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Old-school desktop using Debian Jessie (sohcahtoa.org.uk)
58 points by vu3rdd on Dec 14, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

I tried to live in this world. I still have the puppet modules I used for it up on Github [0]. Start from the base system, disable installing recommended packages, and set up exactly what you want. Marvel at how you can run `pstree` without the output scrolling and that you know what each process does and how to configure it.

I'd switched to this setup after getting fed up with bugs that I couldn't get a handle on troubleshooting. Things like NetworkManager forgetting I had a wireless network interface until I restarted my GNOME session. After a while though, constantly tweaking my setup to cope with new needs became tedious. A "stock" linux distribution and desktop environment may have felt opaque, but it offered a lot of integrations and polish that I struggled to replicate.

So now I'm running Ubuntu GNOME and sticking with the LTS. Thankfully I haven't had any serious issues. If I do, I'll roll up my sleeves and try to learn more about modern linux plumbing instead of running away from it.

[0] https://github.com/sciurus/personal-puppet/tree/master/modul...

I run a similar system, but with OpenBSD. I don't have to fight systemd and DBus and PulseAudio there. I find OpenBSD to be a much better put together system in general, at the expense of some desktopy things I'd rather do without anyway.

That's how I always install my systems. A few differences in my process:

- If you will have net access during installation, get the netinst image instead of downloading 500MB of stuff you won't need.

- Instead of sprinkling "--no-install-recommends" on every apt command, you can configure it as the default: http://superuser.com/a/615583/93821

Yes, I follow that process too. I almost always use netinst. There is also a mini iso.

Seeing the systemd removal steps, it seems like a lot of what has been said about systemd being 'optional' is becoming less and less true. It's spreading tentacles rapidly in the core. If systemd is the direction they (Debian majority) want to go, then go for it, but they falsely placated opposition to get it in and it's not surprising to see the departure of developers. I've been left with a bad taste and am jumping off the Linux train for good.

Devs on both sides of the issue has left, largely because politics went before engineering.

Then again, systemd seems like a very political project...

One way to manage the boundary between "minimal" and "supported" is to use a VM-based system like Qubes.

You can simultaneously occupy multiple "timelines", e.g. hand-built Linux from scratch, Ubuntu LTS, bleeding-edge Debian, and even Windows -- each in an isolated VM.

"mpg123 has no controls..."

It does with the -C option:

    -C, --control
        Enable  terminal control keys. By default use 's' or the space bar to
        stop/restart (pause, unpause) playback, 'f' to jump forward to the next
        song, 'b' to jump back to the beginning of the song, ',' to rewind, '.'
        to fast forward, and  'q'  to quit.  Type 'h' for a full list of
        available controls.
It's actually a very competent player, even able to play streams. Mplayer and cmus are also very good for audio playback in a minimalist environment.

That's what passes for "old school" these days? No systemd, dBus or an all-encompassing GNOME Politburo? This is my normal Linux installation process. I shudder to think what the "new school" looks like.

I was expecting kernel 2.0.30, libc5, ext2, ipfwadm, FVWM 1.0 (not that FVWM2 stuff) or CDE.

xterm? urxvt scrolls so fast its invisible.

Also xmonad beats icewm.

I haven't used a USB stick for anything other than OS installs in many years... ditto playing music on a desktop, a thing of the past.

I do need my emacs. (edited to add, and my vnc and rdesktop clients to access other machines)

And I personally chromium although I can respect the firefox choice.

When I read desktop I thought physical desktop as opposed to laptop, but laptop users need wifi... I've personally found that setting up a wifi gui is harder than just manually editing simple and straightforward config files.


You probably only set up one wifi network, unless you're one of those coffee shop people.

+1 for urxvt

And even if you are a "coffee shop person" - or simply use your laptop at work/college/parents house/friends house -, you can write a wpa_supplicant.conf file with multiple networks, and it'll connect to the one it can see.

> Also xmonad beats icewm.

Did you mean "dwm"? As a non-tiling WM, icewm is very different from dwm (mentioned in the article) and xmonad.

Assuming you meant dwm, I'd invite people looking into doing this to have a look at i3wm as well. It's what I'm using now, and is quite nice.

`urxvt` does not even provide a Tektronix emulation. How can it be anything "old-school" without such an important feature? Seriously, things like gnuplot and PAW look much more authentic with it.

> I've personally found that setting up a wifi gui is harder than just manually editing simple and straightforward config files.

Wicd-curses is very usable.

I like the idea of wicd, but it has given me a lot of pain when in less-than-stable WiFi environments. It also doesn't (or didn't, at least) support multiple simultaneous connections, like wired + wireless, which are occasionally useful.

I guess I'm "old-school". Get off my lawn.

