Looking at some unpublished posts, I realised there were a few screenshots I never posted. Several of these are of window managers I have not used in a very long time (windowlab and sithwm) and never used for very long, and all of these are from at least 4 years ago.

But since this site still seems to get some significant amount of traffic, despite being mostly inactive for five years, and since everyone likes screenshots, here are some brief glimpses into the past.




Windowlab, with an unreleased Gtk theme, and the Children of the Earth icon theme.


Windowlab, with a the Alghattas Gtk theme and the MeliaeSVG icon theme.


Openbox 3.5.2, with the Laza-mod Openbox and Gtk theme, the ACYL icons, and a wallpaper that started out as a picture of a brick wall.


Openbox 3.5.2, with the Amaravati Gtk and Openbox theme, and ACYL icon theme. (Inspired by this theme.)

SithWM, with I can’t recall what icon or Gtk theme.

I understand little of the complexity surrounding fonts in Debian (and most other Linux distributions). But I do know that to get the artwiz fonts (or other bitmapped fonts) properly installed has been challenging as the procedures to install fonts occasionally changed, and good documentation is hard to find. In 2008 I explained how to install the artwiz fonts in Ubuntu Hardy, but those guidelines have not worked for many years.

Which is a shame, because the artwiz fonts are wonderfully minimalistic. Here are a few examples:


I had given up on installing these fonts a long time ago, but recently decided to give this another try. After a good amount of searching, I found a way that seems to work, at least on this system, running Debian Testing. I suppose that this should work also on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or other Debian derivatives (please confirm this in the comments, if this is indeed the case!).

Here is what you have to do. First, download the artwiz fonts. (There are also version that support characters used in German and Swedish here; if you download those files, change the commands below where necessary.)

Unpack the bz2 archive:

tar xvjf artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3.tar.bz2

Move into the new directory:

cd artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3

Inside that directory you have all the .pcf font files. Before, those were the files that you would use, but apparently Debian no longer recognises .pcf font files, only .pcf.gz files. Therefore, you have to archive these with the following command:

gzip *.pcf

Now copy the entire artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3 directory to /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc, with root privileges. If you use Ubuntu, add sudo before each command, as Ubuntu does not use root (su).

mv artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3 /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc

Move into that last directory, and create an index of the font files that X will be able to use, still with root privileges:

cd /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc

By default Debian disables bitmapped fonts. Check whether there is a link to a file called 70-no-bitmaps.conf in /etc/fonts/conf.d/ directory. If there is, delete it.

Renew your font cache, as root (su or sudo):
fc-cache -f -v

Then enable the use of bitmapped fonts, as root:

dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config

You will be asked to answer three questions. These are the choices I selected:




Then reconfigure your fontconfig settings, also as root:

dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig

Then, add the following line to ~/.xprofile (or ~/.xinitrc if you use startx), so you can use the fonts in X applications (like xterm, and xfontsel, but also dmenu):

xset fp+ "/usr/share/fonts/X11/misc/artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3/" &

(According to this post from 2013, you should also be able to add this to /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/, but that did not work for me.)

Once all this is done, you should be able to use the artwiz fonts in any X application. To prove that this does indeed work, here is a screenshot of xfontsel, selecting the nu font, and using nu as the font in Openbox.


To use these fonts in conky, I use ${font nu:size=7} in .conkyrc just before the command or text conky should display. Thus, ${font nu:size=7}${time %H:%M} gives the following:


These are screenshots of the desktops I have used in 2015. No dramatic changes–still using Openbox, still loving the Erthe theme for work, still keeping it simple.

Early in the year I replaced Varuna, a Thinkpad X60 that was prone to overheat, with Soma, a Thinkpad X200. The screenshots of both are of a 23″ screen I use with it. Savitar is my old, battered, but beloved Thinkpad X41. On Soma, I’ve mainly used the last two desktops. The two screenshots of Savitar are those from last year, as I did not change anything to that desktop the entire year. Savitar is still my work laptop.



Openbox 3.5.2, with the Mythos Gtk and Openbox themes, and the AnyColorYouLike (ACYL) icon theme.



Openbox 3.5.2, with the Alghattas Gtk and Openbox themes, and the MeliaeSVG icon theme. I can’t remember where I found the wallpaper image.



Openbox 3.5.2, with the Alghattas Gtk and Openbox themes, and the MeliaeSVG icon theme.


Openbox 3.5.2, with an unreleased Gtk and Openbox themes, and the ACYL icon theme. The wallpaper is from here (G3, scaling the 960×800 image with Feh).




Gnome 2.30.2 with Openbox 3.5.0, still using the Erthe themes and ACYL icon theme.



I’ve long controlled the sound volume with keybindings in Openbox, but now that PulseAudio has become default, I keep forgetting how to do so with this new sound server. You’ll find a variety of suggestions on how to control PulseAudio from the command line online, but most of them don’t work for me.

I’ve found this to be the easiest way to control PulseAudio from the command line, using pulseaudio-ctl.

