is linux the answer?

Matthew Hawkins matt at
Tue Sep 10 14:16:40 EST 2002

John Griffiths (john at wrote:
> is a GUI necessary at all?

Well, they wanted a "web browser" (which in most people's minds means a
graphical one).  Of course, if a graphical web browser was not required,
then you could get away with no X, epic/irssi/ircii/bitchx/sirc/whatever,
and w3m/links/whatever from a virtual console.

That being said, even if a graphical web browser was required and you
hence needed X (if it can run fine on a 40Mhz SPARC with 8Mb of ram, it
can run fine on a 100Mhz PC with 32Mb of ram!), you could still run a
text-based irc client in an xterm.  Especially if you just wanted to sit
in a single channel, that would suffice.  Though many text-based irc
clients will happily support multiple channels (and multiple servers),
you have to remember that "ctrl-w k" and "ctrl-w j" and "/window new
yadda yadda" are not the sort of things you want kids to have to
remember.  So xchat/xirssi/emacs are probably the way to go :)

Some things to bear in mind, though, are that most irc clients are
programmable, and its all too easy to influence impressionable minds to
type certain things that will then let someone remote control their
system over irc.  Some will have a "secure" mode where those commands
are disabled - use it.  On the web browser front, my personal order of
preference would be dillo, opera, galeon, mozilla-browser.  Dillo would
give you just basic text/image rendering.  Opera will do CSS and DHTML
things, and doesn't rely on anything external.  Galeon needs GNOME :(
but is faster at rendering the frame than mozilla-browser because it
uses GTK directly rather than going through a javascript/xml obfuscation
layer.  Otherwise it's using mozilla's gecko engine so page-rendering-wise
is identical.

It'd be neat to be able to run KDE3 because you get an irc client and a
web browser, and URL's typed in the irc client can just be clicked on to
be opened in the web browser... but it is CPU hungry.  I've actually
found it to be more CPU hungry than ram hungry - I'd be happy to try it
on a 32Mb machine, but I wouldn't be happy to try it on a 32Mb machine
with a 100Mhz processor.  It runs "reasonably well" on my dual 433-Mhz
system with 384Mb of ram (most of which goes into file buffers... hehe)
On an older system, as others have said you'll be better off with no
desktop environment and just a simple window manager like blackbox or
whatever, and making do with X11's selection buffers :)

Matt                  "Our products just aren't engineered for security"
                            -- Brian Valentine, Microsoft Senior Vice-President
			       in charge of Windows development team
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