GNOME Darkroom

One of the latest memes (or trends, if you prefer) on the net is of creative folks trying to get back to a focused environment for being creative. I’ve blogged about coming full circle from single tasking environments to fully windowed environments, but ‘d like to elaborate more on the subject because a) it’s a fascinating topic to me, b) I found a solution under GNOME, and c) I got to take some nifty screenshots using some emulators, and emulated screenshots class up any post.

AtariWriter was the first word processor I used. It’s interface was simple, and the original version fit on a ROM cartridge you plugged into the computer. There was a sort of a clearing process that was required to boot up the new program. You HAD to ensure you were done with the last activity in order to start word processing. There was no multitasking at all.

There was a certain zen-like quality to editing sessions on Atari Writer. It was just you, a blue screen, and your text in simple singular harmony. I used Atari Writer pretty much through college, and it served me well.




Atari Writer was a simple word processor, and at times I needed something a little more powerful to get through my term papers and reports. Enter the big guns: WordPerfect. (Shift F7 anyone?) Again, it was me and the blue background creatively processing text (and sometimes being a little creative with the margins and double-spaced lines). The nice part was it was also available on the VAX/VMS system at school, so I could use it from a terminal (OmniTerm on the Atari 800XL).

Nowadays my desk is a little, um, cluttered. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a windowed environment, but with my tendencies towards rabbit-trailing, things can get a little cluttered quickly. Some days I yearn for the simplicity of yesteryear, and the focus it provided. There are several programs which promise to help blot outall of those attention-stealing distractions. Fortunately there’s several ways to achieve it under Linux, and you can use any number of text editors you may already be familiar with using.

The first way is to use a virtual concole (CTRL-ALT-F1), which will bring you to one of the login screens available to you. From there, you’ll log in using good ol’ text-only mode. You can then fire up any number of text editors (emacs, vi, nano, etc) and you’re in business. That’s the simple way, but there’s also another way to get the same functionality without going to too much trouble.

Under GNOME, you can set a terminal profile that simulates full screen mode with little efffort.


Bring up a GNOME terminal. My GNOME terminals have the menu bar off by default, so I have to enable the menubar (with a simple right click / enable menubar). On the menubar, there’s a selection under File called “New Profile” which you will want to click on to create a new focus profile. Type in the name “Focus”, and base the terminal off of your current profile.


I titled my new profile “Focus” and changed the font to 20 point courier. I also changed the icon, although you’ll likely not see the icon while you’re using the terminal in the new full-attention mode.




I also changed the colors from black on white to white on black. It’s a preference thing. :)



After saving my profile and selecting it, I press “F11″ in the terminal, which puts it to full screen mode. Now, all I need to do is fire up my favorite editor (vim), and voila! Instant pure-focused editing session withouht having to install a new editor. Again, this works with just about any text-based editor like vi, emacs, nano, and the like.

So there you have it, the GNOME Darkroom method. It’s simple, uses a text editor you’re hopefully familiar with, and requires no additional software.



  1. My new favorite app, as measured in hours of use per minute, is Unreal Tournament 2004. This $15 app costs more than most $15 apps. And it has the misfeatures of every one of the worst apps i’ve ever used. It does not play well with others. When you launch it, it takes most of a minute to load. Well, it takes a bit to load more than a quarter of a gigabyte into RAM. It puts up one of those useless splash windows while it loads. Then, it dumps the screen into 800×600 mode (adjustable – but this is the best it can do for me). It disables any kind of multi-tasking. You can’t switch to another window. You can’t switch to another virtual console. Job control is disabled. It totally consumes the CPU, even if you are not actively doing anything with it, like when you’ve paused. Background processes – like ripping a CD, or perhaps updatedb running from wherever it runs from basically don’t work (and neither does UT2004 during an attempt). Even shutdown takes more than a minute. How long does it take to dump the scores? So, the phone rings, and all of a sudden you need some scrap of info from your computer – like a phone number. Can you get it? Not soon. And not without forfeiting the current game. UT2004 is also easily the most addictive game i’ve ever played.

  2. craig says:

    I’d fear for playing a FPS in a window. I don’t think you realize how much mousing you do during the game.

    And, having played the original UT on Linux, I quite like the splash screen. It lets me know something is going on.