Category Archives: Debian

Seven in a row

I am going to succumb for a few days to the overwhelming list of terminal applications I want to note. Ordinarily I try to space these out by a week or so at a time, but the list is growing faster than I can manage.

So here is day one of what will probably be two or three posts on console applications. Today: Hex editors and text editors.

I can think of exactly one occasion when I actually needed a proper hex editor, and unfortunately it was so long ago that I wasn’t even using Linux at the time.

Just the same, there is always the chance that something like this might come in handy, so here’s tweak, on the left, and beav.

 

Both work well and do the job as you would expect. beav gets a point for being easy to decipher, with on-screen help prompts and more interaction, but I couldn’t find an option to widen the screen display.

tweak is more or less the opposite, with a few options (like stretching the display over the width of the terminal :roll: ), but fewer on-screen tips and commands are a little more cryptic.

Both tweak and beav are more aligned to the emacs style of doing things — I believe both use CTRL+X CTRL+C to quit, as an example. Here’s one for the vi camp: hexer.

Probably simpler and less functional than the other two, but if you know vi you’ll be quicker at the starting line with this one. hexer, I should mention, feels a little less complete; perhaps it’s still a work in progress.

Enough with hex editors though; let’s move on.

Of course, mentioning a text editor for Linux is like pointing out one particular grain of sand on entire beach. There are just too many, with each of them doing something special in its own right.

All the same, I think I should point out the lighter, more unusual ones I find — that, after all, is my gimmick. I’ve mentioned e3 in the past; here it is again along with mg, joe and jed.


e3

mg

jed

joe

e3 is amazing for fitting a fully functional editor into a 10kb sliver, along with the option to use different command sets that are closer to what you’re familiar with. So that whole emacs-vi thing can go away for once.

mg is likewise a teeny little thing, but this one, as I understand it, is much like zile in its attempt to be a (much) lighter emacs.

I suppose, in that sense, both e3 and mg are useful to people who are accustomed to the way one particular editor works, but want something much, much smaller.

I have a hard time separating jed and joe in my mind (no joke intended there), but you might know joe as one of the editor options in the Arch Linux installation sequence.

joe works well for being obvious and easy to manage. Help commands are listed in a drop-down box, which makes them quick to find while you’re learning it. And it feels like an editor, if that makes sense.

jed, on the other hand, might be the most replete and easy to manage of the editors listed here. jed feels like a graphical application, with drop-down menus, windowed documents, and so forth.

But like I said, these are just four grains of sand on a huge beach of text editors for Linux. I’d be mad to ever mention another text editor again, and probably will be, just for mentioning these four.

There we are though, seven more I can cross off my list. Seven steps forward, ten steps back. … :|

In praise of Debian 5

That’s right: Debian 5. Not 6, 5. I touched on that point briefly in a post early last week, but didn’t get the chance to expound upon it too much. Real life intruded.

But the overarching idea is the fact that Debian 6 requires slightly more memory as a bare minimum. For old-old-old machines that fall below that 43Mb mark by default, they’re going to require upgrades to stay current (technically speaking, of course).

On the other hand though, 32 megabytes, which was a common watermark among late-generation Pentiums, is still very much accessible to Debian 5.

Very much. That photo frame I mentioned a week or two ago has enough processor, video and memory power to handle

  1. Awesome 2, which is for some people, a preferable version anyway;
  2. ssh and nfs, for transferring files and controlling the system remotely;
  3. feh, a very very light image viewer with some amazing features that you won’t find in your ordinary GTK2-reliant image application;
  4. and cmus, which might hold the top spot — or should I say low spot? — among console music players.

And it can do all those things at the same time, which is mind-boggling in a way. Thirty-two megabytes and 133Mhz on a lowly Trident video card. Barely worth keeping.

But what you can make of it is a remote music player with a slideshow visualizer, and probably for less money than it would cost you to feed your belly.

True, it’s old-stable, which means it’s one step off from Debian’s current rendition, but it’s not unusable, it’s solid as a rock and probably won’t fight you in setting up.

And if it keeps another machine out of the landfill … well, that’s just perfect.

One tool, one game, one clock

I still have a long list of console applications that I want to note. Sometimes this is for my benefit, and sometimes it’s in hopes of being someone else’s benefit.

Some of these I discovered via the wiki, which continues to be as much a resource for me as it is a way of discovering new talents for the terminal.

Starting as simply as possible, here’s concalc.

There are plenty of console-based calculators, and superficially it appears that concalc doesn’t do much that a reasonably educated bash user couldn’t do anyway.

It does handle scripting though, which might be of use to you, and it will no doubt streamline some more complex math functions if you need them at the terminal prompt.

And as is always the case with small, soft-spoken applications like this, there is a potential beyond the obvious. Take a closer look and see what you come up with.

Next is a game — pente.

Dating back a decade and still in the Debian repositories, pente is the traditional variant of go usually called five-in-a-row.

This one is easy to use and manage, with any number of console keys that will control the cursor for you, and a simple key press to place a marker.

This will run in either the console or in X supposedly, although it was nice to see that the Debian version didn’t incur any giant dependencies when installing it.

The last one today is a clock, and a rather nifty one at that.

 

This is tbclock, which I didn’t see in AUR or in Debian Squeeze, and that’s a shame really. It’s a very nice clock with a lot of color and movement to it, and a large improvement over the old binclock package — no matter how you dice it.

It also supports vertical arrangements, as you can see above, plus a digital readout to help us lesser beings understand what time it is, and a built-in game. :shock: This place has everything. …

Personally I’m going to jam this last one into my handy-dandy screensaver script for screen, and watch it do something while I do nothing. :)

That’s all for now. Three down, 400 more to go. …

Take your medicine: typespeed

Is it a game? Is it a training tool? Is it legalized torture?