Volume up:
/usr/bin/pulseaudio-ctl up

Volume down:
/usr/bin/pulseaudio-ctl down

/usr/bin/pulseaudio-ctl mute-input

The default of the “up” and “down” commands is 5%. You can specify a different percentage. For example, if you want to increase the volume by 10%, use the following command:

/usr/bin/pulseaudio-ctl up 10

You can also set the volume at a certain percentage. If you want to set the volume at 50%, use the following command:

/usr/bin/pulseaudio-ctl set 50

Or you can set the volume at 50%, if it is currently higher than that with this command:

/usr/bin/pulseaudio-ctl atmost 50

For more options, read pulseaudio-ctl’s documentation.

These are the very few screenshots I took in 2014. I change my desktop much less frequently than I used to when I started documenting this, seven years ago, but it still serves as a good index of my thoughts and moods of the past year.

Savitar is a Thinkpad X41, running Debian Testing, with Openbox and Gnome 2.30 (still!). It is the computer I use for most of my work, and its looks have changed very little since 2012. Varuna is a Thinkpad X60, with an external monitor, running Linux Mint Debian edition. I generally use Openbox on it (with several Xfce components) and occasionally Pekwm. The second desktop setup, with the Groove themes, is the one I used for most of 2014.




Openbox 3.5, with the Laza-mod themes.


Openbox 3.5, with the Groove themes, and the ported AestheticGroove icon theme.


Pekwm 0.1.17, with the Fawn Gtk and Pekwm theme, and the Children of the Earth icon theme.




Gnome 2.30.2 with Openbox 3.5.0, still using the Erthe themes and ACYL icon theme.

You change your icon theme and find that Thunar uses the stock Gnome icons for directories, like in this image:


Other file managers–Nautilus, Caja, PCManFM–use your theme’s folder icons, but Thunar refuses to obey. The official Xfce documentation gives you a few workarounds, but you quickly realise these are outdated and don’t have any effect.

How do you fix this?

For some reason, Thunar looks for an inode-directory icon for folder icons. Older themes often don’t have this icon, but you can easily create it as a symbolic link. Here is how you do that:

ln -s ~/.icons/my-icon-theme/scalable/places/folder.png ~/.icons/my-icon-theme/scalable/places/inode-directory.png

Adjust this command to your needs. Make sure you replace my-icon-theme with the name of your icon theme (for icon themes installed as root, look for them in /usr/share/icons/my-icon-theme). Also double check what file type your icons are. Many icon themes use .svg files (scalable vector graphics), instead of .png files (portable network graphics) as in the above example.

Once that is done, relaunch Thunar, and your directories will use the folder icons of your chosen theme.


I still use Openbox daily, but recently decided to finally give some of the big desktop environments a serious try. The last time I really tried Gnome or KDE was before their big shifts (to 3. and 4. respectively). A friend had been speaking highly of the latest Gnome versions and claimed several features of it enhanced his workflow and productivity. Was I missing out on all these great developments by sticking with Openbox? I gave Gnome and KDE another try, using them for my usual work for a few days each. There are indeed some nice features in these newer versions, and I particularly liked some of the new aspects of KDE.

But I am now back with Openbox, because I feel so much more at home in it (having spent a few years fine tuning a desktop that suits my needs), and because I still don’t understand why I need to spend so much of my laptop’s resources on window and desktop management (resources that are not a plenty with older laptops!).

One feature of KDE I particularly liked: middle click on the desktop and the text in your primary X clipboard (the clipboard that contains the text that is merely highlighted, and that is normally pasted with a middle mouse click) is pasted into a new note on the desktop. Very handy for information you quickly want to store somewhere (for however long you want to)!

When I moved back to Openbox, I immediately decided to implement that in my Openbox desktop, using xpad. Here is how I did it.

Open your favourite text editor and create the following script:

xclip -selection p -o > $FILE ; xpad --new-from-file=$FILE

(If, for some reason, you want this to work with the text you copied with Ctrl+C use “xclip -selection c -o” instead of “xclip -selection p -o” in the above script.)

Note that this requires xclip to be installed (besides xpad, obviously). If you don’t have it installed, you can do so on Debian systems with the following command:

sudo apt-get install xclip

Save the script (I saved it as ~/.scripts/xpad-middleclick.sh), and make it executable (chmod +x ~/.scripts/xpad-middleclick.sh).

Now you have to tell Openbox to run the script whenever you middle click on the desktop. Open your rc.xml file and search for <mousebind action=”Press” button=”Middle”> in the mouse section, under <context name=”Root”>. The default is as follows:

<mousebind button="Middle" action="Press">
<action name="ShowMenu"><menu>client-list-combined-menu</menu></action>

Change this into the following (make sure the path points to wherever you saved the above script):

<mousebind action="Press" button="Middle">
<action name="Execute">

Reconfigure Openbox, and you can quickly create an xpad note of the selected text whenever you middle click on the desktop.

If you don’t want Openbox to draw window decorations for xpad, add the following to your rc.xml (in the applications section):

<application name="xpad">

And here is a totally unnecessary picture of the end result:


(For those of you who prefer Tomboy: I’m not sure whether you can do this with Tomboy. Unlike xpad, Tomboy does not have a cli option to create a new note from file. Perhaps it is possible to achieve a similar result using tomboycli, but I have not tried to do so.)

