timdoug's interesting tidbits

Little bits of technical documentation and such. Hopefully helpful.

2009-11-02

My Terminal Emulator Setup in Debian

On my Debian boxes I use evilwm as my window manager, because it gets out of my way in just the way I like. Hence, I don't use gnome-terminal or kterm or ETerm or what have you; xterm has worked perfectly fine.

Nevertheless, I frequently spawn a lot of terminals, and the 5MB that each xterm process eats up (not including the 3MB bash does) add up after I fill a few virtual desktops with terminals. Xterm is also quite slow: cat'ing a 15K line banner output takes ~4 seconds on my netbook.

Hence, I went looking for replacements. Rxvt takes ~2MB per instance and cats the same file in ~1.2 seconds. Mrxvt takes ~3MB and ~0.5 seconds. Rxvt-unicode takes the cake, though, at ~3 MB and ~0.3 seconds. The real kicker, though, is its "daemon" mode, in which only once process is spawned for all "client" terminals, saving a lot of RAM. (Just hope it doesn't crash!)

Here's my setup:

  1. apt-get install rxvt-unicode-lite
  2. ~/.Xresources: (for a nice black-on-white xterm-like experience)
    URxvt*scrollBar: false
    URxvt*reverseVideo: true
  3. sudo update-alternatives --config x-terminal-emulator and select urxvtcd
Now I save 4-5MB of RAM for every terminal I have open, and when that gets to ~10 terminals that's not an insignificant amount of memory on a machine with 1GB of memory (and even more important on my lower-spec'd machines).

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