Of Penguins and Daemons 3

By Otaku

Go to www.linuxppc.com and you’ll be greeted with the message “LinuxPPC 2000 – the most powerful LinuxPPC yet!”

I, personally, thought this very amusing when I found out that the distribution (the version of linux and various applications that is distributed by LinuxPPC) I got lacked a whole pile of very important items, as well as made a few rather large decisions to make the experience “easier” for newbies (slang for new users – if you actually needed to read this definition, then you are a newbie ;)~ ). This article will be part rant on LinuxPPC and part guide for getting your new installation of LinuxPPC 2000 in an actual usable state.

First thing first; LinuxPPC has become a Gnome distribution. Gnome is what we call a “desktop environment”, which is to say, it attempts to provide a tightly integrated graphical user interface that is easy to use and powerful, the goal being to make it so that the user never has to see a command line. Gnome fails on all counts. On top of that, it is extremely resource hungry, taking up large amounts of disk space, CPU cycles and memory.

LinuxPPC has been including Gnome in their distribution for a long time, but it has usually taken a back seat to its more mature, more user friendly, less resource hungry and considerably uglier cousin, KDE. The difference with LinuxPPC 2000 is that Gnome is the default and that there are no means of getting rid of it that are obvious to the newbie.

Personally, I would tend not to bother with Gnome, KDE or any other “desktop environment”. I’m perfectly happy with nothing more than a window manager (which does nothing but manages windows and makes no attempt to “tightly integrate” anything).

Believe it or not, we’re actually in pretty good shape with this distribution, despite its initial insistence that we use Gnome, because LinuxPPC, since the dawn of time, has been including a window manager called Window Maker with their distributions. On most systems where KDE or Gnome is used, WindowMaker never sees the light of day, which is unfortunate, because it is only the finest window manager on the face of the earth.

To wake up sleeping beauty and roust those annoying little Gnomes, you’ll have to hit the command line – but don’t worry. This is child’s play.

Presenting Window Maker

The first thing you want to do is get rid of Gnome. Now we won’t actually delete it, as it does contain some useful tidbits, and separating the useful stuff from the junk and the ensuing ramifications is beyond the scope of this article. We’ll just put it to sleep

Open up a terminal (I think that would be the pretty little monitor with the moon or the stars or whatever on it for you Gnome folk) and type

vi /etc/X11/xinit/Xclients

You’ll want to make a minor change to the “PREFERRED=” section at the top of the file. The part we care about reads like

if [ -n “`grep –i GNOME /etc/sysconfig/desktop`” ]; then

You want to change this to read

if [ -n “`grep –i WindowMaker /etc/sysconfig/desktop`” ]; then

So you’re changing “GNOME” to “WindowMaker” and “gnome-session” to “wmaker”. If you don’t want to wipe out the Gnome settings, then you can just append the above line to the section, between the “PREFERRED=AnotherLevel” and “fi” lines.

This basically says “if I find the word ‘WindowMaker’ in the file ‘desktop’ which is in the directory ‘sysconfig’ which is in the directory ‘etc’ which is on the root level, ‘/’ then run wmaker, the program that starts WindowMaker.”

Alright, you’ve done the hardest part. If you look in the /etc/sysconfig directory that the above lines refer to, you’ll probably notice that there isn’t any “desktop” file. Fix this;

vi /etc/sysconfig/desktop

Put vi in to INSERT mode (shift S) and type


You should now have a document that says “WindowMaker” and nothing else. Hit escape, type a colon and type a “w”. This will write the file. Hit colon again and type “q” this will quit vi and you’re done!

Reload X Windows and voila. WindowMaker.

So now you’re using WindowMaker. First thing you’ll notice is that there aren’t any icons. S’okay, you don’t need them. The other thing you’ll notice are a bunch of panels. The ones in the upper right are the About GNUStep panel, a date and time panel a terminal emulator and the preferences, respectively. Feel free to double click on any of them. You’ll also notice a panel in the upper left corner with a paperclip on it. This is called the “clip”, and it is used to store application icons. Open up a terminal (third icon from the top) and run whatever software you like to use. For instance, type “netscape”. This will run Netscape. You’ll notice that a Netscape icon appears in the lower left hand corner of the screen. Now drag this panel so it’s directly beside the clip. When it’s in position, a place beside the clip should highlight. Drop the Netscape panel there. Now quit Netscape. Oh, look at that! The panel stays there! Now, whenever you want to run Netscape, all you have to do is double click that panel.

Window Maker, and any other good window manager, offers a feature called “multiple desktops”. This absolutely wonderous little gift allows a user to scatter windows left right and center on his or her desktop, and in Window Maker’s case, hit a button and have a fresh, new desktop to work with, the old one being easily retrieved with, again, the touch of a button. To create a new desktop, hit F12 or option 3. Select the “workspaces” menu (not to be confused with the “workspace” menu) and select “new”. You can now switch between your two desktop by pressing the arrow buttons on the corners of the clip.

If you really miss being able to browse through your folder structure graphically, then open up Netscape and go to www.rpmfind.com. Get an RPM (RedHat Package Manager – RedHats extremely user friendly, though slightly unsanitary way of distributing files) for linux/ppc called “xfm-1.3.2-15”

Go to the directory you downloaded it to and type the following lines;

rpm –i xfm-1.3.2-15.ppc.rpm


You now have what is probably the ugliest file browser on the face of the earth, but it’s a file browser, nonetheless. If you want something nicer looking, I suggest you download the appropriate kde packages, strip out the nonessentials and keep kfm.

Congrats. You now have a working copy of WindowMaker

RPMs are wonderful things in that they let you very easily install most software packages. There are just two problems with them; one being that, since they automatically place files in what it believes to be their proper folders when you’re installing them, they can potentially make a bit of a mess of your system if certain things are slightly different than the stock configuration. Also, because they can contain binary packages, they’re usually platform specific, ie; xfm-1.3.2-15.ppc.rpm for Macs versus xfm-1.3.2-15.386.rpm for Intel machines or xfm-1.3.2-15.sparc.rpm for Suns. A non-platform dependant RPM would look like xfm-1.3.2-15.noarch.rpm. If the software you want isn’t available for your platform, you’re out of luck as far as RPMs go. But fear not gentle reader, for with all types of UNIX, there is always another way.

Next time on Penguins and Daemons;

The Missing Element; Builders and Makers


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