A month without X … already?

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over a month now since xorg-server 1.6.0 self-destructed on my Silicon Motion-armed Thinkpad, taking with it a perfectly good Awesome 2.3.4 installation. But that also means that for more than a month I’ve been relying on this machine for day-to-day tasks, console-based entertainment (think: viTetris) and playing my DVD rips with no more graphical support than the framebuffer.

I honestly thought I would have broken down at this point, and reinstalled X. But I had to backtrack through a month of posts to find out exactly when X stepped forward and left me in the lurch, and I was surprised when I saw the date on that post.

Has it been a month already? Time sure flies.

I don’t know the terms I should use to impress upon you the sheer function and efficiency that comes from dumping X overboard, and moving forward without it. For me, yanking out X was quite possibly the best thing I ever did for this Celeron, and with one small exception — image viewing — nothing is lost. Functionwise, that is.

Start times, for a 550Mhz machine, are under 12 seconds to the “desktop,” and even less if I hotwire it with an autologin and set my bash profile to trigger screen. (I don’t do that actually, because the system starts so fast that it outstrips dhcpcd, which makes some of my net-based applications act screwy and require a restart. đŸ˜³ Defeats the purpose, anyway.)

Memory profile is rarely over 24Mb, and the processor “spikes” at something like 45 percent, so long as I’m not compiling. I have an 800×600 screen subdivided with dvtm to show four applications at once, with the added option of splitting the entire business again with screen and compounding my visual arrangement two- or threefold.

It’s true, it’s somewhat inconvenient to rely on another machine — the Inspiron — to check photos or manage some more “intensive” websites, but that is normal for me; one machine does the heavy lifting, while another handles particular tasks or niche responsibilities.

And with an extremely lightweight setup like this, 550Mhz and 192Mb is more than enough to do the heavy lifting. I strongly recommend trying out something of this nature on your Number Two computer, and seeing exactly how much you can get done. I can guarantee, you’ll be surprised.


13 thoughts on “A month without X … already?

  1. ckth

    I once spent two weeks without X as an experiment on my P4. (I did an Ubuntu-minimal install).

    Everything was very serviceable once I had the framebuffer running at a decent resolution- fbi, feh, links2, elinks, alpine, mcabber, mplayer and the rest of the suite ensured that I could handle images, PDFs and other documents (antiword!)- try nethack, even. AJAX was the only thing I missed.

    But I could never get anything done! It took a combination of screen and several virtual terminals to reach a state where spawning processes was not painful. Images would always load at the wrong zoom levels, PDF fonts were nigh unreadable, and CD burning was a mess. (Why is there no CLI/ncurses CD burning software? cdrecord is a nightmare to control.)

    A framebuffer setup for everyday use is workable- just not convenient enough for any actual use.

    Of course, I’ve never had a number-two-computer, so maybe the drawbacks stood out like sore thumbs.

  2. thealphanerd

    Someone should have wallpaper for the framebuffer. Be good staring at a terminal with C&H on it.

  3. bob smiley

    I may need to resort to this. I scavenged an i-opener from the trash someone had hacked a 40gb hard drive, 200mhz cpu & 128mb ram onto. I’ve farted around with minimal ubuntu install and command-lined it for a while, then attempted GUI using JWM & Xorg. It works, but Xorg is just so “fat” for something this lite on hardware. I’m going to try your Xvesa idea, and also Dvtm. It’s not that I mind command-line, it’s just having some semblance of GUI, even if it’s ncurses-based or frame-buffer based or whatever, is better than just staring at a straight commandline in my opinion. Great blog!

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