Vector: Making jwm Better

I alluded to a few things about Vector Linux that have nagged at me. Chief among them is the claim that it’s small and fast. Well, small and fast are very subjective. What’s small, light, fast to some is bloated to me.

That includes their choices of icons, wallpaper, and fonts. The font issue is one that irritated me more than anything when I went through clearing out bloat. I still have Cyrillic and Indo-Asian fonts to remove (and I’ll probably get rid of all the TTF stuff). The wallpaper, too, appears to have been included without much consideration for the hardware Vector targets. The default wallpaper which comes up in Xfce and jwm (I didn’t bother installing fluxbox) was over 600kb. That loads to RAM. There’s really no need for wallpaper, but it shouldn’t take up more than 100kb. At least that’s my take on it.

But my aggravation about the fonts was nothing until I removed Xfce and turned my attention to jwm. I noticed how sluggish it was compared to DSL. As I edited the jwm menu, I noticed how many large icons Vector includes. I ran du on /usr/share/icons this afternoon and had 55 MB of icons thrown onto my hard drive. Yuck. The jwm menu includes 82 lines with icons. The Vector Linux menu icon itself is over 43kb. That clogs up RAM! No wonder.

I’ve noticed how much more responsive jwm is after editing the menu to exclude icons. So I decided to take it up (down?!) another notch by recompiling jwm without xft blurring, xinerama, image (png, xpm, jpg) support, etc. The results are pretty impressive. I think it’s much faster than the default.

This image is just a stacked-halved screenshot, which was grabbed via Imagemagick’s import command then edited with GIMP.

This is with jwm running in X with a 15kb wallpaper, one instance of aterm with htop, after working on a very large spreadsheet and also using GIMP to edit some things (hence the latent swap shown in use). Yes, that’s the lovely and venerable fixed font in the tray (menu, titles, etc.). It works! It’s clear! What more is a font supposed to do?

I may go ahead and get rid of GTK2 and its related libraries (cairo, etc.) but I need to see how many things I’ll need to recompile. Or what I’ll have to give up. I’ve already removed a few GTK2 apps and compiled GTK1 alternatives — like xzgv for gqview.

Little things like that really make a big difference on older hardware.

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