Category Archives: Arch Linux

Dark, light and Openbox

I have suffered an inordinate number of real-world issues over the last week or so, which is why I am doing such a poor job of keeping this page updated.

I apologize for that. But in the little free time I have, I have not been idle. Here are two distros that both focus on lightweight desktop arrangements with Openbox.


On the left is CTKArch, and on the right is MadBox. I believe I heard about these when someone left notes about them here; I apologize if I failed to keep note of who said what.

CTKArch (as you might have guessed) is Arch-based, and is both stylish and well arranged. Many of the tools you would need to manage its look — like panel controls and configuration — are wired into Openbox’s menu, for convenience. I like that.

Similarly, Madbox has a very smooth feeling about it, incorporating everything from conky to network managers and similar tools.

Madbox is Ubuntu-based though, and I don’t see a version beyond 10.10. So that might be on its way, if you are patient.

It’s nice to see Openbox desktops as full-featured distros, mostly because for a long time lightweight window managers had the reputation of being some-assembly-required.

The popularity of things like Crunchbang and company did a lot to change that. No doubt there will be more of these in the future. ;)

The ebb and flow

Lots of changes are afoot in this tiny corner of the planet, which accounts in part for the silence over the past few days.

First of all, one of the computers I was expecting to inherit has arrived on my doorstep. I can properly introduce the NEC VersaPro VY22X/RX-M, or just vy22x, as I like to call it.

This is the 2.2Ghz Celeron I mentioned oh-so-many times over the past year or two. It’s not at all a bad computer — ATI graphics, 512Mb and more is possible, 1024×768 in a nice big size. …

It’s of very similar dimensions and specifications as the Toshiba, although it is obviously a completely different computer.

The hard drive is another ancient creaking wheel though — 20Gb 4200rpm, the omnipresent Hitachi MK2023GAS I keep finding — and will be the first thing to go.

The chassis needs a cleaning, and the previous owner liked to slather stickers on everything in the house. So I’ll need to scrape away some glue and goo.

Otherwise it’s in pretty good shape, and should be fun to experiment with.

But where there is an ebb, there must be a flow … so the 120Mhz and 133Mhz Fujitsu laptops are out of the house now, having moved on to a new owner.

It felt a little sad to see them go — particularly the slower of the two, given as many adventures as I had with it.

I was tempted to convert one or the other into some sort of photo frame or wall clock, but their value was in their completeness and good condition, not their Frankenstein factor.

I did not, however, include the CF cards. Those I intend to use in future machines.

I should also mention, though it’s a lesser point, that I’ve moved everything back to Arch Linux on the fastest machine.

That noisy romp through the Ubuntu betas was instructive, but not particularly productive. It was nice to see how some of those distros do things, but it reinforced where my preferences lie.

So all of this means there needs to be a few updates around this site. A couple of machines are new, a couple more are gone … life goes on. :)

Arch madness

What is this — Ubuntu? Something is going on here. I must have made a mistake somewhere.

Starting full system upgrade...
resolving dependencies...
looking for inter-conflicts...

