Category Archives: Arch Linux

Bend the universe to your will: Gearhead

It’s a fair bet that if I haven’t updated this page in a day, that something new has absorbed my attention. This time it’s Gearhead.

Before I start out, I should mention that yes, I found this the same way I’ve been finding a lot of new console programs lately, via Debian’s package search pages.

And yes, I mention this quick on the tail of freesweep, which I don’t actively dislike. I just prefer something with a little more … depth. Gearhead definitely comes through on that point.

Comes through in spades, really. Gearhead reminds me of my years of tabletop gaming, with cardboard tiles and hex maps, firing arcs and reload times and overheating weapons.

If you remember (or still play) things like BattleTech or Star Fleet Battles, Gearhead will be a natural transition for you. Many of the principles are the same.

But there’s a role-playing element at work here too — you’re not just ticking off ammunition and waiting to incur enough damage to knock over a robot.

I haven’t had the chance to dig very deeply into that aspect — I’ve only been playing for a day or so — but luckily there’s a wiki that will show you how to get started. Pilot attributes must count for something.

Personally I didn’t need much coaching to get started. Not that I’m some kind of genius or something, just that the game is menu-driven on almost every point, and most of the indicators and commands are fairly self-explanatory.

But with this much to absorb me, this is definitely going into my book as a keeper for the console — right alongside Crawl — as a game I can really sink my teeth into.

Some side notes: First, I know there is a Gearhead2, which I tried on my Pentium machine running Debian, but it was terrifically laggy and sometimes took 20-30 seconds to move between menu options.

I see on the wiki that Gearhead2 is described as “in the making,” so it might be that it’s sluggish because it’s not quite done. Or it might just be too heavy for 120Mhz.

Both are possible. But either way, I definitely have my hands full with Gearhead. I can wait a little bit for the sequel. 😉

Second, if you prefer a graphical version, I see that there are tile-based oblique-view animated versions that have developed around Gearhead{1,2}, much like the renditions that accompany Nethack, etc.

If you get one of those running, please send a screenshot. 🙂


You know you’re a CLI addict when

Your graphical desktops rely on terminal emulators for mundane tasks.

I show that with a little bit of hesitation. I usually reserve console-based applications for machines that really need it, and graphical ones for machines that can handle it.

Ergo, this one is a straight text-only machine, as is this one and this one. It’s true, the Mebius is doing all of that against X, but in my fabricated little world, I tell myself that it’s the same.

So it feels a little funny to be using the core duo with Openbox and Firefox … alongside htop and mc, all cued up by wbar.

But what can I say? I use mc on every other machine in the house, and it’s just the quickest and most comfortable for me. htop can’t be ignored either, although it has competition.

And if I were using Musca, I wouldn’t think twice about putting those two side-by-side on the same screen. That would just be natural for me.

So maybe I don’t need to rationalize. It does seem that I’ve come full circle in one sense though. Funny how life works. 🙄

Looking for ‘Life: zivot

I haven’t got much time today, so I can only jot a note as a signpost in a search for something else.

For a while I have been wondering why I couldn’t find a version of Conway’s Game of Life for the console, outside of the demo version packed in teapot or a few semi-eponymous “life” packages intended for graphical worlds.

I did find zivot the other day, but … it’s a little less than I anticipated.

This is more of a frame-by-frame snapshot of each stage, and not so much a full animated version. It seems odd to me that I can’t find something ncurses-based that animates the sequences more gracefully. I must be overlooking it.

I guess I’ll just have to stick with worms. 😀

Oh great, another addiction (that I could swear I have seen before)

I had a major flashback today, finding this game that I could swear I remember playing in the early 1990s, on 286 machines in one form or another.

If this is the first time you play empire, you might think it a bit hackneyed, but that will only be because the style and rules date back quite far.

Dominate cities with armies, build units for exploring and battle, and teach that stinking computer a lesson or two.

The man page has more than enough information to get you started, and the commands and units are all mnemonics. I can give you a little help: Edit mode is your friend. 😈

In any case, I have a little something that will distract me from Crawl and Icewind Dale for a while. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing. 😐

Another nifty load meter: ttyload

Litho mentioned ttyload last week, and this one is worth singling out on its own merit.

A static photo doesn’t give you the full effect. Those arcs shift from right to left like a traditional graph display.

It’s also smart enough to mesh colors if they overlap, and one thing that’s really nice is the time stamp along the bottom, that corresponds to the system time.

