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Hi. I'm a Unix Administrator, mathematics enthusiast, and amateur philosopher. This is where I rant about that which upsets me, laugh about that which amuses me, and jabber about that which holds my interest most: Unix.
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Posted 01-05-2011 at 11:46 AM by rocket357

Years ago I discovered fluxbox and gave it a try. Until that point, I was a pretty devote KDE user. Fluxbox amazed me with how lightweight yet *powerful* and *configurable* it was. I had a FreeBSD/fluxbox screenshot on that got more hits than virtually any other desktop environment I'd posted there. It's fast, light, and given the time and effort to tweak it just right, it's damned pretty, too. I entered into this new concept of minimalism...getting the same work done with half the resources and in half the time. I was hooked permanently.

It's happened again. This time, I discovered cwm. Now, cwm is attractive for more reasons than a simple "it's small and fast". cwm is in OpenBSD base, meaning it's audited. It's also less crap to install when I first set a system up. To top it off, cwm is very lightweight and nimble. Finding it was the next step in a natural progression towards minimalist enlightenment.

So I started using cwm. It was a bit to get used to (I'm a keyboard-oriented user, but every wm (fluxbox included) I've used has been mouse-oriented...old habits die hard, I suppose), but once I got the most basic key bindings down (CM-Enter to bring up a term, then man cwm to read the key bindings haha) it just grew on me. It's been a few days, and now I'm quite comfortable with cwm...and I haven't touched more advanced topics like window groups...yet.

So yesterday I was looking at top, and a very disheartening realization occurred to me. Here I am running an OS that takes up a grand total of 7.5 MB of RAM (X not included), with a graphical frontend that takes up approximately 20-30 MB more, and firefox is crushing the entire machine with over 300 MB of RAM usage. Now, most people will say "300 MB? Get with the times! Most machines have GB's of memory!" Yeah, I have 2 GB of what's the problem?

Here's the problem: A web browser is an absolute requirement on my work machine. It is usually the first program that is run and typically never gets shut off. Firefox has run for months on my it what you will, but most of the time I simply xlock and go. Firefox is almost part of my desktop now...and it doesn't fit in with the "minimalist" philosophy I've come to love. So I set out on a quest to find an alternative...

I found xxxterm. For those not familiar with it, xxxterm is a lightweight minimalist graphical browser written by marco@. It's a GTK+ browser (I'm not a fan of GTK+, but bloat is more of a concern than what widget toolkit the program uses) with vi-like keybindings. Let me stop there and state for the record that few programs in the 25+ years I've been coding have grabbed my attention like vi. Yeah, it's a bitch to learn. Sure, it scares more people back to Windows than any other program on the planet. Yeah, emacs fanatics love to loath vi. But I love vi. I've invested countless hours learning the in's and out's of vi/vim, and anything that conforms to that workflow is alright by me...unless of course it's vi keybindings for Visual Studio...<shudder>...

Ok, xxxterm. Now what? Well, for starters xxxterm is not only minimalist in keybindings, but screen real estate as well. The browser is literally a tab-bar, a navigation bar, and a scroll bar. The rest is dedicated to rendering whatever web page you've wandered onto. (Couple that with cwm's "no-window-decoration" bit, and it truly is amazing how much more you can fit on a screen...). Not that I'm complaining, but I wonder if I'd have been as excited to get dual 24" monitors at work if I'd had this setup before...

xxxterm still uses a decent amount of RAM (127 MB with six tabs open, currently), so I may wander off to find an alternative in the coming months...but for now I think I'll stay put. xxxterm is written by a talented developer who follows the philosophy that "less really is more", and I appreciate that. I can use xxxterm without fear that two years from now it'll be a bloated pigfat RAM-eater that preloads the internet into my RAM before rendering a single image. Really, that means something to me.
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  1. Old Comment
    I have begun to loath firefox's bloat. Especially trying to run it on older systems. However, I'm content in getting all the plugins I need for privacy, add blocking, and flash blocking. Additionally the about:config page is quite nice. Webkit browsers are nice, but I haven't looked for the plugins I need and the configure-ability didn't seem to be there. You could try midori at the cost of loosing your keyboard shortcuts... also if you are compiling it your self, webkit takes quite a while.
    Posted 01-06-2011 at 10:03 PM by lumak lumak is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Thanks for the tips, lumak. I'd heard bits about midori but haven't had a chance to check it out yet.

    As it stands, a few of the sites I need to access to do my job are buggy with xxxterm, so firefox isn't going away anytime soon. My workstation is an amd64, and unfortunately it's one of the "buggy" amd64 machines as far as chromium is concerned. Win some, lose some, I suppose.
    Posted 01-06-2011 at 10:09 PM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Interestingly, because Webkit was designed to pass the so called 'Acid' tests, it sometimes renders pages differently than even firefox. I assume that's because precise positioning is done in one browser that makes it incompatible with another. The differences are minimal. Be warned however... I was having odd form issues while using Midori and being that webkit is theoretically the same in all browsers, you may have the same incompatibilities with your work related webpages. I know I did with a windows build of 0.26 and Mantis.
    Posted 01-08-2011 at 12:38 PM by lumak lumak is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Update: chromium is updated to latest on OpenBSD-CURRENT, and it is ROCK SOLID now. I've switched to it for the time-being even though it uses more RAM because it's so fast (I don't know if it's my particular setup or what...but chromium is blazing fast compared to firefox (doesn't matter what version) on my desktop. I haven't tried FF5 yet (oir midori, for that matter), but when I do I'll post again.
    Posted 07-01-2011 at 09:36 AM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Update: a few critical rendering bugs have been worked out in xxxterm. It's my default now that it correctly renders the pages I need it to render. That, and default deny javascript/cookie whitelist capability? Yeah, I'm a happy camper now.
    Posted 08-09-2011 at 12:08 PM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline


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