20210120, Post-desktop Workstations

When young, I was captivated by the idea of a computer desktop.

But these days, the idea feels unwieldy.

Work is done in a console, and tmux is home.

What I want in my desktop interaction,

    A mature terminal offering editing, scripting and access to core system
    functions like disk management.

    A capable browser.

    No-hassle drivers and an audio mixer that just works.

    No-hassle networking.

    Windows-style alt+tab window switching.

    No fiddling or distraction from window controls. Move and resize windows
    by holding alt + mouse-button, and dragging.

    Feature stability. After I install a new release of my os, I should be
    able to easily import my config, and the system should behave just as it
    did before the upgrade.

Openbox is a simple but flexible window manager. I have tailored it to a dream
post-desktop setup.

The most significant obstacle to ditching the desktop was network management.
In my old setup, a tool called Network Manager was tightly integrated to the
desktop environment.

To get past this, I uninstalled Network Manager, and replaced it with scripts
that handle wpa connection and dhcp. It is a few seconds of work after each

In Windows NT 4, it was straightforward to identify the purpose of every
process in the task manager list. Even then, it felt like there was too much
running. The way that DLLs loaded was unhelpfully opaque.

Gradually, systems have changed in ways that make you feel like you are a
tenant of the system, rather than its owner. In Windows, the default process
count grew further. I used OSX for a while, but every release came with UI
changes that broke my workflow. Linux distributions adopted D-Bus and Systemd.

It is astonishing how many background processes my Linux system runs. I would
like to trim this to a small set of processes. It needs eudev for drivers. It
needs an audio mixer. It should not need much more than that.

It may be easier to massage one of the BSDs to this setup than to coax Linux
to it, but that assumes a supported video card.

I recently learnt of a Microsoft Windows configuration called /Windows Server
Core/ that is a recognisable Windows bitmap display, but which has no desktop
and runs very little in the background.

    It installs with none of the usual desktop.

    At login, you get a command-line prompt only.

    PowerShell looks to be more comprehensive than bash.

    It can can run the Edge browser.

    It can host a ssh server, and move files over this.

It is marketed as a server, but has potential as a workstation.

Microsoft's compiler tools are available for the command line. There has been
recent press about MS making improvements to its command console.

Would it launch PuTTY? Emacs? Python3?

Would the tools be sufficient to change your disk configuration?

If they wanted to produce a minimal environment, they should consider adding a
tmux-like to the WSC, and some console-based editors.