Few thoughts about my Linux system in 2022
what I like to use
Date: 2022-08-30 | Linux
I am not a famous person, youtuber, or some contributor of Linux in any way, but I thought I will write down how I use my Linux system in 2022. In October I will "celebrate" my 16 years with Linux, which is now part of my life so much that I used it about 6-7 years more than Windows. For that time, except a month or two, I used Linux solely on my computer, no dual-boot.
Note: After I have finished writing this post, I have to say, this is a long one. If you are not interested in Linux, just skip it and wait for the next linkblog ones. But if you are a fellow Linux user, just stay awhile and read my ramblings.
Distro: they say it doesn't matter… but it does!
I am currently using Slackware 15.0, which is the latest stable version of the oldest active distribution. Still alive and kicking! And it's awesome in its simplicity. This is not my first time with it either. During my second year as a Linux user, and still active distro-hopper, I went out to the wild and wanted to try Slackware. But before I did, I used the friendlier version, called Zenwalk. As it turned out it wasn't really harder, just different. Easy to install, and do stuff. It came with Xfce, which I have quickly fallen love with after mostly using KDE 3 and Gnome 2.
Then I used Slackware for a year, I think. It was a wild ride. Learnt to compile source code and dived a little bit deeper into the system. Learnt about dependencies too, since Slackware doesn't offer dependency check. I have to say, that to this day, it was the period I learnt the most about Linux. I was still young user though and you can get crazy high on distro-hopping. So I tried many other distros after it.
Let's forward to about 2020, when I finally decided to move on and leave systemd behind. As you say: "you don't let friends use systemd". Or yourself. Systemd is an init system, but basically wants to control everything from the smallest thing. I can only have an opinion as a long time user, but maintaining systemd-based distros can be a pain. I used Manjaro for years, and every upgrade when I saw "systemd-something" in the list, I prayed.
As an alternative, I tried Void and Devuan previously, but something was always missing for my needs.
Until, I have found Artix in a really good state. I have to say it's a really good distro. You can even enjoy the benefits of AUR. It was fun, until it lasted, since I couldn't upgrade my Xmonad. AUR guys took it slow, like 8-10 months. I know that keeping up with haskell can be hard, but months without upgrades (to a major one btw, not a point release). Other than that, I can recommend Artix to any user, who wants to break the systemd-chain.
It was time for me to move on. At the time, Slackware 15.0 just came out, and after seeing a video about it from Old Tech Bloke, I had that feeling that maybe this is it, let's go back to Slackware. I checked Slackbuilds, and waited a few weeks for packages to appear for 15.0, and then I did my usual thing: burning a DVD. Yes, I am old school, never did a Linux install from other than a CD or DVD. Live mediums saved my machine more than once, thanks to some older distro, that still works.
Thankfully Slackware from the outside, doesn't change at all. Install is still simple and basically just a command line based installer made in ncurses of what you usually see with graphical installer. You go through the same steps, except you don't install viruses, like systemd. Thanks to this, Slackware is a fast system, even on a crappier machine. What I like about the installer, that it detected UEFI, and immidiatelly offered elilo bootmenu, instead of lilo. I choose it, and it worked automatically after the installation. The whole thing literally worked like 15 years ago! This is magic to be honest.
During that time, Ubuntu made their own startup system and own desktop environment, and then they dropped both for systemd and Gnome. Meanwhile Slackware is here, and do its thing the same for more than a decade, just as good, if not better, generally with the same tools.
I feel like I won't need to find another distro. No, Slackware, this time I won't leave you!
Day to day with your favorite desktop environment!
Everybody loves Gnome right! Hands up, if you love that shit! Both hands!
It's ok, if you didn't do this, cause I didn't either. Let's face it, the latest version of Gnome for the past decade, ever since Gnome 3 really, is just a giant mess.
A few years ago I discovered a little window manager, called i3. It's a manual tiling window manager with a simple setup and config file. I liked it at first, but you know how it is with FLOSS world. You have to check out another one. And then another, and another.
This is how I ended up with dwm (thanks to Luke Smith) and then xmonad (thanks to Distrotube). I like both, but currently I am using Xmonad, for more than a year now. The major difference is that if you want to expand dwm, you patch it - which might or might not work, and sometimes requires manual patching - and with xmonad, you have to know some haskell programming language, and have to read the manual. Because I am not a programmer, neither of it is easy to use or set it up in a way that you want it at first. It has a steep learning curve, and needs lot of reading.
However the payoff is great. Your system is more responsive, and since you made your setup, everything makes sense. It's your house, build the way you want it! Who cares if people think you are an idiot, because you spend a whole day just to solve one problem, so your system is 5% more usable than before? People just don't understand it! Meanwhile you may end up a sort of Haskell wizard (or witch).
