Choosing a new monitor for non-gamers

A year ago I bought a new monitor, Iiyama Prolite XU22HS. This is a 22″ 1080p (1920 x 1080) monitor. I’d been pretty happy with it but a few weeks ago I noticed that the power LED wasn’t working.  As it was still under warranty I reported this to Amazon and although I’d had the monitor for a year they accepted it for a refund, which I appreciate. Whatever one’s feelings about Amazon, this willingness to replace things without quibbling is a big reason for dealing with them.

I needed to choose a replacement and this wasn’t easy. Most of the reviews I found on Amazon were concerned with gaming, which I don’t do.  I mostly need the computer for text (writing articles and books), with some viewing of TV on BBC iPlayer and occasional YouTube. The most helpful advice site I found was How to Pick a Good Monitor for Software Development  by Nick Janetakis, which I recommend to anyone whose needs are similar to mine..

By now I’d realised that there are few 22″ monitors around now and 24″ or 27″ is the norm. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d managed to confuse myself to the point where I was making the same mistake as Janetakis’s mum, thinking a bigger monitor would be useful to me as a writer by giving me more text on the screen.

Physical size doesn’t constitute how much you can fit on a monitor. For example my mom thinks that a 25” 1080p monitor is going to let her fit more things on her screen than a 22” 1080p monitor. Don’t be my mom!

The only thing that matters for “fitting more stuff on the screen” is the resolution of the monitor.

This became obvious to me as soon as I read it. I would have been happy to buy another 22″ monitor, but as few of these are now available.I eventually settled on the 24″ HP 24W Full HD monitor, which a number of reviewers had found good for office work and text generally. I needed to adjust my on-screen text sizes to suit the new ppi of the larger monitor but other than that it’s fine for text and iPlayer is better than it was with the Iiyama.

 

Update on Kindle

I posted my reasons for buying a Kindle reader about 18 months ago (see A Reluctant Conversion to Kindle). I haven’t changed my mind since then but I have upgraded to the Oasis. This is expensive but I’d say worth it, for two main reasons: the larger screen and the buttons for moving forward and back.  There are other minor adantages as well, such as the option to turn off the touch screen.

My Spectrwm Configuration File

Actually, the default spectrwm.conf works pretty well, apart perhaps from changing the Mod key. It’s easy to try out changes on the fly; just edit the file with the help of the man page and test it with Mod+q. If you make a mistake Spectrwm will tell you by printing an error message in the bar.

Just one caution: some mistakes may prevent spectrwm from starting, so be careful about using Mod+Shift+q. If that happens you will have to edit .spectrwm.conf without using X. This doesn’t apply to Mod+q.


# PLEASE READ THE MAN PAGE BEFORE EDITING THIS FILE # http://omensource.conformal.com/cgi-bin/man-cgi?spectrwm
#
# NOTE: all rgb color values in this file are in hex! see XQueryColor for examples

# Mod key, (Windows key is Mod4) (Apple key on OSX is Mod2)
modkey = Mod4

workspace_limit = 5 # I don’t need more than this

bind[flip_layout] = Mod+r # default binding doesn’t work on my keyboard.

# The next three entries replace the default Mod+Space. Why? By default, this command cycles between the different layouts (vertical, horizontal, full screen). I seldom need to do this whereas I very frequently need to alternate the focus between main and stack. So I set Mod+Space to give focus_main and provide commands to give vertical and horizontal configurations in case these are needed. (Mod+e gives full screen.)

bind[focus_main] = Mod+space # Replace the default
bind[layout_vertical] = Mod+v # Provide vertical layout
bind[layout_horizontal] = Mod+z # Provide horizontal layout

# Window Decoration
border_width = 2
color_focus = red
# color_unfocus = rgb:88/88/88
color_unfocus = blue
tile_gap = 2

# Remove window border when bar is disabled and there is only one window in workspace
disable_border = 1

# Bar Settings
bar_enabled = 1
bar_border_width = 2
# bar_border[1] = rgb:00/80/80
# bar_border_unfocus[1] = rgb:00/40/40
bar_border[1] = yellow
bar_border_unfocus[1] = yellow
# bar_color[1] = black
# bar_font_color[1] = rgb:a0/a0/a0
bar_font_color[1] = white
# bar_font = -*-terminus-medium-*–*–*–*–*–
bar_font = -*-courier-*-r-*–*-120-*–*–*-
# bar_action = conky
bar_justify = left
bar_format = %a %b %d %R +S +F +L +V
#bar_format = +N +I +S <+D>+4<%a %b %d %R %Z %Y+8<+A+4<+V
bar_at_bottom = 1
# stack_enabled = 1
#clock_enabled = 1
# clock_format = %a %b %c %d %R %Z %Y
# region_padding = 0
window_name_enabled = 1
# verbose_layout = 1
# urgent_enabled = 1

