Regolith Linux - August 17 to August 31

The latest challenge is Regolith Linux. This is a 2-week challenge from August 17th to the 31st.

Regolith is available as a full install based on either Ubuntu 18.04 LTS or 19.04.

It can also be added to an existing Ubuntu based system that is running 18.04 LTS or 19.04 via a PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:kgilmer/regolith-stable
sudo apt install regolith-desktop

It uses an i3 based tiling window manager which may be a very different way of doing things for many users.

Some resources:
Getting Started
Keybindings
Configuration & Tweaks

Feel free to discuss the challenge here. If you have any issues installing or otherwise please post so we can discuss and learn as a group. If you prefer real time interaction then jump on Telegram or Discord instead.

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To confess, I already use i3 but on Archlabs… so I did a fresh install of Pop!_OS on my other drive and installed Regolith on-top. It looks good and I had to configure everything to Nord theme because, well it’s just what I like. Configs aren’t in your home directory by default. You will need this link to get things where you need them(only if you plan on customizing) https://regolith-linux.org/troubleshooting.html#where-is-config .

I will be slowly moving things to be more like my Archlabs kb shortcuts, hoping I don’t break anything. For now here is a scrot.

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Getting Started Guide (of sorts :slight_smile:)…

There are people who could probably explain it better than I can, but here’s my take on Regolith and i3 in general. I’m neither a dev, nor do I do any work in the IT sector whatsoever, so if I can do it, so can you!

I can understand the hesitation and difficulties that go with trying something completely different and going outside your comfort zone with i3. I’ve been there, and I remember it well, since I’ve only been on i3 for maybe 6 months. But to embrace a tiling WM is to embrace minimalism, efficiency and an adventurous spirit! (Isn’t the last bit what a BDLL distro challenge is all about???)

i3 is probably the besting starting point into tiling WMs, as configuring it requires no programming knowledge whatsoever. The config file is simple enough to understand. It’s located at:

/etc/regolith/i3/config

I suggest keeping the config file open because not only will it give you easy access to the keybindings when you can’t see the desktop conky cheatsheet, but you can make customisations on the fly.

There are just a few keybindings that are probably a MUST to memorise and the rest you will learn as you spend more time using it. These are:

  • super + space = program launcher (used to launch nautilus, firefox, etc)
  • super + enter = terminal
  • super + shift + q = kill active window
  • super + shift + e = quit i3 back to login screen
  • super + backspace = toggle whether the next window you open will be tiled horizontally or vertically
    (tip: look for the thin blue line on the border of your currently active window to see where the next window will go)
  • super + [number key] = move to a specific workspace

That’s probably the bare minimum of shortcuts you will need to memorise. Get those down pat and you are well on your way.

The last shortcut on that list is particularly important because part of the paradigm shift is making use of the workspaces. This is key to making good use of a tiling WM. Run out of space? Just go to the next workspace.

Take your time. Don’t try and learn all the keybindings at once. That’s what the cheatsheet and/or keeping the config file open is for.

If you decide to make changes to the config for yourself, don’t forget to save it, then reload it with:
super + shift + c (or super + shift + r).

One modification I can probably suggest to make out of the gate is to change the default terminal it opens (super + enter) to “gnome-terminal”. I don’t know why they chose to use “st” (simple terminal from suckless) as it’s just not as familiar/easy to users transitioning from other DEs. I’ll use this as an example:

  1. super + space; and open nautilus/files
  2. copy /etc/regolith/i3/config to ~/.config/regolith/i3/ (you may need to create this folder)
  3. open the file you just copied over ~/.config/regolith/i3/config
  4. find this section in the config file:

#start a terminal
bindsym $mod+Return exec /usr/bin/st

  1. replace the command at the end with /usr/bin/gnome-terminal
  2. save the file
  3. super + shift + c to reload the config

There you’ve customised the config! Sorry if this was obvious for some, but it was just an example. Now you can customise to your hearts content. Change the keybindings to things that might make more sense to you. This will help you to remember them.

Spend time looking over the config file, it gives you a good understanding of what i3 is capable of. I’ve noticed it doesn’t even implement all of the functions of i3 - so there’s even more to discover.

