Archive for the 'Arch Linux' Category

FOX Desktop and some graphical apps

Not everything in the house is console-based, as you might have guessed from some of the screenshots around this site. And I do occasionally tinker with new graphical applications too.

Or even entire desktops, like the little-known ROX desktop from a while back. Before I show you another one like that, here are a few applications that are — and some that aren’t — inter-related.

This is qutim.

qutim looks, for most intents and purposes, to be a straightforward IM client with access to a goodly number of networks. Check the home page for the full list; of course the usefulness of any particular client lies with the networks it can access.

But if you’re after something that doesn’t stain your desktop theme with arbitrary icons and bizarre color schemes, you might like this QT-based one.

I haven’t exactly used it; I don’t IM with my blog address, but as you can see, it hooked up nicely to Jabber with my GMail account. Beyond that though, I haven’t really tested it. Give it a spin and see if it suits you.

Another independent project, and an image viewer this time: Viewnior.

I think I found Viewnior in the latest Slitaz, if I remember right. Considering that’s been out for quite a while, I’ve been sitting on this one for too long without mentioning it.

Nice and light (it wouldn’t be in Slitaz if it wasn’t :| ), speedy and clean, not too many flashy parts and a clean focus on image viewing. I sometimes still mispronounce it as if it was a film genre though — view-noir. :roll:

Moving on from that poor attempt at a joke, here’s barpanel.

barpanel reminds me slightly of my early days with fbpanel. I have a feeling it’s about as challenging to manage, since the only config I could find was an XML file.

But if you’re an Openbox fan, or just have no fear of the keyboard, that shouldn’t stop you. I adjusted the one in the photo slightly to fit the desktop better, but didn’t go beyond that.

If you want a lightweight panel to take over from some other, heavier applications, that might do the trick for you.

The next three are interlaced, and form the desktop I hinted at earlier. Take a peek at fxdesktop.

Most people know the Fox toolkit from Xfe, which is a great little file manager and something I use daily in my phony Windows XP Classic setups.

You get a lot more than just that when you install the Fox subsystem though. In that photo alone you can see a panel, a calculator, an editor and a control panel, and that wasn’t all that was available.

(Getting it started might be a tiny bit tricky: Try installing Openbox as well, starting the X environment with exec openbox in your .xinitrc file, then opening a terminal and entering export FOX_DESKTOP_WM="openbox" and then entering fxdesktop. That’s what did it for me.)

To highlight one or two, here’s adie, the editor, running solo as a downloaded binary from the Fox website.

It’s reminiscent of Beaver to me, but it’s obvious that this does quite a bit more and is meant to handle heavier coding chores. Likewise, here’s Shutterbug, a screen capture tool, performing independently of fxdesktop but included when Xfe was installed (I think … :roll: ).

No, the bug doesn’t show up in your captured images, and actually it’s a nice touch since you can push that around the screen to wherever is convenient, and snap screenshots with a single click.

There’s more there and it all runs very light and relatively speedy. Any one of these things alone might be worthwhile on an underpowered, decade-old machine that doesn’t deserve retirement.

And you don’t have to feel trapped and powerless at the command line to use them. :roll: As if that were even the case. … :twisted:

Time trackers for the console

It’s time for a few more console applications. I had hoped to post a few of these yesterday but real-life chores got in the way, so I had to wait a day.

I have four or five here that are all … I’m not sure what to call them, but I think “time trackers” or “time managers” might be accurate. They all have a time-punch function that can be terrifically useful for anyone who needs to watch time devoted between tasks.

Here’s the first one: worklog.

worklog is very straightforward, with an adjustable list of projects that you determine keystrokes for. Press a key to start timing a job and press it again to stop it.

You can increase or decrease time arbitrarily and enter descriptions as well. It’s probably not fair to say this, but worklog is probably what I use mentally, as the generic time tracker application.

There are a few things I don’t like about it; for one, some of the keystrokes you see — like the DEL key to quit — don’t seem to work. I have to quit by CTRL+C.

And the “projects” file has to have its details listed in reverse order, which strikes me as odd, in this day and age. Twenty-five years ago when I had to list things in reverse order on my C64 for it to look right, I just took it in stride. These days, that’s unusual. Maybe the problem is me. :|

Regardless, little points like that make me think worklog is a work-in-progress, and just needs a little more time to mellow.

