The Daily Trifecta
Worksations are typically customized to perform various specialized tasks but three apps stand essential: A text editor, web browser and terminal. The daily driver trifecta.
Five nines of my computer time deals with text. Either reading or composing it. No surprise then that text based, command line driven tools take center stage.
Taking My Programs With Me, ii Captain!
I’ve always held a strange affinity for ii, the insanely simple filesystem-based irc program. I could never place it, nor could I ever fathom actually using such a thing - it has far fewer balls and whistles than anything I’d go for, out of the box. But filesystems. File servers, really - I’ve spent some time researching operating systems, and Bells Plan9 (from outer space ;p) uses file servers, union mounting, namespacing and a few other tricks to great success. It facilitates unprecedented levels of simplicity in program design, and runtime flexibility. That’s stuck with me, and ii has as well.
Flash forward a year or two. This idea - this paradigm-shifting idea (in my mind) that I want to be able to use the same damn thing on my desktop, on my phone, on my tablet, on my laptop, on my fuckin' TV, on a toaster (you can see where I’m going) - pops in to my head. This should be possible, we’ve had x11 forwarding for years now. It’s really so very close to what I’d want, with one fundamental issue. We use all of the aforementioned devices differently; be it with a keyboard, remote control, gamepad, touch input, the list really doesn’t stop there. (voice control… trailing off in thought…) X11 forwarding somewhat stops being useful at that point. Touch control on the tiny, tiny buttons that are sent over from my desktop would be abysmal. Really. So I started iterating over ideas, and I think I’ve stumbled on to something that may very well do the thing, with the thing, to have the thing. (citation needed)
ii - It’s Not Just For Sadists, Anymore
It’s been there all along - ii. It’s what’s for breakfast, it’s where babies come from, it’s why the sky is blue. I can serve a filesystem, over absolutely anything - specifically sshfs or 9p - to practically any Linux or Unix enabled device. (My toaster will be sore, but I don’t fucking pay it to think, I pay it to toast my bread.)
So what the hell, who cares? ii is nothing, it’s literally just a filesystem (better, file server) representation of the current state of an irc session. What’s revolutionary about being able to serve that up to some other device?
I can write programs to read that filesystem, for each of these devices, using a toolkit specifically designed for said paradigm (TV, desktop, phone) that will not have to be insanely complex. Then, I can write small clients to speak to the filesystem, draw up the buttons or the bells and whistles I require to get the shit done, and be able to go deftly between devices while I move through my day - from my phone, to my desktop, to my tablet - with all of the exact sessions of irc, coding, youtube videos, gaming, internet browsing, texting, all of the above seemlessly across multiple clients. Because, they’re all just drawing pretty boxes around data from a simple filesystem, with FIFOs. It’s handling raciness, it’s handling multiple clients attached, just by virtue of this being a single user solution.
Flirting With Voidlinux
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside. If you’ve just arrived by way of prism, the rest of us have completed a freshie ZOL enhanced Voidlinux minimal install that’s ready to build out for workstation duty. Yippie yi yo kiyah!
We’re using ZOL and have snapshotted our freshie base. As noted above, I plan on using this puppy in a workstation capacity. Presuming your hardware isn’t too exotic, this guide should get you a functioning plain vanilla minimal Xorg configuration using twm, xterm, and good 'ol xclock that you can then season to taste with your favorite window manager or integrated desktop environment. I prefer crafting a customized desktop experience built upon a stand alone window manger over prefabbed integrated desktop environments. What can I say? I like to tweak. Maybe you do too. It can be one hell of a time sink but the rewards are there for those willing to put in the effort. If not, no need to stress. Others have gone before you and Voidlinux offers several popular desktop environments. A couple even come standard with kitchen sinks. Yeah, haw!
Steppin' Into the Void
No shit - there I was… Searchin'. Searchin' here… searchin' there… Searchin', searchin' everywhere… for a systemd free Linux platform that checked all my boxes. I’d all but settled on Gentoo when this musl’d up halfwit happened to mention Voidlinux. Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot?! Yet another new Linux distro? Nope. Turns out Voidlinux has been around since circa 2008. Hmm…. worth a look, says I!
Well, well, well… front door looks promising, indeed! Voidlinux is not a fork, which means not just another niche respin of one of the big name distros and hence offers a chance for something fresh. Perhaps innovative, even. Rolling release. Cool. Voidlinux uses runit Rock on! . And LibreSSL. Rock steady, baby! Very promising, indeed. Devs can think for themselves and don’t just follow the herd. By now I’ve taken the bait, hook, line, and sinker. Reel me in.