Your way is the right way

It’s nice to see, on occasion, proof that my ramblings and rantings are having some effect on the collective Linux psyche, however minimal. I don’t expect to see everyone dropping Xorg, the sluggard, just because I point out its rotundity, but if you find yourself leaning more and more toward a console-only system, if the dark side of the Force is beckoning you, well. …

Well, you’re not alone. Don’t be embarrassed or shy or feel somehow diminished if you prefer a text-based system against a graphical one. There is at least one more of you out there, beyond the screen.

But at the same time, the rule of thumb is to use what suits you best. I can ramble and rant for hours on end, for days and weeks on end, but that doesn’t mean my way is the best way. It only means my way is the best for me.

So there is no implication of superiority, no surreptitious allegations of inferiority, or any other -ation of -ority. Use what you like, how you like, on the machine you like. That, in its core, is what is best about Linux: We can all do whatever we want, however we want, with whichever works best. Your way is the right way.

But of course, if you’re another console-only weenie, and you want to give a shout out, feel free. We have a kind of club, you know, and anyone can join. Dress is casual, there will be punch and pie, and your only obligation is a screenshot. For example …

That’s this machine, of course, with a Grub-to-console boot time of 23 seconds (including the time it takes to snap the framebuffer into place), a full-workload memory footprint of less than 18Mb and taking up around 1Gb of hard drive space. Jump in any time. … :mrgreen:

20 thoughts on “Your way is the right way

  1. SicknessNow

    I like X11 because it works for me on my desktop (currently running Arch Linux) and my netbook (currently running OpenBSD 4.6). I use it mainly to run Xterms. The only graphical application that I run is the Chromium web browser.

    Here’s what my desktop currently looks like, which runs Evilwm:

    1. mulenmar

      Doesn’t Chromium’s code still phone-home and all that? You might want to try out SRWare’s version, Iron. They have Linux, Mac, and Windows versions.

  2. ed

    How does one go about getting into a console only OS? I have been reading this site for a few months now, and I have been really trying to get the most out of my current set up (2 laptops, one with linux only (testing netbook (ASUS 1005PE)), and a ubuntu + windows powerful laptop (HP HDX 16t)). I want to play with console only, because I am a programmer, and I already use vim to program, so there is little reason to boot into a GUI… I could just Google this, but I figured I would like to hear your take on trying to get into a CLI OS. (or even a very minimal OS)… (The main problem I have had is that the netbook is brand new, and the drivers for the wireless card are sometimes non-existent for some OS’s (I tried #!, and I have been trying to get Arch! to run on it, but haven’t had much time lately)). Thanks,

  3. CorkyAgain


    This is a Linux site, but as a FreeBSD user I want to point out that FreeBSD does NOT install xorg by default. So right out of the box, you’re in a “console only OS”.

    From that point on, the game is to see how long you can avoid installing a GUI. 🙂

  4. chexmix

    Ed –

    You might try a “netinst” of Debian, which installs a basic system but does not include X.

    My distro of choice, Slackware, in a way gives me the best of both worlds: it boots to a login prompt, and I can stay in pure console as long as I feel like it. X is only a “startx” away if I wind up wanting it after all.

  5. John Bohlke

    You can download the alternate install cd for ubuntu and select command line install. That’s what I always do and then build my own version on top.

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  7. David Gerard

    Yes – if you want console-only, FreeBSD or Debian are excellent choices. I repurposed an ancient laptop (Pentium 233MHz MMX – not P II, original Pentium! – and 96MB memory) as a household server with a floppy install of Debian etch I dist-upgraded to squeeze. Worked like a charm.

    1. steve

      That is amazing. Every time I hear someone installing Debian on some piece of minimal hardware, someone goes even more minimal. My server is a p3 with 192MB of RAM and debian runs like a dream.

  8. Dann

    Sadly I am an Xorg user (not that I haven’t felt the frustrations of using it), but Arch and Gentoo are my sexy command line go-to’s when I’m feeling down.

  9. steve

    There is nothing wrong with using X. What alternative do we have in Linux? The idea that X is bloated is purely relative. WinXP uses about 250MB on this laptop at startup. X + openbox would be lucky to top 30MB. Now tell me which one is ‘bloated’. It’s all relative and most reasonably modern hardware (even DDR) can easily cope with the ‘bloat’ of X.

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  11. scannerdarkly

    There are countless tutorials to help new/potential users migrate from Windows to Linux. Perhaps you could do a tutorial/run-through that holds our hands as we migrate from X towards a console-only system? What do we need to arm ourselves with? What tools are going to be essential for average desktop use?

    When people see a text-based system, every form of intuitive input they’ve learnt from using GUIs is irrelevant and therefore TTYs are quite a scary place to be if you’re going to live there.. Surely the first step is setting up GRUB/2 to use the best resolution? Great blog! 🙂

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  18. LM

    I’ve been trying to get Debian installed from a netinst disk up and running on my desktop PC. It’s been a couple of months now and I’m still fighting hardware issues and trying to set things up properly. One thing I really want (and FreeBSD does quite well) is to be able to boot into console mode and then only run X (startx) if needed. (I’d definitely be running FreeBSD on the machine instead if it only had the hardware drivers and hardware support the machine needs.) Still trying to work out issues in Debian. Since I have an ATI card, the system uses KMS to try to give me a nice pretty screen when I log in to X. However, if you’re not logging in directly to X, you’re left with a really high res console screen with really small print that’s hard to work with. I’ve tried boot parameters such as nomodeset and video: and I’ve experimented unsuccessfully with fbset. I think my next try will be to increase the font size instead of attempting to lower the screen resolution. Still looking for that magical combination that will give me a nice looking console mode to work in when I start the machine.

    It’s always nice to read about others booting to and/or using console mode as well. The way KMS seems to work, it’s great for X applications, but makes you think everyone’s forgotten about trying to do anything outside of X. Nice to hear that’s not the case for everyone.


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