twin, vwm and my imagination

A lot of times I run across software that I want to like a lot, but somehow doesn’t seem to work quite right. It’s not because it’s somehow faulty or misdesigned, but because I happen to like the idea in principle: It strikes me that it ought to work as well as — if not better in — real life.

Both twin and vwm are like that. In my imagination, it should be a no-brainer to run a windows-esque terminal session, complete with floating frames that overlap and have primitive shading effects, to control it with your mouse and to watch as your geek friends all fall over in a dead faint from the exuded coolness.

And yet it never seems to pan out that way in reality. I’ve mentioned twin in the past, and it does an admirable job of pursuing that dream … and yet seems to be pushing toward splicing that goal with an X environment. Just as an example, if you run twin under X, you get graphical effects here and there, for scrollbars and buttons. Maybe a picture would be more helpful.

Of course running this in a terminal doesn’t give you those effects, so it’s strange that I should feel disappointed in them. It might be that I feel a little sadness in seeing something turn toward an X environment, when it seems so obviously perfect for a non-X one.

vwm, on the other hand, seems to be fighting me, and I seem to be losing. Short of this screen, there’s not much I can show you.

vwm needs a lot of unusual dependencies, and for that reason I haven’t bothered building it on my Crux systems. As you can see it looks a lot like twin, and similarly I would like very much for this to work as I imagine it. But vwm ignores almost everything I do to interact with it — most importantly, my ALT+tilde commands to start a new window, or my ALT+w keypresses — “manage windows” — which just trigger strange lockups.

Those things might be the fault of using a Japanese keyboard. The tilde is a language control function key, and the actual tilde is on the other side of the keyboard. It seems no matter how I press or combine things, whether at a tty screen or in an emulator, vwm is imperturbable. My keys are ignored.

Maybe I’m overreaching on this to blame it on a keyboard layout, but at the same time, I can’t find a .vwmrc or an analogue, there isn’t a man page in the Arch version and I can’t get any tips from vwm --help. I even went so far as to decompress the source code to see if I could feed it another key, a la dwm’s configuration method. I did find a VWM_HOTKEY_MENU variable inside vwm_hotkeys.h, but I don’t know how to correctly adjust that value with any measure of predictability.

In any case, that’s more time than I like to spend goofing with a program — adjusting the code to sidestep keyboard discrepancies. So I am left with a pretty green screenshot and a halfhearted thumbs-up, suggesting that maybe it will work for you, even if it didn’t for me.

But I could say that about anything really, and it rings rather hollow any time I do. As it stands, both of these programs seem to approach that image in my head that I mentioned earlier, but are either veering away or falling short. Maybe they’ll do a better job approaching the image you have. :|

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One thought on “twin, vwm and my imagination

  1. Foz

    Well for twin, I suspect that the difference is a true unicode session. There are many extra graphical characters that you can use, that simply isn’t available in the terminal for whatever reason.
    I’m still trying to figure that one out cos there are many effects that can be achieved (double lined windows for one!)


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