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Tux the Pengin

OK, here's a freebie: A simulation of the old text-based Star Trek game we used to play on HP 2100's using a Teletype ASR-33 as a console: StarTrek Game

Switching Window Managers (Part 1: WindowMaker)

What I want from a window manager.

I really have a problem with the whole "desktop" metaphor in that it doesn't represent how I use a computer. It was an easy way to "pigeon-hole" common functions for office workers, to get The Computer into mainstream use, but for would-be programmers and computer experimenters, it is just the wrong... thing.

I just want to run programs to create and maintain my project files; programs such as text editors for copywriting, graphic programs for creating illustrations, and web tools for XHTML and ftp-ing. I detest the iconic clutter that wafts along behind KDE, Gnome and other Windows-like WMs, collecting along the edges of my screen like so many autumn leaves -- and you know what a chore it is to keep those cleaned out.

I tried AfterStep and to be honest rated it 2-1/2 out of a possible 5; the reason is that although I enjoyed its appearance, I found it clumsy to configure. I decided to try WindowMaker. There is powerful elegance in its more austere but crisply functional look and clean configurability. Iconic clutter is minimized and the root menu is customized in the UNIX way: edit a text file!

(See also, Part 2: Switching to the Fvwm/Fvwm2 Window Manager)

Screenshot(72k) That's "root-tail" displaying the last 22 most recent lines of the /var/log/messages file in the upper left. Shift-click to get root-tail here.

Here is how I did it.

I checked out the "How do I choose another windowmanager instead of KDE?" FAQ-O-Matic for tips. I downloaded WindowMaker and the data "tarball" (a bunch of icon files) from http://www.windowmaker.org/ .

I created a directory in my $HOME directory (the one I log into X in, "rik") called "GNUstep":

$ mkdir GNUstep

I changed to the new directory, switched user to "root", cd GNUstep; su root then un-gziped and un-tared the files using

# tar -xzf *.gz

I followed the directions in the README and INSTALL files that appeared.

After the install (it takes a few minutes!) you have to edit your personal startup script to permit selection of a window manager. I log in both as "root" or sometimes "rik" so I chose to edit my Xsession file, which covers both cases. This allows me to choose which WM I want to use at X login time, no matter how I log in.

Here�s how:

I added an entry in /etc/X11/xdm/Xsession for WindowMaker:


#!/bin/bash -login
# $XConsortium: Xsession /main/10 1995/12/18 18:21:28 gildea $
# modified 22NOV98 rik nilsson
case $# in
1)
        case $1 in
        kde)
                OPTIONS=""
                windowmanager=/opt/kde/bin/startkde ;;
        WindowMaker)
                OPTIONS=""
                windowmanager=/opt/bin/wmaker ;;
        fvwm2)
                OPTIONS=""
                windowmanager=/usr/X11R6/bin/fvwm2 ;;
                       .
                       .
                       .
                       .
                       and so on...

Then I made sure the order of the window managers was the same in the /opt/kde/share/config/kdmrc file which sets up the login selection list:

SessionTypes=default;kde;WindowMaker;fvwm2;AfterStep;twm;failsafe;

The first one listed is the default - KDE. I left it that way for now, because I know it works. Note: make sure when you edit this file that this line does not wrap to the next line - that will cause errors when the script runs, and results are unpredictable.

This got WindowMaker going, but there were a couple of problems; selecting many of the main menu items (right-option-click the mouse on the root window) did exactly nothing, icons were generic, and I couldn't set the background to a nice jpeg or change "looks".

I added a couple of paths to my $PATH variable by adding the following lines to my /etc/profile file:

PATH="$PATH:/home/rik/GNUstep/WindowMaker-0.50.2/WPrefs.app"
PATH="$PATH:/opt/bin"

Adjust for your system as required. The first is the path to the WPrefs.app directory and the other is the path to Eterm 0.8 - I love those "transparent" backgrounds I get with the command I put into ~/GNUstep/Defaults/WMRootMenu:

eterm --trans --tint cyan

Use the WindowMaker prefs utility icon in the dock to change looks and set a background picture you have moved to /opt/share/WindowMaker/Backgrounds.


And if you think that's cool, you should see it in RedHat 9 with a heavily modified root menu to get all the icons off the screen. Here is a screenshot (75k) with a root-tail in the background, "camo" theme, Xmcd player, a borderless floating digital Xclock at the top, and a glimpse of the root menu.

(See also, Part 2: Switching to the Fvwm/Fvwm2 Window Manager)

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