Slimming Down


Like many other people drawn to Gemini, I am tired of bloat. I see no good reason to download several GB of images, videos, CSS, and JS in order to read a few thousand bytes of text. I don't care that I may have the bandwidth, RAM, and hard drive space for it--it's simply uncalled for. With Gemini, I don't need a bloated browser. Gemini clients are rather small (especially compared to web browsers that support JS).


This got me thinking about my user experience in general. I'm old enough to remember pre-Windows software such as DOS. There were no windows. Graphical-oriented programs did exist, but they were mostly for entertainment (i.e. video games). The majority of usage--almost everything constructive--was done on the command line or cursor-driven UI. How much had I just gone with the flow over the decades, using ever more bloated software to achieve the same tasks as always?


Simultaneously, computers are starting to proliferate around my house. This is due in no small part to ever-increasing minimum requirements for today's software (including web apps). I am not happy about perfectly functional laptops becoming paperweights just because they can't interface with cloud platforms effectively. I must find ways to keep them useful.


Thus, I have begun a quest to lighten the load. My go-to machine right now is a little old Asus netbook with a touchscreen. It could barely run Windows 10 at a snail's pace, and Chrome was just Bad News. After just a couple of weeks of looking around at various distros, I've found there are many workable options. For now, I've settled on Manjaro. For some people, Manjaro is too bloated. Fortunately, my Asus is not a 486; Manjaro is plenty small enough. I installed the GNOME flavor to get a general feel and to insure I had GTK and dependencies installed. I can imagine people gagging on A L L T H E B L O A T, but I had 3 goals in mind to cover:


1. Being able to use windowed software when necessary. A text terminal is adequate...until it's not.


2. Being able to use the touch screen. It's a nifty device, and I don't feel like letting it go to waste.


3. I picked EXWM as a target, and experimentation quickly taught me that I'd better have GTK.


So, after some days of using GNOME on Manjaro, I switched to EXWM. The idea is that I'm in a somewhat-familiar textual world by default, without lots of distractions; however, without much fuss, I can still fire up windowed apps with pretty pictures and whatnot (which can be important when 30% of communication is by GIF). It's honestly awkward so far, but I'm giving it some time. Based on some suggestions, I might try dwm, i3, and Sway soon.


Here's what I find most hilarious about my current setup: I can boot to Emacs, then run Remmina to RDP to a Win10 box, then run VMWare to run a Win10 VM with a beefy development environment. Basically, I can sit wherever with an old kiddie laptop and do heavy .NET development.