Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

A Month With Fluxbox - Part 1

Filed under
Howtos

In anticipation of the April Gentoo Monthly Screenshots thread on my favorite forum, I've been working on beautifying my desktop for the last several days.

This month I wanted to post something a little different. I've been using KDE for many moons now so my desktops, and the screenshots of it, always look basically the same. The icons, wallpaper, colors, and window decorations have changed, but being a creature of habit and having found what works for me, I never changed the layout much. I had hoped to do that this month. And in keeping with the spirit of the thread, I'm going to run fluxbox all April long and post my thoughts on using it here at tuxmachines at the end. I've been running fluxbox fulltime for not quite a week now as I type this (if you don't count my occasional look around and use of my laptop), which is why this article is entitled "Part 1".



The Setup


  • The Theme

I started with my Plain Jane v. 0.9.12 fluxbox desktop posted last month and the first thing I did was set a new wallpaper. The most fundamental aspect of any desktop is the wallpaper. You can get a glimpse into the personality of folks by the wallpaper they choose. (I'm going to leave that topic there as I could, and might, write an entire article on that.) The wallpaper is the foundation of any theme, it's the basis on which everything should be built. It shapes the colors, the mood, the icons sometimes, and the window decorations. It is also one of the easiest aspects to change in fluxbox.

One has several choices in their method of setting a wallpaper. Fluxbox's own fbsetbg is a popular choice. Although as much as I can tell, it's a wrapper that probably calls to xsetbg to actually do the background. But if you're running fluxbox you should already have those two elements installed. Other options include wmsetbg, Esetroot, and feh.

I chose feh because of some of it's nice features. It can do a simple background set, but it can also do a slideshow, multiple images on the one screen, filelist sorting and loading, loading images via http, montage/collage creation and much much more. So one simply adds their command to the ~/.fluxbox/init file and wha-la > a nice background. For now mine looks like this:

session.screen0.rootCommand: feh
--bg-scale /mnt/oldhome/s/wallpapers/Fleur1280.jpg

For the colors I relied upon the theme manager of fluxbox at this time. I installed gentoo's fluxbox-theme package from an ebuild and had a nice large list of themes to choose from. I chose Nuevat3k-Bluenight. It's a nice bluish-darkgreenish style with small discrete window decorations and great looking menu effects.

I'm primarily using KDE apps, as all my mail is in kde maildir format in my KDE .Mail folder and all my browser bookmarks are in my ~/.kde folder. I'm using the provided Atlas Green color theme that been included with KDE forever. Although my wallpaper has very little (if any real) green in it, the understated green seems to blend well with the aqua in it and the greenish blue of the menus. It's a nice combination I think. My gtk apps are using the default gray color and style for now.

I tried out fluxconf/fluxmenu to try and add entries to my menu. It seemed to work good, but at some point it deleted the main line at the beginning of my .fluxbox/menu file and left the menu crippled. Fortunately I had a backup and just copied and pasted the missing line back. I used it to add the kde apps submenu and openoffice.org to the Office submenu. Fluxmenu seems to be a nice little application for adding menu entries. I installed it using ebuilds, but you can get it and more information here. Then I finished editing the file manually for a couple other entries.


  • Monitoring

Gkrellm used to be the greatest thing since Hershey's kisses, but last year or so it's been quite unstable for me. It seem to freeze up and crash out often. So, I really quit using it. I tried torsmo in kde, but it interfered with the desktop rendering causing blinking and the icons would disappear. However, none of that is a problem in fluxbox. I'm using torsmo most happily in fluxbox now. That configuration was a bit more tedious than gkrellm, but the docs are fairly complete and easy to understand, and there were quite a few examples on the forum to consult. Actually, weather support is supposed to be included in the newest torsmo, but I didn't see too much about it in the gentoo ebuild version (ok, I didn't look too hard). So, I just went with {exec /some/script}.

I actually saw many methods for accomplishing this task, but the one I used was here. I usually like to pull weather info from our local airport and that's what I did in gkrellm. This method pulls from yahoo which in turn pulls from weather.com. I may play with this some more and try other methods, but for now I like the output formatting of Arainach's script.