Targets (66): libdrm-2.4.25-1  libgl-7.10.2-2  ati-dri-7.10.2-2
              eventlog-0.2.12-2  filesystem-2011.04-1  fixesproto-5.0-1
              intel-dri-7.10.2-2  libtasn1-2.9-1  libtiff-3.9.5-1
              libxfixes-5.0-1  mach64-dri-7.10.2-2  mesa-7.10.2-2
              mga-dri-7.10.2-2  ncurses-5.9-1  r128-dri-7.10.2-2
              savage-dri-7.10.2-2  sis-dri-7.10.2-2  sudo-1.8.1-1
              tdfx-dri-7.10.2-2  xf86-input-acecad-1.4.99_git20110318-1
              xf86-input-aiptek-1.3.99_git20110318-1  xf86-input-evdev-2.6.0-3
              xf86-input-keyboard-1.6.0-2  xf86-input-mouse-1.7.0-2
              xf86-input-synaptics-1.4.0-2  xf86-input-vmmouse-12.7.0-2
              xf86-input-void-  xf86-video-apm-1.2.3-3
              xf86-video-ark-0.7.3-3  xf86-video-ast-0.91.10-3
              xf86-video-ati-6.14.1-1  xf86-video-chips-1.2.4-2 
	      xf86-video-cirrus-1.3.2-6  xf86-video-dummy-0.3.4-4
              xf86-video-fbdev-0.4.2-4  xf86-video-geode-2.11.12-3
              xf86-video-glint-1.2.5-2  xf86-video-i128-1.3.4-3
              xf86-video-i740-1.3.2-6  xf86-video-intel-2.14.903-1
              xf86-video-mach64-6.8.2-6  xf86-video-mga-1.4.13-3
              xf86-video-neomagic-1.2.5-4  xf86-video-nv-2.1.18-3
              xf86-video-r128-6.8.1-6  xf86-video-rendition-4.2.4-4
              xf86-video-s3-0.6.3-5  xf86-video-s3virge-1.10.4-5
              xf86-video-savage-2.3.2-2  xf86-video-siliconmotion-1.7.5-2
              xf86-video-sis-0.10.3-4  xf86-video-sisusb-0.9.4-4
              xf86-video-tdfx-1.4.3-6  xf86-video-trident-1.3.4-4
              xf86-video-tseng-1.2.4-4  xf86-video-v4l-0.2.0-8
              xf86-video-vmware-11.0.3-3  xf86-video-voodoo-1.2.4-4
              xf86-video-xgi-1.6.0-3  xf86-video-xgixp-1.8.0-3
              xkeyboard-config-2.2.1-1  xorg-server-common-
              xorg-server-  xvidcore-1.3.1-1  xz-5.0.2-1

Total Download Size:    15.68 MB
Total Installed Size:   80.15 MB

I am going to need to scope out the Arch Forums and figure out why I suddenly have software installed for almost all the video hardware ever created. On a laptop. With Intel graphics. :|

I can’t ever remember, in the five years or so that I’ve used Arch Linux, getting as much unnecessary crud as that in an update. I must be dreaming. …

A bash loop, for pacman

So long as I am mentioning rather esoteric bash solutions to even more esoteric file management problems, here’s one just for Arch Linux.

I’ve been transforming my Debian-based system into a ConnochaetOS-based one, and wanted to strip out a lot — a lot — of packages in one fell swoop.

pacman didn’t like my primitive attempts with wildcards though, and so as a means to yank anything that contained a particular string — like xf86, for example — I did this:

for i in `pacman -Q | grep xf86 | cut -d' ' -f-1` ; do pacman -Rcsn ${i} ; done

grep strains through pacman’s list of installed packages, and gives the list that includes anything in xf86.

Of course, pacman’s output includes version numbers, so those are trimmed off with cut, setting the delimiter to a single space.

Not great, not fancy, but for the most part, a solution.

Seven in a row

I am going to succumb for a few days to the overwhelming list of terminal applications I want to note. Ordinarily I try to space these out by a week or so at a time, but the list is growing faster than I can manage.

So here is day one of what will probably be two or three posts on console applications. Today: Hex editors and text editors.

I can think of exactly one occasion when I actually needed a proper hex editor, and unfortunately it was so long ago that I wasn’t even using Linux at the time.

Just the same, there is always the chance that something like this might come in handy, so here’s tweak, on the left, and beav.


Both work well and do the job as you would expect. beav gets a point for being easy to decipher, with on-screen help prompts and more interaction, but I couldn’t find an option to widen the screen display.

tweak is more or less the opposite, with a few options (like stretching the display over the width of the terminal :roll: ), but fewer on-screen tips and commands are a little more cryptic.

Both tweak and beav are more aligned to the emacs style of doing things — I believe both use CTRL+X CTRL+C to quit, as an example. Here’s one for the vi camp: hexer.

Probably simpler and less functional than the other two, but if you know vi you’ll be quicker at the starting line with this one. hexer, I should mention, feels a little less complete; perhaps it’s still a work in progress.

Enough with hex editors though; let’s move on.

Of course, mentioning a text editor for Linux is like pointing out one particular grain of sand on entire beach. There are just too many, with each of them doing something special in its own right.

All the same, I think I should point out the lighter, more unusual ones I find — that, after all, is my gimmick. I’ve mentioned e3 in the past; here it is again along with mg, joe and jed.





e3 is amazing for fitting a fully functional editor into a 10kb sliver, along with the option to use different command sets that are closer to what you’re familiar with. So that whole emacs-vi thing can go away for once.

mg is likewise a teeny little thing, but this one, as I understand it, is much like zile in its attempt to be a (much) lighter emacs.

