08.03.2009 21:34

Zenburn color scheme

I always work in a dark room, and after 16 hours of looking at your screen a headache is inevitable. Trying to counter that a few years ago I found a good color scheme for Emacs, called humvee written by dto, which these days turned into something a bit different (a cross-platform graphical roguelike engine). Situation improved, but when I saw Zenburn last year on a screenshot I instantly knew it was right for me. It started as a Vim color scheme, and people wrote new themes for a few other apps (Emacs included), but from my earlier experience with humvee I knew I had to color everything to really benefit from its low-contrast scheme.

At about the same time I found the awesome window manager and at first I wrote a Zenburn theme for it. Followed by a theme for (Al)Pine MUA, and then by many other themes and tweaks. Other people did the same so today we have Zenburn for a good number of applications, allowing us to stay in the zone no matter what we do. However there is only one problematic field left, and that is web browsing, switching to my Firefox tag sometimes almost blinds me. One way to deal with it is to force custom user styles, but that breaks a good number of pages and I don't like it.

Writing all these new themes and drawing icons felt kind of artistic, that combined with the fact that my awesome rc.lua is code, and 800 lines of it, made me release it under a CC license. In case you were wondering why I did.

Written by anrxc | Permalink | Filed under desktop

21.02.2009 04:26

Personal backup solution

I have at least 4 machines at home that are operational at any given time. Personal workstations, a firewall/router and a VDR/file server box. The latter has the most disk space, holds nothing of importance in it self and is perfect for storing backups. Some years ago I deleted my ~/code directory. Nothing that important, but it contained everything I wrote in the last 2 years. All that time became worthless in a second. Eventually I reconstructed most of it from scraps I had on other machines, but it was clear I need a solid backup strategy for more then just a few things I considered important by that point.

First file in my new ~/code directory became pybackup.py, a simple script that would tar some files, delete old snapshots and so on. As years passed I needed to backup more and more data, and pybackup.py didn't cut it any more. I was well aware of Amanda, Bacula, rsnapshot... and the rest. But I wanted something extremely simple yet more versatile then the previous solution.

I remembered reading a nice article by Mike Rubel about implementing rotating backup snapshots with rsync. Many people already took a crack at it, and that page lists many of those implementations, but after checking all of them not one was just right for me. Some were close though and gave me a few pointers for my own implementation. rybackup runs from a cronjob a few times a day and backups all my machines to the file server over NFS. The beauty of it is that I have multiple levels of backups that are as big(small) as just one full snapshot + changes between them. It's achieved using hard-links, while rsync automatically un-links files that have changed. This solution also has other advantages; rsync transfers only changes between files, offers compression, encryption and so on. Finally let's see a directory tree after a few months of rotating snapshots:

2008-03-14 16:04 daily.0/
2008-03-14 12:03 daily.1/
2008-03-13 08:05 daily.2/
2008-03-17 00:04 hourly.0/
2008-03-16 20:04 hourly.1/
2008-03-16 00:04 hourly.2/
2008-03-15 04:03 hourly.3/
2008-02-10 16:04 monthly.0/
2008-01-15 16:02 monthly.1/
2008-03-11 00:04 weekly.0/
2008-03-04 00:04 weekly.1/

$ du -hs ; du -hs hourly.0
1.5G    .
778M    hourly.0

Written by anrxc | Permalink | Filed under code

01.02.2009 23:45

Awesome window manager

Desktop Screenshot FVWM was my window manager of choice for a long time. It's better described as a scripting language for writing your own window manager. The setup I used imitated the look of QNX Photon. On my laptop (a 12 inch screen Presario 1247) on the other hand I used Ion, a tiling window manager, because every inch of the screen mattered. The philosophy behind tiling window managers is best described by Ion's manifesto.

Last year my main workstation was replaced by a laptop, and I found Awesome window manager. Which quickly became my new window manager of choice. It's infamous for changing the configuration file format, and at that time it used Confuse. But now, with v3, awesome switched to Lua, which basically means that you code your own environment, making it much more powerful. Basic principles are that the window in which you are working always has focus and always gets most screen space and that everything is done with the keyboard. It's also worth mentioning that awesome is so far the only wm using XCB and that it's extremely good in managing multiple displays.

To note just a few specifics from my setup; all my widgets use wicked for registering with awesome, Zenburn colors everywhere for maximum viewing comfort, no taskbar or a menu because, again, everything is done with the keyboard, many custom prompts (Dictionary, Calculator, SSH, Manual pages...), Ion's scratchpad imitation, suspending and resuming apps (think Firefox) when running on battery... A lot of people started hacking on awesome using it, and if you are searching for ways to boost your productivity I invite you to try awesome, and use my rc.lua.

Written by anrxc | Permalink | Filed under desktop, code

24.01.2009 13:21

Emacs org-mode

Org-Mode Screenshot A few years ago I found it harder and harder to keep track of all my responsibilities so I decided to try the Todo.txt method of GTD. It wasn't bad, but not long after I came across a great tutorial describing basic functions of Emacs org-mode. Today all my tasks and projects are managed by org-mode, since it's much more then just a tool to tick of your TODO items. One of the most useful functions for me is the clocking function, that keeps track of time I spent on a particular project. It also has great integration with the rest of the environment; it can link to any kind of document, e-mail or Usenet article and export to many different formats. It has a simple and effective plain text system and you can learn to use it in a few minutes, for any other advanced functionality you can consult the extensive org manual.

Similar to org-mode is the Remember Mode, it's much simpler, and some maybe already use it for taking notes. I want to mention that org-mode has great integration with remember. Before I connected the two I already had a general notes.org file where I stored anything that was not that important to go in one of the main files... and it was rather big by the time I decided to use remember. So, this is how I configured it so that any new note gets placed under the right headline:

;; Included in org-mode section of my .emacs
(require 'remember)

;; Notes file
(setq org-default-notes-file (concat org-directory "/notes.org"))
;; Notes templates
(setq org-remember-templates
 '(("Note" ?n   "* NOTE %?\n %i\n %a" "~/.org/notes.org" "Notes")
   ("Download" ?d "* DL %?\n %i\n %a" "~/.org/notes.org" "Download")
   ("Login" ?l "* LOGIN %?\n %i\n %a" "~/.org/notes.org" "Logins")
   ("Music" ?m "* MUSIC %?\n %i\n %a" "~/.org/notes.org" "Music")
   ("Idea" ?i "* %^{Title}\n %i\n %a" "~/.org/notes.org" "Brainstorm")))
Hitting "C-x r" prompts me to describe a note I'm entering, and eventually places it in the correct section. It's also very flexible, if you had anything in your selection it will automatically be included, and if it was invoked while editing a file it will generate a link to that file or section of the file.

Written by anrxc | Permalink | Filed under work, emacs

11.05.2008 23:42


I developed an interest in Unix operating systems some 10 years ago, and today most of my time spent with computers revolves around that. These days I work, play, tinker and code mostly on GNU/Linux. For years I participated in and contributed to various on-line communities; forums, IRC rooms, Usenet groups and in private conversations, all my ideas and thoughts scattered around and of no particular use to anyone short after they were written. This journal is an effort to create a central place for all my writings.

Written by anrxc | Permalink | Filed under main