So, I hate window managers. I hate them all.

My current distribution is Ubuntu 12.04. Here is my /etc/init/lightdm.conf:

# LightDM - light Display Manager
# The display manager service manages the X servers running on the
# system, providing login and auto-login services
# based on gdm upstart script

exit 0;

In short, I do everything in the TTY. Setting my system up like this means that TTY7 is full of system messages. I use the other ones and screen to do almost everything. And I'm happy that way. If I really really need to, I start Ubuntu 12.10's default desktop environment, lightdm, by typing sudo lightdm into TTY6, which opens the display manager itself in TTY7. When I'm done, I just CTRL + C in TTY6 to kill the display manager. (Unfortunately this also means that going back to TTY7 will freeze my computer entirely, a bug I have yet to report. But as long as I stay away from that black hole, things are fine.)

Lately I've been playing around with other WMs, notably IceWM. I start it by typing xinit /usr/bin/icewm-session into TTY6, and voila. It's much nicer than lightdm, moving at light speed by comparison.

There's just one problem.

I get sound output for IceWM if I move over to a TTY. But when I am in the actual TTY that runs IceWM, looking at Skype or something, I can't actually hear anything. So, for example, I send some messages on Skype, then move over into my warm, cozy TTY1 (always open to weechat-curses) while my interlocutor writes her reply, and then and only then do I actually hear the stupid chat alert noises. Or, for example, I go over into the nice, warm, darkness of TTY2 and start playing some music with mplayer. I hear music up until the point when I switch back into TTY7, where IceWM is running. (This doesn't happen when I'm running lightdm.) Is this integration with ALSA all just a bit lacking IceWM, or might there be a more orthodox way to be WM-agnostic? (For what it's worth, I've read of other people having issues with sound not playing in IceWM. But I'm wondering if there's a more recommended approach to doing what I do.)

  • 2
    "I hate window managers" -- consider ratpoison
    – ckhan
    Feb 9, 2013 at 6:22
  • 2
    just use a terminal emulator. If you want a fast simple init process, just mount dev and dev/pts, sys, proc and / then: Xvesa -screen 1024x768x24 & DISPLAY=:0 jwm -display :0 I use jwm because it packs a lot in a small package and it has a <Startup> capability built in to run processes typically handled by init and friends (plus a static musl libc build of xvesa+jwm+rxvt runs in ~2mb of ram which is less than a dynamic build of bash in ubuntu not to mention all of the getty overheads) Feb 9, 2013 at 7:43
  • Why not just use a tiling window manager (dwm, wmii, ratpoison...) that doesn't get in your way?
    – Renan
    Feb 9, 2013 at 13:30
  • Look for rio, the WM from Plan 9. Designed to get out of your way as much as possible.
    – vonbrand
    Feb 9, 2013 at 14:55
  • 1
    'i hate window managers' --> no answer, just a lot of WM recommendations. =)
    – ixtmixilix
    Feb 10, 2013 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


I don't know what's been changed, but I got sound working by starting IceWM from Ubuntu's lightdm login screen once and only once. I'm guessing some basic configuration files regarding ALSA compatibility got populated. After that, sound and video both work in an xinit /usr/bin/icewm-session session. (The webcam does not seem to work: it does work if I start IceWM from lightdm. But my original question related to sound, so I consider this solved.)

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