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25Sep/07Off

Twindy: The Coolest Dead Thing Ever

I started on this with the thought that it would end up being a review and then I started digging a little further in (meaning I read the developer's website) and found out that the project was no longer under development. I hate it when things like this happen and when I say 'happen' I mean when I keep my head in a different set of clouds for long enough that new ideas go whizzing right by me and by the time I've noticed the impetus that lifted a project off the runway has given in to the dusty arms of old man inertia. So, anyway, I promise this is actually about something but there is a little bit of necessary back story. If you've come here for brevity then Hello Newbie and please don't let the door slam too loudly behind you on the way out.

This weekend or maybe late last week I installed Open SuSE on a spare laptop with the intent of sniggering at it and then wiping it out with something more fun and/or sexy. The thing is that I actually kind of like it which not only complicates things tremendously but gives me a whole new set of mental hobgoblins to root out and internalize. I used an old version of commercial SuSE when I bought my first gigahertz machine a couple centuries ago (SuSE 7.2 was brand new at the time if that gives any sort of rough time frame because I can't remember for the life of me) and absolutely hated it. This was a valuable experience because it taught me not to trust magazine reviews of anything and it also reminded me that just because something offers support when purchased doesn't mean that you're going to find answers to many of your questions especially when the distribution is centered entirely around a proprietary control center (yast) that convolutes every ordinarily helpful tutorial into a pin the tail on the donkey game of WWSuSED? It motivated me to abandon 'easy' (and nothing really is) for flexible and capable (Debian potato, at the time) and was probably one the best mistakes I've ever made. Coming back to SuSE after Novell laid the smackdown on the distribution being a walled city was mostly to see what had changed (preferably for the better) and to see how a recent pre-rolled kernel would handle my screwy wireless chipset.

I liked the SuSE way a whole lot more this time around probably because it was much, much less broken and that many of the limitations of yast that I found so frustrating were either absent from this version or addressed in the interface (ie. you can manually edit config files which was really what I wanted to do way back when) so I've been playing. The major addition for me was being able to add repositories of software outside the official stuff and get some of the things I really needed in order to actually use the distribution. Along the way, I downloaded Twindy because I'd never heard about it before and it was small and fast supposedly. Turns out it is the coolest fucking thing ever and closer to the minimalist approach I've always wanted than any of the almosts like Ion or any of the other managers I've flirted with on occasion.

First, look at the interface and bear in mind that this is the entire desktop:

Well, that isn't entirely true as there are a configurable number of different workspaces (the tabs at the top of the page) available and the preferences are all edited from a similar page which is pretty intuitive once you get your head around the aesthetically pleased fixed layout of each workspace. The upper and lower areas of each workspace are separate entities but the lower tends to keep an application you're likely to need available on all of the workspaces which is a bit annoying at first but turns out to be really handy when you're actually working in the environment instead of just frowning at it and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Some of the the tabs in the active workspace are actually empty remnants of taking the screenshot with The The Gimp which have to be manually dismissed. This seems like much more of a pain than it actually is because although transient windows leave zombie tabs behind when the application banishes them at very least the multi-window interface of an application like the Gimp actually operates within the environment without breaking any functionality. This is typically a problem for many of the tiling WMs as they tend to give each windows from the application its own inviolable space that is a nuisance to reclaim. Twindy makes this a much simpler bit of janitorial work to deal with -- the tab is empty? Close the tab. Poof. Done. You could theoretically have a couple dozen open applications in each workspace if you wanted to but the design works more efficiently to just switch workspaces and open the app you need there.

The really cool part about the entire project was the source of its inspiration: the workflow of an application the developer really liked and thought would be useful expanded as a multi-application environment. It's really good stuff and is based on the how tools work together rather than on plugin bling and bits and pieces of the functionality being spread out all over the interface. This makes much more sense as a desktop environment to me than the taskbar-desktop-strap-ons interface or is at least a much more cohesive environment. I wonder how other folks would fare with it but, unfortunately, it is essentially a dead project so I guess that isn't really at the top of anyone's to-do list. It does still work, however, so if you're feeling curious at all go check it out. Even if it isn't a perfect fit for you (it isn't for me either) it is still a pretty interesting experiment in cohesion and minimalism and you'll at very least enjoy messing with it.

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  1. Hey there goneaway! You’ll never be able to talk be out of my Fluxbox! You-Rup was good then?


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