The next is wtime.

A simple switch flag for turns on and off a counter, and another switches between projects. You have the choice of a running count for time spent, or a range of dates and total time accumulated.

It’s very simplistic when compared with some of these others, but programs like this are usually the groundwork for larger, more intricate interfaces.

It’s a little dated (last release in 2006), and it’s not real flashy, so it might not be practical unless you’re willing to incorporate it into a larger tool.

The next two are a pair of sorts. timebook and a derivative called timetrap.


As I understand it, timebook is python-based while timetrap is a ruby version, and they both have similar structures and functions.

From a strictly superficial standpoint, timetrap seems to have a few more options than its predecessor, but that might just be the benefit of working in the wake of another program.

Personally I see little difference between the two, so you might have to install one, try it out, then install the other and see how each one ranks.

(I notice that they share commands — they both scramble for the “t” command as their default application name — so you might have to unplug one before trying the other.)

For my money both python and ruby applications tend to bog down low-end hardware, and so if I have to make a life-and-death selection, I would probably go with timebook. To each his own though, and if you have a lot of processor power, it won’t matter.

Last but not least is punch, a/k/a punch-time-tracking on Google Code, which works atop of todo.txt, which is a list manager.

I don’t have a screenshot for that one, mostly because I had trouble getting the two to work together. For some reason there seemed to be a disagreement over what the configuration file should be called.

Judging by the examples on the home page though, it appears to work much like the others. If you already use todo.txt, this might be a natural choice for you.

And there you have it. The odd part of this little essay is that few of these are in the repositories for the two distros I usually check — Arch or Ubuntu.

worklog is in the Ubuntu repos for Dapper onward, and AUR has only timebook-hg to speak of. So in that sense, if you’re looking for some very, very easy projects to sponsor, here are a few.

Enjoy. :)

A little progress: Audio on low speed CPUs

I made a little progress today, with the problem of console music players at very low processor speeds. The house favorite, moc, has a tendency to stutter on machines slower than about 200Mhz (that might vary from machine to machine and distro to distro) with standard-quality sound files.

By all means it should be possible to play mp3 or ogg files on machines far slower than 150Mhz, but for whatever reason, the machine slows to a sputtering crawl, CPU use sits solidly at 100 percent, sound quality drops to a hideous level and the entire experience is an unqualified failure.

Today, during a brief break, I rebuilt moc 2.5.0-alpha4 to remove absolutely everything I don’t use — unwanted codecs, unneeded support flags, you name it — and leaving only things I knew I would need for either my own 100-percent ogg collection, or streaming music channels.

I think it made a difference. There is still a measure of stuttering on startup, and when a new file is started (which I assume is lag caused by some kind of caching process).

But that stutter only lasts a half a second or a little more on 44Khz VBR ogg files, which is a vast improvement over the continual chirping I was getting with the default configuration of moc 2.4.4 for Crux.

It’s still not perfect — CPU use is still in the 85-100 percent range, any interaction with the machine causes a skip or two, and outside interference (like the normal power off for the screen) also causes a hiccup.

But it seems to recover much more quickly, I don’t have to drop out of the interface to listen to a song, and it’s relatively usable. And listenable, if that’s a word. :)

For the record, this is the Pkgfile I used to do this; if you’re also a Cruxian you could give this a try. Arch users could also adjust this to their liking. Note that this pulls libsndfile and adds flac — those are personal preferences.

# Description: Console audio player.
# URL:
# Maintainer: 
# Packager: 
# Depends on: curl flac libvorbis libid3tag libmad


build() {
	cd $name-$version

	./configure \
	--prefix=/usr \
	--mandir=/usr/man \
	--with-alsa \
	--with-curl \
	--with-flac \
	--with-mp3 \
	--with-ncurses \
	--with-vorbis \
	--without-aac \
	--without-ffmpeg \
	--without-jack \
	--without-modplug \
	--without-musepack \
	--without-ncursesw \
	--without-oss \
	--without-rcc \
	--without-samplerate \
	--without-sidplay2 \
	--without-sndfile \
	--without-speex	\
	--without-timidity \
	--without-wavpack \
	--disable-nls \

	make DESTDIR=$PKG install
	install -D -m 0644 -t $PKG/usr/share/moc/ config.example keymap.example 
	rm -rf $PKG/usr/share/doc

Let me know if you have better luck, or if you can trim back the player itself any further. In the mean time, I’ll be trying to force the BIOS power management to stop interrupting my music when the system is on battery. :)

Like I need a hole in my head

With so many computers around the house and not really enough things to do with them, you’d think I would make a point of not bringing home another leftover piece of junk.

