Desktop & Wallpaper Off Topic

Debian Buster & i3wm

It occurred to me today that I’ve never optimized Debian and i3 together for my own purposes. I’ve themed it in Lubuntu and Ubuntu which consisted of adding it alongside those distributions. However, for Debian I decided to start with a lean install of components add i3 and only what I actually need. This resulted in an extremely stable, lightweight that will only really needs occasional updates.

The System

This system will be used for web projects, offline backups, and general web surfing. I don’t have a need for any proprietary extras or the latest versions of anything critical. Even as a web developer Firefox ESR will be just fine. If I require the latest and greatest version of anything I may install flatpack, snap or AppImage.

i3 window manager displaying clockwise from left screefetch, cmus, ranger and htop
I added Compton X compositor for terminal transparency.

Notable Software

  • Compton – lightweight compositor for desktop transparency
  • lightdm – lightweight log in screen
  • vim – coding
  • ranger – file manager
  • screenfetch – system information
  • htop – interactive system resource information
  • alsamixer – ncurses alsa interface
  • cmus – ncurses music player
  • xfce4-terminal – my favorite terminal
  • pianobar – Pandora Radio terminal client

Naturally, I included several traditional GUI applications that I can’t live without which did lead to about 100 extra packages in all.

  • Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) – web browser
  • GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) – image editor
  • KeepassXC – Password Manager
Firefox, GIMP, and Ranger in i3wm
Firefox, GIMP, and Ranger in i3 window manager.

The result is a lightweight multitasking system that I’ve been using for nearly 10 years still handles everything I throw at it without breaking a sweat.

Multitasking in Firefox
Multitasking in Firefox
885 packages in all

After Ricing i3wm

Yesterday I spent a great deal of the evening ricing the desktop and customizing it to my liking.

Debian "work from home" desktop
My Debian work from home user desktop
terminal in i3 and debian
My work from home desktop with xfce4-terminal displaying screenfetch results

After installing “all the things I’m nearly at 1000 packages. RAM is at a respectable 1.5GB with a LAMP webhost and several tabs open in Firefox.
If you’re curious about my setup I’ve linked my latest configuration files below.

Desktop & Wallpaperstatus

Regolith Linux

I never even considered mixing Gnome desktop with i3wm. But that’s what Regolith Linux has done and its a fantastic hybrid experience. Gnome provides a modern system integration while i3wm provides a smartly configured tiling window manager.

i3wm in Regolith Linux

Admittedly Regolith Linux is just as heavy on RAM as any other Gnome desktop. But, at some point we got to admit that Gnome provides a ton of features. Necessary things like configuring wifi, tap to click trackpad support, monitor settings etc. I have 16GB on this device so its not like I can’t spare a few hundred MB to enhance my workflow.

Gnome Settings

Gnome works very well at fixing many of the user experience issues that crop up with some of the lightweight destktop environments. I’ll keep this installed for a bit. Its a lot of fun.

Desktop & Wallpaperstatus

CPU / RAM Usage: Lubuntu 20.04

It makes me warm and fuzzy inside to see the CPU hog is Firefox with one tab open at only 5.7%… Not the OS, utilities, pianobar, or gnome pomodoro timer. ???? ????

Compton the compositing manager seems to want my attention.

The CPU hog appears to be Compton, I’ve disabled it since I’m not doing using transparencies, drop shadows or anything that requires it to be running.

LXQT > Session Settings > Basic Settings > Compton Disabled
Compton X compositor disabled

After a quick log out and back in things are light and super responsive. I have a LAMP localhost running for web development. That’s reserving much of the RAM.

Compton Disabled results in htop
Compton Disabled resulted in a calmer CPU cycles

This workhouse of a desktop is a Sandybridge i5 2500k that I built in late August of 2011. I’ve added a Nvidia GPU 750 Ti a few years later as a Black Friday upgrade. I have no interest in running a lightweight deployment I just want the desktop to remain snappy, stable and stay out of the way while I work.

Screenfetch of my “Work Horse” system specs

Current Status
  • Listening to: "Poor Me Israelites" by "Desmond Dekker & The Aces" on "Intensified"