Here are my screenshots of 2013.

Early in the year I got Varuna, a Thinkpad X60. Shortly after that I let go of Loka, the old desktop computer I had been using for years, and hooked up Varuna to the 23″ screen I used with Loka. I now only work with Varuna and Savitar, my beloved Thinkpad X41 (they sure don’t make them like this anymore!).

Savitar still runs (an outdated) Debian Testing (Wheezy), as did Loka. Varuna runs Mint Debian Edition, primarily so I could have an easy way to run MATE. As the screenshots below illustrate, I’ve used Openbox exclusively this year, often as the window manager of MATE or Xfce (on Varuna) or Gnome 2.30 (on Savitar).

Savitar is my main work computer, and has changed little in aesthetics since 2012. The dark hues of the Erthe themes has worked so well that I have no desire to change anything other than the wallpaper. On Varuna, the computer I (mainly) use at home for everything else, things change more rapidly (though not nearly as often as 5 years ago).



Mate 1.4.2, with Openbox 3.5, with a modified Laza Gtk and Openbox theme, and the Gnome-noble icons.


Mate 1.4.2, with Openbox 3.5, with a modified A New Hope Gtk theme, and the ubo icons.




Xfce 4.8 with Openbox 3.5, using a modified Laza Gtk and Openbox theme, and the Gnome-noble icons. The wallpaper is Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome.


Xfce 4.8 with Openbox 3.5, using the Salvage Gtk and Openbox theme, and the AnyColorYouLike icons.

Et in Arcadia ego

Openbox 3.5, with the Rivas themes.


Xfce 4.8 with Openbox 3.5, using the Groove themes.


Openbox 3.5, using the Miroir themes.



Openbox 3.5, using the Miroir themes.


Gnome 2.30, with Openbox, using the Erthe themes, and the AnyColorYouLike icons.



Gnome 2.30 and Openbox 3.5, using the Erthe themes.

This is my fifth annual screenshot review, recording my changing aesthetics and moods. Early in the year, I moved back to Gnome (with Openbox, of course) on my laptop (Savitar, a Thinkpad X41), and in November began using MATE on my desktop (Loka). Early in the year, for a few months I also returned to Pekwm, a wonderful little window manager I hadn’t used much in the previous year. I also played with Awesome for a short while, but that window manager, however much I like it, remains more of a distracting novelty for me than an productive work environment.

As you can see below, I’ve mainly used dark themes this year (and particularly the Erthe themes), and have changed my setup a lot less often than I did when I started posting these annual overviews.

Both Savitar and Loka still run Debian Testing (Wheezy), though Savitar’s is far from up to date (as should be obvious from the Gnome 2 screenshots below).

All my Openbox and Gtk themes (including those that I merely modified) can now be found on github.


Gnome 2, with Openbox, using the Erthe themes, and the AnyColorYouLike icons.

Openbox 3.5, with the Dandelion Openbox and Gtk theme, and the nuoveXT-1.7 icons. The desktop background is a painting of the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan.

Gnome 2, with Openbox, using the Erthe themes, and the AnyColorYouLike icons. The desktop background I found here.


Pekwm, with the Infinity Pekwm and Gtk theme, and the moblin icons.

Pekwm with the Royalty themes, and the AnyColorYouLike icons.

Openbox 3.5, with modified royalty themes and Somatic icons. The dock holds bbdock, bbpager, lal, and docker.

Openbox 3.5 and XFCE 4.8, with the Erthe themes, and AnyColorYouLike icons.

Awesome 3.4.13, with the Eidolon themes.

MATE 1.4.2 with Openbox 3.5, using modified Laza themes and the Gnome-Noble icons.

For a very long time I’ve used a script that either raises a running application or, if the application has not been launched yet, launches a new instance of the application. I use that script for some of my most used applications–like Thunar–and it has helped me enormously to keep my desktop tidy.

Tonight I decided it would be great to be able to do that with any application. Wouldn’t it be nifty if I could use this script in combination with dmenu?

It would indeed. Here is the result:


CMD=$(dmenu_path | dmenu -b -fn '-*-nu-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*' -nb '#545043' -nf '#D2C7A7' -sb '#D2C7A7' -sf '#545043')

# if no instance of the app has been started, launch one now
if [ -z "`wmctrl -lx | grep -i $CMD`" ]; then
$CMD &
# search for existing app on any desktop and move it to the current desktop
app_on_any_desk=`wmctrl -lx | grep -i $CMD | cut -d ' ' -f 1`
wmctrl -i -R $app_on_any_desk

If no instance of the application you launched with dmenu is found this script will launch a new one. If there is an instance running, it will move it to the current desktop and focus it. If you prefer to move to the desktop where the application is currently running instead, change the last wmctrl command to wmctrl -i -a $app_on_any_desk.

You’ll need to make the script executable (chmod +x path_to_script) and you’ll need both wmctrl and dmenu installed. Dmenu is part of the suckless-tools package on Debian Testing and recent Ubuntu versions.

The colours dmenu uses in this script are the Erthe colours. Change them to your liking if you don’t like brown.

You can find this script (and a few others) also on my new github repository.