Unless it’s something I can use as parts, or to improve upon the machines I already have.

That’s what I thought I was doing when I found a Fujitsu NU/13D, a rather banged-up 133Mhz Pentium machine with 64Mb of memory in it, a CDROM but no hard drive.

Ideally, the plan was to scalp whatever was usable — memory and CDROM — and use it in my own Fujitsu Pentium. Alas, it was not to be … in part.

The machine came out of a junk bin in a recycling shop, and some wag had already scooped the memory out of it, or it never had any additional memory to start with. Bummer.

So the CDROM was the only viable transplant, and I say that not having torn apart the machine yet to see if the remaining 32Mb reported by the BIOS is removable. The last Fujitsu-series Pentium I tore apart had the memory fused to the motherboard.

Interestingly, the CDROM is accessible from the operating system and BIOS, but the option to boot from it doesn’t seem to work. It’s possible that it is not completely compatible; the machine is actually a full year older than the one I type on now.

And oddly, it is not an unattractive computer. It’s rough around the edges and needed a vigorous cleaning, but all the parts appear to work and the screen is in good shape. It’s a tiny bit bigger than the one I have now, too.

But the guts are not appealing to me — it also has a dreaded Trident video card — and since the Mebius has USB ports, this new machine is not likely to take over any time soon.

Ironically, I can boot to something like the final release of Damn Small Linux, get a full screen, full color, full resolution desktop, connect to the wireless network with a leftover orinoco/agere wireless card, and all that without a hard drive … and the battery will last an hour and a half.

Too bad that battery is not compatible with the machine I use now though. It will insert, but it can’t draw power off it, and I see where the “model number” on the battery is different. Probably different connections. Oh well.

I also found a rather quaint Corega WLCB54GL2 PCMCIA wireless card, and it apparently is working … sort of. It’s RT61-driven, and it’s been a really, really long time since I fought with an RT61 card.

I can see where the drivers are available in the kernel, but for some reason my kernels can never find the firmware need to run the things. Technically it works (I can get online and surf in Arch Linux) just not when I try to do it myself.

The last thing I noticed was a creepy looking laptop of some sorts: something called a PCsel L7 Avie, if I remember the name right. The screen was minuscule and the size of the thing was suspicious in its smallness.

So I might have been looking at a true antique — maybe a 386 or even 286. I’m sorry to say I didn’t have enough money to take home both that and the Fujitsu, so I left it there.

Of course if I go back now, it’ll be gone. In the wild, wild world of leftover computer junk, you can’t pause to think things over. You gotta move quick. … :roll:

Lookalike Windows XP Classic

Why in the world anyone would want Linux to look like Windows is beyond me. Particularly Windows Classic — that staid old theme that came bundled with Windows XP and attempted to look like the old Windows 2000 desktop.

And yet, thanks to the backend (credit where credit is due :roll: ), I can tell you with half shock and half embarrassment that the screenshots that get the most traffic are ones of a Windows Classic theme knockoff I created about a year ago. And still fine-tune now and again.

It’s ugly, it’s boring, it’s dull and it’s hackneyed. But it’s also amazingly fast, light as air and easy to set up, given you have a few configurations and about an hour of your time.

I’ve put this on everything from Pentium Classics to dual core Intel machines and without fail, it runs quick and light and never disappoints. I even had a friend over to my house about a week ago, and I was asked when I had started using Windows again.

So it must be a little convincing, at least. I’ve built this in Arch Linux, Crux Linux, Ubuntu, Debian … and if there are others out there with the same software available, I’m sure it can be done on them too.

