Category Archives: Debian

One mine, one not

Here are a couple of screenshots, to serve as conversation points. One belongs to me, and one doesn’t.


On the left is one that pete.t sent, and if you look close, you can see a clever splicing of both dvtm and dvm at work. Using one multiplexer shouldn’t discourage you from nesting another within it, sort of like I mentioned a while back with screen.

pete.t said that machine is an Athlon XP 1500 with a lowly GeForce4 video card, but it doesn’t seem the least bothered by the workload … if htop is any indicator. I can vouch for the video card, by the way: I believe used to have a mobile version, and it was no sluggard.

The image on the right is mine, and it’s a bit of a project. Progress is slow, but the intended result is something like a mix of a weather map and clock.

The host (and by host, I mean it in the host-and-parasite sense) is that less-than-spectacular K6-2 I brought home a few weeks ago. I’ve been tinkering with it off and on, and debating its future.

Technically, it’s a has-been. It has a number of quirky points which make it ripe for disassembly, and yet on the other hand, it’s still gameworthy.

I could list all its faults, but if this little adventure pans out like I want, I might have something to show off. I’ll save the details for later.

As it stands, the machine is running Debian 6.0, with only conky, xplanet and openbox on board. Given the siliconmotion driver’s general and ongoing state of disrepair, that’s about all it can handle.

The goal here is to get the machine to boot straight to X, download and render the weather maps at regular intervals, hide the mouse cursor, and — if I feel overly ambitious — cut power to the backlight at night and restore it in the morning.

If I can get everything working how I like, I’ll literally tear away all the components that don’t work (like the keyboard) and move on to the second step: mounting it on the wall.

But that’s a little bit into the future. And I have a couple of issues to solve before then … like how in the heck I can do a factory reset on my wireless router, after accidentally setting it to serve as an access point. That’s a whole different story though. … :evil:

Obvious cousins: ethstatus, pppstatus, slurm

I have promised I would never let this blog devolve into a “cli-app-a-day” kind of website, and I really want to stick to my guns on that one.

But putting together that wiki — which is done now, and which I intend to be a sort of memory aid for software I’ve looked at or tried — has underscored one point: It’s not for a lack of material.

There is a hurricane-sized swirl of console-oriented software out there, and the sheer magnitude of it all can be dizzying. One good, popular application might list two or three lesser-known ones as influences.

Or a home page might cite other projects as counter to the developer’s goals — which could mean there are another two or three out there that do the same thing, just a little differently.

And so with every discovery I anticipate finding one, sometimes two new ones. If I’m lucky, I’ve already seen it. If not, I dutifully add it to my list, sigh deeply, and check the calendar for the next day off I have.

I make it sound terrible, but it’s not. It’s fun. And sometimes I am honestly surprised. For example, I’ve known for years about slurm.

slurm is fun to watch and sufficiently useful that I usually keep it installed. It’s not cumbersome, has a sprinkling of options and you can tweak the colors a little. I don’t ask for much more than that.

What I didn’t know until yesterday though, was slurm’s intent to port a little application called pppstatus to FreeBSD.

I learned that while digging through for slurm’s original home page. In turn, a quick glance at pppstatus reveals that it morphed again into something called ethstatus.

And ethstatus — surprise, surprise — bears a resemblance to slurm. It’s a bit droll if you ask me, and slurm does things ethstatus doesn’t, but it’s obvious that they’re cousins.

So there, in a nutshell, is the issue: Look at one, hear about two more. Pick up one, and two more are hiding underneath.

That might suggest to you Pirsig‘s difficulties with hypotheses: More than one exists to explain a phenomenon, and satisfying one only yields more.

Personally though, it reminds me of coat hangers. They’re always tangled up in threes and fours when you pull them out of the closet. :|

Nice browser, but that name …

In case you were wondering, I am still poking around with the homeless but familiar K6-2 that I took home last week. I don’t have much to report in that arena, save a few small discoveries that are worth sharing.

To date, Debian and ConnochaetOS (the i586 rehash of Arch Linux) have been the most promising contenders. That laptop is a true 586, which narrows the field slightly in terms of distros that will work with it.

And of course, running at 450Mhz means the field narrows even further, since the median-ground applications suddenly become sluggish and lethargic.

This is the machine that played back Flash videos from YouTube through Firefox in Crux 2.5 though, so it’s not impossible. Just tricky. :twisted:

But there is more than one way to skin a cat, or surf the web at 450Mhz. ConnochaetOS comes with a couple of unusual alternatives, including a very simple and straightforward graphical browser with a … terrible name.

