Why I Quit StumpWM

After using StumpWM for nearly a year, I'm finally quitting and moving back to Gnome. I came to love StumpWM's minimalistic approach, and this isn't an easy decision. So why am I doing it?

Pinky Hell

I am (was) a heavy user of Emacs, Tmux and StumpWM. These programs rely heavily on the Ctrl key. This means that the Ctrl key and my left pinky finger are pretty much destroyed at this point. With the spectre of RSI looming over my head, StumpWM is the easiest tool to get rid off. I might have less screen-space now, but my fingers will thank me for it.

What you gain in Functionality, you lose in Integration

StumpWM is infinitely configurable. If you have the patience, you can get it to do things that are simply impossible with other Windows Managers. For example, there is a mpd.lisp module inside the contrib directory which converts StumpWM into a MPD client. A full-fledged client. This means that all music operations are entirely unobtrusive and always at your beck and call. MPD with StumpWM has without a doubt been the best music setup I've ever used.

However, I missed Gnome's integration with Ubuntu - Ubuntu One, Gwibber, Pidgin, event notifications. Even if I could configure StumpWM for these things, there was too much effort involved.

Dead processes, High temperatures

Disclaimer : Everything I'm about to say now is conjecture. There is no proof that StumpWM is responsible for any of this.

At 5 days uptime, my system load was touching 2, and my system temperature was at 65 degrees C. KK had a similar number of programs running on his system - this is a guy who uses full-blown compiz effects - his system temperature was 36 degrees and load average was around 1.15. Furthermore, he had a 48 day uptime. KK gleefully told me that it had to be StumpWM that was the problem! He was kidding, but some inquiry around the office showed that my laptop was much worse than the other guys on Ubuntu.

I also found that Chrome was leaving behind loads of defunct processes on my machine. There were 41 defunct chromium-browser processes when I decided to reboot the laptop and do some monitoring. Within an hour of the reboot, I had 7 defunct processes, CPU temperature was at 45 degrees and the load average was hovering around 1.8. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. I switched back to Gnome. Later in the day, I thought about actually investigating the behavior of my laptop, but it's been behaving well on Gnome. As I write, I have a day's uptime, a load average of 1.03 and CPU temperature at 37.5 degrees C. Unscientific, but fine by me.

How I got over the Withdrawal Symptoms:

Of all the StumpWM features, there was just one that I simply could not do without - 'run-or-raise'. On StumpWM, you can define hot-keys to behave as follows:

  1. Launch the program if it is not running
  2. Move focus to the program if it is already running.

I use one Emacs instance, one terminal instance (tmux'ed) and one Chrome instance. I need to be able to access them with minimal friction. Turns out, a little hackery on compiz is all we need - compiz-send.py is a nifty little script that sends messages to DBus and interacts with compiz. I can use it along with xdtool to implement my run-or-raise behavior. Here is a look at my run-or-raise-emacs.sh script:


You can download compiz-send from here

So there you have it. At the moment, life is back to Gnome+Compiz. If you know any nifty hacks for Gnome+Compiz, please let me know in the comments.



Published On: Thu, 04 Aug 2011.