|By Nicholas Petreley||
|July 9, 2002 12:00 AM EDT||
(LinuxWorld) -- Many of my most recent columns have speculated exclusively on GNOME and KDE as if they're the only realistic choices for Linux or UNIX desktops. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are dozens of window managers available for X11, which is the most common foundation for graphical applications on UNIX.
If you're already familiar with X11, the concept of window managers and the most common window managers, skip on ahead to the next section entitled "The obscure and the arcane." If it's new to you, here's a layman's approximate description of how this all works together.
X11 is a network-enabled client/server graphics engine. If you use Linux, you're likely to be using the XFree86 version of X11R6.
The concept of X11 is simple, although the way X11 defines client and server are counterintuitive to the average user. An X11 server does little more than paint graphics on the screen and accept input from devices like a mouse or keyboard. You run an X11 server on the machine you are using to do work, which is the computer you normally think of as your client machine. The X11 server runs on your client. Remember that.
The X11 definition of client is an application, such as a word processor. The magic of X11 is that you can run this client application on your local machine, on any of the servers in your company, on the computer in the cubicle next to you or on a computer thousands of miles away. All other things being equal, you won't be able to tell the difference no matter where this application runs.
To recap: the X11 client application does all the useful work, like formatting paragraphs, spell-checking, etc. The X11 server running on your local computer simply serves up graphics and keyboard-input functions to that client.
X11 stops there. Outside of what I've described above, X11 is remarkably free of any end-user features. For example, it doesn't provide a way to move, resize or otherwise arrange application windows. You need to add what's called a window manager to get these features.
Are GNOME and KDE window managers? No. They include window managers, but they themselves are not window managers. GNOME uses a window manager named Sawfish (formerly called Sawmill) by default, and you can swap Sawfish with other window managers and still use GNOME. I used to prefer a window manager called Icewm for use with GNOME. KDE uses a window manager called kwin by default. It is less common to swap kwin with other window managers for use with KDE, but it is certainly possible.
GNOME and KDE provide many of the usability enhancements that window-managers lack. For example, they provide launch panels, taskbars and other graphics components as separate entities. But even these features aren't the most important ones you get with GNOME and KDE. The most promising features in GNOME and KDE have to do with the network object models they support. One uses these as part of an application framework to build sophisticated applications that should integrate and interoperate well with each other and the desktop.
If you didn't know about anything discussed above and all you care about is using your word processor, MPEG player and other favorite applications, then you should probably pick either GNOME or KDE and stick with it. These are the easiest graphical environments to configure and use, and that's all you probably care about.
The obscure & the arcane
As for the rest of you, if you already know how X11 and window managers work, then you are undoubtedly already familiar with the most popular and commonly installed alternative windowing environments to GNOME and KDE. These generally include WindowMaker, Icewm, Enlightenment, Fvwm, Twm and perhaps a few others. I won't bore you with an overview of those.
You may not be as familiar with some other experimental and minimalist window managers, however. Here's how to tell if you should try any of them. It's my standard geek test, so you may already be familiar with it: Just count to three.
Go ahead, count.
If you counted "1...2...3," then you probably shouldn't bother with any of the window managers I'm about to mention. If you counted "0...1...2," then you've got enough geek in your blood to give these a try. Read on.
Outside of Sawfish, Blackbox is perhaps the most sophisticated of the minimalist window managers. It's the one you most likely know about even if you're only part geek. Blackbox is an all-new window manager written in C++, and it is an enormously attractive choice because it's pretty, fast and uses remarkably few resources. If you're only part geek, and you like Windows 9x, then go for Icewm. If you're only part geek, and you don't like Windows 9x, then go for Blackbox.
Blackbox's minimalist approach to the taskbar and virtual desktops take some getting used to, but there are a few add-on utilities that will help you make the transition from one of the other window managers (such as Fvwm) to Blackbox. I suggest you look into bbrun, bbkeys and bbpager:
- bbrun lets you pop up a dialog to launch programs as you would from a command line.
- bbkeys lets you redefine keystrokes to perform functions like "switch to the next desktop."
- bbpager adds a traditionally styled virtual desktop pager that gives you an easier way to jump from virtual desktop to virtual desktop than Blackbox's default method.
I know I mentioned Sawfish as part of GNOME, but you can also use this window manager without GNOME. I happen to like Sawfish, but not enough to use it by itself. This is due, in part, to the fact that the design choices behind Sawfish are enigmatic to me.
Sawfish has two distinguishing features:
- First, it lets you assign different themes to different windows. This means you can make the window title bar for your word processor different than the window title bar for your browser. If you're anything like me, I know what you're thinking. The only thing more mysterious to me than why the authors included this feature is why anyone would want to use it. Each to his or her own, I guess.
- Second, you can extend Sawfish by using a language called lisp. Lisp is a favorite language for users of the editor GNU/emacs, which uses elisp as a scripting language for extensibility.
