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screen for Windowing Environments

January 29, 2007

Anyone who regularly uses screen knows how useful it can be to have long-lived sessions that you can detach from and come back to later. It is great to be able to start an email in mutt via an SSH terminal, detach from that session, log off, shut the machine down and go home, and when I reattach to the session everything is as I left it. It is also nice to be able to start a long-running process, detach from it and open a new session, and just pop over to the other session occasionally to check on it.

What’s troublesome is that there is no equivalent in windowing environments. It would be hugely useful to be able to detach from an X session – even if it was just locally – so someone else could log in and use the machine without me having to close everything down. The Microsoft Remote Desktop makes some attempt to do this, but it is clunky and does not behave consistently. Ideally, when you start the machine it should launch a server process which in turn launches a login screen (or prompt) as a virtual machine or client instance, and whenever you wanted you could detach that instance from your display and input hardware, and then launch another instance. The standard should be a thin-client system, so you can do more with the same machine. This would be especially useful in the home, where one machine could have several heads, and anyone could use “their” computer from any head.

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January 18, 2007

I got tired of maintaining (or failing to maintain, as was more often the case) my custom CMS/blogging tool that was the previous core of nerd.cx, and so I switched to WordPress. It seems pretty good, I can hack on it if I need to, and I’m generally happy with the ability to pull my content back out. The community is also quite active, so there is less chance of getting stuck with something stagnant, which is always important.

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Down with Caps Lock!

December 19, 2006

The Caps Lock key does me no good at all, but I use Esc constantly as a vim user. So, I set about making the Caps Lock key a second Esc.

On Linux, I used the xmodmap command (because I spend all my time in X – the console is not necessary) in my .xinitrc file like so:

xmodmap -e "remove lock = Caps_Lock"
xmodmap -e "keycode 66 = Escape"

Because I am shackled to a Windows box day after day, I also wanted to make this work in that environment, and luckily, I can. It just took a brave bit of registry editing, like so:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlKeyboard Layout]
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,01,00,3a,00,00,00,00,00

It makes a huge difference to not have to reach for the Esc key all the time, but it makes it so easy that I keep shifting into command mode while typing in Word. A small price, especially since I realize I’m happiest writing in vim anyway.

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