Linux is beautiful and clean and fast and creative — just about everything Windows isn’t. So try it if you must — it’s not that great and it’ll probably be disappointing, but so was Windows. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. ;)

P.S.: I do not suggest using this as a trick to push someone into using Linux. Convert through desire, not through subterfuge, friends. … :D

Memory’s in the corners of my mind

Memory seems to be on my mind more than usual these days. That probably started with the myth about more memory arbitrarily improving system speed, and continued with the purchase of a gargantuan chunk of memory around the same time. And then the issue resurfaced yesterday, with an entire Openbox desktop riding on a speck no bigger than 12Mb.

I know the whole “free memory is wasted memory” argument, and in principle I agree.

But there’s a side of me that says large chunks of available memory are not an excuse for overweight software. I’m not a coder so I probably shouldn’t complain, but just because your pants are a little loose doesn’t mean you can overeat.

And really, the logic of that statement doesn’t suggest you should make an effort to use that space. It suggests you should take the extra memory out of your computer and give it to a friend. If you bought it and don’t use it, then your money went to nothing.

So … “free memory is wasted money?” :shock: You heard it here first. :roll:

I mean no offense. If you’re not using that memory, take heart: I’m not using mine either. Even this, an Arch system chrooted into a Crux system on USB and compiling mesa3d, is only using about 7-8 percent of the total memory available to the system.

And unless I’m mistaken, most of the results written in the build process will probably held in memory before they’re dumped to the USB disk en masse. So it might be safe to say usage is a wee bit higher there because of cached changes that will need flushed. I might be wrong though; htop might not make that distinction.

But it’s all hairsplitting really. Either you have enough memory or you don’t, or you have too much or you don’t. You’re the one who gets to decide which is true and what’s best for you. You are free to stack memory chips in your machine like so many slices of bread, and complain that it’s just not enough.

On the other hand, if anyone feels crazy and wants to yank a stick of PC66 from a laptop, I’d be happy to put it to work. … :D

X and Openbox in 12Mb

I have not been lax in testing distros with the Mebius, but it is becoming rare to find a system that will start up effectively on 32Mb of memory, let alone install to the disk.

But I do have another miracle of modern science to show: an i586-flavor Crux system running Openbox and Xorg 7.4′s server 1.8.2 on a measly 12Mb of memory, no swap, after a cold boot.

The python memory script I mentioned a year ago confirms that, although it does put usage closer to 14Mb. I never know if I should be mentally subtracting for the space taken up to run it under python.

No matter. That’s not what is important; what’s important is that I thought only Debian could pull off this stunt, but now there are two contenders.

Memory usage is definitely lower in this rendition than in Debian, and start times from Grub to the desktop are under 16 seconds for a 150Mhz machine … with a somewhat quicker hard drive in it, so don’t tout that. Not bad at all, considering some of the speediest Arch machines I have are doing the same.

But it’s also important to note that I build Crux systems with kernels so sparse you can drive a car through them, and without an initramfs, etc., to wait on, things are considerably faster on the startup.

The standard Xorg trident driver was a loss, as was the kernel’s tridentfb module in the kernel. With both the Xorg xvesa and fbdev drivers installed I get an acceptable 16-bit 800×600 graphical desktop.

And it’s not as much of a memory hog as I usually make it out to be. In both screenshots you can see X squished into less than 6Mb of space, which isn’t as good as this was, but it’s still considerable.

Perhaps that is another bonus to using older computers — considerably smaller demands on X. :twisted:

Openbox is running the desktop in those screenshots too, and while that’s no miracle, it is amazing to me that GTK2 applications like Leafpad or gcolor2 or even obconf run without undue hassle. Yes, everything is still ugly slow, just because 150Mhz is ugly slow. But at least it’s not as bad as GTK2 was at 16Mb.

And because someone is going to ask, here it is:

Yeah, it took me almost half an hour to get that screenshot, so enjoy it. And the screen artifacts are there because it takes 20-25 seconds for a redraw for Firefox, with continuous swapping to the disk. I’d have to time-delay scrot by about two minutes to get rid of that.

For practical use though, I think the standard array of console programs inside rxvt-unicode’s daemon would be an improvement. And maybe dmenu and Musca.

Regardless, this is quite remarkable in its current form. I will continue to sift through some of the other “lightweight” distros and see what I can find, but sometimes it’s just a better idea to build it yourself. :mrgreen:

P.S.: Sound is still screwy though. … :(

VICE keybindings and Berzerk Redux

I have been using VICE as an emulator for nigh on a decade now, and in spite of that, I found out something new about it the other day.

