Kasperian Moving Parts

kinda like Batman, but with a wife and 3 kids

Bringin’ Sexy (urxvt) Back


Let me tell you a (short) tale, my children. In the dark but awesome olden days, before KDE and GNOME were but glimmers in the eyes of their current communities, there existed a bunch of scrappy hackers who would take the best X applications out there and hack them into submission to their will. Why, I don’t have time to tell you of the years where olvwm reigned supreme, nor of the dark days when wm2 brazenly rotated window titles 90 degrees and put window titlebars on the side *gasp!* of the windows, nor of the exciting times when AfterStep was KING, nor the outright courage shown by rasterman who started hacking fvwm2 to do his bidding in exciting and gothic ways. No, sadly, I do not have time to even speak of the days when brave young nyztihke (hi Brad!) started creating his own Blackbox window manager, nor of the intrepid WindowMaker clan (WINGs, anyone?). But back in these ancient days of yore, the killer application wasn’t Thunderbird, Firefox, Evolution, nor even xdaliclock. No, my children. The killer application of these dark times was… *pregnant pause* the terminal emulator. (and, incidentally, mutt still kicks butt, but I digress…)

That’s right. For back in these dark days, even mentioning that you used a mouse could get you in a whole mess o’ trouble. And so this theming thing that you kids *Fluffy Bunny plasma theme? harumph!* take so much for granted now was focused mainly on customizing your X terminal emulator. And I’m not even talking about bash or zsh prompts. I’m talking about cramming your ~/.Xdefaults full of xrdb lines to tweak the snot out of your terminal emulator so that it was the coolest kid on the block. For the simpletons, there was the stodgy old xterm. But soon, along came rxvt, aterm, and the brazen Eterm. We didn’t have these fancy tabbed terminal emulators that you kids have now. We had 300 terminal windows stacked carefully and neatly on our 640×480 screens, and we LIKED it! *harumph again*

And so it is with feelings of nostalgia and inner-geekly warmth that I have started using rxvt (urxvt now) again as of late (try as I might, I can’t find aterm or Eterm OpenSUSE 11 rpms??). For reasons I will not go into here, having mostly to do with the nVidia card I have on my laptop I’m told, I’ve been using urxvt for the last week with really good results. It has been a week, almost exactly (`grep Time: /var/log/Xorg.0.log`), since I’ve restarted X, and I’m not seeing any slowdowns or desktop-switching-slowness. I really like Eterm–especially the font pseudo-shadowing–but I can’t seem to get it to do transparency in KDE4. urxvt, however, actually does ARGB visual transparent backgrounds!! `man 7 urxvt` tells the whole tale, but here is my ~/.Xdefaults that I’m quite happy with:

urxvt.background: rgba:0000/0000/0000/ccdd
urxvt.foreground: white
!urxvt.font: -artwiz-fkp-medium-r-normal–16-160-75-75-m-80-iso8859-1
!urxvt.boldfont: -artwiz-fkp-medium-r-normal–16-160-75-75-m-80-iso8859-1
urxvt.font: xft:Terminus:pixelsize=14
urxvt.scrollBar_right: 1
urxvt.scrollBar_floating: 1
urxvt.saveLines: 10000
urxvt.internalBorder: 5
urxvt.depth: 32
urxvt.scrollTtyOutput: 0
urxvt.scrollTtyKeypress: 1
urxvt.color12: rgba:6666/6666/ffff/ffff

Anyway, I’m quite happy with how urxvt is looking and acting with this setup in my KDE4 trunk desktop. And besides, there’s something about stacking 10 rxvt windows vertically and being able to see the last few lines of output from each simultaneously. =;) Oh, and here’s a screenshot showing an urxvt terminal with true ARGB transparent background:


Author: Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper

My name is Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper. I am the ring leader of the amazing Kasper family. I am unashamedly a Christian Nerd. These are our stories....


  1. Hi,

    it’s a pity you do not have the time to tell all this old storys. I would love to read them.

    Cheers, Wolfgang

  2. You have to try xmonad+xmobar+urxvt. Simply awesome.

  3. @Sebastián Benítez: HAH! Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!! =:) Reminds me of ratpoison! =:)

  4. Hi,

    thanks for the nice article. 🙂 I’d like to suggest two things that make urxvt even more usable:

    urxvt.color12: rgba:6666/6666/ffff/ffff

    … should make “bright blue” actually readable 🙂
    And, you can also use TrueType fonts, like the Terminus font (which is really great for console usage, imo):

    urxvt.font: xft:Terminus:pixelsize=11


  5. @Patrick: Awesome! I’ve added these (actually pixelsize=14) to my ~/.Xdefaults and it’s a good improvement! =:)

  6. I have to admit I don’t know anything about this olden times, but I enjoyed reading your introduction. I also like the new theme and the “kinda like batman, but with a wife and 3 kids” is just awesome! 😉

  7. <3 <3 companion cube 🙂

    btw, I also love those stories 🙂

  8. w00t. People still use GKrellM. I thought it had faded away thanks to plasma,torsmo,conky,desklets and whatever.

  9. Hi Jason,
    Each time I return to MovingParts, I realize how long its been since my last visit. Another re-design? 😀

    Nice writeup. Honestly, would have liked to hear your *harumph!* stories. Cuz I am from the Third Age. :op
    “tweak the snot out of your terminal emulator” – Lol!

    Take care.

  10. Makes me long for the days of Afterstep 1.0 and the themes.org RTFM [Random Tiles From the Masses]. I feel for the GNOME/KDE kids these days…the things they will never know. Hey! I think I still have an old .steprc around here somewhere. LOL


  11. @Elam: YYYYYEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! Holy CRAP that was fun!! Themes.org was AWESOME!!

  12. Thanks for the tip. Now I can kick the bloated GNOME terminal out of my machine 🙂

  13. Thanks for the Article. The Introduction was really neat (sadly I’m too young to know of these grant old times…) and now I’ve got my urxvt finally transparent under KDE.

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