don't have Compiz, and I don't like Compiz when it's slow.

So, I've got a minimal install on here, and I'm trying to see how minimal I can handle and still be productive. I did an Ubuntu 7.10 Server install then chroot'd in from a live cd and replaced the server kernel with the generic one, because the server kernel only works on server hardware (a title for which this laptop does not qualify). Then I installed Fluxbox and a few applications I thought I needed. I've got:

  • Irssi (command line IRC client)
  • Finch (command line version of Pidgin)
  • Pidgin
  • Firefox 3.0 Beta 2 (what? it uses less resources than Firefox 2! OK nothing Firefox is minimal, but there has to be a black sheep here, right?)
  • Spim (MIPS emulator because I have to write MIPS assembly for school)
  • Evince (PDF reader)
  • LaTeX (what I use to write papers and turn them into PDFs)
  • GIMP (I resisted installing this, but I needed to crop something)
  • mrxvt (lightweight virtual terminal that supports tabs and pseudo-transparency, but not Unicode)
  • Sunbird (calendar...like Firefox, it's not exactly minimalist
  • Lynx (command line web browser...see! I do have one!)
  • GKrellm (system monitor)
  • Network Manager
  • Cycle (calendar for women)
  • HPLIP (HP printer stuff)

Yes, I have both Pidgin and Finch installed. As far as I can tell, you cannot add a buddy to your buddy list in Finch, so I keep Pidgin around specifically for that. If anyone knows how to do it, tell me, because it is not in the buddy list menu. I don't think it's been implemented yet.

Finch, irssi, and lynx (or w3m or links2) are 3 programs I highly recommend everyone have installed. I have Intel graphics (yay open source drivers) on my [broken] laptop, so I don't have to worry about funny things happening if I update a kernel and not drivers or anything like that, but if you're using Nvidia's or ATI's binary drivers, you never really know what will happen. Those three console programs will let you access the rest of the world, the part of the world that has information to get X back. Any of the above on a transparent terminal with a cool background also just makes you look really damn cool.

GKrellm is a very informative system monitor. I'm not quite sure if it's the Broadcom chip in this laptop or the school's wireless VPN (it could be either, they're both horrible), but the VPN disassociates all the time. No, this isn't a "Linux needs to improve..." problem. This is a "my school's IT sucks" problem. The Windows and Mac users actually have a harder time connecting than we do. Anyway, when I see that I'm sending lots of data through the VPN tunnel and none of it's making it to the internet (based on the little charts on GKrellm), I know I have to disconnnect and reconnect to get a new DHCP lease.

I'm going to go ahead and assume there is at least one female reading this. Ladies, if you haven't seen Cycle (it's in the repos, don't worry about downloading from there), I suggest you check it out. It helps you track all that "time of the month" related stuff, like when it last happened (how often do you go "oh...hmm am I starting today or is that next week? crap..."???), first day of each pill set, when you're most fertile, etc. It's definitely very useful if you're as absent-minded about dates as I am.

I really like the setup I've got. Unfortunately, I don't know quite enough about Linux yet to setup some of what I wish I had. For example, I have acpi installed, but I guess there's some setup I need to do because I can't see how much battery life this thing has, and I'd really prefer not to have it turn off without warning while I'm in the middle of typing a paper (like it did today). If I figure it out, I will, of course, post it here. It's fun to show off and play with Compiz, but minimalism can be really fun too. Oh, and you definitely cannot beat the nice plain-text configuration file for Fluxbox's menu.


Victoria said...

Wow... thanks for pointing out Cycle :-). I was joking about writing PeriodTracker in Cocoa, but had no idea stuff like this was already out there. Awesome.

Mauro said...

With my wife we use MyGirls, a J2ME app which runs on our phones.
This app is amazing. I 've just installed it on our desktop.

Thanks for the advice.

Mauro said...

I have a question about using fluxbox.
At work we "must" use propietary software because our employer has the licences.

Nobody stoped me when I installed Ubuntu on my desktop and use vmplayer to run our "employer's" licensed propietary sofware.

Rigth now I'm dealing with a problem and couldn't find a solution yet.

My video card is intel 915 integrated. No matter what I put on xorg.conf, gdm starts on 800x600.
After login in Gnome Desktop, the resolution changes to 1024x768 as I desire.
But... If I start a fluxbox session, the resolution does not change.
Right now I use gnome-display-settings within xterm to fix this but I need help to make 915resolution work.
I installed 915resolution, runned it thousand times but has no effect.
My xorg.conf only has 1024x768 at the unique depth of 24 bits.

hope you can give me any clue.

thanks in advance

Mauro said...

Sorry, I made a mistake on my previous post.
Where it says "gnome-display-settings",
should say "gnome-display-properties"

Mackenzie said...

Which version of Ubuntu? Which Intel driver? i810 or intel?

Mauro said...

sorry by this delayed response, but i was not at work until now.

OS. Version

Ubuntu 7.10

Linux melita 2.6.22-14-generic #1 SMP Tue Feb 12 07:42:25 UTC 2008 i686 GNU/Linux

xorg-driver: intel

Now I'm using other CRT display than mine and started as I desire. Details:

My CRT Display:
Samsung SyncMaster 551v S (15")
Starts only at 800x600

Current (temporary) CRT Display:
LG 710E (17")

At work I don't have enough time to investigate this.

Thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...

Try conky instead of gkrellm. I believe it uses less resources, and you can make your own scripts.
As for your display problem. try XRandR, so you can commandline change resolution. And maybe use a script to set for you at startup.

Spook said...

Big fan of Fluxbox and rxvt here.

If you need unicode support, there's always urxvt (rxvt-unicode in the repos).

I like it for the most part, but I haven't found a consistent way to copy and paste in and out of it.

Eric Betts said...

Considering this posts' age, I assume you've already found a solution, but in case you haven't. To add a buddy in finch:
Ctrl+o, select Options menu, select Add (a), select Buddy (b). The rest should be pretty obvious.

Alexandre said...

you should try htop as a system monitor :) command line is as minimal as you can get eh?

and elinks is a better alternative to lynx. elinks supports frames, tables and a lot more formatting than lynx does.