One “shortcoming” that I always regretted in the application was its lack of configurable keystrokes for joysticks, in the xaw-interface. The version built with Gnome dependencies is able to assign new keys to joystick actions, which is important on laptops because the default keys are knucklebusters, what with the NumLk and Fn-keys and triple-pressing and so forth.

What I didn’t realize was that yes, those configuration menus are only available if VICE is built with the Gnome interface, but VICE doesn’t need those dependencies to run.

In other words, if you build VICE with the Gnome UI, you can install it in systems that don’t use Gnome, and still access those menus. To wit:

Well I’ll be darned. All this time I was kicking the wall wishing I could easily assign different keys to VICE, and the net effect was only my banged-up toes.

That alone isn’t worth mentioning in a post, so here’s further proof that the C64 is the immortal computer system: Berzerk Redux, in the 1.10 release.


Yes, Berzerk is nothing new, and so mentioning a version released as recently as last month doesn’t do much to shake up the world of computer gaming. But if you liked the original stand-up arcade game you’ll probably like this one too. It’s tight to the original, with similar shapes and game play but with much improved sound effects and speech.

I don’t remember playing Berzerk on the C64 as much as the Atari 2600, but this is a good diversion for half an hour or so. And the beauty of it is, now you can manage your keybindings, even if you don’t have Gnome in place. :roll:

P.S.: Before you Ubuntu users try installing this out of the repositories, take a look at this.

How to use teapot like a pro

I like to make a big deal out of console applications that really are applications — that actually have a workable “GUI” beyond just a command and a few switches. It’s part of my quest in life: To dispel the irrational repulsion many people brag (yes, brag) about when they discuss using the console with Linux. :roll:

It’s been a while since I really walked neatly through a program though, and I feel I should do that with teapot. teapot is a very useful, very lightweight spreadsheet that I like a lot. I don’t need it very often though, and so each time I pick it up I have to relearn it again.

But on top of that, I have mentioned Oleo in the past, which is a very good console spreadsheet. But it’s not the only one out there, isn’t really to my liking, and there are things about teapot that are worth looking at.

The first trick might be getting it installed, since it isn’t in every distro — Ubuntu, for example, draws a blank if you ask the package search pages about it. AUR has it, with the caveat that it’s for “mathy” people, which I don’t dispute. It’s a spreadsheet, so you can expect to see some numbers. I know some people for whom that would be enough to be called “mathy.” ;)

If you decide to build it from scratch, you can take comfort in the thought that teapot only needs ncurses to get going. So I’m guessing with 99 percent certainty that (a), you can build it without too much hassle, and (b), it’s as light as a feather when in action. And that last part is a fact confirmed by htop.

Getting started is easy enough. Enter teapot at the prompt, and you should get something that looks like this.

Fair enough, it looks like a spreadsheet. We were expecting that much.

Except … hold on: The columns aren’t labeled with letters. We have numbers across and numbers down. That’s a little unusual.

Yes, that alone is probably enough to either intrigue you or dismay you — teapot breaks convention by using numbers in both directions. Now the un-”mathy” people in the crowd are probably already considering panicking, but the “mathy” ones might suddenly be interested.

Because it means that there is an x-y coordinate for each cell — and in fact, most of teapot’s instructions and formulas rely on that to work. And best of all for the “mathy” types, there is an unseen z dimension at work here, so the layers beneath this page are also addressable.

You know, maybe that “mathy” label was right.

No matter. Let’s get started. I’m going to make a spreadsheet for this example that shows how much of my lowly paycheck went into my X60s, in the form of memory and a new hard drive. First, I’m going to put the make and model of my hard drive in the upper left block. Type “SATA3G hard drive”, starting and finishing with quotes.


My god, it’s full of stars. … Well, we’ve already run into our first problem. It seems that the title is too long for the width of the cell. teapot tells us that by showing those stars, and signaling to us that we should probably widen that column a little.

No problem. Press F10.

teapot has a menu system — I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned GUIs in console programs. Select W)idth, and set the column width to 24.