That’s xxxterm, and before you go all wide-eyed and start thinking this application is intended to appeal to your biological urges, I can assure you it’s very legit. (Unless you tell it to do otherwise.)

It’s exceedingly simple, with only fundamental controls, tabbed browsing and a trusty right-click menu as an option. It has Java support, a download manager, a browsing history, and for all the vi freak-a-deaks out there, vim-like controls.

(I have to be honest here: I use vim on a daily basis, and short of the oddball-but-necessary colon-prefixed commands, I stick with the arrow keys. I know, I’m a heretic.)

Speedwise, xxxterm (which really should think about a contest to find a new name) opens infinitely faster than Firefox on the same machine, renders … at an acceptable pace, and doesn’t take up too much space.

It’s not going to thrill you with extensions and multimedia sockets and triple-buffered AJAX doodads in support of the latest thingamajig on Friendspace or Twitterbook or iTuneface or whatever. It’s just a step above that Python browser script.

But it does a good job of getting around the Web without dragging its feet. And if you’re surfing at 450Mhz, you’re probably content with that. ;)

Edit: Oops, the picture didn’t quite work right. Reuploaded. ;)

The Joker

This is almost funny. It’s definitely not deliberate.

Since the Sotec machine has been back in the house, I’ve given it a quick dust-off, and been happy to see that almost nothing has changed since the last time I touched it.

It still has a few quirks, like a tetchy CDROM and a some curmudgeonly keys. But for the most part, if properly managed, it’ll perform.

Framebuffer support in Debian though is kind of humorous. With most of the settings I tried in Grub2 (my very good friend Grub2 :roll: ), the screen had a distinct greenish wash to it.

Which made the entire experience appear in a purple-and-green tint. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Joker.

Under a full-scale X environment everything is fine, of course. And dropping the color depth to 8bpp makes everything right, more or less. Seems like it should be able to do better though. …

I’ll have to tinker with a few other 586-friendly distros, and see if I get the same mischievousness. No harm, no foul … but comical just the same.

Get it? Comical?! Ha! A pun! :roll: :|

P.S.: That’s dvtm by the way, and quite enjoyable at 450Mhz. But when your G key is acting up, it gets a little frustrating. … :D

Relatively frilly, relatively sparse: tload

Here’s one you might not have known you had: tload.

That’s it lurking in the upper left corner, with the simple display of hyphens and asterisks. Not very fancy, but most of the best tools are clean and simple.

You get a graphical display of the system load, customizable only to a tiny degree, and not much compared to what some other system monitors will give you.

But the nice thing is, it seems to be quite common. I’ve checked both Debian and Arch now, and both of them (apparently) have it by default.

So if you’re like me, and you understand load averages but find them quite dull, tload is a little more interesting to look at. Not much, but a little. :)

Bring out the rack!

A couple more photos, just to see if I can make my fellow geeks jealous.


I am nearing critical mass in terms of the number of homeless computers I’ve taken in. This wheeled shelf and a rather pricey six-slot power strip seem to keep things organized though.

My wiring and strapping isn’t the best, but I wanted something I could keep organized and still pull apart at a moment’s notice.

Clockwise from upper left, the big dog of the rack, the 2.5Ghz Celeron, which is the media center for the house. Right now the palmrests are the only places those speakers will really fit.

Next to it is the scallywag 700Mhz Celeron, which looks a little better after a cleaning.

One odd thing about this machine, if you look close, is that the speakers are actually mounted on the hinge. It means the lid doesn’t block the sound when it’s closed. Ironic, therefore, that they sound awful. :roll:

Below that is the Pentium — the torrent slave and in-house nfs server. That’s what I use to pass stuff between machines, and is also where I keep my collection of ripped DVDs.

Finally, at lower left is the Mebius, which is really just resting there after being a surrogate two or three times over the past week or so.

Oddly enough, it was just as useful (although dreadfully slow) to install Debian for the Celeron on that machine, as it was to install it for the 120Mhz Pentium I’m using now. Of course, that means the Celeron is running i486 Debian. …

Altogether, my desk is pleasantly free of junk right now.

A clean desk is the sign of a disturbed mind. :twisted:

Of course, if things get any more dense in here I’m going to need to free up that bottom rack, and trap some computers there. That, however, could trigger the herd to panic. … :shock: