Thursday, March 11, 2021

I do stupid things sometimes

 I have been using Linux for decades. At this point I have it down pretty well, even to the point where it is easier than Windows 10 for me. Sometimes I get bored with the "It just works" shit I take on a task just because it is hard. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you have seen me switch Linux distributions, and even try out FreeBSD.

This wee, my project has been trying out tiling windows managers. Normally I just use Mate, which is pretty straight forward and not too different from using Windows, although it is far more configurable. A tiling window manager, to quote Wikipedia, is 

"a tiling window manager is a window manager with an organization of the screen into mutually non-overlapping frames, as opposed to the more popular approach of coordinate-based stacking of overlapping objects (windows) that tries to fully emulate the desktop metaphor."

Something like this:


In other words, instead of windows floating all over the place, the windows are nicely lined up, wasting no desktop space. The really nice feature of most of these tiling windows managers is they are light on resources. When using Mate, it is not unusual for 5GB of RAM to be in use at any given times. While using one of these, I have never seen RAM usage climb above 1 GB. Of course there is a trade off in functionality and ease of use. Of course this was not about functionality or ease of use, this was about abusing myself. I tried two of them out, DWM and 13, compared to Mate, neither were great, but one was definitely better than the other.

DWM is made by the Suckless organization, I have some really bad news for them however. DWM does not suck less. I get it, these guys want to build light weight tools, with a minimum of features. Okay, got it, but seriously, it should not be necessary to recompile from source code to change the colors of the tool bar. In fact any changes at that you might want to make, require you to change the source code and recompile. Apparently, to them, this is a feature, not a bug. In my mind, reading and writing a configuration file would not be a terrible leap in bloat. To their credit, they do provide patches for the more popular modifications people make, unfortunately, it is exactly no ones job to maintain these patches, and I found 80% of them I could not even apply the patch without jumping through hoops and when I did get the patches installed properly, many of them  failed to function properly. So after fucking with this for 2 days and getting little more than a basic install working, I decided this was a non starter.

i3 is slightly better in terms of configuration. They at least understand the utility of a configuration file to make small useful changes. Mind you it took me the better part of a day googling things to finally get a usable desktop so it was not all fun and sunshine, however once I figured out the basic syntax of the config files, it was relatively easy to add functionality. I would not consider i3 to be easy by any means, but it sucks less than DWM. The thing i3 really had over DWM, is once I got everything setup more or less the way I wanted it, it was pretty easy to save the config files and write a script to automate installing all the needed software and placing the config files where they needed to be, so duplicating my setup on another system would be trivial.

Overall, I am a bit meh! about this whole tiling windows manager thing. I like the idea of this kind of organizational structure and desktop management, but honestly there is no reason why it should take 7 hours setting up a decent working desktop with my preferred colors, properly sized and readable fonts that do not make my eyes bleed, and some useful applets like WiFi, Battery and volume control. Now that it is done, I will probably use it for a while, but if I ever decide to seriously change windows managers, I will choose one that has a setup wizard, not one that requires me to know that #012FFF is the hexadecimal value of my favorite shade of blue.

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