It is possible that lisp fans will like both Sawfish and emacs, and this assumption presents another interesting enigma. If you know anything about emacs, you know that people have extended it to do just about everything imaginable. You can use emacs to browse Web sites, play games, read and respond to e-mail, visit newsgroups and more. If you use emacs for all these things, then why would you need a window manager at all? You'd only need one window on the screen: emacs.
Larswm used to be one of my favorites among the extreme minimalist window managers. When I first tried it, it automatically tiled all the windows you open. The active application always took up most of the screen, and the rest of your open applications were automatically tiled in a vertical stack on the right of the screen. I love this behavior because it's much easier to see the work you're doing in various applications than if you minimize inactive applications to taskbar/icons or assign them to other virtual desktops.
This approach wasn't without its problems, however. For one thing, the default behavior of the old larswm could be pretty annoying whenever your application popped up a dialog box. This dialog box usually switched itself to be the active application, which means it expanded to fill the active portion of the screen and assigned your main window to the tiled stack on the right.
Over the past few years, the author(s) of larswm has addressed this and many other issues, but the solution seems worse than the problems to me. You can now customize the behavior of windows, keys and applications so that some applications will appear at predefined sizes and desktop locations, others will automatically tile, dialogs will not expand automatically and so on.
Forcing applications that were designed for traditional window environments to work in an auto-tiling environment solves one problem, but the last time I tried larswm, its default behavior wasn't anything I liked. I looked into what it would take to make it work the way it used to and solve the annoying problems. I concluded that I'd have to invest hours of testing and editing configuration files to get to my goal. That was simply too great a price to pay, so I gave up. If you've got time to twiddle, though, look into larswm.
pwm and fluxbox
Aside from larswm, the most inventive window managers I've seen so far are pwm and fluxbox. They're not based on the same code, but they share one great feature in common: they let you combine multiple applications into a single tabbed window. You can switch between the applications by clicking on the appropriate tabs. Think of it the same way you can select between open browser windows in Mozilla, Opera and Galeon (and coming soon to Konqueror). You may be more familiar with the same tabbed-selection feature in KDE's terminal application Konsole or GNOME's terminal application multi-gnome-terminal.
Pwm and fluxbox extend this capability to unrelated windows. This means you can connect an X11 terminal to a Mozilla browser and a word processor in a single-tabbed window and switch between them using the tabs. It's purely a personal preference, but I believe this is the most efficient use of screen space possible. It's also more convenient than virtual desktops as a way to switch between applications without having them create clutter or compete for screen space.
So which should you try? Both. If you like the look and feel of Blackbox, then be sure to give fluxbox a try. It is based on the Blackbox code and has basically the same elegant look.
There are countless other window managers out there. Some have so few features they're practically useless, while others have innovative approaches to window management like pwm, fluxbox and larswm. I featured the ones I feel are the most interesting, but if you are inclined to try more, search Freshmeat or another software index and you may be surprised at the variety of ideas and implementations of window managers you can find.
Things are changing so quickly in IoT that it would take a wizard to predict which ecosystem will gain the most traction. In order for IoT to reach its potential, smart devices must be able to work together. Today, there are a slew of interoperability standards being promoted by big names to make this happen: HomeKit, Brillo and Alljoyn. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Adam Justice, vice president and general manager of Grid Connect, will review what happens when smart devices don’t work togethe...
Mar. 29, 2017 06:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,719
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Mar. 29, 2017 03:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,241
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
Mar. 29, 2017 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,292
SYS-CON Events announced today that Technologic Systems Inc., an embedded systems solutions company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Technologic Systems is an embedded systems company with headquarters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. They have been in business for 32 years, helping more than 8,000 OEM customers and building over a hundred COTS products that have never been discontinued. Technologic Systems’ pr...
Mar. 29, 2017 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 3,834
SYS-CON Events announced today that Auditwerx will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Auditwerx specializes in SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3 attestation services throughout the U.S. and Canada. As a division of Carr, Riggs & Ingram (CRI), one of the top 20 largest CPA firms nationally, you can expect the resources, skills, and experience of a much larger firm combined with the accessibility and attent...
Mar. 29, 2017 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 722
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
Mar. 29, 2017 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 3,292
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
Mar. 29, 2017 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,771
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud enviro...
Mar. 29, 2017 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 7,929
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
Mar. 29, 2017 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,598
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...
Mar. 29, 2017 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,465
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
Mar. 29, 2017 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,757
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
Mar. 29, 2017 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,368
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), will provide an overview of various initiatives to certifiy the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldw...
Mar. 29, 2017 08:45 AM EDT Reads: 963
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
Mar. 29, 2017 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 7,576
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" ...
Mar. 29, 2017 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 9,095
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
Mar. 29, 2017 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 15,142
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Mar. 29, 2017 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,202
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
Mar. 29, 2017 03:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,281
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Mar. 29, 2017 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,120
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
Mar. 29, 2017 01:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,563