# Split a non-RandR dual head setup into one region per monitor
# (non-standard driver-based multihead is not seen by spectrwm)
# region = screen[1]:1280×1024+0+0
# region = screen[1]:1280×1024+1280+0

# Launch applications in a workspace of choice
# Not needed because my desktop is normally running non-stop

# Customize workspace layout at start (not needed – see above)
# layout = ws[2]:0:0:1:0:fullscreen
# layout = ws[3]:0:0:0:0:vertical
# layout = ws[4]:0:0:1:0:fullscreen

iconic_enabled = 1

# This restricts toggling bar to one workspace
bind[bar_toggle_ws] = Mod+b

# The default key bindings for screenshots are easy to hit accidentally so replace these with Mod+F12 etc.
bind[] = Mod+s
bind[] = Mod+Shift+s
bind[screenshot_all] = Mod+F12
bind[screenshot_wind] = Mod+Shift+F12

# Swap between workspaces back and forth (very useful)
# Can use alternatives
bind[ws_prior] = Mod+Shift+Up
bind[ws_prior] = Mod+Shift+Down
bind[ws_prior] = Mod+Shift+Left
bind[ws_prior] = Mod+Shift+Right

# This allows you to include pre-defined key bindings for your keyboard layout.
# keyboard_mapping = ~/.spectrwm_us.conf

# PROGRAMS
# Validated default programs:
program[lock] = xterm # I don’t need to lock screen so avoid doing it accidentally
program[term] = xterm

# QUIRKS
# Default quirks, remove with: quirk[class:name] = NONE
# quirk[MPlayer:xv] = FLOAT + FULLSCREEN + FOCUSPREV
# quirk[OpenOffice.org 2.4:VCLSalFrame] = FLOAT
# quirk[OpenOffice.org 3.0:VCLSalFrame] = FLOAT
# quirk[OpenOffice.org 3.1:VCLSalFrame] = FLOAT
# quirk[xine:Xine Window] = FLOAT + ANYWHERE
# quirk[Xitk:Xitk Combo] = FLOAT + ANYWHERE
# quirk[xine:xine Panel] = FLOAT + ANYWHERE
# quirk[Xitk:Xine Window] = FLOAT + ANYWHERE
# quirk[xine:xine Video Fullscreen Window] = FULLSCREEN + FLOAT
# quirk[pcb:pcb] = FLOAT
quirk[Xsane:xsane] = FLOAT + ANYWHERE
# quirk[XaoS:xaos] = FLOAT + ANYWHERE
# quirk[Firefox:firefox] = TRANSSZ
# quirk[Firefox:Dialog] = FLOAT
quirk[Gimp:gimp] = FLOAT + ANYWHERE
# quirk[XTerm:xterm] = XTERM_FONTADJ

Four Tiling Window Managers Compared

 

Introduction

For several months last year I was trying out various tiling window managers and here I offer my assessment of the ones I’ve used most.

Summary for the impatient

My outright favourite is Spectrwm because I find that it offers all the features I want without making things over-complicated. Configuration via the text file is easy and the commands quickly become intuitive and automatic. Dwm is almost as good as Spectrwm but lacks some features that I want. i3 seems to be a popular WM and is better known than Spectrwm, I like it quite a lot but I find Spectrwm more intuitive to use. Xmonad is an attractive WM but is irretrievably let down by requiring Haskell to configure it.

The window managers in more detail

 

1. Spectrwm
This is currently my favourite. Configuration by a plain text file is simple.   I should say that it is the most flexible and intuitive WM that I’ve tried.

Here are some screenshots.

Change master window (Mod + Return)
Screenshot 2

Enlarge master window (Mod + L)
Screenshot 3


Change to horizontal split (Mod + Space)

Screenshot 4


Make a window fullscreen.(Mod + E)

Screenshot 5

Switch to Workspace 2 from Workspace 1 (Mod +2 or Mod + R. arrow)
Screenshot 6

Note: the xsane windows are floating (set via Quirk in ~/.spectrwm.conf)

My Spectrwm configuration file

Get spectrwm here

 

 2. i3
I liked i3 quite a lot and used it for a time. Configuration is simple since it is done in a plain text file. In many ways it is similar to Spectrwm but the way the windows are arranged is slightly different. i3 seems to be better known than Soectrwm with a larger following However, having tried out both of them fairly extensively I find I prefer Spectrwm.

