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Re: [RP] linux distro for ratpoison/minimalist config on laptop?

From: mervyn . hammer
Subject: Re: [RP] linux distro for ratpoison/minimalist config on laptop?
Date: Thu, 05 May 2011 07:54:38 +0000
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.3 (gnu/linux)

Greg Minshall <address@hidden> writes:

> hi.  i normally run on a Mac (and run rp under Apple's X), but now i'm
> interested in using Linux on a PC laptop.
> i don't want a "desktop environment", but do want X in order to run RP,
> emacs, firefox, gnuplot, etc.

Happily running Ratpoison 1.4.5 on Gentoo (kernel 2.6.37-gentoo-r4)
with Xorg server 1.9.4, Emacs 23.3, Gnus 5.13, Conkeror 0.9.3-r1 and a
pile of development tool chains on an ageing Compaq Evo N620c.  
> i'm a Linux newbie (but BSD oldie).  it seems if i load, e.g., Ubuntu,
> it deals with my hardware (ethernet, wifi, suspend/resume), but comes
> with a plethora of what i assume to be desktop software, stuff i don't
> want.

From where I am sitting, dealing with hardware is about the kernel,
though it is through the desktop that many manage their hardware. A
properly configured kernel and base system config files should give
you all the "ethernet, wifi, suspend/resume" functionality you are
looking. Device support doesn't require a desktop at all.

As a developer and Linux/BSD "oldie" too, I find desktop "crud" clumsy
and intrusive (hence, I am partial to a bit of Ratpoison :)) but, of
course, such an opinion depends on the user's view of his own
requirements.  In my little corner of the countryside, I spend many of
my waking hours in SSH tunnels, on shell prompts and hacking in
Emacs. Menus, menu bars, system trays, popups, icons - haven't seen any
in a long time.  

> any suggestion on a distribution, or what i should do post-install to
> get rid of the crud (but maintain the functionality)?

Gentoo offers complete control from the outset (install), but be
prepared for a steep learning curve if you are not at home at the shell
prompt. Depending on what you need to do, how many times you may need to
redo it (because you forgot a step or didn't realise one thing or
another until afterwards), a clean Gentoo installation can take
days. Gentoo is, by default, crud-free: post-installation, a Gentoo box
is essentially empty (consisting only in what is required to drive the
hardware you installed it onto and an interface to it: the shell),
leaving you free to install and configure only what applications,
servers and libraries you actually want.

When time is an issue, I fall back to Slackware, combined with Ratpoison,
StumpWM or Openbox, if a WM is required.  Slackware offers less
out-of-the-box flexibility at installation (though installation can
comparitively be quick at < 30 mins) but this is handsomely compensated
by its reliability and clean structure.  Slackware release cycle is
intentionally slow (at one to two releases per year) and ships with
fairly conservative base layout selections for kernels, bootloaders etc,
making it very stable.  But if you intend to run bleeding edge (either
hardware or software), Slackware can take a bit of kneading.

Hope that gives you a few ideas. Good hunting!

Merv Hammer

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