I wound up with something resembling this installation by going in reverse. I installed Ubuntu, confirmed that all my hardware was working, including suspend, volume buttons, etc (Thinkpads) and then started uninstalling or disabling things, leaving me with no desktop environment, dwm, and a very responsive experience on old hardware.

Similar philosophy, except archlinux, systemd, wmii (no destkop), no office suite. Emacs, Chromium, mpv, moc, transmission.

"How to make Debian sorta more like Slackware?"

I just thought it was funny how much the end result resembled the default Slackware install. Also for power management I'd recommend tlp[0] over laptop-mode-tools.

[0] http://linrunner.de/en/tlp/tlp.html

Old-school is not particularly old. I was expecting something like CDE.

I run a similar setup, on a X60, with more "modern" adaptations :

- systemd allows me to have insanely fast boot, and perfect control on what get started at boot. Debian likes to start everything and the kitchensync by default, after you installed it. My systemd is compiled with a non-standard path so only the .services I put there get run.

- coreboot replaces the bios, likewise for the added freedom, the hackability, and the speed gains. At the moment I can boot to a command line in less than 5 seconds (because of grub and stuff), but I want to optimize that further (the kernel and systemd each take less than 1 second, coreboot a bit over their total - 3s is feasible now by removing grub menus, but I'd like less than 2s so I guess I'll have to dig into things :-)

- xorg is nice because it's like having an almost infinite number of VTs. Yeah I know screen and the likes, but there're other nice things you get from X, like the ability to display many different fonts, a very large unicode range, graphs, etc.

- lxde is quite minimal and non intrusive, yet you get modern things like default application, .desktop file to start programs, etc.

- for all my office needs, I use Microsoft Office in wine. Runs very fast, fully unicode aware. That's cool because I'm using a xmodmap for mathematical greek letters in the 3rd level, it all works!!

¬∞ / ¹≈ / ²≠ / ³∇ / ⁴∀ / ⁵∪ / ⁶∩ / ⁷∈ / ⁸⊂ / ⁹≽ / ⁰≿ / ⁻ ⃗ / ⁺±

θΘ / ωΩ / ɛƐ / ρϱ / ꚍꚌ / ψΨ / υϒ / ι∫ / ϖϵ / πΠ / ̂ ̈ / ̃ ̧ / ̊ ̀

α∂ / σΣ / δΔ / φΦ / ɣΓ / ηϘ / ϕϑ / 𝟀κ / λΛ / ̅ ́ / ̆ ̇

ζϟ / ξΞ / ςϚ / √⊥ / βϐ / νͲ / μϡ / ≤≺ / ≥≻ / / ⃝

I fully agree that starting from a minimal debian install is the way to go to avoid too much cruft. There are many things I'm glad I'm not using, such as NetworkManager and the likes (hopefully to be superseded by systemd some day) but my setup is generally modern enough to do everything I need, while fast enough even on 2006-era hardware, and old-school enough as in "if there's a problem, I can pinpoint where it comes from and fix it"

It even replaced a very-recent macbook as my default computer.

There're many gains from using "modern stuff". I'd have killed to get something as good as systemd and the current support of wine in the early 2000.

My take is to take the best free software has to offer, whether it's old or new, to match your needs.

EDIT: I boot my laptop whenever I want to use it, because a few seconds is a rounding error, and this saves more power than software suspend. I do suspend when I take a short break. Congrats on the fast boot time without systemd, but it's not the easiest way :-) My systemd starts a minimal debian testing in 700 ms. The kernel takes a bit above that.

You don't need systemd for a fast boot.

For my sample Jessie in KVM virtual machine, 1 cpu core and 512MB allocated on a reasonably idle i5-2500 desktop:

    boot time on a default install: 1.33s

    boot time on sysvinit: 1.37s

How often do you boot?

I'm of the old-skool Unix generation when 500 day uptime on a SPARC or similar was normal and even 1000 day wasn't considered particularly impressive. And we never worried about what was or wasn't started at boot, cos that was easy.

That's great for my home server, which only gets rebooted when something goes wrong and/or I swap hardware.

But I've yet to experience those kind of uptimes for my laptop - either I forget to plug the charger in, or I've dropped it, or it's decided to shut down because "someone" in my house decided that covering the went with a blanket was a good idea.

It just lives a much harsher life, and as a result boot times matter because these things have a way of always happening when I urgently need to do something.

To me, a fast bootup is a non-issue. I want "less magic" with my computers. I want to have control over my system. Surely it must be possible with systemd. But the good old sysv-init works for me and I am familiar with it. Shoehorning any system for every possible need is probably a bad idea. True with systemd and true with sysv-init or any system.

Also interesting the debian package "usbmount": auto mounts plugged in sticks as "/media/usb"

Is Debian Jessie part relevant? I could do it on Wheezy or Ubuntu?

The first step is 'replace systemd with sysvinit', so there is some relevance.

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