In addition, I found a tip on how to set a calender in that same thread. I was hunting around looking for an applet to do that, but this method saves on system resources and gives a consistant uncluttered look - as does the date/time string for which I was also originally looking for an applet to display.

That's a wonderful thread if you want some good tips for configuring your torsmo. In fact that entire forum is a wonder resource for just about anything Linux! I've found it indispensable.

I'm still working on my voltage output values tho. I can glean the information from the /sys files as gkrellm did, but I haven't been able to get divisors to work yet. Maybe by the next report I'll have figured it out. The most important thing is to watch for consistency/stability anyway, and this'll serve that purpose for now.

Setiathome outputs seem to be a problem across systems and setups. Apparently it's broken, but at least it's included and will probably be fixed in an upcoming release. So for now I just grepped my seti/state.sah and seti/user_info.sah files.


  • Desktop Icons

It seems idesk is your best choice for desktop icons. I had trouble with gentoo's ebuild version shooting glibc errors. Utilizing several recent versions of glibc and rebuilding did not seem to fix it for me, so I downloaded the source from the site and all is well - and stable.

The two key component here are a ~/.ideskrc file to set up your basic config and actions and an ~/.idesktop directory for all your .lnk files (icons). There's an example of an .ideskrc on idesk's site and I merely copied&pasted then changed a couple things for my use like single clicking. Also the site includes an example of an .lnk file that I used as a template to make all my others. I set the gentoo icon for use in each separate .lnk file. I had always wanted to use the gentoo icon set but they didn't come with a .theme file for easy use in kde. Here was my chance. This process was straight forward and simple, no voodoo required. idesk seems stable and is completely usable. It works. (Please forgive the surprize in my voice.)


  • The Pager

There are many pagers to choose from out there, but I chose fbpager. It was available on the fluxbox site so I figured it'd probably be best for my purposes. The screenshots were nice and it supports transparency. After experimenting with different settings, I have my alpha set at 64. I set the window borders to be white and it looks good on the darker backgrounds I tend to use.

The configuration file is simple and easy to edit. It's located in ~/.fluxbox/fbpager. There is an example on the above linked fbpager page. I just edited a few lines to my taste, ran the
command fbpager, and was in business.


  • Panel

To date I've tried at least 4 panels and have yet to find one I like. I've tried engage and kooldock to name a couple. Documentation being sorely lacking is one of the problems encountered. Engage seems a bit buggy and kooldock only seems to recognize kde apps. I just really prefer the small toolbar that comes with fluxbox myself. I'll probaby do some more experimenting over the course of April and perhaps I'll have some good new on this front next report.


  • Transparency

I looked at KDE's transparency when they recently released their wonderful latest version 3.4. I found it a little limited in it's present state, but look forward to their continued development in this area. However with fluxbox, transparency can be achieved using xcompmgr I installed using gentoo's ebuild and wasn't expecting much. I figured if it even worked, it'd be unstable, resource hungry and completely unusable. I was wrong.

It installed with no problems. I issued the command xcompmgr and wham - instant transparency. It works nicely, looks great and doesn't present any stability issues. It hasn't crashed yet even while changing fluxbox themes over and over.

xcompmgr is easy to set up as it don't seem to use a configuration file instead using start flags or options. Issuing a xcompmgr --help yields the options one can use. I experiment with many of them but I've found I like it best as default and just use xcompmgr &. You need to install transset to get the -o flag to work. One must edit their XFree86 or Xorg config file to enable it by inserting the following lines:


Section "Extensions"
Option "Composite" "Enable"
EndSection


Option "RenderAccel" "true"

and if you use nvidia for opengl:


Option "AllowGLXWithComposite" "true"

Sometimes I get a little artifacting when using mplayer sometimes, but I understand I can eliminate that if I use mplayer without xv. I ran Doom3 last night, the first time since using fluxbox with all the enable eye candy, and it plays wonderfully. xcompmgr didn't seem to effect it in the least. In fact that's about the smoothest play I've had to date, and I'm still using the 6620 drivers cuz I'm having issues with the 7167 release that I haven't had time or the inclination to resolve.

