On My PCs, IceWM and ROX-Filer Inherit Some of OS/2’s Cosmetic Artifacts

Something I’ve never needed is a desktop environment. So long as I’ve a solid window manager with a configurable menu (in my instance, IceWM) and some good file managers (Midnight Commander, PCManFM, ROX-Filer, CLEX, Personal File Manager, etc.), I’ve entirely obviated bloated desktops like GNOME and KDE that would afford me no desirable features in exchange for the robust requirements that they hardly deserve.

In nostalgic retrospect, I regard OS/2 very much as the average septuagenarian veteran of the KGB does the Soviet Union: very fondly, but after 18+ instructive years with Debian and two glorious (if occasionally challenging) years of FreeBSD, I neither want nor need it. However, I do miss the old Presentation Manager’s fun, flexible desktop, which I always preferred to that of Windows 9x/XP/Vista (which I also liked, anyhow). Recently, I interjected a large tranche of icons from OS/2 2.0, 2.1 and Warp 3 to my collection of homemade icons. Their generation entailed the application of Pinta to meticulously crop and position each icon from lossless screenshots of the OS/2 desktop at 32×32 pixels, add transparency, and save each as a Windows icon (though maybe they should be PNGs). (Among the many editors of raster graphics I’ve used, Pinta’s by far the best suited to edit icons.) These enjoyed a modestly positive reception on Neocities, but they were created primarily for selfish purposes…and to conduce relaxation during a spell of cold and insomnia.

The aforementioned ROX-Filer is a good file manager, but a far better shell for starting programs and accessing their documentation — like Windows 3’s Program Manager if it weren’t clunky and heinous. To this end, I produced a comprehensive selection of symbolic links and scripts that launch the totality of my regularly used programs, which are organized by categories and suites in directories navigated by ROX-Filer. By assigning native icons and those of OS/2 2.x (for many programs that haven’t any), I’ve created an interface that’s as easy and fun for quotidian utility as PM was back in the ’90s (it’s actually much more so, but I refuse to accept that). Here’s the root window of launch:

If your first thought was, “Hey it’s the PM!” then I’m sorry to disappoint you! (I hope I didn’t scare you. ;D) OS/2’s icons for folders are employed extensively to image these directories. In launch, the folders for Multimedia, Scheduled Tasks and Dial-up Networking respectively represent the directories for: audio mixers and audio/video players & editors; clocks; chat clients, Mutt, and web browsers. LibreOffice is accorded its own famous icon, while a folder containing a suite of programs from FreeBSD base sports my modified OS/2 System icon.

Here, the audio mixers example much of what you’ll see in later and larger directories. AlsaMixer’s been set with ROX-Filer’s default icon for executable scripts (which I quite like), aumix has its own, and the fantastic Umix has been granted OS/2’s cute little volume control icon.

In audio-video players+editors, we’ve a spicier selection! Herrie and MOC are uniform foils for all these colorful icons.

Meanwhile, WinFF and its PDF manual keep company beneath…

These calculators look nice! The excellent, textual bc is represented by the icon of OS/2’s calculator. Like most of the x11-apps, X11’s calculator sports its iconic logotype. ConvertAll boasts a colorful icon; its ReadMe file, like most of the documentation formatted in HTML, is displayed via Dillo.

Terminal programs that terminate after printing to standard output are launched via scripts in xterm with its hold resource enabled. FreeBSD’s cal and ncal programs function well here, demonstrating how I can implement as many flags of a terminal emulator and the program it’s running as I need. To my delight, Day Planner’s been assigned OS/2’s icon of its Daily Planner, and XCalendar that of its Calendar. Perfect! Like many more instances that you’ll observe, calcurse’s documentation is reached directly though a symlink to its documentation’s folder, where HTML and plain textual files can be browsed freely and flexibly.

ircII can be launched to visit my two favorite servers (when DALnet isn’t barring me for god knows what). Also, LostIRC is just adorable. Subjacent WeeChat’s exhaustive, multilingual documentation is now just a click away…

I’ve a few timepieces here. That Alarm Clock with a distinctively GTK flavor, cairo-clock, and the X11 clocks all have their own icons, but dclock’s been treated to OS/2’s alarms icon, as it has an alarm function. The rest are all decorated with ROX’s defaults. As you may have noticed, most programs requiring X11 are linked, while those launched through a terminal emulator and/or with options enabled are started via scripts. In hindsight, I really should’ve bestowed scripts to launch everything, and won’t be adding new symlinks in the future…

Not too many surprises can be observed among the databases, datal visualizers, documental viewers and file managers, except that PCManFM was granted the icon of OS/2’s funky, clunky file manager.

Among those of Unix-likes, FreeBSD’s base system is the best and leanest known to me. These are all great programs, more comfortably available than ever. Furthermore, the *-freebsd-doc packages constitute the most comprehensive, superlative documentation for any software that I’ve ever read; its handbook alone has helped me to surmount more snags and other obstacles than I can recall. This superabundance of articles and books used to be indexed in my IceWM submenus (and is still so available on some of my machines in pdmenu and ELinks); now its entirety (HTML, PDF, text, images and all) is directly accessed in ROX via launch and IceWM.