Slackware did offer me the latest Xmonad, unlike a certain distro's really fast user repository (kiss my ass AUR!). So I am a happy user now. There are weeks and months when I don't modify my config. I am fairly content what I have now, with few layouts, and nice xmobar. I have no date and clock on my xmobar btw, cause I have a watch on my hand and I can look at it any time. I remember how happy I was to make the Emacs-like shortcuts to work with Xmonad. That made both the usage of Xmonad better, but also adding shortcuts become much easier.
I am still not confident enough to write posts about Xmonad, so don't expect one.
With a tiling window manager comes great terminal emulator
In my case, it's kitty. Configurable and fast. I also use the fish shell, cause I am pisces and why not (that's just a joke, I don't give a crap about astrology). Fish shell just let you be easy in terminal. Much better than bash in my opinion. Fish let's you store your config files under ~/.config too. Bash can kiss my ass! Plus Fish has preconfigured Emacs-like shortcuts! I love it! I feel like I don't need to be a shell wizard to use bash.
Kitty has some nice themes, and the ability to have tabs even if you aren't using it with a traditional window manager, and you don't see the window title. The config file is well commented and easy to understand, website also helps. Kitty is great!
Why I am not using Emacs as my window manager?
Because I am lazy, and Xmonad is better for that task.
But Emacs is for everything else, right?
Still not listening to music with Emacs. I am using it mostly for org-mode, to post on this website. I had some serious problems with elfeed, so I am not reading RSS for a few months now. I couldn't make newsboat to work on Slackware for some reason.
Emacs is great thought! Use it for what you want. I also made my init file in org mode. So much more easy to handle the whole thing.
I recently found this image about Emacs knowledge in a form of an iceberg. You know where most stuff is hidden underneath. It's OK to not know everything. Honestly I don't think people who are using it for decades know everything about it.
Some things just better in the terminal…
I use terminal based file managers because that's enough for my needs. I like lf and mc nowadays, and I am using udiskie for automounting external drives. Took a while to make it work on Slackware, but I did it! No need for graphical file managers now.
There are smaller utilities like ncdu, which checks your hard drive and you can see how much disk space you can waste with your favorite video games and its mods. xD
Even smaller stuff, like xprop which let's you check some names of a window, that information you'll probably need if you are working with your tiling window manager, like class, name, etc.
Another good one is xev, which you can identify your keyboard keys, so you can change your Caps Lock key to Control. Believe me if you are using Emacs, it will make a HUGE difference!
I use sct for adjusting the screen color temperature. When I use wallpaper, I set it with feh. I also use the chwall wallpaper setter script.
If I need to download videos, I use yt-dlp.
I know that for most people, terminal is not really solution. I am comfortable with it, and I don't type fast. I am pretty sure below average, although I am not looking at the keyboard and still can type in too languages (not bragging, just a fact). Talking about typing, I also ran xbanish, which hides the mouse cursor when you start typing.
Even if you are like using GUI, I can recommend to slowly learning about terminal and its options, who know you may end up liking it. You don't have to use Emacs or Vim either, just check out nano. It saved me a few times, nice little tool.
Do I use GUI at all?
I use LibreWolf for browsing. I also use Gimp and Inkscape for some graphical work on occasions. I use KeePassXC for my passwords. I watch videos with mpv (very minimal UI though), and listen to music with qmmp (with default old Winamp 2.0 skin). I use freetube for youtube videos, and some office work with LibreOffice. I use Flameshot for screenshots, which is handy utility for extra stuff like writing and drawing on images.
Some of them, I use via AppImage, so I can update them and use it more easily, since everything is in one file, but also you can use different versions of the same software. Pretty cool and I think it's the best from the alternative package formats.
I occasionally play some video games too, mostly older ones (2014 is the border I can play those normally on my potato computer, anything later and I have problems). To be honest I don't feel the need for the newer ones, because 90% of them are crap. One day a might modern gaming rant post is coming. I promise.
And the weird one…
I don't really use graphical desktop environments anymore, but I have one installed and that's NsCDE, which is very similar to CDE, an old desktop environment from another time, and another operating system. On Slackware it's really easy to install from Slackbuilds.
It just looks so other worldly to me, but in a good way. I like the colors, and the quirkiness of how things work. It's really retro, so if you are interested in this kind of thing, check out it on Github.
Is this my final setup?
In terms of distro and window manager, I think I won't change this for a while. I like both Slackware and Xmonad too much at the moment, and they are really good for my needs. I don't really do things that requires constantly the latest and greatest software, so I don't have to worry about that.
This is post #28 of the #100DaysToOffload challenge, where we write 100 posts in a year. If you are interested in this event, check out the official website: 100DaysToOffload.com. Happy writing everybody! :)