Category Archives: Linux

A self-explanatory conversation

I suppose I should be embarrassed that I actually took up this position in a conversation.

27.05.11 06:50 I’m starting to think that young kids on the Internet are all idiots.
27.05.11 06:58 I have suspected for a long time that everyone on the Internet is an idiot.
27.05.11 06:58 The Internet is like cars and TVs.
27.05.11 06:59 Only idiots on it?
27.05.11 06:59 They have to be reduced to the most inane terms to make them usable by everyone — especially the absolute moron — so that companies can make money.
27.05.11 06:59 So cars are just boxes with wheels, that we turn and go places.
27.05.11 06:59 TVs are just boxes with buttons that show pictures.
27.05.11 06:59 Internet is similar.
27.05.11 07:00 The less complicated, the more people use it, the better a chance to make money.
27.05.11 07:00 And at the same time, the collective census of people using it has an average intelligence level that is slowly floating downward.
27.05.11 07:01 Software is doing the same thing.
27.05.11 07:01 You really should write a book.
27.05.11 07:03 Or start a blog.

There’s really no way to defend that without coming across like an elitist prig. Social grace demands that I withhold some ugly concepts in order to be polite.

I could tell you that all of humanity rolls across a bell curve for computer aptitude, and people near the left-hand tail should probably stick with pens and paper.

But that would imply that some people simply don’t have a practical ability level, and that would sound mean-spirited, and therefore taboo.

I could insist that pushing Linux to embrace more of the central arc of that bell curve means that another resulting curve — the average ability level of Linux users — likewise shifts downward.

But that would imply that pulling in day-to-day users results in less impressive statistics, or that the regular user is getting stupider.

That would likewise be ugly and therefore can’t be repeated.

So I will mention none of those things, and refrain from suggesting that crafting Linux to appeal to less adept computer users is resulting in a mass stupidification of the user base.

I admit I had suggested some similar points, but it was an extract from a conversation on many different topics at once. And I feel slightly guilty now, just as a sign of penitence.

After that, if you inferred anything else, you’re on your own. πŸ‘Ώ


Still with ConnochaetOS

In case you were wondering, or even if you weren’t, I should mention that the 150Mhz Mebius is still the brains behind this operation.

And although I sometimes flip-flop between distros for it, the chief contender at this juncture is still ConnochaetOS.

During my Extremely Busy Time a week or so ago, I briefly returned to the Crux installation I had in place as recently as March.

But that unfortunately relies on Xorg to do most of the dirty work, and on a machine this slow, I have no faith in X and company.

ConnochaetOS inherits a lot of Arch Linux’s demeanor, and using only the framebuffer (which it can automatically configure to 800×600 on this confounded Trident video card, even when I can’t do it myself πŸ‘Ώ ) makes this machine a very impressive performer.

By default ConnochaetOS installs a graphical environment, and that means you’ll have to strip out a lot of the stuff that comes in the 0.8.9 beta 2 ISO.

It’s worth the effort though, because the resulting system, spared of the trappings and dead weight of Xorg, takes up much less space on the hard drive and much less space in memory.

It’s not perfect of course. Sound is sometimes sketchy, but it’s sketchy in my custom systems too. Sometimes the bell rings when someone sends a message in centerim, and sometimes it doesn’t. πŸ™„

But it admits a little more flexibility, hardware-wise, than the custom systems I have built. And there’s the benefit of being lazy, and letting someone else handle the hard work of updating core software. πŸ˜‰

That’s nice, even I have to build and maintain the other 90 percent of the software I use, because it’s not in the conventional repos.

Luckily Arch, and by extension ConnochaetOS, has some remarkable tools just for that. Hello, PKGBUILDs.

All things considered, I like using this a lot more than some of the other systems I’ve tried at this speed. Debian won’t boot, Crux is more high-maintenance than I want right now … this one is just right.

If you’re also trapped in the i586 bracket, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Even as I did six months ago. … πŸ™‚

Less than successful: mc as a daemon

Sometimes I try things that sound good while they’re bouncing around in my brain, but after they’re done, I wonder why I bothered.

A long time ago, someone posted a method for trapping rtorrent in screen session and running it as a daemon. Attaching to the screen session gave normal users a way of controlling it.

Detaching from screen meant it continued to run in the background, so long as it wasn’t told outright to quit. And since it started as a system service, just turning on the machine put it into action.

At the same time, I banged around with mc about nine months ago, trying to force it into tty1 instead of getty.

The goal there was similar — to start up an application with the system, devote a single virtual console to it, and allow the user to bounce back and forth to that tty as a means of running it.

Last week during my forced hiatus, I tried a hybrid of those two, and more or less managed to run mc as a daemon, also within screen and with it triggered at bootup.

It wasn’t quite successful though (you probably guessed that, didn’t you?). In the time that has elapsed since the original post about rtorrent-plus-screen, things seem to have changed in the way those things work.

