"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Updates and Corrections

By Larry Ayers, layers@vax2.rainis.net

After I finish these Gazette articles and get them uploaded to SSC, I can usually count on a URL changing or a newer version of a program being released. Sometimes that very day! The Gazette readers are also quick to let me know of any factual errors I've made. I've accumulated several of these corrections and updates and shall present them here.


Last month I wrote a short piece about GV, a new Postscript file viewer. I received a letter from the maintainer of the Debian GV package:

       Hello Larry!

       I enjoyed reading your article, but there are two remarks I want to

       - Your screen capture is one of the one modified gv that works with
       all Athena Widgets, including the standard one. These modifications
       were made by me (although it wasn't very hard once I realized how
       well Johannes separated the Xaw3d stuff from the rest).
       It would have been better to have a screen capture using libXaw3d, as
       that is the standard look and feel. The last statement about having
       to have Xaw3d is not very convincing this way.
      - There is a gv homepage now:

      This page currently features gv version 3, which can no longer be
       used without libXaw3d. The last version of gv supporting standard
       Xaw was 2.9.4 which will soon be available on a debian archive site.
       Version 3 is even better than version 2 with respect to look and feel
       (one of the first really convincing applications using Xaw3d, IMO)
       and an improved postscript scanner.

      While I'm sure that it isn't possible to change/add to the article,
      there could be a short notice in the next gazette.


      Helmut Geyer                                Helmut.Geyer@iwr.uni-heidelberg.de
      public PGP key available :           finger geyer@saturn.iwr.uni-heidelberg.de


FileRunner has been updated several times since I reviewed it several months ago. The latest version, 2.3, has improved FTP capabilities (including the option of downloading files with a separate background process). I must confess I'm addicted to this file-manager. Once you get the hang of it file manipulation and directory traversals become so speedy that using it as root can be risky! Check the FileRunner WWW site for latest releases and news.

Here's an example of a user-configured action-button for FileRunner, which will mostly interest XEmacs users (though it could probably be adapted easily for use with GNU Emacs). Create a file in the ~/.fr directory named cmds, then enter this text into it:

# This is an example of user-defined commands. This file should be named
# cmds and placed in your ~/.fr directory. It will then be read by 
# FileRunner at startup.  Versions of FileRunner prior to 2.3 need to have
#the file named .fr_cmds and placed directly in the home directory.

# This list should contain all user-defined commands formatted as:
# { { <button-title> <procedure-name> } {..} {..} }
set config(usercommands) { 
    { XEmacs xemacs }
proc xemacs { filelist srcdir destdir } {
  cd $srcdir
#  set l {}
  foreach f $filelist {
  exec gnuclient -q $f

For this to work, you must have gnuserv running; this can be started from your ~/.xemacs-options file by including the line
in the file. What this button does is send the files you've selected to an already-running XEmacs process (I usually have one running in a different virtual desktop than the one FileRunner is using). XEmacs will then open up a new frame in your current desktop with the file(s) displayed in it. This is handy for browsing source code.

wm2 and wmx

In LG #14 I wrote about the minimalist window-manager wm2, written by British programmer Chris Cannam. Since then wm2 has spawned a variant, known as wmx. Evidently Mr. Cannam felt that spartan wm2 was becoming decadently featureful. Wm2 was stripped down to the bare minimum; no more frame-background pixmaps,etc. Wmx is just wm2 with the afore-mentioned pixmaps and a basic virtual-desktop utility. It has one more feature which I thought was very cleverly designed: if you click the middle mouse button on the desktop an application menu appears. Unlike most window-managers, the entries on the menu are a snap to set up. Simply create a subdirectory stemming from your home directory called .wmx and symlink executables to it. This can be even done while wmx is running. Whatever appears in ~/.wmx will appear in the menu. The menu can be configured with a transparent background so that it has a very stylish and spare appearance. As with wm2 the configuration can only be changed by recompiling, but this can be done very quickly as the source is not large or complex. Source for either wm2 or wmx can be obtained from the wm2 web-site.


A reader pointed out an error in my description of the Afterstep window-manager in LG #14. Rather than being based on Fvwm2 code, Afterstep is based on Fvwm version 1 code. Incidentally, pre-release 6 has been released and is well worth a trial. Several bugs have been fixed but the improved documentation alone makes it worth the download.


Lately it seems that a fad is sweeping the insular world of vi-like editors. First the X versions of Elvis and Vim appeared with pull-down menus; now it appears that Xvile will soon have a menubar as well. If a: you like vile/xvile and b: you have the Motif libs installed, you may want to take a look at the patches for vile 7.00 available from the Vile ftp site. The patches A through G need to be applied to the vile 7.0 source. It looks like the menu items will be fairly easy to set up, as they make use of the standard vile functions. An implementation for non-Motif X setups is planned.

I have mixed feelings about GUI conveniences such as menus in a vi editor. One of the appealing traits of these editors is the lack of such visible features combined with a wide array of invisible and powerful commands. Little overhead but great power and speed. If you have to reach for the mouse and select a menu-item, why not use Nedit (for example) which is designed as a mouse-oriented editor? On the other hand, how many users have had an unpleasant first-time experience with vi and rejected it forever? At least the menubar will have a "quit-ZZ" item, allowing a novice to end a first session without having to desperately flee to another virtual console and kill the vi process from afar!


The latest version of this versatile desktop/file manager can be found at the TkDesk home site. Version 1.0b4 has been released and many minor bugs have been fixed. There are three patches available on the web-site which should be applied by users of the program. Two of them are changes to *.tcl files, whereas the third is a c-source-level change which requires recompilation. Debian users can instead install a patched TkDesk package which is available from the /bo/binary-i386/x11 directory of ftp.debian.org and its mirrors.

The Midnight Commander

For the past several months a beta development cycle has been underway in preparation for the release of mc-3.1.5. The recent releases (the latest as of this writing is patchlevel 25) have been very stable and usable. If you use the Midnight Commander frequently it might be worth your while to try the new version, as many improvements have been made.

An internal editor has been incorporated into mc, though you still can change the settings and use any console-mode external editor. The FTP capabilities of mc have been augmented and the Tk version has made great strides and needs just a few more features to be the equal of the classic console version. mc now has the ability to dive into *.rpm and *.deb files in the same manner it has been able to do with *.tgz and *.zip files, allowing you to inspect their contents without unpacking the archives.

It's only available in source form, but it comes with a good configure script and compiles easily here. The source is available from the mc home site.

XEmacs Update

Last month I wrote about the release of XEmacs 19.15. The XEmacs team didn't stop and rest on their laurels (probably because some unexpected problems showed up after the release!); beta releases of XEmacs 20.1 began showing up about twice a week at ftp.xemacs.org. It looked as if version 20.1 was about to be released, but for some reason the release was cancelled and they moved on to betas of 20.2. I'm running beta 2 now, and have found that several small problems with 19.15 have been fixed. The Customization utility works quite a bit better now, for one. When 20.2 is released I would recommend obtaining it, as it looks like it will be an improvement over 19.15. Another approach if you've already installed 19.15 is to visit the XEmacs patches page, which offers patches to upgrade 19.15 to patchlevel 2. The problems dealt with are described on the page; if the patches concern modes or utilities you never use, there's no point in applying them.

Copyright © 1997, Larry Ayers
Published in Issue 17 of the Linux Gazette, May 1997