Preliminary Conclusion

By itself fluxbox is a nice and capable window manager. I've used it on my laptop forever because of it's small footprint and light-weight design. Dressing it up by adding icons and other eye candy didn't seem to slow it down. It's always been my backup, but after just a week, I'm already settling in and vow to use fluxbox at least for the month of April. Please look for my report at the end of month for my final conclusions.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Command prompt question

OK, can you please tell me the name of the application that places the command prompt in the upper left hand corner of the screen.Believe it or not, I've been searching for it for a few weeks now, and haven't been able to find it.

Great article, by the way.

Thanks! Tex

re: Command prompt question

Yes, that is Eterm. It's a flexible terminal emulator, much like xterm, konsole (for kde), or gterm (for gnome). When you open Eterm as default, it will look much like xterm and you will need to add some start-up options to the command to get it to look like it's just a "command prompt on the desktop." I use the following in a little file and execute that instead of using it as a command each time. Save it as whatever you wish and chmod a+x. You can play around with the fonts and whatnot to customized as desired. For example:

Eterm --trans -g 75x25 -f white -F '-*-lucidatypewriter-medium-r-normal-sans-16-*-*-*-*-*-*-*' -O --tint=#ffffff --shade 0 --borderless --scrollbar-popup --scrollbar-floating --scrollbar no --double-buffer -a "toggles buttonbar false"

if you have terminus fonts installed, it looks much nicer:

Eterm --trans -g 75x25 -f white -F '-*-terminus-*-*-*-*-20-*-*-*-*-*-*-*' -O --tint=#ffffff --shade 0 --borderless --scrollbar-popup --scrollbar-floating --scrollbar no --double-buffer -a "toggles buttonbar false"

hth. Smile

Thanks!

Thanks a lot for the article! I have been using KDE up until now (new to linux though) and was looking for a good distro to use Fluxbox on. Just wondering if you have any recommendations? (would prefer to do a painless installation (no compiling please Smile)

Anyways, thanks again, great article.

Joe

re: fluxbox distro

A lot of them have it or have it in their repository. There aren't a lot out there that just have or specialize in the fluxbox desktop, except maybe Fluxbuntu Linux. Fluxbox runs well on about anything.

What are you currently running?

fluxbox

At the moment I have been trying out some different distros. Ubuntu, Debian, Slackware, Gentoo, PCLOS etc. (but have had little time with each of them) but mostly with KDE or Gnome. I am going to try out Sabayon today with seems to have Fluxbox as an option for default on installation.

Thanks,
Joe

Any d/l link for that icon set?

I've been looking all over for it and can't find a tarball or other archive. The old links to it on gentoo.org no longer seem to work. It's a very nice icon set!

re: icons?

I got 'em Here, it should be all of 'em. Only thing is, I don't think there is a theme file for kde or anything. If I recall, it's just the icons.

Thanks very much!

And there's more added to the Gentoo collection, by Wolvix, on his ionbox.org site, as well as user-contributed ones in this Gentoo Forum thread.

And to anyone interested in Fluxbox, you might want to check out Damn Small Linux and its slightly bigger brother, Damn Small Linux Not, both tiny (50 - 100 MB) Debian-based live CDs whose main UI is Fluxbox. A good way to look at working configuration files.

More in Tux Machines

Programming: WebAssembly, Mozilla GFX, Qt and Python

  • WebAssembly for speed and code reuse

    Imagine translating a non-web application, written in a high-level language, into a binary module ready for the web. This translation could be done without any change whatsoever to the non-web application's source code. A browser can download the newly translated module efficiently and execute the module in the sandbox. The executing web module can interact seamlessly with other web technologies—with JavaScript (JS) in particular. Welcome to WebAssembly. As befits a language with assembly in the name, WebAssembly is low-level. But this low-level character encourages optimization: the just-in-time (JIT) compiler of the browser's virtual machine can translate portable WebAssembly code into fast, platform-specific machine code. A WebAssembly module thereby becomes an executable suited for compute-bound tasks such as number crunching. Which high-level languages compile into WebAssembly? The list is growing, but the original candidates were C, C++, and Rust. Let's call these three the systems languages, as they are meant for systems programming and high-performance applications programming. The systems languages share two features that suit them for compilation into WebAssembly. The next section gets into the details, which sets up full code examples (in C and TypeScript) together with samples from WebAssembly's own text format language.

