February 16, 2019

From the Desktop: E Stands for EPIwm and Epidemic - page 2

Out of Order

  • November 28, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

When people in my age group were kids, school projects rarely went more technical than the occasional science project that tried to find out how many different kinds of penicillin would grow on the old sandwich found at the bottom of your locker. Oh sure, there was the inevitable supernerd who discovered how to map the genome of a housecat, and the spoiled rich kid whose family attorney put together a scientific patent display, but those were exceptions.

By the time we got to college, academic output mostly came in the form of papers. And theses. And more papers. With the occasional presentation for communications class mixed in for a little spice.

Nowadays, there seems to be no limit to what students can do for their schools. We read stories every day about collegiate e-business incubators that are turning out sophomore proto-millionaires in droves. At Ecole Pour l'Informatique et les Techniques Avanc´┐Żes (EPITA) in France, some students are putting together their own window manager.

Julien Mulot is the project manager for EPIwm, the X window manager he and fellow team members diablero and troll began putting together in October of 1998. Two years later, version 0.5-5 is stable and ready for use.

EPIwm features a menu-driven interface with configurable windows that can be iconified, shaded, maximized, minimized, sliced, diced, and pureed. If you want to do it to a window, it can certainly be done in this window manager.

Mulot explained that EPIwm was their choice for a school project during their second year at EPITA. EPIwm was put together primarily from scratch, using C as the programming language. It was not based on any other window manager, though Mulot said, "we looked to fvwm2 and Blackbox source code for some technical points."

I thought EPIwm was very stable and pretty quick, too. It definitely runs better by itself then underneath GNOME, which will work, but there are lots of interface conflicts. Mulot confirmed that EPIwm is not compliant with GNOME or KDE.

"No, and I don't think we will do it," he stated, "because it's not the purpose of EPIwm. EPIwm has been created to have a small, fast and configurable GUI, not to have a desktop."

Unlike other development teams scattered across the planet whose members may never meet face to face, the EPIwm team worked together every day.

"We are in the same class," Mulot explained. "Each month we distributed tasks. But we worked in the same room each night, so when someone had a problem, the others could help him."

EPIwm is a small, efficient window manager perfect for those looking for speed and simple configuration. The configuration files' syntax was very easy to understand, which I certainly appreciated. I was able to reconfigure the menus for the interface in just a few minutes.

Setup was a snap, with files available from a source tarball, or binary RPM and DEB packages.

The plans for EPIwm are to keep it from ballooning into something huge, according to Mulot.

"Soon, I'll release a new version to fix few memory leaks," he said. "It will have to be more ICCCM compliant. But I don't think that we will add some major features, to keep EPIwm small."


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