Category Archives: Arch Linux Forums

Stop everything! An xaw-based browser!

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

I would have posted this about five minutes ago, but it took me that long to pick myself up off the floor.

That’s Chimera, an xaw-based browser dating all the way back to 1993. Just typing that makes my jaw drop again. I had it in my head that there were no browsers between GTK1.2 and the console, and then, wouldn’t you know it, some wicked Archer comes up with a browser that needs only the X widget set to display Web pages.

Even better, there’s now a page on Wikipedia for it, along with a brief set of installation instructions for Arch Linux. Fantastico!

I’ll have to spend a few hours seeing if it will glob together in Ubuntu, and then possibly see about putting together a strictly X-based desktop. Oooh! Yes! This is what I call fun … ! 🙄


Volwheel saves the day

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

I’m a tiny step closer to a nearly picture-perfect phony Windows 2000 desktop, thanks to a little application that surfaced on the Arch Linux forums about a year ago — volwheel.

I’ve mentioned it before, but little things like this are still what make Linux amazing to me. It seems like the simplest thing in the world to want — a volume control in the system tray, adjustable icon, somewhat convenient control over the sound levels. Aside from that, I have no expectations from it.

But to be honest, it’s such an exceedingly terse and efficient little program that I can’t help but wonder what people did without it. One preference menu, accepts input from the command line or the mouse, completely happy to run in IceWM’s system tray, and I couldn’t be happier with the ability to point it at the icon for the volume controller from the WinClassic2 theme‘s icon bank.

It has some nice touches too — it does dynamic icons (in other words, icons that change as the volume level changes), it has a jump-to-mixer button that triggers a terminal window and spawns alsamixer (or another application, if you prefer that), and it takes up about as much space as a mosquito.

My only regret is that I don’t really have a use for it outside of this one machine (the Thinkpad), and so it’s somewhat underused in my household. I just don’t use panels that much, which means I don’t use system trays that much, so I don’t have a need for a panel-tray volume control … that much. 😦

But if you’re one of those people who likes a taskbar or a system tray on screen, you should really check it out. It’s got all the right features, weighs less than a feather and looks good … no matter what you think “good” is. 😉

Arch vs. Crux

I find myself the oblique topic of discussion on the Arch forums recently. Although I guess the real issue is a comparison between Arch and Crux, so I’ll stop flattering myself. 🙄

I don’t have anything to add to the debate that I didn’t tack on to the end of the thread, so if you’re debating trying one or the other, you might skim through the pros and cons. If you’re a Crux user you’ll no doubt appreciate the immense load of precompiled software available to you. And of course if you’re an Arch user you might find the similar structure and sparse setup to your liking.

In the end, it’s all the same flavor, friends. Linux is Linux, I always say. Use what you like, and you’ll be happy. :mrgreen:

Why must everything be newbie-friendly?

I love Ubuntu as much as the next person, and I won’t ever say a bad thing about it. (Okay, well, not too many bad things about it.) I cut my teeth on Linux with Ubuntu, and provided it never reneges on its core promises, I doubt I’ll ever be anything other than pretty-pleased with it.

But occasionally I see one unusual side effect of the Ubuntu phenomenon — the sudden press to make everything “newbie-friendly.”

Now before you start to bristle, I was a newbie once and I’m more than willing to admit it. I made any number of exceedingly dumb mistakes two-and-a-half years ago — and I still do. Some of them were classic newbie blunders. Overall I got lucky and had friendly hardware at the start, but if it hadn’t been for that, I’d probably have written off Ubuntu outright.

And to be honest, I was a newbie twice — and my earliest reaction was exactly that: I wrote it off as stupid. As far as I was concerned, Linux was a joke. That was almost eight years ago, so really, I’ve been on the high and the low ends of the Linux newcomer experience.

But pushing every distro to be newbie-friendly and out-of-the-box cookie-cutter-perfect strikes me as a bad idea. There are some very newbie-friendly distros out there, and I think every darn one of them is manna straight from heaven. But in my opinion there’s no need to start warping the intermediate-level distros and the advanced Linux systems to allow ground-level users to start with them.