To summarize, I couldn’t get the ownership issues sorted out. The autostarting instance of screen was for some reason invisible to a normal user, which of course defeated the purpose.

Trying to shift the burden to tty1 only confused things. screen balked, and my configurations were somehow inaccessible.

Without a .screenrc that I could cue, tty1 opened up as a vanilla screen session, and then refused to budge beyond the welcome message.

Of course, after all was said and done, I began to wonder why I was bothering with the idea at all. Midnight Commander is a tiny little program that runs fine on every machine in the house.

And I couldn’t even use the excuse that it was somehow easier to invoke that way, since you can start mc with three keystrokes. πŸ™„

Short of assigning a custom keypress to the mc command, it doesn’t get much simpler than m-c-Enter.

Still, science demanded an answer. Unfortunately, this time my answer was gibberish. 😐

Quick note:

Time is short today, but I feel like I should leave an equally short note by mentioning


It’s hard for me to frame exactly what is, except maybe to point out that “goosh” breaks apart into “Google shell.”

So if you can imagine a text-based interface to Google … well, you might have the right idea.

No, this is not really a substitute for surfraw, so much as an oddball way to communicate with Google.

I’ll let you explore the site and see how much of it appeals to you. It has a few noteworthy fillips, scattered here and there.

I should point out a small measure of irony though, in that doesn’t work for me in a text-based browser. elinks just refers itself back to the original page again.

But that’s okay. It’s still worth taking a look at. You can show it to your friends, or trap it in a borderless panel in your tiling window manager, and win points from your geek friends. Enjoy. πŸ™‚

Another gray area: Ascii Sector

Speaking of gray areas, I never know whether I should jump for joy or just raise a minor ruckus when I find a game that runs in textmode under SDL.

Dwarf Fortress is one example, although Dwarf Fortress qualifies as something beyond “game.” The complexity and detail and variety push it to something … something beyond “game,” anyway.

Ascii Sector is probably another, although this one incorporates a striking amount of action — more than I would expect from a textmode game, anyway.

As I understand it, Ascii Sector attempts a faithful rendition of Privateer, which you might remember as an evolution of Elite … which I have now mentioned twice in the space of a month.

I’ll be honest and say I only played Privateer well after its heyday, and at the time didn’t see much that hadn’t been touched on when I was still using a C64.

Ascii Sector amuses me though, mostly because it captures a lot of the space trading genre, without ever needing much in the way of graphics.

And of course, any time you can strip away graphical requirements and still have a speedy game with depth and action, I’m all for it.

Which makes this one a lot like Dwarf Fortress to me: It relies on a measure of graphical power to run — to wit, SDL and therefore Xorg. Your mileage may vary, but I’m thinking something even as slow as a Pentium III can do this.

But there’s another reason Ascii Sector (and Dwarf Fortress, of course) is dangerous: It’s far too engrossing to be left alone with. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. … 😈

A gray area: darkstat

I tampered with a few console programs during my hiatus, with one of the more interesting being darkstat.


I don’t know if I should really call darkstat a console program or not. For what I saw, there was very little that it did at the console, with most of the attention going to its web-style output.

That’s very convenient if you just want to find out — graphically — how things are going, network-wise. Most of its configuration is at the prompt though, which you adjust when you start it.

But it runs light, as you can see, and I had no problem checking the traffic on the loopback address. I didn’t try it across the network, but I have a feeling it would probably be equally easy … so long as you’re properly configured, of course.

Believe it or not, that’s about all I have to say about it. I am debating internally whether I should add this to the wiki, since it seems to fall into a … gray area. Ha! That was almost a pun! 😯 πŸ™„

Revisiting the tabbed desktop

One of the things I had time to try, but didn’t have time to write about, was a revisit to someone else’s idea. I do that quite often, now that I think about it.

This time it was urukrama’s tabbed desktop from a couple of years ago. Things like that tend to roll around in my mind, and then bubble up after a while.

I caught myself thinking the other day that screen’s status bar, while it doesn’t seem to like to be pushed to the top of the display, could do some reverse-text codes, and make it look like tabs.

You might have to use your imagination here, but if the active “window” is set to the same color as the terminal background, then if you squint really hard and hold your breath, it looks like a tab. See? See? πŸ˜›

Playing with that for a few minutes sent me back to urukrama’s desktop, which did a better job with tint2 and Openbox than I was doing with screen alone.


That’s rather rudimentary, and not really much of an improvement over the grace and style of urukrama’s original work.

And most of it was slapped together with tint2’s onboard wizard (the aptly named, which makes things much, much easier. I’d like to find something along those same lines for Openbox itself.

But I haven’t saved the configuration files here because it wasn’t much of an accomplishment, and because it only took a few minutes to arrange what you see.

And really, if I’m going to rely on a tab-like interface to a long string of terminal programs, then there are better ways to arrange it. Probably. πŸ™‚