Quit X! screen-vs is more fun!

screen-vs is what I’ve come to call screen with the vertical split patch applied, for no real reason other than that’s what the PKGBUILD is called in AUR, and I adopted the name when I drafted my own port for Crux. screen with that patch is more fun than a bag of cats, and the things you can do with it along with a little framebuffer love are amazing.

Here’s an example, a sidebar screenshot from a day or two ago you might remember. …

If you are uninitiated, that’s mocp running across the top of the screen, with mc down the side on the left, and htop and iftop on the right. That’s more or less a normal screen setup these days, when I am not demanding that the Thinkpad do something unusual.

As an example of “unusual,” when I scrape Jamendo for worthwhile jazz albums, I usually split the screen like this.

The benefit in that is having mc at the top as a file manager, so I can unzip and dump files into the folders I choose, or jettison them altogether if they suck. On the top right is iftop, watching my bandwidth and so forth, while the bulk of the screen is dedicated to elinks, which is rather like an expectorant for the Internet. Clears out the gunk, and leaves you with the important parts.

But best of all, for the naysayers in the crowd, the ones who will cling desperately to X because it’s somehow the “only” answer to proper image display. …

That, friends, is mplayer on the top left, running a DVD rip while alsamixer is available on the right. At the bottom, iftop on the right (I was transferring a file between machines when I snapped that image) and at left, of course, htop watching the system profile.

And what a system profile it is. A 550MHz machine maxed out at 192Mb of PC100, a machine that was a thrift-shop special a year and a half ago, a machine that most people would probably give away rather than have to look at another day, a machine with only 4MB of video memory and an 800×600 screen … and it’s doing all that on about 5 percent of its processor power and around 31MB of memory.

That’s the best endorsement I can offer for handing X its pink slip. Who needs all of the trappings and dead weight that come with X — let alone a full honking desktop environment like Ubuntu’s Gnome — when you can get all these things for almost nothing?

Trust me. Start over from scratch. Tear out all the crud and take a look at how you can do all the same things with far less baggage. You’ll thank me later. … 😈


62 thoughts on “Quit X! screen-vs is more fun!

  1. Jose Catre-Vandis

    Can we have one of your “Like a Pro” for screen. I am running Xubuntu 9.04 (cli install) so vertical split should be there by default. I have a handle on dvtm but can’t see how screen can add to my cli happiness? Do you have some suggestions for .screenrc?

    Great blog, it’s my daily fix πŸ™‚

  2. Jose Catre-Vandis

    Oh, have you had a play with directvnc? I have a headless Windows virtual machine for a few non linux things, and directvnc provides graphical vnc access to it. Just need to match the resolution of your “guest” to your “host”. Great πŸ™‚

  3. Rahul Pisharody

    Hell, yeah. I was actually inspired by your blog and had been using my Arch install without X server running.

    But pressing complaints from my brother and his complaints on being GNU/Linux too uncool and the release of Jaunty prompted me to install Ubuntu again.

    I started my life through PCLinux -> Debian -> Ubuntu -> Slackware -> Arch and back again, now to Ubuntu.

    Thanks for all the tips and yeah, I’m waiting for a “like a pro” on screen πŸ™‚

  4. dawn

    How do you run mplayer inside screen? MPlayer just won’t display a video in the framebuffer in screen for me…

  5. fuxter

    dear K.Mandla,
    i would really love to set up my eeepc that x-less style.
    but i tried few times and couldn’t really set up my framebuffer. a nice β€œLike a Pro” for setting framebuffer, configuring screen and dvtm would be really nice. pardon my russian.
    if you’d also include some usefull tricky autologin scripts (like autostarting screen and dvtm with some programs and playing some “welcome” sound of course).
    i would really appreciate it and you’s save me much nerves on my current condition.
    anyway, thanks for this blog.

    1. Viletimes

      If you have an nVidia card in your system, you really need to try this at the command line with mplayer:

      mplayer -vo cvidix video.avi

      1. rbanavara

        How do you get cvidix to work. I have nvidia 8600 MGT card and when i try this on console, it give some error like driver not found (though fbdev works nicely).