I suppose, in that sense, both e3 and mg are useful to people who are accustomed to the way one particular editor works, but want something much, much smaller.

I have a hard time separating jed and joe in my mind (no joke intended there), but you might know joe as one of the editor options in the Arch Linux installation sequence.

joe works well for being obvious and easy to manage. Help commands are listed in a drop-down box, which makes them quick to find while you’re learning it. And it feels like an editor, if that makes sense.

jed, on the other hand, might be the most replete and easy to manage of the editors listed here. jed feels like a graphical application, with drop-down menus, windowed documents, and so forth.

But like I said, these are just four grains of sand on a huge beach of text editors for Linux. I’d be mad to ever mention another text editor again, and probably will be, just for mentioning these four.

There we are though, seven more I can cross off my list. Seven steps forward, ten steps back. … :|

Looking over Crux again

It’s been a while since I installed Crux on any machine in the house, and even longer since I put it on anything faster than about 150Mhz.

Just for old time’s sake, and to make sure I hadn’t lost my touch, and to see what would happen, I put it on the 2.5Ghz Celeron the other day, and did some system updates overnight. The end result:

That’s an 8-year-old machine jumping from Grub to the X desktop in just over 9 seconds. I don’t underconfigure my systems, so everything is working there — sound, network and what have you.

I also didn’t overconfigure it: CFLAGS are only -O2 and the recommended settings for a Pentium 4 Celeron, as per the Gentoo wiki.

So why so fast? No good reason … except for the one I mentioned a while ago, when I made the same pitch.

If you recall a speed jump when you moved from something gluttonous and bloated, like Ubuntu, to something sparse and clean, like Arch … well, you’ll see the same improvement when you move to something skeletal and streamlined.

To illustrate the point:

The same system, same hardware, same filesystem, but more than 20 seconds for Arch to start just to the console — and that’s with the network daemon backgrounded so it doesn’t hang while it contacts the router.

Of course, the day-to-day speed improvement comes at the cost of building up a system from scratch (more or less), and like a lot of my Crux systems, this one quickly went southward when I started tweaking it.

Plus, it took me two or three attempts just to get the kernel working, and another one or two to get the graphics system functional.

Personally, I consider that to be a good thing — I’ve learned a lot from Crux, and I can always stand to learn some more. I learn my making mistakes and figuring out how to solve them, or at least circumvent them.

So while I don’t use this much for faster, heavier machines, I still rely on it — sometimes too much — for low-end hardware and extra slow systems.

Because if it can trim Grub-to-X to under 10 seconds at 2.5Ghz, imagine what it can do for 150Mhz. :twisted:

P.S.: Sorry about the sideways videos. I thought YouTube let you rotate a video after posting it, but it appears that I am wrong. :|

One tool, one game, one clock

I still have a long list of console applications that I want to note. Sometimes this is for my benefit, and sometimes it’s in hopes of being someone else’s benefit.

Some of these I discovered via the wiki, which continues to be as much a resource for me as it is a way of discovering new talents for the terminal.

Starting as simply as possible, here’s concalc.

There are plenty of console-based calculators, and superficially it appears that concalc doesn’t do much that a reasonably educated bash user couldn’t do anyway.

It does handle scripting though, which might be of use to you, and it will no doubt streamline some more complex math functions if you need them at the terminal prompt.

And as is always the case with small, soft-spoken applications like this, there is a potential beyond the obvious. Take a closer look and see what you come up with.

Next is a game — pente.

Dating back a decade and still in the Debian repositories, pente is the traditional variant of go usually called five-in-a-row.

This one is easy to use and manage, with any number of console keys that will control the cursor for you, and a simple key press to place a marker.

This will run in either the console or in X supposedly, although it was nice to see that the Debian version didn’t incur any giant dependencies when installing it.

The last one today is a clock, and a rather nifty one at that.


This is tbclock, which I didn’t see in AUR or in Debian Squeeze, and that’s a shame really. It’s a very nice clock with a lot of color and movement to it, and a large improvement over the old binclock package — no matter how you dice it.

It also supports vertical arrangements, as you can see above, plus a digital readout to help us lesser beings understand what time it is, and a built-in game. :shock: This place has everything. …

Personally I’m going to jam this last one into my handy-dandy screensaver script for screen, and watch it do something while I do nothing. :)

That’s all for now. Three down, 400 more to go. …