[svlug] Fluxbunut & Xubuntu

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Jan 22 10:04:37 PST 2007

Quoting Skip Evans (skip at bigskypenguin.com):

> Anyone care to give any opinions or more info on
> the topic?

I currently run Xubuntu on my old G3 (PowerPC) iBook, which is my main 
console for computing (mainly xterms for ssh to my _real_ computers 
elsewhere, plus a Web browser).  It's clean and sparse enough that, for
a change, I wasn't motivated after two days to say "screw this", blow
away the window manager configuration, and install Window Maker.  After
several months, it's still OK.

To explain:  "Clean" means that the desktop isn't cluttered with junk.
It's not in my face.  Nobody's trying to strongarm me away from my 
preferred keybindings and mouse behaviour in the name of some HIG[1]
religion (***COUGH GNOME COUGH***).  "Sparse" means it's not stealing 
my RAM for dumb internal gynamstics, nor is it junking up my process
table with a huge number of "service" processes I didn't ask it to run.

Window Maker meets spec for me because it's well behaved in both those
areas -- presumably similar to why you like Fluxbox -- and because in
bygone days I was very fond of NeXTSTep, whose aesthetics Window Maker
emulates.  (NeXTStep was very nice for a proprietary Unix.  Damned shame
what happened to it.)

The chief advantage (as I see it) of Fluxbuntu / Xubuntu over Window
Maker, on any Ubuntu core build or on most other distros, is that
Fluxbuntu / Xubuntu commit to maintain their window managers' app menus, 
keeping them in sync with the distro app packages you have and have not
installed.  (I have not yet seen Fluxbuntu, and so make no comment on
its merits.)

On most distros, such as the RHEL laptop in front of me, installing and
choosing Window Maker means you get a generic Window Maker menu tree, 
e.g., Firefox isn't on there, even though it's RPM-installed, while LyX
and Netscape are listed, even though those aren't installed at all.

Of course, I _could_ get off my ass and use
/usr/lib/GNUstep/Apps/WPrefs.app/WPrefs to manually edit the menu
contents, and _make_ them match what's installed, but so far it's been 
easier to just type "firefox &" in an xterm, etc.

The point is that, with Xubuntu and presumably Fluxbuntu, that work is 
taken care of for you, automatically.

> Been thinking about a new distro these days and my 
> old sys admin thinks Ubuntu is a better fit for 
> our workstations than plain Debian.

I still very much like Debian-testing with optional Debian-unstable
package access, for workstations.  One way to do that is as follows:

:r /etc/apt/sources.list

deb ftp://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ testing main contrib non-free
deb ftp://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ unstable main non-free contrib
deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ stable/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src ftp://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ unstable main non-free contrib
# deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org sid main

:r /etc/apt/preferences

Package: *
Pin: release a=unstable
Pin-Priority: 50

The /etc/apt/preferences lines specify that unstable-branch packages are
"pinned" at a sub-normal priority of 50.  (Normal is 100.)  The effect
is that unstable-branch packages are never fetched by default, only if
you specify it explicitly, like this:

# apt-get  -t unstable  install [packagename]

Caution:  The experts tell me that the above technique is a
bass-ackwards way of using apt-get's "pinning" feature, better
documented here:  "Pinning" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Debian/  My use
of it for that purpse was strictly heuristic, which is a polite was of
saying I screwed around until I found something that minimally did what
I needed done, and then stopped without studying the mechanism further.

(Prasad at last Saturday's installfest asked about my pinning technique,
so the above is also for his benefit.)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Interface_Guidelines

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