minimalistic gnu/linux system setup example

graphical user interface

dwm handles the arrangement of all graphical elements from the xserver. dwm configuration file here

see a few pictures how the desktop can look _

the super key is used to control desktop switching and windows

custom configuration for the keys that control desktop switching so that they are easier to reach, they are used very frequently

currently i use the "shiki dark 2" gtk theme because my own one started to become less and less usable with newer gtk versions


i use st with a screen session. it is started with "st -e screen". with the screen functionality, "ctrl+c" creates new terminal buffers, and "ctrl+a n" and "ctrl+a n" switch between them. using this, a terminal emulator that supports tabs is not necessary anymore

starting programs

xbindkeys is used to bind the most important commands to Fn keys

for example F1 is the web browser, F2 the file manager, F3 the terminal. F5 opens dmenu, a line appearing at the top of the screen to enter a program name to be run


(xbindkey (quote (F1)) "firefox")
(xbindkey (quote (F2)) "thunar")
(xbindkey (quote (F3)) "st -e screen")
(xbindkey (quote (F5)) "dmenu_run")
(xbindkey (quote (F9)) "screenshot")

other programs are started using dmenu_run on F5


F keys to start programs directly or F5 to enter a command

F3 to open new terminals

F2 to open new file manager windows

F1 to open the browser

super key combinations or mouse clicks to switch between many desktops

keyboard layout adjustments

xmodmap is used to make the right shift-key work as the meta key for emacs and to disable the shift-lock key

the xmodmap configuration needed a considerable amount of experimentation, and for my keyboard the ~/.xmodmap file currently looks like this

remove Lock = Caps_Lock
keysym Caps_Lock = Super_L
remove shift = Shift_R
add mod1 = Caps_Lock Shift_R

remove mod1 = Alt_L Alt_R
! add control = Alt_L Alt_R

keycode 94 = parenleft grave

a custom x11 keyboard-layout for the qgmlwb layout is used and a dead-key (a key that only modifies a subsequent key) for diaresis on the tilde key


boot goes to the tty console login with disabled cursor blinking (how to turn that off) and at login a partition for /home or /home/.{username} luks container is decrypted and mounted to /home/{username} with the use of pam_mount

then ~/.bash_profile starts the xserver with the line "exec startx"

~/.xinitrc looks like this

xmodmap /home/nonroot/.xmodmap
emacs --daemon


especially on single user systems i use a generic "nonroot" user. no need to invent names, memorise them, rename them or keep them up to date on different systems

linux distribution

archlinux because among other reasons

it follows upstream standards. not like debian, which makes extensive changes to upstream packages to make them debian specific and require debian dependent knowledge

comes installed with the minimum

always get the current version of packages, that went through a public testing phase in a testing repository. avoids having to manually compile things because you need a version that is already six months old and not in the repositories for your distribution version that will not be updated. also avoids risky distro upgrades, they just do not exist because the system updates gradually with each package update. manual intervention is rarely required, and if then only on important big changes like the switch to systemd or demanded by upstream developers of the used software

the package manager is a relief, in comparison to apt-get/apt-cache/dpkg. finally an efficient to use program that is fast and gives terse and clear output. packages are very easy to create, the only thing needed is basically a bash script that does the compile and installation steps. users can upload packages to the separate arch user repository. official packages are signed

on one workstation i have been running the same arch system for 6 years, which started as a 32bit system and was in-place converted to 64bit. arch can also be in-place converted into parabola linux, which is fsf endorsed

versioned system configuration

stored in a git repository with a file structure like this

  {hostname} ...

symlinked to target destinations with "cp -rst / $PWD/data/hostname/*"

shell configuration

a simple prompt on its own line in magenta color that includes the basename of the current working directory

see also linux system administration

  echo test
  cd /usr/bin
  ls guile

virtual machines

qemu is free software and does not need additional kernel version dependent modules like virtualbox. such modules need to be recompiled for each kernel update, which happen every few weeks, and if a compatible version is not yet available then you are out of luck and would not be able update the kernel. the qemu instance is set up to offer a vnc interface, which also works at boot time. "remmina" is then used to connect to the virtual machines. network bridging and external hardware can be more difficult to set up, but less so in newer versions

gtk settings


gtk-theme-name=Shiki-Dark 2
gtk-font-name=OCRA 7


gtk-theme-name="Shiki-Dark 2"
gtk-font-name="OCRA 7"

tags: start document guide example computer interface linux setup system