  • Mozilla GFX: moz://gfx newsletter #47

    Hi there! Time for another mozilla graphics newsletter. In the comments section of the previous newsletter, Michael asked about the relation between WebRender and WebGL, I’ll try give a short answer here. Both WebRender and WebGL need access to the GPU to do their work. At the moment both of them use the OpenGL API, either directly or through ANGLE which emulates OpenGL on top of D3D11. They, however, each work with their own OpenGL context. Frames produced with WebGL are sent to WebRender as texture handles. WebRender, at the API level, has a single entry point for images, video frames, canvases, in short for every grid of pixels in some flavor of RGB format, be them CPU-side buffers or already in GPU memory as is normally the case for WebGL. In order to share textures between separate OpenGL contexts we rely on platform-specific APIs such as EGLImage and DXGI. Beyond that there isn’t any fancy interaction between WebGL and WebRender. The latter sees the former as a image producer just like 2D canvases, video decoders and plain static images.

  • The Titler Revamp: QML Producer in the making

    At the beginning of this month, I started testing out the new producer as I had a good, rough structure for the producer code, and was only facing a few minor problems. Initially, I was unclear about how exactly the producer is going to be used by the titler so I took a small step back and spent some time figuring out how kdenlivetitle worked, which is the producer in use. Initially, I faced integration problems (which are the ones you’d normally expect) when I tried to make use of the QmlRenderer library for rendering and loading QML templates – and most of them were resolved by a simple refactoring of the QmlRenderer library source code. To give an example, the producer traditionally stores the QML template in global variables which is taken as a character pointer argument (which is, again, traditional C) The QmlRenderer lib takes a QUrl as its parameters for loading the Qml file, so to solve this problem all I had to do was to overload the loadQml() method with one which could accommodate the producer’s needs – which worked perfectly fine. As a consequence, I also had to compartmentalise (further) the rendering process so now we have 3 methods which go sequentially when we want to render something using the library ( initialiseRenderParams( ) -> prepareRenderer( ) -> renderQml( ) ) [...] The problem was resolved (thank you JB) finally and it was not due to OpenGL but it was simply because I hadn’t created an QApplication for the producer (which is necessary for qt producers). The whole month’s been a steep curve, definitely not easy, but, I enjoyed it! Right now, I have a producer which is, now, almost complete and with a little more tweaking, will be put to use, hopefully. I’m still facing a few minor issues which I hope to resolve soon and get a working producer. Once we get that, I can start work on the Kdenlive side. Let’s hope for the best!

  • How to Make a Discord Bot in Python

    In a world where video games are so important to so many people, communication and community around games are vital. Discord offers both of those and more in one well-designed package. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make a Discord bot in Python so that you can make the most of this fantastic platform.

  • Qt Visual Studio Tools 2.4 RC Released

    The Visual Studio Project System is widely used as the build system of choice for C++ projects in VS. Under the hood, MSBuild provides the project file format and build framework. The Qt VS Tools make use of the extensibility of MSBuild to provide design-time and build-time integration of Qt in VS projects — toward the end of the post we have a closer look at how that integration works and what changed in the new release. Up to this point, the Qt VS Tools extension managed its own project settings in an isolated manner. This approach prevented the integration of Qt in Visual Studio to fully benefit from the features of VS projects and MSBuild. Significantly, it was not possible to have Qt settings vary according to the build configuration (e.g. having a different list of selected Qt modules for different configurations), including Qt itself: only one version/build of Qt could be selected and would apply to all configurations, a significant drawback in the case of multi-platform projects. Another important limitation that users of the Qt VS Tools have reported is the lack of support for importing Qt-related settings from shared property sheet files. This feature allows settings in VS projects to be shared within a team or organization, thus providing a single source for that information. Up to now, this was not possible to do with settings managed by the Qt VS Tools.

Screenshots/Screencasts: 10 GNU/Linux Distros (Screenshots) and New Screencast/Video of Endeavour OS 2019.08.17

  • 10 Linux distros: From different to dangerous

    One of the great benefits of Linux is the ability to roll your own. Throughout the years, individuals, organizations, and even nation states have done just that. In this gallery, we're going to showcase some of those distros. Be careful, though. You may not want to load these, or if you do, put them in isolated VMs. We're not kidding when we say they could be dangerous.