  6. Jose Catre-Vandis

    @ dawn

    # /usr/bin/mplayer -vo fbdev file.avi

    in it’s simplest form. On my main machine where I am running a framebuffer at full resolution (vga=794 – 1280×1024), i use the following to run the video at full screen

    #/usr/bin/mplayer -vo fbdev -fs -vf scale=1280:-3 file.avi

    on my Acer Aspire One, which only runs a framebuffer at 800×600 I use

    #/usr/bin/mplayer -vo fbdev -vf scale=640:480 file.avi

    Others may have better suggestions πŸ™‚

    1. Auriza Akbar

      To view movie fullscreen with mplayer, I usually use these command:
      $ sudo mplayer -vo fbdev -fs -zoom -xy [maxwidth] movie.mp4

      Sometimes, it some video screwed up. To solve this I remove the -fs option.

  7. dawn

    @Jose Catre-Vandis, thanks although that wasn’t my question. I use the fbdev driver too :). I was under the impression there was something wrong, but apparently it was specific to a single video. You can get rid of -vo fbdev by specifying the driver in ~/.mplayer/config, after xv (or whatever you use in X). mplayer plays video with whichever of the drivers that works.

    By the way I’m thinking about writing a script compute the correct size for the full screen video, because mplayer’s scaling doesn’t keep the aspect ratio.

    1. Jose Catre-Vandis

      @ dawn

      Yep, sorry, reread your question after I posted ans saw the word “screen” ! 😦

      However mplayer works for me in screen using these commands, but have to be root or use sudo

        1. K.Mandla Post author

          Yes, I guess I should be a little more explicit, in that mplayer is just “painting” the video output onto the framebuffer, regardless of whatever is set to appear in that space. It’s not confined to that box, which is why it’s probably necessary to work around it.

  8. Bryan

    Excuse my ignorance when I ask but…
    What are the main differences between dvtm and screen-vs? Is it simply that screen allows for manual management of screen real estate while dvtm has pre ordered layouts or is there more to it?

    I’ve never been a fan of screen’s method of control (:split etc.) and I find I MUCH prefer dvtm (even though I don’t care for the emacs style ^g modifier.)

    1. armornick

      For a start, Screen has a ^a modifier instead of a ^g modifier. Read the manpage for the hotkeys πŸ˜‰
      Besides that, screen is a multiplexer while dvtm is a window manager. This means that dvtm doesn’t hide the borders of the windows you’ve opened (except in full-screen mode). I also think screen is a bit more advanced, since sessions can be detached and reopened later.

    2. K.Mandla Post author

      Everything armornick said I can concur with. I also find that responsiveness in screen is slightly better than dvtm, although (as always) I can’t really prove that and it sort just falls into the “gut feeling” category.

      screen also seems to require a little reverse thinking: You arrange the “windows” as you like, then pop applications in and out. dvtm, for my money, behaves a little more like a window manager, in that you can shift windows around and reorder them.

      I like screen-vs more than dvtm, but I also think dvtm has some bonuses. I tend to use whichever I feel like at the time.

      1. Bryan

        That makes sense, though I still believe I’m a bit more partial to dvtm, just because I prefer the managed mode of interaction it gives me.

        The modifier I was referring too was the dvtm modifier, which is ^g. I was simply commenting on how I don’t care for the emacs style of modifier keys, which are present in both dvtm and screen.

        Since my query, I’ve installed screen (patched with support for vertical split) and I have to say that I like it – though I’m not a fan of the fact that i have to arrange everything as I want it to be – so I’ll probably stick with dvtm for the forseeable future. Thanks for the explanation guys πŸ™‚

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  12. colonelcrayon

    Look at what you’ve done now! You just had to make me ditch X, didn’t you πŸ˜›

    One quick question: have you (or anyone else) found a good framebuffer image viewer that works inside screen? Having to exit screen to us fbi is a pain…

  13. colonelcrayon

    Never mind. I’ve solved my own problem by setting my second tty to autologin. I can just jump over there to view images πŸ™‚

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Actually, that was going to be my suggestion. I just ALT+arrow to the next terminal, and view it from there. πŸ˜‰

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  23. CptPicard

    Meh, just boot straight into Emacs after getting the kernel up and running, you get “window-management” as a bonus.