In case anyone is curious here’s my config for i3 on arcolinux:
https://gitlab.com/sleepyeyesvince/config-files/blob/master/.config/i3/config

Take some time to read other people’s i3 configs such as Erik Dubois and Luke Smith. It’ll give you more of a sense of what i3 can do.
https://github.com/arcolinux/arcolinux-i3wm/blob/master/etc/skel/.config/i3/config
https://github.com/LukeSmithxyz/voidrice/blob/archi3/.config/i3/config

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Next…

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A few thoughts and some links

I’ve been living in i3 for 3 years now and I wouldn’t go back to traditional DE workflow for the love of Artemis herself but I readily acknowledge that the transition can be challenging for a lot of people. It has certainly been for me and I pull through the first week(s) buy sheer pride - I switched to i3 after loosing a late night bet… -

So here are some advice that were useful to me :

  • Forget your mouse, i3 is made for keyboard user so don’t fight it embraces it

  • As @sleepyeyesvince says keep your config file open create a “Personal Section” (so your edits are easier to locate because you’re going to change 'em a lot) and go at it make your own bindings try’em delete them …

  • I get that Regolith tries to soften the transition by maintaining access to the whole GNOME apps suite but if you feel it have a go at apps like ranger, cmus or feh to stay away from your mouse as much as possible.

  • The use of st is a bold choice from the Regolith dev it’s not an easy terminal but in the link at the end of this post you’ll find a st build that comes from Luke Smtih (I barely changed a thing or 2 in the prompt config) and has some nice keybindings to scroll copy past follow links…

  • My i3blocks scripts and config file are also in the github linked below for those feeling adventurous.

  • You’ll also find a script called windows-criteria.sh it’s a nice little piece that allows you to print into your terminal the class title id… of a window its quite useful if you want to pin some apps into a specific workspace.

  • Last but not least maybe try to use Vimium, it’s a firefox add on that allows yo ut use keybindings to move around into firefox. (default are vim bindings) it will allow you to again stay as much away from your mouse as possible.

With that
“May the Wind Rise under your wings and the sun always be at your back dear friends”
(C.Paolini)

https://github.com/gros319/i3-fedora-.git

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This is new to me… I see Vimium C and Vimium ff, also there is a Vim Vixen..have you tried all 3?

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Surely if Regolith is Just Ubuntu with the i3 window manager replacing the traditional DE, Why? Personally I use the GUI and a Mouse for much of what I do on a PC/Laptop, yes I use the terminal when it makes life easier, but i3 imho just totally throws away all I have learned in the last 25 years of using a PC and I can’t think of a reason to persist in spending time getting to use this workflow or in my case None work flow.
I will make one point I initially went for the 19.04 spin but that seemed to be broken and would not boot to the installer in a VM or on metal, the 18.04 LTS was more successful and I did manage to get an install completed, and that was when the fun(not) started. I personally could not see a use case for Regolith for me and what I use a PC for, multiple desktops are not something I use much, if ever and on most of my PC’s/laptops I don’t bother with Virtual Desktops at all so using a window manager that the whole ethos is tilling windows and multiple Virtual Desktops just doesn’t work for me. However I bow to those that can work in this environment and if i3 works for you brilliant, I’ll stick with Mate or Xfce and my trusty Mouse.

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Kill it!..just jokin

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This being my first challenge with BDLL, I gotta say so far this is a tough one, I am running this through VirtualBox. Getting that setup was challenge number one, guest utilities install, extension install for USB 3. Then making sure my headset works :smile: Then came the i3! Now that’s a headache. But after a little getting accustom and help from Dan Kelly and I was more confident at least. I am not done trying it out yet but my headset went away lol

Sweet I’ve been looking forward to this one.

I tried all 3 and Vimium C is my favorite but it’s a matter of taste

Before I write anything else, Regolith is not really a distro. It is a tiling window manager (customized i3 window manager) running on top of Ubuntu 18.04.3 or 19.04. Earlier today, in the BDLL Telegram chat, I posted a message saying the same thing I just stated. I do realize, for all intents and purposes of this latest BDLL challenge, Regolith is being referred to as a distro. I can accept that. :slight_smile:

Anyway, so much for that and on to my Regolith reflections…

If you are already using any flavor of Ubuntu 18.04 or 19.04, you can install the Regolith window manager, or whatever you want to call it. Eric has nicely provided the necessary information or you can “read more about it” on OMG Ubuntu.