Everyone finds their own level with Linux. You get essentially the same stuff with each version, and it’s mostly just core tools and packaging utilities that separate one version from another. You can make anything as complicated as you like — you can rewire and recompile your entire Ubuntu installation a la Gentoo and obfuscate things as much as you want. You have that freedom.

On the other hand, there are some distros that are intended for “mature” audiences, and by that I mean more experienced, more advanced users. Pushing Arch or Crux or Gentoo or (god forbid) Exherbo to be “newbie-friendly” sounds counterintuitive — and furthermore a huge waste of time.

Why recast Linux From Scratch to attract Windows emigrants when OpenSuse and PCLinuxOS do such a good job? Why try to prepackage Arch as a newcomer distro when Debian and Fedora already have that cornered?

Like I said, everyone finds their own level with Linux. People asking for a newbie-friendly version of a distro are asking a foreign community to adopt a new culture — one that is more convenient to them. To me, that sounds out of place, and possibly out of line.

If you’re not ready for Arch as it is, then you should stick with what you know. One day your desire will outstrip your ability and you’ll learn a lot of new things. But until gumption exceeds know-how, it’s best to leave other people’s distros the way they are, and learn their customs when you’re ready.

Adjusting rc.sysinit, adjusting udevadm

My Arch systems still feel considerably slower than comparable Crux systems. The battered Thinkpad, as an example, needs 25 seconds to reach an Arch desktop, while it boots quite easily to an identical Crux desktop in only 18. Seven seconds is probably splitting hairs for a machine that starts faster than most Ubuntu machines, regardless of the desktop or hardware.

But for me, it’s a bit of an obsession. So I’m always curious about little tweaks here and there to make Arch run faster or start quicker. The idea of carving down the rc.sysinit file seemed like a good one, except for me it didn’t make things faster, and using the one posted in the pastebin by Barrucadu actually made things start slower.

It isn’t hard to manage though, so if you want to try it for yourself, trim out parts of the file that don’t apply to your hardware. (You’d do well to copy the original first, because you can accidentally make your system unbootable.) I don’t know how much effect it will really have, since most of those sections are triggered with if-clauses. If you don’t have the hardware, it probably doesn’t run anyway.

On the other hand, I still get great results from setting the --timeout flag on the udev-uevents sequence, which is inside /etc/rc.sysinit, but now set at the /sbin/udevadm line. (I can’t give you the specific line number since it changes when some updates are performed.) Make that line look like

/sbin/udevadm settle --timeout 3

Be careful with that timeout, though: Making it too short keeps parts of the system from being appended … in other words, unbootable, again.

One more nifty trick is to tack an ampersand — & — on the end of the modprobe command, in the module loading loop.

/sbin/modprobe $mod &

It probably goes without saying that autoloading isn’t affected by that … I think. So make sure you’re manually loading the modules you want in your /etc/rc.conf file.

These two together cut about three seconds off the 25 I mentioned earlier. But apart from those two, I haven’t run across much lately that will make Arch run like Crux. Funny, but it was almost two years ago exactly that I started trying to make Ubuntu run like Arch. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. 🙄

A Thinkpad, a kernel panic, a workaround

For some strange reason that I can’t seem to figure out, I get kernel panics on the battered Thinkpad with the latest Arch installation ISO. I won’t bother reproducing the error text here, mostly because there’s too much of it, but also because the screen is shattered and I can’t quite see everything. 😉

The puzzle is compounded by the fact that it doesn’t seem to happen on the smaller Thinkpad. Both machines are Celerons, with reasonably similar guts, but for whatever reason the kernel panic doesn’t happen on the slower one.

The good news is, if you’re like me or like some others, the previous ISO image — the 2007.08 version — boots fine, and it’s a brief step up from those packages to current. So you have that option, if you find yourself in the same boat.


I was interested, somewhat, by the pacbuilder tool that cimi invented for Arch Linux. It would have been useful to me about six months ago when I was considering Crux for a similar reason — I wanted something that would comprehensively recompile an Arch installation.

It’s not something I can use though, since it relies on rsync and my proprietary router won’t (or doesn’t seem to) handle rsync. I can compile the -svn version from the AUR PKGBUILD, but it does me little good.

It’s still interesting to me, but unless it reverts (because, as I understand it, rsync wasn’t originally required) to a version that doesn’t need rsync, I can only watch from the sidelines and cheer. 😕