That’s better. You can see in the bottom line there that the coordinates for the cell — 0,0,0 — contain the quote-enclosed text we entered. Now a little navigation: Use the cursor keys to skip through the spreadsheet, and move down a row. Then enter the next item, “PC2-5300 memory”.

If you make a mistake after you enter data, just press return on that cell again to edit it. If you make a mistake and need to back out of the menu, press CTRL+c.

I bought two sticks of memory in different sizes, so it would be nice to just copy that text into the row below. teapot uses block marking, a lot like old-style pre-graphical word processors. You mark a block and then tell teapot what you want done with it.

In this case, press the period (“dot” or .) key twice. This marks the cell as the first corner of the block and the last corner of the block. If you move the selection highlight after that, you can see that the block (or cell, in this case) remains lit.

Now that we have a selection, we can tell teapot to copy it to a new location. Put the selector on the row beneath the memory text, and press F10. Choose B)lock, then C)opy, and confirm it.

That did the trick. One small problem though: We still have the original cell marked. How do we un-mark it? Press period (“dot” or .) again, and it will disappear.

Next, add the text for the last thing on the list, the “SATA enclosure”. At this point, the spreadsheet should look like this.

The problem at this point is that I forgot a header row. It’s not really necessary, but as long as I am going to make this, I might as well make it clear what I am talking about. Let’s insert a row above the whole business.

Navigate back to the top of the page, or just press the less-than key (<). Press F10, then B)lock, I)nsert, R)ow, and then W)hole line.

We used the block menu even though we didn’t have a block defined, and it worked fine this time. And notice that after you’ve inserted the row, you’re still in the menu dialog; press CTRL+c to leave that. I’ll add some headers to this table.

I like a quantity, cost each and total cost for each line. Nothing fancy, just the kind of things you’d expect on an invoice or an order form.

For the quantity column, I can enter 1 for each, since I only bought one each. For the currency I can use the cost in yen for each one, so the table ends up looking something like this.

And I see I made one mistake again: I bought memory of two different sizes but didn’t leave a column for the size. I can insert a column for “Gb” quickly, and add the information where it’s appropriate.

Of course, those headers are skewed off to the left while their information is on the right. Let’s align the headers to the right so they look nice. Mark a block with only the numeric headers highlighted: Press period at the “Gb” column, then skip to the right with the cursor keys until the “Total cost” column is highlighted as well, and then press period again.

If you move away from the marked block, you can see that the entire area is now inverted. Press F10, then A)ttributes, R)epresentation, and R)ight.

So long as you have a block marked, the attributes and representations will be applied to the block. Press CTRL+c to leave the menu dialog, then press period again to unselect the marked block.

Let’s get some totals in here. Obviously, the quantity times the cost will give me the total cost for each line. teapot is flexible enough that there are several different ways to do that, but to avoid being too “mathy,” I’ll take the easiest way.

Go to the first item in the list, to the total cost cell, and we’ll give it a formula to calculate. Enter @(2,1,0)*@(3,1,0) in that box, and the total is shown for that line.

One small problem though, created mostly because human beings are innately lazy: I’d rather not retype that three times over. I can fill the contents of that cell through the cells below it, but then the formula always points back to that first row of numbers.

So instead of specifying the exact x-y-z location for the formula, I’m just going to give it the x location. If teapot doesn’t find a y or z in the location of the cell, it takes the one where it is at the moment. So instead of the multiplication operation above, edit the cell to show @(3)*@(2) — the x locations only of the data I want to multiply.

Then mark the block for that one cell, move down one cell and use F10, B)lock, F)ill. For the number of column-wise repetitions say 1 — the column we’re in. For row-wise, say 3 — the current cell plus the two below it. For depth-wise say 1 — the layer we’re in.

And voila.

Adjusting the quantity or the price will change the values across the sheet, like all good spreadsheets should.

Just for fun, let’s sort a few columns. Select all of the data rows (but not the grand total), and then hit F10, B)lock, S)ort, R)ow. For the “X position of key vector,” and “Z position of key vector,” enter 0. The A)scending and S)ort region.

We sorted the list alphabetically, by the name of the item (X key vector 0) over one level of “sheets” (Z key vector 0). This could be useful if you need to keep day-to-day spreadsheets of the same information, since it means you can sort vertically over a “date” cell.

