Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Openbox Rocks!

When I fist installed and ran Openbox years ago, I thought it was way to simple for me.

When you first start up Openbox, it's basically an ugly grey screen with nothing but a right click menu.

I now realize what it really is, the tray, forks, knives and napkins at an all you can eat Linux buffet.

Openbox is simple because it's the foundation for what you intend to do with your desktop.

After installing and running applications like wicd-gtk, tint2, feh, obmenu, pcmanfm, and grun it can be molded to be beautiful, functional, simple, and quicker than greased lightning. (and maybe gkrellm if you like what you see below.)

My personal set up starts with a file I had to create in the /home/user/.config/openbox/ folder. the file named is autostart, and it is very useful. (Replace user with your username, for me it would be /home/denny/.config/openbox/... also, .config is hidden, you may have to use control h to unhide it.)

I right clicked in that folder, and chose 'create new' and then 'blank file'.

After naming it autostart, I added a autostart template from the Official Openbox Wiki.

My autostart file looks like this:

feh --bg-scale /home/denny/Pictures/wallpapers/starnight.jpg & tint2 & wicd-gtk & gkrellm

Here I am telling feh to set my background image, then i fire up tint2, then wicd-gtk (i use a wireless network) and then for my weather and email checking I use gkrellm.

Tint2 is a panel application. I chose it because it is simple and elegant. You could just as easily install xfce4-panel or lxpanel, both would work quite nicely.

Since I use regular old Ubuntu, and then hack the stuffing out of it once it's installed, i do have at my disposal the wireless panel app that comes with regular Ubuntu, but for some reason it doesn't want to show up on Tint2 unless I actually add tint2 to the /etc/xdg/autostart/ folder in desktop configuration file format, which I would rather not do.

So I instead use wicd-gtk, which has been exceptional on this machine.

Here is my screenshot:

There are a lot of other Openbox screenshots available here:

You can see feh has changed the background image, tint2 is displaying my running apps, shutter is taking the screenshots, gkrellm is telling me whether I have email, what the weather is like, and how my processor is doing, and wicd-gtk is handling my wireless net connection.

One of the first things I do when installing Openbox is to run obmenu, and then I use obmenu to add obmenu as a menu option. That way you can change the menu through the menu option your created, very useful.

I also install grun and add it to the menu. Then I add pcmanfm to the menu, listed above in the menu options as home. with these few things you have a very easy way to get to and to do the rest of your modifications without having to fire up your terminal window to do so.

I top it off with some of my favorite cli apps like moc for my music player and htop in the "tools section", and I use terminator for my terminal emulator. These are all just suggestions, the fun part of Openbox is making it your own!

I hope after reading my little article you give openbox a try again... it can be quite rewarding, and make your machine run much faster.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Terminator a first class terminal emulator

I am enough of a Linux geek to where I use the terminal emulator a lot. So many tasks can be accomplished faster and with less "clutter".

As much as I find Gnome-Terminal a fine app, there is definitely room for improvement.

I especially don't like how gnome-terminal uses the f10 key as one of it's hot keys, blocking use of the much used key in cli programs like Midnight Commander,  HTop and others. (CLI stands for Command Line Interface, for those of you who did not know.)

Besides gnome-terminal's weaknesses, I also find Terminator's ability to split the screen into two three or more panels inside the main screen of Terminator to be very useful.

It's great to be troubleshooting a problem with google using Links while chatting up the Ubuntu guys over at, channel #ubuntu for help using irssi, all on the same screen.

There is actually a lot more features than I have listed here.

Here are some screenshots of some of my usual setups with Terminator:

Well that's enough for me, here is what Chris Jones, Terminator's creator, has to say about his unique and useful software:

"Terminator - Multiple GNOME terminals in one window

Terminator  is  a program that allows users to set up flexible arrangements of GNOME terminals. It is aimed at those who normally arrange lots of  terminals  near  each  other,  but don't want to use a frame based window manager.

The  layout  can be modified by moving terminals with Drag and Drop.  To start dragging a terminal, click and hold on its titlebar.   Alternatively,  hold  down  Ctrl, click and hold the right mouse button.  Then, **Release Ctrl**. You can now drag the terminal to the point in the layout you would like it to be.   The  zone  where  the terminal would be inserted will be highlighted."

"The goal of this project is to produce a useful tool for arranging terminals.
It is inspired by programs such as gnome-multi-term, quadkonsole, etc. in that the main focus is arranging terminals in grids (tabs is the most common default method, which Terminator also supports).

Much of the behaviour of Terminator is based on GNOME Terminal, and we are adding more features from that as time goes by, but we also want to extend out in different directions with useful features for sysadmins and other users."

These quotes are from Terminator's man pages, and from

I think that if you use the terminal window enough, you will find Terminator a very valuable tool.

For more information, I suggest you go to Chris Jones's website,

Their is a Terminator button right on the top of the page.

If you are interested in installing it, in Ubuntu you can do so using the command sudo apt-get install terminator. You can also get it by searching for it in Synaptic or Ubuntu's new Software Center.