4. Your own rabbit hole

The expression “going down a rabbit hole” is sometimes used to refer to excluding the rest of the world. From the urban dictionary:

Down the rabbit hole

To get extremely and obsessively involved in something to the exclusion of normal friends and family.

“I haven’t seen Josh since he started playing that Ingress”

“Yep, down the rabbit hole.”

—urbandictionary https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Down%20the%20rabbit%20hole

4.1. One personal experience

End of graduate school, summer 1992, I’m spending the night working in a dingy office in the Los Alamos theoretical division building. I feel the glare from my monitor, and I remember with pleasure the TVI-950 terminal which had a dark background and amber characters - it had always felt so soothing.

The default background and foreground colors on xterm windows at the time caused a lot of glare: lots of white light hitting my eyes. I wanted to explore what backgrounds might be soothing.

If you encode the red, green, and blue channel values in single bytes (0 to 255), then you have approximately 16 million possible colors. That’s too much to try out, even if you’re willing to stare at the screen all night.

If you look at the file /etc/X11/rgb.txt (back then I think it was just /etc/rgb.txt) you will see a list of common colors, with English names. It looks like this:

255 250 250          snow
248 248 255          ghost white
248 248 255          GhostWhite
245 245 245          white smoke
245 245 245          WhiteSmoke
220 220 220          gainsboro
255 250 240          floral white
255 250 240          FloralWhite
253 245 230          old lace
253 245 230          OldLace
250 240 230          linen
250 235 215          antique white
250 235 215          AntiqueWhite

I don’t recognize most of them, but it doesn’t matter. I wrote a script that pulled out all the color names from that file, and ran

xterm -bg BG_COLOR -fg white

and allowed me to look at it and see if I wanted it to be my background. After staring at them all night I finally settled on a dark olive green, a brownish red, and a couple of other dark backgrounds.

The main point of this is not the choice of backgrounds, but that I spent a night writing a script to make it convenient to evaluate them all. It might not have been

At other times I have worked on perfecting email filters, coming up with a tailored approach to backups, and various

4.2. Customizing your desktop for power and beauty

Discuss concept issues: window system, window, window manager, desktop environment (and its components).

There are many approaches to running your desktop. At this time (2021-01) I use the compiz window manager with 8 virtual desktops, a three dimensional rotating cube approach, and various ways of looking for windows among the hundreds that I use. I add to that the Mate desktop environment, but I do not make much use of its features.

Some still use a window manager with no desktop environment, and there is much to be said for that as well.

Some window managers get quite radical, discouraging individual placement of windows. These are the tiling window managers like awesome and others described at


There is a never-ending list of desktop environments, and it might be worth experimenting with many of them. This can be done using “nested X window system” approaches. The major ones are GNOME, KDE, xfce, Mate, Cinnamon, enlightenment.