    For those who insist on having X, xmonad is worth checking out. It is a very nice window manager.

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  25. gumball

    what do you do for web browsing? links?

    only reason I really need X is for proper web browsing…

  26. mike.e

    I love the commandline and re using old equipment at high speeds and first found this site from the ‘one week at 100mhz’ post!

    I installed DVTM but I cant see where the config files are. So I just run SCREEN for now on my 500mhz VIA ~3w (formerly a wyse thinclient)

    Id like a gumstix + screen but thisl do!

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      With dvtm, I believe you edit the config.h file in the source, then recompile the program. It’s a little inconvenient, but the program itself takes almost no time to compile, so it’s not a big deal, I suppose. πŸ˜‰

  27. Girofaryon

    Hello, first af all thanks very much for this very interesting blog.

    Even if I use screen in every session, I still need a graphical desktop to run Firefox (with vimperator pluggin), mplayer and… an IM events and mail notifier.

    I once used w3m as my main browser (this one can display pictures) but the browsing was not comfortable, as 99% is to be displayed on a graphical browser. I’m more efficient as fast reading web stuff with Firefox.

    Does mplayer-framebuffer needs more CPU than mplayer-X ?

    And about screen, did anyone set up a nice console notification (inside screen) for IMAP mail and for events like instant messaging (I’m using mcabber which is a nice jabber client) ?

    Thank you !

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Text-based surfing takes a little while to get used to. I trapped myself at a text-based machine for a few weeks and it became natural. But of course there are some things that just won’t ever work at the console. Each person has his or her way of doing things. …

      From my perspective, mplayer at the framebuffer uses less than under X, but that’s because X is so big and heavy to start with. If it’s easier for a machine to run mplayer at the framebuffer, I would suspect that’s because it doesn’t have to handle the entire framework of X at the same time. I am not an expert, though. …

      I’ll have to check the mail notifications in screen; I hadn’t seen those. Do you have a link to a howto or a wiki page about them? πŸ™‚

      1. Girofaryon

        You must be right about mplayer-framebuffer, often simplicity means efficiency ; “keep it simple”.

        Conky could be a nice mail notification :

        ” Most of you will already know GNU Screen, but did you know that you can use display conky stats *in a screen session* ?”

        In combination with the built-in POP/IMAP support, conky could be the right tool, isn’t it ?

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  31. Mats Rauhala

    Do you use DirectFB for framebuffer? I just installed Gentoo on my old laptop
    and was considering of using only console and framebuffer applications in it,
    but DirectFB has its own keyboard listeners or something, and without disabling
    the keyboard module, all the keyboard input is given twice. Imagine my
    frustration when I tried to to go “hhttpp::::////rreeddiitt..ccoomm”.

    So I put “disable-modules=keyboard” to ~/.directfbrc and all seemed good, until
    I tried to switch ttys and I couldn’t. As far as I see it, by disabling the
    keyboard module, I disabled normal console behavior such as Control-F1. This
    makes using for example links impossible for me.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      The framebuffer support you see in screenshots is only done through the kernel support. I have tinkered very little with DirectFB, mostly because in Crux it’s only available through an outside port (in other words, it’s not in core, opt or contrib) and I haven’t had much luck setting it up.

      On the other hand, I do use things like links2 -g or similar applications when I am using Debian or Arch, but that probably doesn’t help with your question. … 😦

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  35. Perry

    I would very much like to have access to your screen-vs prot for crux, if at all possible. Also fbterm, if it isn’t too much to ask.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I believe the port for screen-vs is elsewhere on this site; try the “Crux” category on the right.

      I don’t recall if I ever made a port for fbterm for Crux though. I’ll dig around and see if I can find it.

  36. navin kumar inwati

    my quere is that my screen gone alter to horizontal to vertical, how i get the original screen?

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