Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dockapps for Flux's Slit Reviewed

I have tried out quite a few dockapps over the last week after starting to use fluxbox. I have found some that are helpful, some that are neat, some that are dumb/ugly, and a few that are just plain broken.

To save others the heartache, I shall mention the best in show thus far:
  • wmcube - A neat looking dockapp that shows CPU use as a percentage, as well as via as a randomly selected rotating 3D object. You can change the object by clicking on it. Keeping abreast of CPU usage can now be done from the corner of your eye, since the objects' rotation increases accordingly.
  • wmtop - This shows the 3 items highest on the list provided by top. It can let you know if the app you think should be starting via a keyboard shortcut is taking a long time to start, or isn't starting at all, not to mention if a random thing is hogging your resources. There are 5 different skins for it, so check "wmtop --help" and find one you like.
  • wmusic - This is a tiny remote for the XMMS player. I looked and looked, but basically all of the dockapps for controlling music are for XMMS. This saddened me, until I tried XMMS and got hooked on it as well! It's basically WinAmp, but SO fast. Really. I added 10,000 songs in 2 minutes. They were immediately searchable. It responds immediately to whatever you try do to it. I was amazed, after having tried more music players in linux than I can count with both hands. Aside from these things, there are a ton of skins and plugins for it, greatly expanding functionality, and making it look like whatever you want.
  • wmcalclock - There are a lot of dockapps to show you the time and date, but I liked this the best because of the large, bright, easy-to-read display. Just what you need, nothing else.
  • asmem - The problem I had with the myriad system monitoring applets was that I had to click them to see CPU versus memory usage. I wanted dockapps that were always in a useful state. And I already had 2 neat dockapps for monitoring CPU usage. asmem only monitors memory usage, and it neatly displays RAM and swap use, in MB (configurable) and percentage free (or used). Be sure to pass this "-withdrawn", so that it doesn't have a menu bar and plays nicely with the other slit apps.
  • wmfire - This does the same thing as wmcube, but I like to have them both for eye candy. It shows CPU usage as a fire, increasing in intensity as usage goes up. It's pretty spiffy.
  • wmnet - Providing a quick eye to network activity, this highly configurable dockapp can be quite useful. You can change the refresh rate, all the colors, interfaces, and more. Be sure to pass this "-w" as well, so that it actually fits in the slit.
  • wmwifi - This applet displays what wireless network you are connected to, with scrolling SSID, a bar as well as percentage display of signal strength, and an antennae that indicates connection or lack thereof. A handy thing to have for those that often switch between wireless networks.
  • wmnd - I actually started using this in place of wmnet, since I found it looked much better. It displays the interface being watched, a blinking arrow indicator of upload/download activity, a numeric indicator of data transferred, up and down, as well as a nice graph of activity. It displays much more useful information than wmnet for the real estate used. I found that "wmnd -c red -C blue" works well. You can also lower the -s value to increase scroll rate ( I think 5 is default). Be careful with this. Setting it at 3 made my fluxbox just load the background, and nothing else. After playing with everything in .fluxbox/startup and restarting gdm on the CLI, I found this was the culprit. -c is the download traffic line, -C is for upload.
I thought of something usefully clever to add to wmnet that I have not gotten to work, as a result of my stupidity. You can pass it "-e COMMAND" so that it will launch COMMAND when you click the window. I wanted to view the results of netstat upon clicking it, so that if I saw odd spikes of network activity, I could immediately see the cause. BUT, doing this "-e gnome-terminal -e netstat" will not work. You will get this error: "wmnet: duplicate --execute", since wmnet sees two of the same option.

My proposed solution was to make an alias that I would call "netstat-term", simply being "gnome-terminal -e netstat", so that I could run my wmnet as "wmnet -l -d 60000 -t red -r cyan -e netstat-term", and get what I wanted, while not confusing wmnet. Two problems remain: wmnet does not have access to aliases set in .bashrc, and when I run "gnome-terminal -e netstat", the new terminal opens, runs netstat, and closes. I have tried several ways, but I can't manage to make it stay open as a new process. Hopefully I can solve both soon...


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