Changing it back is simply reversing the same process, but using the X key vector for the “Cost each” column — 3. And don’t forget to use “descending.” :)

There’s one more thing that teapot will do that is worth looking at, because it changes how you can use the entire spreadsheet — or the entire idea behind a spreadsheet, really. Try this: Go to the top of the total cost column, press F10 then A)ttributes then L)abel. Now call this “first”.

The status line near the bottom changed, with the label included. Now go to the last in that column, and give that the label “last”.

Now skip down one more line and enter this for the grand total of that column: sum(first,last).

“Okay, great,” you say. “It knows how to sum things, and it can use those labels to do it. So what?”

Well the “so what” part is principle, not action this time. It essentially means you can label, refer to and connect from any cell over the three dimensions of the spreadsheet, and not need coordinates to do it.

You can skew a column of numbers, sum them over a series of cells, insert wide gaping holes in pages, but the labels are what determines how numbers are calculated. teapot takes its labels seriously and allows you to do some cool things with them, and the results are about what you need.

It also means that those text labels we put on the left, or the column headers on the right are completely superfluous now. They’re only there for uninitiated humans to find there way around the page. We could just as easily label cells as “quantity1″, “quantity2″ and so forth. Then call the cost cells “cost1″, “cost2″ and so on, and just sum the opposite corners of a range.

It’s not a mind-blowing or life-altering idea, but it does mean that formulas and number-crunching become easier to think about, and don’t require you to second-guess because a cell shifted to allow for more data. So long as the labels stay the same, the calculations work the same.

The next obvious question is, “Where can I go with my spreadsheet?” To which, I can say that teapot saves in XDR natively for mathematical precision, and exports to at least four or maybe five others. I see that two of those — CSV and HTML — are something Google documents can open, albeit as word processor pages.

Beyond that, I am not up-to-snuff on what is the file format du jour for spreadsheet programs. I am guessing a modern one can probably handle something teapot exports to.

teapot does a lot of other things; the list of formulas available to you, and the way you can access cells or run counts is very impressive. The source package includes a teapot-driven variation on Conway’s game of life too, so it’s not all serious stuff.

Of course there are quite a lot of things teapot doesn’t do, like export in Excel format or draw exploding pie charts in three dimensions and 64,000 colors. For things like that you will probably want to investigate, bigger, bulkier and slower spreadsheets, built by other people.

But if you want something that will run in a slice of memory thinner than a piece of paper, this is a good choice. It’s fast, light, sensible and flexible and comes with a very good documentation file (check the source package for the doc folder). And while there’s a degree of “mathy-ness” that you can’t get away from, it’s certainly nothing to be afraid of. ;)

Another Arch repository for i586

There have been so many started-and-stalled i586 renditions of the Arch Linux project that I’ve lost my way through some of them. To make things worse, I occasionally stumble upon sites that mention one offshoot, but seem to merge into another.

This time it’s a concise and to-the-point page from a while back, that talks about bumping Lowarch up to a more current rendition. If I remember right from the last time I tried that stunt, there were problems with pacman and with building software from scratch.

I haven’t tried this yet so I can’t be sure, but it may be that the script on that page puts Lowarch within striking distance of a version of pacman that can step even further forward.

Why you would want to do that, over installing from something more recent, like the archlinux-i586 ISO?

I don’t know. But repositories are still accessible, even if a lot of the software is already out of date. But one or two packages — like glibc — are stamped as recently as June.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that you could splice together an almost-up-to-date i586 system between that and the repos at Even if you don’t install from the Lowarch ISO, there seems to be enough in the way of “current” packages between the two, that you could probably keep your i586 within a month or two of “up-to-date.”

What’s left you’ll probably have to build from scratch. Enter abs, etc.

But waitaminute … Lowarch? Why are we talking about the original Lowarch? Didn’t that die in 2008 or something? Where in the world is the ISO to install that … ? :roll:


Visit the Wiki!

Some recent desktops

May 6, 2011
Musca 0.9.24 on Crux Linux
150Mhz Pentium 96Mb 8Gb CF

May 14, 2011
IceWM 1.2.37 and Arch Linux
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

Some recent games

Apr. 21, 2011
Oolite on Xubuntu 11.04
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

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