So not only do you know which arc represents which meter, but you can pinpoint an exact time when the load changed, or where it fell off.

And the graph scales vertically too, so peaks cause the entire display to shift down, or fall away when they move off screen.

Very nice, I like this one a lot. Thanks, Litho. 🙂

P.S.: Oddly enough, I found this one in Debian Squeeze, but not in Arch/AUR. Anyone want to adopt a very easy and very low-maintenance PKGBUILD? 😐

P.P.S: A new update as of yesterday?! How timely! :mrgreen:

Obvious cousins: ethstatus, pppstatus, slurm

I have promised I would never let this blog devolve into a “cli-app-a-day” kind of website, and I really want to stick to my guns on that one.

But putting together that wiki — which is done now, and which I intend to be a sort of memory aid for software I’ve looked at or tried — has underscored one point: It’s not for a lack of material.

There is a hurricane-sized swirl of console-oriented software out there, and the sheer magnitude of it all can be dizzying. One good, popular application might list two or three lesser-known ones as influences.

Or a home page might cite other projects as counter to the developer’s goals — which could mean there are another two or three out there that do the same thing, just a little differently.

And so with every discovery I anticipate finding one, sometimes two new ones. If I’m lucky, I’ve already seen it. If not, I dutifully add it to my list, sigh deeply, and check the calendar for the next day off I have.

I make it sound terrible, but it’s not. It’s fun. And sometimes I am honestly surprised. For example, I’ve known for years about slurm.

slurm is fun to watch and sufficiently useful that I usually keep it installed. It’s not cumbersome, has a sprinkling of options and you can tweak the colors a little. I don’t ask for much more than that.

What I didn’t know until yesterday though, was slurm’s intent to port a little application called pppstatus to FreeBSD.

I learned that while digging through for slurm’s original home page. In turn, a quick glance at pppstatus reveals that it morphed again into something called ethstatus.

And ethstatus — surprise, surprise — bears a resemblance to slurm. It’s a bit droll if you ask me, and slurm does things ethstatus doesn’t, but it’s obvious that they’re cousins.

So there, in a nutshell, is the issue: Look at one, hear about two more. Pick up one, and two more are hiding underneath.

That might suggest to you Pirsig‘s difficulties with hypotheses: More than one exists to explain a phenomenon, and satisfying one only yields more.

Personally though, it reminds me of coat hangers. They’re always tangled up in threes and fours when you pull them out of the closet. 😐

Nice browser, but that name …

In case you were wondering, I am still poking around with the homeless but familiar K6-2 that I took home last week. I don’t have much to report in that arena, save a few small discoveries that are worth sharing.

To date, Debian and ConnochaetOS (the i586 rehash of Arch Linux) have been the most promising contenders. That laptop is a true 586, which narrows the field slightly in terms of distros that will work with it.

And of course, running at 450Mhz means the field narrows even further, since the median-ground applications suddenly become sluggish and lethargic.

This is the machine that played back Flash videos from YouTube through Firefox in Crux 2.5 though, so it’s not impossible. Just tricky. 😈

But there is more than one way to skin a cat, or surf the web at 450Mhz. ConnochaetOS comes with a couple of unusual alternatives, including a very simple and straightforward graphical browser with a … terrible name.

That’s xxxterm, and before you go all wide-eyed and start thinking this application is intended to appeal to your biological urges, I can assure you it’s very legit. (Unless you tell it to do otherwise.)

It’s exceedingly simple, with only fundamental controls, tabbed browsing and a trusty right-click menu as an option. It has Java support, a download manager, a browsing history, and for all the vi freak-a-deaks out there, vim-like controls.

(I have to be honest here: I use vim on a daily basis, and short of the oddball-but-necessary colon-prefixed commands, I stick with the arrow keys. I know, I’m a heretic.)

Speedwise, xxxterm (which really should think about a contest to find a new name) opens infinitely faster than Firefox on the same machine, renders … at an acceptable pace, and doesn’t take up too much space.

It’s not going to thrill you with extensions and multimedia sockets and triple-buffered AJAX doodads in support of the latest thingamajig on Friendspace or Twitterbook or iTuneface or whatever. It’s just a step above that Python browser script.

But it does a good job of getting around the Web without dragging its feet. And if you’re surfing at 450Mhz, you’re probably content with that. 😉

Edit: Oops, the picture didn’t quite work right. Reuploaded. 😉