Tag Archives: windows manager

The Slacker’s Fav Linux List

Here’s what I like. They’re all good. However, like anyone, I have my personal favorites. Here goes…

My Top Five GNU/Linux Operating Systems and Why

  1. Slackware Linux – To me, Slackware just fits. Folks have heard me say for years now that Slackware is the only Linux operating system that comes pre-packaged with ATTITUDE. It’s a biker’s Linux. It’s not all-inclusive. It’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s not even user friendly, at times. When you kick that baby over, though, it RUNS… and it runs hard and long. Slackware is the oldest surviving still maintained Linux. Its age grants it bragging rights. It is a survivor.
  2. Debian – Debian is old; not as old as Slack, but close. It’s also “old school”, kinda’ like me. It’s there when you need it. It’s nothing fancy, really. It’s the Sears Craftsman of Linux operating systems; dependable, steady, and ROCK-FRIGGIN’ SOLID. I use Debian on my desktop machine as a secondary operating system. It’s fully operable and synch’d with my Slackware primary OS. No better fall back can be had.
  3. Arch Linux – While I’m not nearly as experienced with Arch as I am with Slack and Deb, I still have had some experience with it. I’m MOST impressed with Arch’s Support Community. I capitalize those words because in Arch’s case, they deserve to be capitalized. Most GNU/Linux operating systems out there have extensive and informative support apparati; Arch’s is superior. Their wiki is the best I’ve ever run across.
  4. Zenwalk – Zen’s parent is Slackware. Because of this, Zen has all the stability and reliability of its parent with a more mellow attitude. It’s a bit lighter than Slackware; as if Slack were anywhere near being called “bloated”. I ran Zen many times on my systems. I don’t currently have it installed because Zen doesn’t yet have an x86_64 architecture. I’m patiently waiting, though.
  5. CentOS – I installed Cent because I had already run Fedora Core and was looking to get as close to RedHat as possible without having to spend money to do so. CentOS is the answer. It’s as close as you’ll get to RedHat without the monetary outlay. It’s sharp, clean, stable, and very usable as a primary operating system. For you RPM fans, this might be a good choice.

Those are my five most loved GNU/Linux operating systems. However, I really love them all (with a couple exceptions that we won’t go into here); and with that in mind, here’s an honorable mention list (in no particular order):

  • Ubuntu – Why? Because this is the one that got it all started for me. I had an old stack of Mandrake floppies that someone had given me years ago, but I had never installed them on anything. Ubuntu was the first Linux I ever installed. It took away my Linux virginity and stole me from MS Windows all in one shot.
  • Ark Linux – Ark is a main line (not a branch) Linux operating system. It’s been around for quite some time. While development is sometimes a bit slow in coming, Ark is still alive and well, as I was recently updated by one of their beta-testers, the Borg_Queen. Ark is a good, solid Linux.
  • Vector – An impressive Slack baby. Stable and very usable. Needs an x86_64 version, though
  • OpenSuSE – Always impressive.
  • Fedora Core – Great community. Strong and secure operating system.
  • Foresight – Another one with a great support community.
  • Mepis – A great Debian offspring.
  • Mint – The Rock & Roll loaded Linux, based on Ubuntu.
  • Mandriva – A solid and well supported Linux.
  • Aptosid – A bleeding edge Linux based on Debian’s “Sid” branch; still very stable and usable. Great support community.
  • PCLinuxOS – A friendly and very usable Linux.

My Favorite Pocket Linux

  • SLAX – the Slackware-based pocket rocket. Load this baby from a thumb drive and run in pure RAM mode… the FASTEST operating system you’ve ever seen. Handy for fixing your friends’ toasted MS Windows systems, too.

My Favorite Desktop Environment/Windows Manager

  • Xfce – the little mouse that roared. I run Gnome here and KDE there, but Xfce is my absolute favorite of them all. It’s not near as polished (read as bloated) as KDE nor as user-friendly as Gnome, but it works. And for me, it works well. I love that little mouse.

Next week, 10 things I love about MS Windows. HA! Just kidding. Had you going there for a bit, though.



Image credits: Xfce logo © Olivier Fourdan

An Alternative Desktop for Linux – LXDE

LXDE is lean and mean compared to Gnome or KDE, but it’s also FAST and uses resources efficiently.

I run LXDE in my Sidux installation. With Openbox as its windows manager, it is a great desktop environment. Fair warning though, as Juliet Kemp from Linux Planet* found out in her testing of it, LXDE is not graphically conducive to customization. Most customizations, as with Xfce, are going to require editing configuration files. This is something that doesn’t always appeal to GUI penguins (users who prefer graphical environments).

