I finally installed Linux on my new laptop, and now its even better then my old one!
I have used Ubunutu for a long time, but I wanted to try something new this time. I did some experiments trying to install Arch, I tried Puppy Linux (too strange for me), and considered NixOS. I eventually found Manjaro, which seems to be Arch, but more friendly, and I think it was a good choice.
The installation went fine for the most part, with a handful of complications. Windows was not able to resize its partition on the SDD drive, so I had to install Linux on the second drive (spinning disk). There also appears to be a new "Secure Boot" thing in my laptop's BIOS, and a Linux partition does not pass whatever check its doing (perhaps it is just not Data-At-Rest encrypted or something). I did have a few issues with Linux after the install, like sound didn't work until I did an update.
Once all this was worked out the fun part begins. My setup isn't hugely customized, but I've been playing around with trying to make something nice for myself.
I have been using the dwm window manager, dwmstatus for my status bar, and the st terminal from suckless.org. I've enjoyed their simplicity, and the feeling of ownership in modifying and compiling ones own environment (at least these pieces). I was inspired by this article by Christine Dodrill on their own Linux setup, although theirs sounds much nicer and more customized then mine.
The suckless philosophy appeals to me somewhat- using simple tools that can be understood and modified. I am going through something of a minimal phase in my computing (and home) life, so I'm enjoying trying out a desktop setup that re-enforces that feeling.
In general I have found that I'm not currently willing to give up on useful features for the sake of minimalism- I want the minimalism for practical reasons, not for its own sake. I may change my mind over time, but so far dwm and st have not been an impediance. In fact, the keyboard driven workflow with dwm is very easy and fast (and I like fast tools).
The setup was not particularly difficult besides a few git clones, make, make install. The main new thing was adding an option to load dwm on login by making a DWM.desktop file in /usr/share/xsessions.
I have only a few changes to dwm to use a nicer colorscheme, to get sound and brightness to work on my keyboard, to use monospace font, etc. The compile, run cycle is not quite as convienent as it might be for a dynamic language, although I think there is a way to restart dwm when it closes to quickly iterate on configuration. I haven't gotten this to work yet.
I use the default dwm keybindings, as they are perfectly useful and easy enough to memorize. I like dmenu for starting programs, and the tile management.
The dwmstatus program is an interesting example of separating concerns and of making customizable programs.
Its a short program, easy to understand and modify, and it can interact with dwm to set the status bar (top right of the screen for me) by simply setting a property in dwm. This is a nice composition of tools where the task of displaying useful information to the user doesn't have to live inside of the window manager.
I've modified dwmstatus a bit, removing a lot of the informaiton it displays. The current result is a simplfiied version which does not include information like processor or memory use (information that changes frequently), but does include brightness and volume.
I haven't looked into st as much as the other programs. Its mostly just worked, and I've setting the colorscheme outside of the configuration file.
I tend to live in the terminal (st) for the most part, with tmux always open. I have dwm for window management, tmux for terminal panes, sessions, and windows, and Vim for editing, with its own splits and buffers.
My vim setup is somewhat customized, with a medium number of plugins and keybindings.
I have a custom statusbar of my own design which follows a few personal preferences: I like its information to be static (nothing that changes without me doing something). This prevents the status bar from drawing my focus. I like the status bar to be simple- I don't use the pretty ones like airline. I like the information to be in a fixed location so it is easy for me to find. The file name is always displayed without the path right after the buffer number, and with the path in the middle of the bar, such that I can see the file name itself without having to find it within the path.
There are a few other niceities I took from tutorials or other peoples configurations like a flag for whether a file is modified, the file type, and the progress of the cursor through the file in lines and as a percent.
A person's vim setup desires its own post, or series of posts, but just to mention some plugins, my main ones are nerdtree, startify, gruvbox colorscheme, ctrl-p and recently vimwiki to try to organize my notes. I also have a ToggleHex function I copied from somewhere a long time ago which translates a file into hex using xxd, or back to text. I use this fairly often for binary files or checking text for unexpected characters (carriage returns or tabs, or corruption like 0s within an ascii text file).
My main tmux change is a few bindings to make it so that new splits open in the same directory as the previous terminal. This is a real pain normally, but I find some discussion on how to rebind keys to use 'pane_current_path' when new splits are created.
One note is that I use the -2 flag when opening tmux- this seems to help some terminals with colorschemes. I source a colorscheme for the terminal from a bash script on startup, so my tmux looks like the gruvbox theme (the same one that I use for vim), which is nice.
I also have some bindings to help integrate with Vim, but they don't see to work on my current setup.
I have a thing where I really dislike modifying an environment if its not repeatable- I don't want to make a bunch of small changes to my OS, and then have to reinstall one day and lose everyhing. To combat this I've been trying to include changes in a setup bash script that establishs my environment. There are probably much fancier ways to do this, but I'm keeping it simple for now.
My little setup script tries to install a few useful programs, deploys a few configuration files, and installs my vim plugins. Its far from perfect, but it does work and helps me track changes I make both in MSYS2 on Windows and in Linux.
One little experiment I've been doing recently is trying to make my environment more scriptable. To this end, I wrote a little TCL script that can switch between programming projects, setting up the tmux window and splits quickly. Scripting tmux was not trivial, but you can send it keys with "tmux send-keys" to a particular session, list sessions with "tmux ls", and create new sessions ("tmux new-session") and new windows ("tmux new-window"), so its definitely doable.
The program is called se (for sessions). I would not have taken a two letter name except that I don't intend anyone else to use this- its a personal tool that does what I want it to do.
One note on using TCL- I tried to use bash scripts at first, but it almost immediately became to painful for me to bear, and it was absolutely much faster and easier to depend on TCL. I expect TCL to be available on the systems I actually use, so this isn't a problem for me.
If this turns out to be useful I may write a post on it. I know that there are many other tools, likely much better ones, out there, but for right now I'm just enjoying the simple tools and the personal programs approach.
So far this Manjaro Linux setup is the best I've ever had. The terminal heavy and keyboard driven workflow suits my preferences, and I feel a bit more ownership over a few more of the tools I use.
Overall, my Linux programming setup is far better then any Window development environment I've ever had. It is like having a weigh lifted from my shoulders. This is clearly personal preference, but for programming tasks, a simple terminal window that takes up the entire screen, fast tools, and the option for customization far, far outweighs any advantages I've even gotten from my Windows environments.