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My Tron Style Working Environment

Rating: No Votes Yet | No CommentsArticle posted by Brianith - November 22, 2011 08:30AM
My Tron Style Working Environment
The Inspiration

Last week, I was working on getting my working environment set up for the several hundred hours of coding I have ahead of me. Among my goals are to eliminate my dependency on Notepad++ and WinSCP, as much as I love them, in favor of vim on the console and scp for file transfer. As for my interface, I wanted something minimal and techy, and I was greatly inspired by the 'SolarOS' screen simulations on Tron: Legacy. I decided to see how well I could emulate the sort of style in this image:

Flynn's Private Terminal

Flynn's Private Terminal

The First Attempt

I was about to install crunchbang and realized I had ubuntu already installed on my second drive. With some difficulty, I swapped out metacity (GNOME's window manager) for openbox (a wonderfully lightweight WM configurable via an XML script which can be reconfigured on-the-fly) and began setting up my environment. I've had a lot of experience working with openbox since I use it as the WM for X on my Zipit Z2. I installed an openbox theme called BlackWhite available at and the recommended BlackWhite gtk color scheme at, changed my gnome-terminal color to the closest I could to the Tron screenshot (I ended up using #d7f3f5) and produced this:

My First Tron Style Working Environment

My First Attempt

I also swear by conky for its efficiency and scalability, and the time display at the bottom right of that setup is just conky being awesome. I was going to work more on my first setup, but gdm (ubuntu's default login manager) wasn't cooperating with me, and the loading animation between login/logout was nothing but black with ubuntu's ugly purple dots, and grub was ugly and I couldn't figure out how to just make it simple black and white again, so I decided to start again from scratch.

The Second Attempt - Part One

I swapped out my secondary hard drive, as it was an old, cheap, failing SATA 1.5Gbps salvaged from a friend's computer when he upgraded. I replaced it with a high performance notebook hard drive I bought a couple of years ago. 32MB cache, 7200rpm SATA 3.0Gbps. The beauty of it is, if I ever have the need, I can just rip it out and stick it in a notebook and have my full Tronified working environment out of the box :)

My second attempt wasn't without its own difficulties in the beginning. First, I installed crunchbang, a Debian based distribution which has served me well in the past. It's very minimal and no-nonsense compared to ubuntu, and while some may call its choice of included packages bloat, I find it much more trim than ubuntu and many other distributions available (especially Debian based, because so many useful packages are easily available.) I love that it already comes with openbox as the default window manager (with GNOME underlying so gtk apps like gparted run without a hitch) as well as conky installed, so other than a few staples during the initial configuration (development environment, printing support, etc), I was ready to go with little modification.

Except for one problem. The screen resolution was wrong, and I couldn't figure out how to fix it. It was pretty frustrating, considering I switched from ATI to Nvidia for little other reason than their alleged superior Linux support. I figured downloading the proprietary drivers from the Nvidia site was the right thing to do, so I did. First, X was running. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me a while to figure out how to get to a console without X still running, and finally realized I just had to boot in recovery mode. First hurdle jumped. Then, the drivers complained about a wrong gcc version variable. A post by izza in my Keyboard Science thread on the subject solved that problem. Second hurdle jumped. But then I got stuck. Kernel sources? I couldn't figure out how to get them installed, but admittedly didn't try very hard. I was out of patience by then, and wanted to try something new. Little did I know, that'd be a whole new can of worms.

The Second Attempt - Part Two

For a while now, I've been wanting to get familiar with BSD. I thought it would be a good learning experience for me to try to base my working environment on FreeBSD. Well, that didn't turn out well. I installed it from scratch four times total, and every time it booted it threw a 'master root disk' error which I couldn't make anything of. I looked up the problem, and couldn't find much that helped me. (After the error it provides a console which apparently you are able to issue commands to, but for me the system just hung there until I hard reset.)

Then, I tried Arch Linux as folks suggested in my Keyboard Science thread on the subject. That actually didn't even get as far as FreeBSD, again having a problem with disks, this time something about cylinders.

So finally, I ended up installing crunchbang again. This time I used an alternate method for updating my graphics drivers - apparently they were right in the Debian repositories. After much effort and frustration, I was on my way to getting my perfect working environment set up.

I configured conky the way I liked it. I got rid of the tint2 panel. I added my personal keyboard shortcuts to openbox's rc.xml (I like Windows Key + R to open a run dialog, W+W to open a web browser, W+C to close, and W+F to open thunar, the file browser). I'm very proud of myself that finally for once, I didn't use nano a single time to edit all of these config files, and I'm getting more comfortable with vim. There's hardly anything I didn't touch - fstab, rc.xml,, .conkyrc, a couple of gtk theme files, etc. I had to use search and replace several times and I'm confident I can continue using vim exclusively from now on.

Tweaking the window decorations took the most amount of time. I started with the included Dyne window dressing, removed all items from the Button Order field in 'Apperance,' and set the Active Window Title font size to 3px. That is how I got nice small (but not too small) unadorned top borders. To apply the tron color, I had to dig through /usr/share/themes/Dyne/openbox-3/themerc and change many of the values, continually reselecting the theme to apply the changes. Then, I downloaded the dusk-red gtk theme from and heavily modified it to my liking. Finally, I got the Any Color You Like icon theme from, which features icons that you can configure a number of different ways with an included script.

Finally, I had the user interface set up exactly how I wanted it, and got started actually *using* my new environment :)

One of the first things I found was that VLC sucks something aweful for playing hi-def .mkv's fullspeed. Fortunaly, I stumbled across multithreaded mplayer (mplayer-mt in the debian-multimedia repos) and it works *beautifully* out of the box.

And without further ado, my current environment (after MUCH tweaking!):

My Second Working Environment

My Second Working Environment

I should also mention that I installed the terminus font and use it system-wide at 9px (sudo apt-get install xfonts-terminus).

I hope everyone who finds this enjoys my setup :) Please feel free to comment and/or subscribe.

Source Files & Instructions

I use the terminus font at 9px system-wide. To install on Debian based systems:


Download and extract the Any Color You Like icon theme into ~/.icons (create it if it doesn't exist). This is inside your home directory so you do not need to use sudo:

Then, run the Any Color You Like icon config by issuing at a terminal:

A window will pop up. Make sure there's only one color under 'Color' on the Graphic View tab, and set it to #DBF7FA. Then, select 'Outline' under 'Filter.' Then click the 'Switch Icons' tab and select 'Tok-tok' under 'Folder' and 'Minimal' under 'Navigation.' I selected 'Debian' under 'logo,' but haven't seen it anywhere.

Finally, make sure 'All' is selected in the drop down at the bottom of the window, and click 'Apply to'

You will enable this icon theme in the steps below.

Openbox & GTK Theme

I modified the Dyne Openbox theme and dusk-red GTK color scheme. I put them together in a single theme directory that will work for both.

Download and extract the tarball into /usr/share/themes:

Apply the color scheme by right clicking the desktop, going to Settings->User Interface Settings, and select GameSlayerTron under the 'Window' tab. Here is where you must also click the 'Icons' tab and apply your previously configured icons by selecting 'AnyColorYouLike' and clicking 'Apply.'

Then apply the window dressing by going to Settings->Openbox Config->GUI Config Tool, and select GameSlayerTron on the 'Theme' tab.

To get the window title bars like I have them, you need to remove everything from the Button Order field on the 'Appearance' tab.


Place the following code in ~/.conkyrc:

Please let me know if any of these steps don't work or could use improvement.

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