minos, a tiling wm linux distribution

22 Aug 2018

I’ve been working in my spare time in a yet another Linux respin for the last 7-8 years and I thought I better write something about it so my co-workers and friends have a better time getting started.


Minos is a personal effort to get a stable, performant and productive Linux system for power user/dev roles.

▸ Based on Ubuntu LTS releases with BedRock Linux support on its way
    ▸ 16.04 / 18.04 / 20.04
▸ Tiling window manager, i3wm + patches
▸ Full battery cli workflow, urxvt, tmux, vim, wicd, shundle, ...
▸ Non-intrusive and fast dmenu based launchers for sessions, process
  management, virtualization, etc.
▸ Handpicked minimal yet powerful apps for common tasks:
    ▸ file manager     -  pcmanfm     | login screen -  slim
    ▸ image viewing    -  feh, sxiv   | pdf reader   - zathura
    ▸ music indexing   -  mpd         | video player - mplayer2, umplayer
    ▸ network manager  -  wicd-curses | email client - mutt
    ▸ ...


In order to achieve its goal, minos design is lead by:

Minimalism → use as few elements as possible but not less
Coherence  → based on modularity and composition, elements relate to each other
Stability  → incremental over revolutionary
Control    → extensive configuration options
Pluggable  → plugin based components
Beauty     → subjective, but right now mostly black =P

There exist two versions of the system:


Ubuntu LTS based distro

On any Ubuntu LTS release add the Minos repository:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:minos-archive/main
$ sudo apt-get update

And install the core or/and desktop metapackages:

$ sudo apt-get install -y minos-core
$ sudo apt-get install -y minos-desktop #includes minos-core

Or run the http://minos.io/s installer:

$ sh <(wget -q -O- minos.io/s) core
$ sh <(wget -q -O- minos.io/s) desktop

Live Ubuntu LTS based distro

From any [L/X/K]Ubuntu live usb run the http://minos.io/s installer:

$ sh <(wget -q -O- minos.io/s) live core    /dev/sdX username passwd [/dev/sdaY]
$ sh <(wget -q -O- minos.io/s) live desktop /dev/sdX username passwd [/dev/sdaY]


/dev/sdX → / mount point
username → admin minos user
passwd   → admin minos user password

/dev/sdY → /home mount point   (optional)
--release  [16.04|18.04|20.04] (optional)


Minos is also available as portable VirtualBox images:

$ vagrant init minos/core-20.04    && vagrant up
$ vagrant init minos/desktop-20.04 && vagrant up

Additional boxes are located at https://app.vagrantup.com/minos

Getting started


Minos is based on Debian/Ubuntu, as such, it uses apt/dpkg tools to manage/install software, some of the configuration changes include:


▸ Recommend and suggested packages[0] are disabled by default. Use
  → $ sudo dpkg-reconfigure minos-core-settings #to change it

▸ shundle/aliazator add install, purge, remove, update, upgrade, aliases:
  → $ type install
  > install is aliased to `sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends'

  * Use:
  → $ aliazator [enable|disable] apt-get #to modify this behavior

▸ eix is provided as an alternative apt-get/apt/aptitude interface
  → $ eix -h


▸ Deb packages are cached and shared over avahi (zeroconf)


static-get is included as an alternative installation medium allowing to fetch statically linked Linux binaries.

▸ Search tmux available versions
  → $ static-get -s tmux
    > tmux-1.9a-1.tar.xz:8ec9d37183d48d3e171e89b1dae6e212a5918262d10
    > tmux-2.1-1.tar.xz:8172e0f2b39818ee747fa5b445a0a69342c11d1afa72
    > tmux-2.2-1.tar.xz:f499f6e9368a5022f45b726759b588e52b16442ae2f3

▸ Download and extract the specified package
  → $ static-get -x tmux-2.2
    > tmux-2.2-1.tar.xz
    > tmux-2.2-1/

shell / shundle

The default bash editing mode is set to vi with some emacs exceptions meaning than common shortcuts like <Ctrl-l> (clear screen), <Ctrl-r> (reverse cmd search), <Ctrl-a>/<Ctrl-e> (star/beginning sentence) work the same while vi keybindings are used for all other actions. One of the most powerful characteristics of this mode are text objects.