 

You can decide. That’s typespeed, which was added to the wiki by one of the volunteers … and which I hadn’t heard of before.

I’m always glad to find a new toy or two, and it would probably behoove me to spend a little more time with this one.

As a point of interest, you can set it to use not only English words, but words from several different languages — and even programming languages.

You haven’t been challenged until #endif and single brackets have floated by and you’re feverishly trying to remember which key faces left and which one faces right.

I joke, but this is another one of those programs that, in my humble opinion, proves that a graphical interface isn’t always necessary. Enjoy. ;)

From 32 to 43

Disappointed? Saddened? Nostalgic? I’m trying to describe my reaction to Debian’s increased memory requirement.

It’s no surprise really, that the text-based installer on the business card CD wants 43Mb of memory to install. Mentally I had always put that number at 32Mb, which I really only inherited from working with Ubuntu for years.

Not so any more. Even as far back as a year ago, machines I upgraded from stable to testing couldn’t boot on 32Mb of memory. And the installer now says 43Mb is the bare minimum, officially.

It may be that there is a way to circumvent that — after all, the installer doesn’t quit, it just tells you that you’re on thin ice.

But I guess what that means is I need to invest in a couple of old sticks of PC66 … and stop whining about the old days. This is progress, take it or leave it. :)

More vaguely unattached ideas

Once again I seem to have collected a few small notes and links that would do better lumped together, rather than alone.

  • In the way of updates, I should mention that the Tamsyn font I learned about a month ago has been updated to include line drawing symbols, which makes it much more attractive in text-based user interfaces.

    That’s 7×14 and very clean. Even 6×11 is very readable, and the way that looks, I might have to feed it into my Debian systems. I could use a little vacation from Terminus. ;)

  • Also from the font department: I regularly use a Japanese keyboard but rarely go through the hoops to set up multilingual characters or international fonts beyond what is default in Xorg. To that end, there’s a very good series of posts at Chip’s Tips on getting urxvt to show CJK and other letter sets. And if that’s not enough, the Gentoo archives wiki page on UTF-8 is very helpful.
  • The Mebius has been updated to Crux 2.7, which is only important because I had held off for so long on making the jump. Directly updating from the Crux 2.7-i586 ISO was easy, but still needed two or three packages recompiled — most notably imlib2 and anything that required openssl (think: elinks beta, alpine, etc.). In any case, I put that off for far too long.
  • I got a note from Brandon about an HP Pavilion laptop with a Trident-brand graphics card in it, that has some horrific wrapping effects when using the framebuffer.

    I have seen this on my Trident-based machines that can work with the framebuffer module, but I usually only lost one pixel — not entire rows of characters. If anyone knows how to tweak the framebuffer module to push those things back around to their proper side, both Brandon and I would be thankful.

  • Similarly, Jose Catre-Vandis sent along a link about setting up jinamp to play music for a party — shuffled playback only, with no intervention required. I was a little surprised, since my own run-in with jinamp a long time ago was very superficial and not much to my interest. A tool for every job though, and this time it sounds like jinamp was exactly what was needed. And one small +1 for the wiki.
  • Lastly, I mention this not as a console game, but as a game that will make you feel like you’re at the console.
     

    That’s asciiportal, which definitely isn’t The Orange Box, but will remind you of it, if you know it. It’ll take a little more in the way of resources to run asciiportal than, for example, robot finds kitten, but that’s not a good reason not to try it out. For a little while at least. ;)

I think that’s about it for now. :)

Bend the universe to your will: Gearhead

It’s a fair bet that if I haven’t updated this page in a day, that something new has absorbed my attention. This time it’s Gearhead.

Before I start out, I should mention that yes, I found this the same way I’ve been finding a lot of new console programs lately, via Debian’s package search pages.

And yes, I mention this quick on the tail of freesweep, which I don’t actively dislike. I just prefer something with a little more … depth. Gearhead definitely comes through on that point.

Comes through in spades, really. Gearhead reminds me of my years of tabletop gaming, with cardboard tiles and hex maps, firing arcs and reload times and overheating weapons.

If you remember (or still play) things like BattleTech or Star Fleet Battles, Gearhead will be a natural transition for you. Many of the principles are the same.

But there’s a role-playing element at work here too — you’re not just ticking off ammunition and waiting to incur enough damage to knock over a robot.

I haven’t had the chance to dig very deeply into that aspect — I’ve only been playing for a day or so — but luckily there’s a wiki that will show you how to get started. Pilot attributes must count for something.

Personally I didn’t need much coaching to get started. Not that I’m some kind of genius or something, just that the game is menu-driven on almost every point, and most of the indicators and commands are fairly self-explanatory.

But with this much to absorb me, this is definitely going into my book as a keeper for the console — right alongside Crawl — as a game I can really sink my teeth into.

Some side notes: First, I know there is a Gearhead2, which I tried on my Pentium machine running Debian, but it was terrifically laggy and sometimes took 20-30 seconds to move between menu options.

I see on the wiki that Gearhead2 is described as “in the making,” so it might be that it’s sluggish because it’s not quite done. Or it might just be too heavy for 120Mhz.

Both are possible. But either way, I definitely have my hands full with Gearhead. I can wait a little bit for the sequel. ;)

Second, if you prefer a graphical version, I see that there are tile-based oblique-view animated versions that have developed around Gearhead{1,2}, much like the renditions that accompany Nethack, etc.

If you get one of those running, please send a screenshot. :)