I have a detailed comparison of Spectwm and i3 here.

3. Xmonad
T
his has a large user base and a helpful mailing list. It has many of the features I want and is quite similar to Spectrwm but is let down by its being configured in Haskell, which makes any configuration beyond the most basic a major undertaking requiring hours of research on the internet. There is also a large disk space overhead required to house the libraries needed for said configuration. For these reasons Xmonad loses out to its competitors, at least for me.

4. Dwm
Dwm is the forerunner from which many other tiling WMs forked. There is still a lot going for it: it’s simple and functional and easy to learn. Configuration is via C, but don’t be put off; it’s easier than it looks even if you don’t know C (I don’t). If you are not willing to embark on learning Haskell, dwm would be an attractive alternative. If Spectrwn were not available I’d use Dwm.

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Asem on :

Yeah, XMonad is really nice. Especially the total freeodm of configuration, the numerous layouts, the easy keyboard shortcuts I really think that tiling WM are the way to go, floating every windows just wastes so much time in reorganization and resizing. As to why this is still the predominant paradigm I would venture that tradition has much to do with it (going back to the first WMs by Xerox) and also the fact that most tiling WMs target a keyboard-using audience which is traditionally limited to advanced computer users.Getting to know a tiling WM is slightly more demanding than KDE, Metacity or Windows (though those now sports some shortcuts that beginners never know exist) but it’s much more rewarding in the end and XMonad’s stability and reactivity makes it one of the best choice in this field nowadays.My first contact with XMonad came after I grew tired with some bugs in Metacity (Gnome’s WM) and I might say that I won’t ever be coming back to Metacity since I can’t see anything in it that XMonad don’t do better already.

Greg Strockbine on :

Xmonad has another problem, it doesn’t handle Java applications, like Netbeans and Eclipse.

the first time you launch, say Netbeans, you get a grayish blank window. The fix is to lie about the name of the window manager.

the second time you launch Netbeans, it looks okay. But when you try to type text into the search box of the find in projects dialog box, you discover you can’t type anything. It doesn’t have the focus.

I found several blog entries that claim to fix it, but I never got it to work.

I changed to spectrwm and Netbeans works fine without any tuning.

Xmonad was my first tiling WM. I had known about tiling WMs for a while, but never tried one, they didn’t seem to make sense to me. Now I love them.

msx on :

spectrwm was my real first tiling WM, understanding for real the first one that took over my heart (thanks to E1NS for that!). Before it I played with lot of different WMs for some time like Musca (I loved it), Ratpoison, StumpWM, Awesome, wmi, Subtle… you name it; however those were just fleeting affairs.
Like you say spectrwm brings a sane configuration file which you can edit without learning a new programming language – nice to see some common sense.However I eventually departed from it as I discovered I wanted still more control than any dynamic tiling WM could ever give me…
That’s how I briefly tried Notion which I liked a lot but found somewhat outdated. Then I experienced this old-love revival with hlwm (herbstluftwm is THE minimalist manual tiling WM), Musca’s sucesor.But yet again after some months I hit some invisible walls so once again I took my gear and hit the road again. And I couldn’t be any happier nor more grateful: i3

msx on :

Hum, no idea why the entry was chopped, anyways here’s the mising part:
And I couldn’t be any happier nor more grateful: i3

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“Dirty Old Town” from “Informer” on BBC1

I found the rendition of ‘Dirty Old Town’ on BBC1’s ‘Informer’ particularly attractive but I couldn’t see anything in the credits to show where they got it. I spent much of a day learning how to extract and edit the sound track from the programme (an interesting and probably useful exercise) but eventually I located what seems to be the source on Youtube, sung by Esther Ofarim. If you’ve looked for it yourself you can find it on Youtube.

 

There are other versions of the song by the same singer, Esther Ofarim, on Youtube but I preferred this one.

Book review: Believers, by Melvin Konner

Melvin Konner is a medically qualified anthropologist who had a conventional Jewish upbringing and was a convinced believer in God until, at the age of seventeen, he lost his faith and became an atheist. But in this book he takes issue with four prominent atheists, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens—”the Quartet”.

According to these authors, religion is an irrational and potentially dangerous superstition which is fated to disappear, and the sooner this happens the better. But Konner doesn’t think that religious belief is necessarily a bad thing, nor does he believe it will disappear in the foreseeable future. Continue reading.