Welcome to the arcade. You little assholes won’t find Call of Duty, The Last of Us, Overwatch or any other bloated, humdrum kiddie shit here, so shut your faces.

I haven’t much to relate regarding these, except that documentation for Alizarin Tetris and Avanor was never so easy to check, and that Kirk Baucom really should acknowledge TextMaze, because it’s a great little game.

I’ve enjoyed variations of the bsdgames suite for years; they’re all superb games, and a few of them are cataloged among my favorites. Here, scripting enables me to play these with all of the customized options I prefer, in a variety of terminal emulators suited for different requirements.

These require no explanation. Henzell is our 7th greatest living Australian.

This is another set for which scripting really shines, because lord knows just how much is specified on the command line for DOOM II. To create the PRBoom+ scripts, I just copied those of PRBoom into the PRBoom+ directory, opened them all at once and subjoined the command’s “-plus” in each. I created that icon for Chex Quest when I played it via Chocolate Doom in Windows XP years ago.

The Jargon File is a great read, especially if you’re browsing it during a rainy day. Its anthropology and lore of hackers is as funny as accurate (for its time), and relatable for analogous geeks.

You’ll notice that I’m determined to group suites (regardless of whether some or all of their contents are categorized elsewhere), because I prefer them to be uniformly available, and to give credit where it’s due.

These nekos and Trons are of a different matter. I love the former as it reminds me of the few good things introduced on Macintoshes (which were inevitably improved elsewhere), and the latter because these are great games that remind me of what a wonderful mistake Tron was: a Disney-grade budget was expended to produce a juvenile classic with minimal executive or productional oversight.

Note the contradistinctions…obviously, all those options couldn’t be specified with symlinks…

You’ve seen most of this GNUish stuff elsewhere, but suites are almost as useful as categories when my memory’s reflexively fickle…

You get the idea. New Breed’s Tux Paint and several GNU projects are also here.

LibreOffice‘s icons always look spiffy.

Some programs of my farrago are used far more frequently than others.

If I’ve initiated this project for anything at all, it was to launch instances of Mutt daily to access my accounts. One couldn’t hope to do this so readily with a menu.

I only employ two of his programs nowadays, but I do so constantly because they’re indispensable. For both his accomplishments and advocacy for sensible technology, Hon Jen Yee is a hero.

I’m not a programmer so I seldom use these, but…

I utilize tcsh and bash daily, but these are all great shells for different purposes. Note the copies of FreeBSD’s and GNU’s contributions.

When I assigned OS/2’s old windowed DOS icon to DOSBox, my heart leapt with joy. Why do I love this so much?
If you’re wondering why xvt and urxvt share rxvt‘s icon, the answer is simple: the icon’s bundled with xvt in FreeBSD’s package, and for whatever reason, FreeBSD’s xvt seems to actually be rxvt. Here’s a somewhat familiar excerpt from the credits of its man page:

       Rob Nation 
              very heavily modified Xvt and came up with xvt

In Linux distributions, that line always reads, “very heavily modified Xvt and came up with Rxvt.” Withal, Nation’s rclock is usually bundled with rxvt, but instead available in its own package on FreeBSD. Weird!

I’m the only person of whom I know who calls these what they are: textual collators. “Data comparison tool” isn’t too bad, but “word difference finder” inanely rolls off the tongue like a cinder block.

Without these magnificent instruments, how would I compile countless hyponyms for disreputable modes of sorcery, or explain why Kenneth Branagh and Sophia Takal deserve to be murdered, then framed for a suicidal pact? Textual editors are as much a sine qua non of my life as are rubes for politicos and pundits. Herein, scripts are vital to launch whichever terminal emulators best suit the editors in question, and to set their working directories accordingly. The icon of OS/2 2.0’s System Editor is here given to ASEDIT, which unmistakably resembles it; Cooledit and fte are bestowed with icons of the Enhanced Editor from 2.0 and 2.1. I don’t know if the logo used in The Hessling Editor’s exhaustive HTML reference was intended to double as an icon, but now it does.

Yes, I use the Dial-up folders’ icon for all directories of user agents/clients/etc.

My homemade documental pixmap was applied for Ted’s documentation, which is demonstratively, fittingly formatted as Rich Text.

Finally, most of the x11-apps are as uniformly presented as their flat UI, back when it was appealingly designed.

This entire project is still underway, and subject to extensive change. More icons (including OS/2’s numerous graphics representing documentation) and programs will be added, and I expect that many symlinks will be supplanted with scripts to ensure greater stability and more options. Next year, I’ll post about all of the updates I’ve implemented since first documenting this endeavor.

Author: rbuchanan

I'm an author, lexicographer, cacophonist, ailurophile, bibliophile, cinephile, logophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow, incontestable babe, borderline narcissist, weirdly semi-Mediterranean Native American, and alliterative anastrophe addict. My personality type is superlative INTJ.

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