Rummaging through old data is fun. It’s like rediscovering a part of yourself you have long forgotten. Since the last few months I’m in a nostalgic hardware mood, let’s revisit some old desktops of which I meticulously kept screenshots from 2004 to 2008 from various systems. Sadly, the SuSE Linux
6.3 screenshots are forever gone… And before 2003, it was not yet cool enough to share desktop screens on-line (that is: I didn’t know how!).
The Gentoo Linux 2004.0 Machine
Once I got hooked on Linux during my first university years, I decided in order to become a real pro, one has to install everything form source. Every-thing (Gentoo). Oh, and kernel-patch your own vanilla Linux kernel - that too. Many weeks later; I discovered FVWM, and after even more weeks of fiddling with config files, my desktop looked like this:
Remember the floating duck, that indicates CPU/Memory usage? The more water, the more RAM, and the more waves, the more CPU usage. Funny, and completely useless. A few months later, the status bar started to look like a cheap OSX knock-off:
I still remember it took me ages to get the battery and temperature levels working (on the bottom right).
ACPI and Linux
2.4 were not playing along, and the ugly Perl scripts didn’t particularly help either. At least I remembered correctly to take a screenshot while the context-menu is open to showcase it can do transparency! Wowza! That was something that required a lot of effort back in the day, and even hardware acceleration.
The next month, it looks like the then popular “Lila icons” made its way to my machine, and I started loving Xfce’s file manager, “Thunar". It still exists today. Xfce 4 was a big step up but couldn’t dethrone FVWM - instead, I ended up using its tools. Still not satisfied with the big icons on the menu, I decided to make them even more Mac-alike by zooming in on hover:
While sticking to my faithful FVWM window manager, I did take a peek or two at Enlightenment‘s alpha version “
E17”, that eventually did get released in 2013. Note the Linux kernel on the upper left: 2.6.9-nitro4. That’s right, in 2005, I switched from 2.4 to a bleeding edge thing, and even reformatted the whole thing in ReiserFS!
From Gentoo to FreeBSD 5.3
In 2005, something else happened. I got tired of compiling everything from scratch, and fixing countless of
make scripts. I got tired of Linux all-together and decided to try a BSD alternative - of course further tweaking my beloved FVWM configs:
It did not last long. When I graduated in 2007, my work life took over and prevented me to fiddle with config files. Free time was best spend off-screen. I did, however, still play and fiddle with my WinXP machine.
The Windows XP 32-bit Machine
It was usually kept clean, with a gaming-related background, and of course gaming-related shortcuts on the desktop itself. The theme looks like it’s WindowBlinds, however. However, on some screenshots I recognize work from my thesis in 2007. It seems that
LaTeX compilation was also done on Windows. Because why not.
Note the Systray icons: MSN Messenger, CPU temp/fan control of my then powerful Dell Inspiron 5150 laptop with a Pentium IV
3 GHz CPU, battery, a globe with an “
a” symbol I cannot remember, and Synergy, a handy tool (then free, now
$29) which allowed me to utilize one keyboard/mouse to control both laptop and desktop PC.
However, after being fed up with the default XP colors, I apparently decided to try something radically different. I’m sure it involved WindowBlinds and other fancy things I cannot remember anymore. Do you recognize Windows XP in the following screenshot? I don’t. I must have been bored.
The Windows Explorer thing gives it away. No wait, the
uname -a output does: “
MINGW32_NT-5.1” Why install gVim/MSys *Nix tools on there when you can dual boot and have a Unix-powered laptop nearby? Because we can?
In 2012, I bought a MacBook Air to carry with me on the train ride to work. It changed the way I work forever, and I never looked back. All the Unix tools are there, and all the simplicity and ease of use is there. It’s an old laptop by 2020 means (Only updated until 10.11), but still works well:
Besides throwing away illegal
.mp3 files in favor for a Spotify subscription, I also traded in (g)Vim for Sublime Text 3 because I was never that good at Vi’s shortcut scheme anyway. I still have installed and occasionally work on Linux distributions but can’t bring myself to put in enough time to decently configure it. Instead, a quick Ubuntu install does the job. It’s far from amazing or my golden “FVWM Years”, but again: it works.
And that’s good enough for me, in 2020.