[dragoș iorgulescu] blog | about | git

My own desktop, using dwm with dmenu and slstatus

Since I was first introduced to Linux back in 1999 (with kind mentoring and two Red Hat Linux 5.0 CDs from my godfather), I went through a whole range of experiences, much like every other human being on the planet. In time, this operating system got under my skin. Luckily, my work revolves quite a lot around it and I pull any reachable lever in order to steer my carrer towards a Linux-only direction.

As years passed by, I toyed with distros like Slackware, Mandrake, SuSE, Debian, Ubuntu and Puppy Linux. Eventually, I sticked to Debian and, more recently, Ubuntu. Before you say anything, let me point out that I use Linux on my home desktop & laptop and given that I occasionaly do some video editing and photo processing on the desktop, the official drivers are desirable (Lightworks operates at its best when proprietary drivers are installed on the system, making it a very fast and stable video editor). And Ubuntu offers quite decent hardware support in that respect.

The only thing that bugs me about it is the bloatware. Windows is a great example of that, but I haven’t used Windows at all in more than a year and a half already, so that is not relevant (I used to keep a dual-boot system so that I could run Windows apps that seemed irreplaceble). With minimalist principles in mind, I became a big fan of the i3 tiling window manager and ended up using it quite a lot. Not being an eye-candy seeker helps and I’m generally fond of simple, stable and working user interfaces. The user interface should not be an obstacle in the user’s way, but subtle, fast and readily available at any time. So, tiling window managers are the way to go, since they allow for a lot of work to be done exclusively using keyboard shortcuts. And so, I began searching for a way to build myself an Ubuntu-based system stripped of all that which I consider bloatware (things like Gnome Control Center, KDE, snapd, etc.).

One day I decided to read more about the so-called “suckless tools”. And I did. By the time got through their philosophy, I was hooked. Nothing got in the way of me trying out their tools and the dwm window manager. Funny enough, I have been using one of their pieces of software for almost a year: dmenu. It fits perfectly in an i3 setup as well. Jumping from i3 to dwm was a breeze for me. The differences are not that big, apart from a few quirks. But having a system that takes up less than 140 MB of RAM in GUI mode (with some background services and a running terminal) in 2019 feels pretty miraculous. My laptop is an older Acer Aspire ES1-512, which I upgraded with a 240 GB SSD that replaced the old and slow harddisk. Previously, it was my wife’s work laptop that got to sit on a shelf for about one year and a half before I though of putting it to use. Therefore, let it be known that I do not consider technology as outdated if it’s older than 12 months and lacks the latest gimmick satisfying a non-existing need.

While searching for ways of getting a minimal Ubuntu system going, I decided to use the Ubuntu minimal CD (destined for installing Linux using an Internet Connection) to setup a basic system, and then run a script that takes care of the rest. Of course, I have the idea of a ready-made ISO in mind, but I will tackle that subject later on if it proves feasible and useful.

The results I’ve encountered so far are more than encouraging, and this is partly the reason why I decided to write about it. I do my best at documenting these experiences along the way and I try to include as many concise tutorials as possible, just in case other people wish to toy around with the idea.

Finally, I do hope that this will resonate with other people too, both tech and casual users. I believe it’s time we let some misconceptions behind and do our best to improve our cognitive abilities, attention spans, physical & mental health and our overall lives. This has gotten truly difficult in an age of mindless consumption and non-stop useless low-quality connectivity.


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