Best of both worlds: twin

I have mentioned a lot of console applications over the past few weeks, but usually either in conjunction with screen-vs, or with something running under X, like Musca.

There is a middle ground, so to speak. twin, when used in conjunction with gpm, makes for a kind of terminal window manager (hence the name “t-win” … not “twin”) complete with its own onboard emulator, resizable windows, overlapping and layered frames, shadow effects, color combinations, and so on.

It’s not a terribly popular thing, which is both surprising and unsurprising at the same time.

Surprising because it actually does quite a good job, and under the right conditions, could be a workable pacifier for people who like working in a terminal environment, but need something with manageable windows.

Unsurprising though, because it behaves a little odd for me. It might just be that I need more time with it to get used to it, and it might be that gpm needs to be adjusted to suit me. I can’t seem to get things to move in the way I want or like, but that’s my problem.

I will say that it seems a little … fragile too. A few terminal programs that I’m accustomed to — most notably htop, which I consider crucial — cause it to crash. I’m sure these are things that could be chased properly, considering that the mailing lists are still active.

In spite of that, Ubuntu users have to crawl all the way back to Hardy to install it via the repositories, because there is apparently no package maintainer for twin in Ubuntu any longer (or maybe we can blame this on Debian too). On the other hand, Arch has it in its repositories, and Crux users can piggyback off the PKGBUILD to set it up on their systems. And don’t forget it pretty much goes hand-in-glove with gpm.

But otherwise it’s another option. Set your framebuffer to its best setting, install the terminal applications you love most, trigger your favorite font, and cue it up as soon as you log in. It’ll be just like dvtm or screen-vs, but you’ll have a little more freedom to move around.

There’s that magic word again: “freedom.” 😀


8 thoughts on “Best of both worlds: twin

  1. Bryan

    I’ve tried twin, but the problem I had with it (and am continuing to have, as your post made me try it again) is that I can’t seem to get framebuffer apps (mostly mplayer and links -g) to work within it, which is the only real deterrent I would have to utilizing it full time (granted I haven’t looked into getting FB apps to work much, so I might just be a bit premature in my judgements here)

    Also – you may want to debug your copy of twin a bit. I just watched htop for about 35 seconds and nothing happened at all on my end – no spikes and certainly no crashing, though that may be attributed to my hardware – which is admittedly MUCH newer than yours.

  2. Ali Gündüz

    My main problem in trying out twin is gpm. The cursor doesn’t exactly follow the mouse and jump around. Also, the clicking the right mouse button doesn’t make it show the menu, which I believe is GPM’s fault (or rather my inability to configure it properly. I have GPM_ARGS=”-m /dev/psaux -t imps2″ in my /etc/conf.d/gpm and start gpm with sudo gpm -m /dev/psaux.)

    But when i ran twin in a terminal emulator under X, it all ran quite beautifully. Even htop didn’t crash it 🙂

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  4. Ian.A

    A little offtopic, but you might be interested in checking out the recently-released Haiku alpha. I’d definitely like to hear what you have to say about it. It’s supposed to be a BeOS-like operating system, and I know that BeOS was supposed to absolutely shine on lower-end hardware. 10-second boots on 400mhz Pentium II processors, that kind of thing.

  5. Mikko

    I tried to use twin a couple of years ago but I remember some strange problems with it. I tried to install it a few weeks ago, but I just could not get it function with openSUSE & framebuffer.

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