Tag Archives: multiplexer

neercs: Compiz at the console

Oh, you think I’m joking. You think K.Mandla has gone off the deep end, and is probably sitting in front of a busted-up Pentium M spinning a 3D desktop in ASCII against the framebuffer. Ho-ho, you laugh. Ha-ha, you chortle.

Well, chortle to your heart’s content. Because as it happens. …


Okay, so my attempt at a screenshot hasn’t done much to convince you, but it’s tough to time fbgrab right to get a good look at the animation effect. Install it yourself on your quad-core with 12Gb of RAM, demean yourself to switch to the framebuffer, and try it. It works better than you think.

It, of course, is neercs, a wacky play on the traditional terminal multiplexer that appears to have been cross-bred with either 3ddesk or the ghost of Compiz. Either way, it’s good fun.

I can coach you a little bit with neercs: You’ll start off with one “thumbnail” of a desktop along the bottom, and most of the key commands follow screen. Add another “desktop” with CTRL+A, C, then switch window layouts with CTRL+A, W, until you get the fullscreen model, meaning no layered or split windows.

Then CTRL+A, N, and the magic happens. You didn’t think it was possible. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I didn’t either, so don’t feel bad. But believe it or not, you can indeed have a spinning cube desktop at the terminal. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

I am, as a matter of fact, playtesting it on a widescreen Pentium M against the framebuffer, specifically so I can see how it behaves in a virtual console. If you spin up neercs under X, probably you’ll be forced into an SDL-ish child window. But let’s face it, that’s not the same thing as a pure framebuffer environment. ๐Ÿ˜•

neercs seems to be holding its own, although I did swap out my regular 12-pitch Terminus font for the gigantamo sun12x22 just for that image. This screen is 1680×1050, and that’s painful to watch at 1.7Ghz. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ I don’t think I’ll be trying this with a sub-1Ghz machine.

neercs is in AUR as neercs-git, but doesn’t appear to be in Debian. Send your love letters (or hate mail) to the wizards of Caca Labs.

I think I’ll just let you tinker with neercs, and you can decide if it’s something you want to keep around. I can give it a lot of points for doing the impossible — blending Beryl with the blinker — and it has a solid color scheme and is on the whole quite entertaining.

Better yet: Imagine how your jealous your geek friends will be when they see your spinning desktop terminal. … ๐Ÿ˜Ž

splitvt: Under the most dire of circumstances

Between tmux and screen, there’s really not much space for upstart splitscreen console tools, unless they can do things really, really well.

splitvt is really, really not that tool.


That’s the prettiest, cleanest results I could get from splitvt, although I admit I hardly tried beyond the first few console tools that came to mind.

Yes, splitvt can run two console apps in the same frame. And yes, you can spin it up with two very different applications, and get both of them going with reasonable fidelity.

But anything outside of the simplest, most basic output gets sickeningly mangled, like a ten-car horrorcrash, or a drunken prom queen turned loose on a makeup counter in an abandoned department store.

htop came out looking like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Midnight Commander was a gob of scrambled eggs sliding off a plate. Don’t even ask me about elinks. I don’t like to think about it. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

And splitvt is clearly intended for non-interactive programs. I find splitvt traps you in the upper bracket, meaning any input intended for the lower half is effectively ignored.

There’s some sort of “command mode” for splitvt, which I found by accident. If you hit CTRL+O and then enter a question mark, you’ll get a brief list of commands. From there you can adjust the property boundary, copy and paste (supposedly) or lock the screen. Other tips are listed.

But I’ve seen enough. I know it’s not fair to pick on a program that’s beyond its freshness date, and it may be that when splitvt was in its prime, it was neck-and-neck with the best that screen or tmux could offer.

But these days, with tmux leading the pack featurewise, and screen coming out of retirement to do battle with the usurper … splitvt is easy to dismiss. Try it, but only under the most dire of circumstances. ๐Ÿ˜

screen: The granddaddy of terminal multiplexers

I was for a very long time a faithful user of GNU screen.


That has mellowed somewhat over the past few years, partly because tmux — I must admit — is leaps and bounds beyond what screen can do, but also just because there are other options too.

Things like dvtm, or even twin, which both handle the concept of multiple-terminals-one-screen in their own fashion.

Any of those three can do … somewhat something similar to what screen does, and have probably all seen more improvements over the years than screen.

I hold no one responsible for screen’s slow spiral into staleness; in fact, if anything, that makes screen quite easy to figure out: There is plenty of discussion about screen and how it works … even if some of it isn’t flattering. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

It may be the ugly stepmother of terminal multiplexers, but you can’t deny that it does what it claims. And in the realm of console-based software, that alone is sometimes enough to get by. In my book, anyway. ๐Ÿ™„

Postscript, 2014-04-20: Wouldn’t you know it, only a day after whining about years without updates, this trickles down the pipe to my lowly Arch install.


You could knock me over with a feather. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ Ask and ye shall receive, apparently. ๐Ÿ˜•

dtach: Beauty in sparsity

I have known about dtach for a long time. I’ve used dtach briefly to free virtual console space.

But dtach is such a slim tool and has such a narrow focus that I wonder what it could offer in the stead of either screen or tmux.


(Danger: 1024×768 gif.)

That’s about all dtach does — detaches from a terminal and reattaches soon after. I suppose there’s not much more to ask of it; people that I know who use dtach want that function and that function only.

On the other hand, I do like that I can name a socket, which makes it easy to reattach to one later.

If you like the idea of detaching from a terminal, but don’t want the stoic classicism of screen or the dynamic complexity of tmux, dtach might be an answer.

One quick final note: I mentioned dtach when I mentioned dvtm. Oddly, I see these two working together quite nicely. It might be that I just was introduced to them both at the same time. Of course, you could substitute anything you wanted. …

byobu: Now with even more tmux

I don’t have much to say about byobu that I didn’t point out three years ago. byobu is still around (and oddly enough, that post is still one of the most popular on the old blog), although it has changed a bit.


tmux appears to be its preferred mode of operation now, and I can’t say that I blame it.

screen is good fun, but even I have to wonder if screen is ever going to see any progress. tmux grows and improves by leaps and bounds, while screen developers are apparently busy picking navel lint.

And yet, I rarely see fit to use byobu, for screen or for tmux. I guess I just grew to prefer my own versions.

Regardless, if you use either screen or tmux and want to spruce it up at a minimum of effort, byobu is your go-to package.

Bonus: twin, bigger and better than ever

I wasn’t going to mention twin again. I talked about it more than once some years ago, and it is a reasonable substitute for a window manager or a terminal multiplexer. I admit that.

In fact, I wasn’t even going to keep it on my list, because it’s not really an application. But just for kicks I tried it out against the framebuffer on the extra extra machine today, and wouldn’t you know it …


Picture perfect, after all these years. So that’s what I get for poring over old pages of long-dead blogs: Something that seems to have improved. Who’d’ve thunk it.

twin is running here against the framebuffer on an Intel 945GM graphics card — something which is unpredictable at times.

But you can see that it works. You’ll need gpm as a mouse interface, and possibly something other than the default font (may I respectfully suggest Terminus, which works wonderfully at the console).

Shortcomings? Well, there are a few, but only a few. Line drawing is awkward, but that might depend on the application. You can see mc running there with the -a flag, which defaults to plain ascii. htop is hopelessly scrambled.

And mouse movement seems a little clunky, which might not be the fault of twin either. I am accustomed to the speed and snappy behavior of screen-vs; going back to the mouse seems like a delay.

Regardless: You’ll have to try it out and see if it suits you.