I installed the Regolith desktop on Ubuntu Mate 19.04. It is definitely very spartan. Installation from the ppa worked perfectly and without a hitch.

I rebooted my computer and noticed that the session menu was not present because I had been using the default Ubuntu login screen. It did not have the sessions menu so I installed LightDM (since the info on the Regolith Web site said it used LightDM Once I installed it, I did reboot my computer and selected it from the session menu on the login screen. If you don’t see the session menu icon in the default Ubuntu Login screen, you may have installed LightDM which is available in the Ubuntu repos.

It is not very intuitive to use. I had to go to the Regolith keybindings page to find out what keyboard commands did basic tasks like open a terminal. Once I finally figured out how to display the installed programs, and display different applications on the menu launcher, a bit of my frustration dissipated.

Regolith changed my monitor settings from 120 Hz to 60 Hz on my laptop screen. The only way I noticed the change was that, when I went back to using Mate, a notice was displayed on the screen indicating the settings did not match the system settings. I was able to fix that after I deleted the Regolith WM, go into the control center and reset the laptop screen to 120 Hz. I thought it was weird that Recolith cannot handle 120 Hz refresh rate and that it reset the settings without any warning Sigh…

One thing that really did bother me was that when I used the run browser keybinding, it defaulted to Chrome (which I only use to watch Sling TV on my laptop) and not Firefox. I know I can go into the config file and change that, but I didn’t bother because I wasn’t going to keep it on my laptop anyway.

I was able to use it. Being a keyboard-oriented user, having everything keyboard-centric did not bother me at all. It would take some getting used to using entirely different keyboard strokes to use Regolith. I did feel frustrated when using Regolith. I realize that some of my frustration is due to the alien-feeling keybindings, but I do know that it is not for me. Regolith did not stay out of my way and did not fit my workflow pattern.

This is just my impression of Regolith. YMMV.

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That is very concerning to me, I manually selected Firefox each time either by Terminal or drun, so I will have to try that when I am on Skinner(my Desktop) again tomorrow AM.

@piperbarb @derekagraham that is weird I installed the 19.04 version and the $mod+Shift+Return bindings opens firefox by default.

@piperbarb @derekagraham that is weird I installed the 19.04 version and the $mod+Shift+Return bindings opens firefox by default.

I installed the Regolith on an existing 19.04 install. I tried it on two different machines running 19.04, and it happened both times. Both machines have Firefox set as the default browser. I only use Chrome for one site.

I just installed chrome on my machine, didn’t check make it default and I got the same result as you do. It’s because of how the binding’s written in the config file “$mod+Shift+Return exec sensible-i3-browser” and not a specific browser and somehow chrome just set itself as i3 default browser without asking you anything about it.

That’s just wrong.
I did find, though, that when I removed Regolith, Firefox was still my default browser.

That’s strange I checked my install of Regolith 19.04 ISO and the keybinding calls a different script:

$mod+Shift+Return exec /usr/bin/sensible-browser

I had a look at this script and it should call either gnome-www-browser or x-www-browser. An explanation of what these terms mean can be found here:
https://askubuntu.com/questions/191696/whats-the-difference-between-x-www-browser-and-gnome-www-browser

I tested mine with both firefox and chromium installed and the default behavoiur for hitting $mod+Shift+Return is to open firefox, even when I set chromium to default for laughs!

I believe this is going to be the single greatest takeaway from the reviews. Tiling WMs are a specialist thing that have use cases outside of day to day desktop computing. It’s like having the right tool for a specific job. Monitoring and administering multiple systems, software development, and more business-oriented tasks is where I think this shines. There are some people who like this even as for general desktop usage but there aren’t as many advantages over traditional floating windows. Most DEs have basic tiling features built in which is all most people need. And hey, it’s Linux so it’s great to have all these choices. Each to their own!

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