I always have enjoyed comments and criticisms from Jamie Zawinski. His
insight into this industry, and the communities of this
industry are unique, and combined with his sense of humor, it
makes for some of the best comments you are likely to read.
Recently Jamie wrote some comments about how those of us in
the open source world, and in particular gnome likes to rewrite
software gratuitously. I happen to agree with him
Today I upgraded my gnome installation to gnome 2.2. The
application I use the most is the terminal. For a long time I
had been using happily gnome-terminal which used Michael
Zucchi's fast Zvt widget. The UI code was written mostly
by me. This terminal had the advantage of being easy to
customize and was fast (both at input and output. Keep this
in mind). It supported dingus clicking, as well as mouse
input, was an international terminal and I was happy.
With Gnome 2, an effort was made to improve the user
interface. The "terminal class" concept from gnome-terminal 1.0
was considered too complicated, so a new effort to rebuild
gnome terminal from scratch was started and completed by Havoc. This terminal became the
new gnome-terminal for gnome 2.0. During the rewriting process a
number of features that people had requested were dropped
(flags to control the behavior of "logging" the presence of
the user: update utmp, wtmp, lastlog) so I promptly filed bug
reports for it. Those bug reports were promptly closed,
and marked as duplicate because more information was needed
(the xterm man page had this). Eventually all this information
got logged into another
bug and I guess someday it will be implemented.
Anyways, am a grown up man, and I can live with the
defaults. If I need to tweak something, I figured `I have the
Today I upgraded to Gnome 2.2. This new version of Gnome
includes a new gnome-terminal that drops support for Zvt and
instead uses a new terminal widget called Vte. Vte is
different from Zvt in that it uses more of the traditional
Gimp/Gtk coding style and apparently will be easier to
maintain. But the main difference is that Vte is not an xterm
emulator, instead it is a terminal emulator that will emulate
any terminal, given a terminfo definition for it. This is an
interesting academic excercise, no doubt about this. I had my
reservations about whether Vte's academic background was good
enough as a terminal solution. As I still depend heavily on
my terminal, and I still use Midnight Commander as my
file manager a good terminal is important.
You could arge argue that terminfo is not a
complete definition of a terminal, but only the subset
that was used for terminfo/curses, but lets not get
these facts get in the way of innovation.
Anyways, my first attempt at using vte with the mouse
failed. Apparently events are sent for up to some number of
columns, but not all. So it is useless if you want to click
on the right pane of mc.
To be fair, Vte lets you use any font on the system, and
not only those that were monospaced fonts, which is nice.
Later, I was faced with the slowness of the terminal. I
have a P4 running at 1.8ghz. I turned off anti-aliasing
(everyone told me to). But it still was slow, for instance if
you have a window on top of it, and you drag it around, the
widget takes a *long time* to repaint. I mean, significantly
longer than OpenOffice or Mozilla take to repaint.
Haven given up on coffee and Sawfish I figured I could
also give up dragging windows around. There is really no need
to drag windows around see note . But it was
still slow, very slow. Someone reported:
fejj: lets put it this way
fejj: nautilus 1.0 can render my home directory faster than vte can
render the output from `ls`
fejj: in my home directory
For those of you non-Gnomites, Nautilus is the Gnome File
Manager, and a few years ago, it had a reputation for being
It is also annoying that a compile will take 50% of the time
on gcc, and the other 50% by your terminal process as it
scrolls the window.
I did not want to spend all day fixing gnome-terminal, so I
ran `xterm'. There is enough a man can do and still get
something done in the day.
Well, turns out that the default
xterm colors are the most annoying ever put together for an
application. They hurt my aged eyes.
Next stop: Konsole. As much as it pained me, I installed
KDE to run Konsole. I just wanted to get my work done, and I had
heard good things about it. Konsole has a complex
configuration menu, a lot harder to use than the clean
gnome-terminal, but nothing that would require a PhD, as I
figured it out in the time it took for the menu to popup.
Ugly, crowded, but functional.
I was partially happy. Konsole performed decently speed
wise, but it consumed too much memory. I guess it is designed
to run on rendering farms. I have enough memory, so I did not
particularly care about the 12 megs used at startup. But
unlike gnome-terminal which uses a single process to render
multiple windows (a nice memory saver), every time you start
konsole, a whole process is launched. I could survive, thanks
to my loyal 512 meg on-board simm chip. But when I was
editing a file, and holding the cursor key down, I noticed an
unbearable lag. Konsole was good for text output, and
re-rendering of its window, but it is just unbearable for text
Me, being the savvy `configure; make; make install' kind of
user, decided to build my own gnome-terminal with Zvt. Well,
surprise. There is no
more support for Zvt in gnome-terminal
in the main branch on CVS. Time to use my cvs skills to check
out a version of Gnome Terminal that used Zvt. I did so, but
the new Zvt has been hacked to use Pango, and it is just as
slow as Zvt. I can understand why they dropped support for
Zvt: it is now as slow as Vte and I guess if you want to
emulate a Wyse-66 it will do it.
I rapidly added to my to-do list `Get an old Zvt, get an old
gnome-terminal package', but for now, I wanted to get some
I tried rxvt. That terminal emulator is still as bad as it
was five years ago. Next.
Am back at using xterm. The UI leaves a lot to be desired,
but it took me only 5 minutes to find the decent colors from
gnome-terminal and paste them into the .Xdefaults file, load
the resources database into the server, and another 5 minutes
to add that to my session startup. I look forward to
reincarnate Zvt and Gnome Terminal from its ashes one day.
Five years after Gnome, and am back with the hated xterm.
post on the `cascade of attention-deficit teenagers'
development model resonated in my head.
I got Zvt 2.0 and GnomeTerminal 2.0 packages
running on my machine (thanks to Duncan). This is very good
news. Xterm was driving me crazy (it is actually *slower*
than Zvt) and I had forgotten how to set a massive scrollback.
Happiness in MiggyLand.
 Btw, there is a fabulous demo about a window manager that
tries to always give the best space for a window in a
multi-window desktop. Sadly, I lack any interest on it, as I
like to run all my apps full-screen, and just keep an app
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