Technology Update

I fear I've been posting too many posts in the vein of "so here's what I'm up to folks," rather than you know writing about things that may be interesting to folks out there in Internet land. Nevertheless, here's another slightly more technical post.

I've mentioned in passing a few times over the past few months that:

  • I've been interested in shifting to Arch Linux. While I've been running Arch in a VM on my work desktop, I have been quite slow to move additional machines over to Arch. It's not for lack of wanting, but I have a hard time disrupting something that works when it's already working.
  • Also on the software front, I've switched to using the Stump Window Manger, and while I've talked a bit about this on the blog, I've done virtually no reporting of my ongoing progress with this.
  • I missed the days when I only had one computer and it went everywhere with me. While I like having all this computing possibility around, I'm moving around enough these days that it doesn't make sense to be tied down to a desktop. I like sitting on the couch and writing, and I like being able to go off for a weekend and be able to work on the projects that I really need/want to work on. That's hard when you have a desk and an "office."

This post provides updates with regards to these subjects.

Moving to Arch Linux and StumpWM

A few weeks ago, I had this massive cascade of software issues. Mostly things were provoked by the switch to Stump. Basically, the issue was that Stump wasn't embedded in all of the desktop frameworks that are so popular these days, there were a number of system resources that just didn't work with the new Window Manager.

The thing was that my systems were running a terribly hacked up version of Ubuntu. I was running weird kernels, I'd mostly given up on the display managers, and the systems were just messy. So the problem wasn't so much with Stump, as it was with the way that Ubuntu packages and manages certain aspects of the system inside of desktop functionality. I'm thinking specifically of the ways that networking and sound are managed by dbus. If that didn't make sense to you, don't worry.

Since the chief problem boiled down to "this system is too complex for me to be able to manage," and it no longer became an effective use of my time to maintain the system as it was... I wiped everything and finally put Arch on the laptop.

And it went on smoothly, and everything worked. Arch is a tinkerers distribution, there's no doubt about that. Since I did have Arch experience it wasn't a terribly traumatic experience. It took a little while to figure out how to make Suspend and Resume work (i.e. for the laptop when the lid closes,) and manually managing network connections isn't incredibly straightforward until you get the hang of it, but it all works now. And I couldn't be happier

The Experience of StumpWM

This isn't really a full report, but more a note to say that my brain has really adapted to Stump, and I'm quite happy with the experience. Stump doesn't in and of itself increase the ways I'm able to be productive, but... I do think that I work more efficiently when using Stump.

There's still a lot left to be done with regards to the tweaking of stump for me. I need to play some more with the MPD (music player) integration, and there are a number of other contributed Lisp packages that I really want to play with. Also, I finally figured out how the Key Binding Map works when I had gotten my basic keybidning needs taken care of and I haven't touched it since then. Now I know how I use the system and I'm ready to tweak things again, but I haven't gotten around to it.

Additional thoughts regarding Stump, from a more "objective" perspective: it is incredibly stable, and while it's not blindingly lightweight, it lives in 20 megs of ram and that's about it. I never need to restart the window manager or X anymore, and that's kind of nice.

So in short, the Stump WM is a great thing and I need to write a bit more about the actual using of it. But first I need to do a little more tinkering. Because I'm like that.

The Consolidation of the Gear and Laptops

What a strange heading. In any case. I gave in and bought a new laptop, last week. I found a great deal on a used Lenovo x200 with great specs, and I thought that it would solve the majority of my issues with my existing technology.

First, it was considerably newer than the laptop I have been using for most of the past year: more RAM, dual core system, bigger and faster hard drive. Second, it had all of the qualities of the old laptop that I adored: it's a 12" laptop which means very portable without making sacrifices, and it forgoes a trackpad for a "ThinkPad Nipple" for a mouse. Finally (and perhaps most importantly,) the screen resolution is 1200x800 (up from 1024×768) which makes it possible to comfortably tile two windows next to each-other at once. This is the same resolution as my 15" PowerBook G4 (and I think all of the 13 inch MacBooks). It's a good size, and I was really aching for the increased screen space.

It turns out that all of these concerns were addressed fully with this new system. The screen is perfect, it's peppy. it's also nice to return to the modern computing world. I continue to be mightily impressed with the build quality, design, and functionality of IBM/Lenovo hardware.

My computer consolidation isn't yet complete: my desktop hasn't yet been backed up and converted to Arch, but it's getting there. I'm also not quite sure what happens with the old laptop. I'm thinking of keeping it around as a spare, but if anyone has a need for a really awesome ThinkPad x41 they should be in touch.

Onward and Upward!

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