  • Endeavour OS 2019.08.17 Run Through

    In this video, we are looking at Endeavour OS 2019.08.17.

A Cycle of Renewal, Broken: How Big Tech and Big Media Abuse Copyright Law to Slay Competition

In 1950, a television salesman named Robert Tarlton put together a consortium of TV merchants in the town of Lansford, Pennsylvania to erect an antenna tall enough to pull down signals from Philadelphia, about 90 miles to the southeast. The antenna connected to a web of cables that the consortium strung up and down the streets of Lansford, bringing big-city TV to their customers — and making TV ownership for Lansfordites far more attractive. Though hobbyists had been jury-rigging their own "community antenna television" networks since 1948, no one had ever tried to go into business with such an operation. The first commercial cable TV company was born. The rise of cable over the following years kicked off decades of political controversy over whether the cable operators should be allowed to stay in business, seeing as they were retransmitting broadcast signals without payment or permission and collecting money for the service. Broadcasters took a dim view of people using their signals without permission, which is a little rich, given that the broadcasting industry itself owed its existence to the ability to play sound recordings over the air without permission or payment. The FCC brokered a series of compromises in the years that followed, coming up with complex rules governing which signals a cable operator could retransmit, which ones they must retransmit, and how much all this would cost. The end result was a second way to get TV, one that made peace with—and grew alongside—broadcasters, eventually coming to dominate how we get cable TV in our homes. By 1976, cable and broadcasters joined forces to fight a new technology: home video recorders, starting with Sony's Betamax recorders. In the eyes of the cable operators, broadcasters, and movie studios, these were as illegitimate as the playing of records over the air had been, or as retransmitting those broadcasts over cable had been. Lawsuits over the VCR continued for the next eight years. In 1984, the Supreme Court finally weighed in, legalizing the VCR, and finding that new technologies were not illegal under copyright law if they were "capable of substantial noninfringing uses." Read more

Software, HowTos and Storage

  • Pause Music When Locking The Screen And Resume On Unlock For Spotify, Rhythmbox, Others

    When you lock your computer screen (without suspending the system), most desktop audio players continue playback in the background, sometimes not emitting any sound ¹. Due to this you may unintentionally skip parts of podcasts or songs in a playlist, etc. Enter pause-on-lock, a Bash script that pauses your music player when you lock the screen and resumes playback once the screen is unlocked. pause-on-lock works on Unity, GNOME, Cinnamon and MATE desktop environments, and by default it supports Spotify and Rhythmbox. With the help of playerctl (a command line controller for controlling media players that support the MPRIS D-Bus interface), this script can extend its supported music players to many others, including Audacious, VLC, Cmus, and others.

  • Easy Way to Screen Mirroring Android on Ubuntu!

    Screen Mirroring is one of the features found on smartphones, one of which is on Android. This feature serves to display the smartphone to a computer. This is very useful for example when used for demo applications that you make, or maybe for other things related to smartphones. In Ubuntu, we can do screen mirroring with applications available on Android, for example is AirDroid which can be used for screen mirroring through a browser. But I feel less optimal when using this instant method. Because there is a lag between activity on the smartphone and on the monitor screen on the computer, and the results are less than optimal. What might be the cause because it is opened through a browser and uses wi-fi? (Personal question). I am looking for another application for screen mirroring on Ubuntu, and one of the very good applications is Scrcpy. This application can be used for screen mirroring without a root device.

  • Command line quick tips: Searching with grep
  • How to Install Cezerin on Debian 9
  • How to Create a Bootable USB Stick from the Ubuntu Terminal
  • How to Install Git on Debian 10
  • How to Copy/Move a Docker Container to Another Host
  • Six practical use cases for Nmap
  • The Next Stage of Flash Storage: Computational Storage
  • NAS upgrade

    At some point in the future I hope to spend a little bit of time on the software side of things, as some of the features of my set up are no longer working as they should: I can't remote-decrypt the main disk via SSH on boot, and the first run of any backup fails due to some kind of race condition in the systemd unit dependencies. (The first attempt does not correctly mount the backup partition; the second attempt always succeeds).

  • Storage Concepts And Technologies Explained In Detail