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A Browser And A Terminal

I've come to the conclusion that the only user space software needed on a Linux machine is a browser and a terminal. Everything else is bloat.

I just discovered mutt, a fantastic email client. Well, technically, I didn't "just discover it", as I have played with it in the past, but never got far with it. You see, configuring mutt is a royal pain. On top of that, mutt is just an MUA (mail user agent), and does not provide an MRA (mail retrieval agent) or MSA (mail sending agent). So, not only do you need to install and configure mutt, but you also need to install fetchmail and sendmail or similar. This certainly isn't attractive to the average user.

On Helios now, it has become my messaging machine. It's running the following:

  • Irssi: The only IRC client you'll ever need.
    • Bitlbee: An IRC to IM gateway used for Jabber. Running as an extension in Irssi.
    • Irssi-otr: An Off-The-Record plugin used for client-to-client encryption on any protocol.
  • Mutt: The only mail client you'll ever need.
    • Links2: Used in combination with mutt to dump HTML email to text, making HTML cruft readable

Now, that I have my email and instant messaging configured and running in a terminal, all I really need is a browser. I can execute any command from the terminal, so I don't need menus, and although I could use links, or some other text-based browser, using a GUI browser is needed for viewing images, video, sound, and other multimedia (this could be argued as to whether or not we need those things- I'm not going to entertain that argument).

So, from where I'm sitting, I don't need much on my computer, which makes me wonder why I'm running a full featured desktop like GNOME or KDE in the first place. It may be time to slim things back down to Openbox or Fluxbox. Screenshots attached for your pleasure.


{ 12 } Comments

  1. John L | October 14, 2008 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I've just switched over to a similar set-up and love it. You could go even further than Fluxbox and try a tiling window manager -- I'm very happy with the Awesome window manager for my terminals. newsbeuter is a great RSS reader, but I'm still looking for a music player. Anyone found a good one?

  2. Brit Butler | October 14, 2008 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I recently made the switch away from a full Desktop Environment and have really been enjoying it. I preferred Openbox to Fluxbox because I found it easier to configure. It's a great window manager. I also tried Xmonad though and switch back and forth between them. Tiling window management has definite perks. Anyway, both are easy to configure, see for configs.

  3. Phil | October 14, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    > So, from where I’m sitting, I don’t need much on my computer, which makes me wonder why I’m running a full featured desktop like GNOME or KDE in the first place.

    For me it comes down to exactly two things: wifi configuration and the activity monitor. These are the only things I keep GNOME around for. There are a few lighter replacements for these, but nothing that works quite as well. It doesn't hurt that it's pretty easy to make GNOME stay out of the way with devilspie.

  4. Seth | October 14, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I agree on all points. A terminal and a browser are always running on Desktops 1 and 2. GUI file managers suck. gmrun, conky, mpd, and Openbox are where it's at. Desktops 3 and 4 are for the occasional GIMP, Audacity, Wine, gqview, etc. In fact:

  5. Odd-rationale | October 14, 2008 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Completely agree!

    The pair I use is Firefox and Terminator - inside OpenBox. I use a web-based email client (Gmail for now) instead of mutt.

  6. RainCT | October 14, 2008 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I fully agree. I'm using Openbox since several months and I found myself nearly not using the GUI at all, only for Firefox (now Epiphany, as it's more lightweight) and a couple other programs.

    Phil: I don't know how it is with other versions, but on Intrepid Openbox + Gnome Panel + nm-applet works perfectly.

  7. Michael Hofmann | October 14, 2008 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Maybe you should test the Firefox plugin vimperator, it gives FF at least a more terminal-like feeling :-).

  8. hads | October 14, 2008 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Mutt does IMAP so you don't always need extra software if you already have IMAP/SMTP

  9. jim | October 14, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    You could go one step further. Use Lynx for your browser and then all you need is a terminal OS like INX (although not sure that's a full on OS or not as I only played with it for a few minutes).

  10. James | October 14, 2008 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I dunno. I'd throw in and a PDF viewer, if you need to interact with non-nerds every now and then.

  11. Lo0m | October 14, 2008 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    i'm using ratpoison for a few months.. and it's all i need.. give it a try..

  12. Kevin DuBois | October 15, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    As cool as caca
    output is, I think I need myself a video player 😀

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