Ms. Kemp says:

Strictly speaking LXDE isn’t a window manager but a desktop environment, using Openbox as a window manager (alternatively you can swap in other window managers). Openbox allows you to show the LXDE desktop menu on right-click (right-click on the desktop to edit this option). Unfortunately, once I turned this on, I couldn’t find an option in the Openbox configuration editor to turn it back off! Still, it’s a useful enough menu. It would be more useful, though, if it were easier to add applications to the Applications sub-menu. It seems that the only way to do this is either to edit /usr/share/lxde/openbox/menu.xml, or to copy that file somewhere in your home directory, edit it there, and change the reference in ~/.config/openbox/lxde-rc.xml. This isn’t that hard for experienced Linux users, but it’s not exactly user-friendly, and still less so as I had to dig around to find that out.

As you can see from her last sentence in that paragraph, she gives folks pretty much the same warning as I did above. LXDE is not really for the new Linux Explorer. You might need a wee bit of Linux experience under your belt or you’ll find it a bit frustrating and too minimalistic for your comfort.

Checking out the default apps on the bottom bar, I found that the file browser, PCMan, started up fast, and has a useful left-hand pane showing the filesystem.

PCMan is actually a very cool file manager application. It’s similar to Thunar, but has some advantages that Thunar does not possess… tabs, for one.

LXDE is certainly extremely fast, and according to its own CPU monitor, uses very little CPU. However, its configurability is less convincing – some options don’t seem to work properly, and others require you to directly edit an XML file, which is not something I really expect from a modern graphical desktop environment. (Having said that, the fact that the config files are easily human-readable is definitely a plus point!).

Again, not really for folks with heavy preferences for graphical tweaking. LXDE does require some editing (text and XML) to achieve certain configurations and customizations. One annoyance that I found right off was that if you allow PCMan to manage the desktop, it will change and display your wallpaper as you want, but it will NOT let you remove the desktop icons. I don’t like icons on my desktop, so I had to forego allowing PCMan to manage my desktop in LXDE. Instead, I ended up using the image application Feh to do that chore.

Even with an odd inconvenience or two, LXDE is still a righteous desktop environment. Give it a shot when you get a chance.

Have fun while exploring your Linux world!

Until next time, folks…


*Ms. Kemp’s entire article at Linux Planet can be read by clicking HERE.

Graphical Boot-up? I Don’t Think So

It’s a Slackware thing, baby. Real Slackers don’t use a graphical boot-up screen.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve modified my /etc/inittab in every distribution I use to boot-up using runlevel 3 as the default. This gives you full multi-user with no X running. Why do I do it this way? Well… it’s COOL! Seriously though, I just prefer it and it serves some practical purposes, also.

Even though I started my Linux journey a few years ago with Ubuntu, I had Slackware up and running as my primary operating system shortly thereafter. You might even say I cut my Linux teeth on Slackware. This is the Slackware way… lightness of being, simplicity, efficient use of resources.

I do a lot from the command line in most of my distros. I just find it easier to start off with no X running in case I do have system chores that need doing, like updating or editing config files for some reason or another. Command line? Bet you thought that went out with octal machine code, huh? Well, it didn’t.

The command line still offers a FAST way to perform functions within the operating system. But hey… it’s not for everyone. It’s a great skill to have at least a passing knowledge of, but you can be perfectly content as a 100% GUI penguin. Nothing wrong with that. Linux ain’t about dictating how you do things. It’s ALL about giving you choices and options to get your work done.

If you feel the need to explore the dark side of Linux, the command line interface, you can modify your /etc/inittab configuration file to boot you into runlevel 3 as a default, as I do. Once you’re done with your stuff and want your graphic interface up and running, just type “startx” at the prompt (no quotes). This command will start the X Window System on your Linux.

In some rare cases, where you’re using certain windows managers/desktop environments, the startx command will not work. You’ll need to know the specific command to launch your graphical interface. For instance, in my Sidux installation, which uses LXDE/Openbox desktop environment/windows manager, I have to type “startlxde” (again without quotes) to fire up the graphic interface. 99% of the time, though, startx will work.

For more information in the /etc/inittab file and runlevels in Linux check out Sandra Henry-Stocker’s recent piece over at ITWorld : Unix How-To: the Linux /etc/inittab file

Have FUN while you’re learning.

Until next time, folks…