▸ text objects:
  → $ echo "text object" #pressing ci" while in the 'text' word results in
  → $ echo "" #removing the inner " characters

Math operations are recognized:

▸ examples include: +, -, *, /, %
  → $ 5 + 5
    > 10
  → $ 7 \* 2.3
    > 16.1

Search and other common actions are integrated within the shell:

▸ open the default web browser
    → $ 1999, binary finary :google

▸ or get back results from cli utils who output to console directly
  → $ howdoi format date bash
    > today=`date +%Y-%m-%d.%H:%M:%S`
  → $ translate -en-pt 'deleted code is debugged code'
    > Código eliminado é código depurado

▸ open resources by its name/suffix or by using the `open` launcher
  → $ /path/to/image.png
  → $ open https://wikipedia.org

Autocd, auto ls, and directory indexing are enabled for faster jumping between directories:

▸ create and jump in one cmd
  → $ mkcd ~/a/long/path/including/a/directory/

▸ change directories without requiring cd
  → $ ~/a/long/path/including/a/

▸ index directory paths, see `man wcd`
  → $ update-cd
  → $ cd including #go to ~/a/long/path/including/

▸ backward pwd search for normal and versioned projects, see `command -v ,,,`
  → $ ,, long #go to ~/a/long


▸ <Alt-Esc> is mapped to `dmenu-launcher` which supports the above
  attributes plus clipboard integration

In order to provide additional yet optional characteristics, plugins based components are offered, shundle is the mechanism for which they’re managed, alternatives include oh-my-zsh / prezto / bash-it, etc. Shundle allows installing scripts/modules which enrich the shell environment with sane defaults, aliases, functions and prompt themes.

By default the following plugins are enabled (~/.profile.d/shundle.sh):

▸ aliazator: An aliases manager, providing hundred of aliases for common
             commands, eg: apt-get, git, ssh, sudo, wget, vim, etc.

▸ autocd: Current directory autosaving (pwd), allows external applications
          start "from here", used for new urxvt/tmux instances.

▸ colorize: Provides prompt, X resources and less/grep/ls themes.

▸ eternalize: Store an eternal history file across sessions

Shundle integration is provided by the minos-core-settings package, can be disabled/enabled by running:

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure minos-core-settings #shundle option

tmux / tundle

Simply speaking, tmux acts as a window manager for terminals, on Minos, it’s configured and installed by default in pair with mosh to provide robust, secure and efficient access to local and remote shell sessions.

tmux is launched on every incoming ssh connection and within the scratchpad window <Windows><Space> (desktop edition). Of course, it can also be initialized manually.

The default prefix sequence has been changed from <Ctrl-b><Ctrl-a>

As with the bash interpreter, tmux can be customized/extended through additional plugins, Minos includes tundle as the default tmux plugin manager.

By default the following plugins are enabled (~/.tmux.conf):

▸ tmux-sensible: improve tmux defaults, including <Ctrl-a> as default

▸ tmux-pain-control: rebinds default keybindings for pane management.

▸ tmux-yank: tmux/system clipboard integration

▸ tmux-resurrect: persists tmux environments across system restarts

▸ tmux-copycat: enhances tmux search to find easily files, git hashes,
                urls, etc

Tundle integration is provided by the minos-core-settings package, and can enabled/disabled by running:

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure minos-core-settings #tundle option

vim / vundle

Vim is a highly configurable text editor mostly used by power users and developers to create content at the speed of thought. On Minos, it’s included by default with the vim-nox and vim-gtk packages (the latter only in the desktop version). Vundle has been adopted as the default vim plugin manager.

A fair amount of vim plugins are included (~50), most of them are loaded on demand or upon specific events in order to do not affect the editor startup time. Some examples include:

Bundle 'bogado/file-line'      "jump to line on startup, eg: $ vim file:23
Bundle 'mhinz/vim-signify'     "git|svn modification viewer
Bundle 'tpope/vim-surround'    "text :h objects on steroids
Bundle 'msanders/snipmate.vim' "snippet support
Bundle 'Shougo/neocomplcache'  "autocompletion

Vundle integration is provided by the minos-core-settings package, run the following command to disable/enable it:

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure minos-core-settings #vundle option


Additional wrappers and power user scripts (>100) are available through the minos-core-tools and minos-desktop-tools packages.


▸ rm wrapper with nautilus/pcmanfm trash management integration
  → $ mkdir ~/a/long/path/including/a/directory
  → $ rm -r ~/a/long/path/including/a/directory
  → $ rm -l a #outputs recoverable files matching the 'a' pattern
  → $ rm -u a #recovers the files matching the 'a' pattern
  → $ ls    ~/a/long/path/including/a/directory/

▸ compress / extract wrappers to ease archive creation/decompression.
  → $ touch a b c && compress a b c abc.tar.gz
  → $ rm -f a b c && extract  abc.tar.gz

▸ text / image pastebins
  → $ cat ~/.bashrc | sprunge
    > http://sprunge.us/AYZC
  → $ uimg image.png
    > http://i.imgur.com/KyoFMH9.png


▸ dmenu-*       #dmenu based launchers, i3 window jumper,
                #process/session management, vbox/xrandr/mpd/ wrappers
▸ watch-battery #battery notifier, suspend/hibernate the system if
                #no manual action is taken
▸ player-ctrl   #control multimedia players, mpd/mplayer/spotify

To get a full list of the included scripts run:

$ dpkg -L minos-core-tools minos-desktop-tools


Minos is commanded by configuration files, those determinate global settings (eg, wallpaper, autostart, etc), post-installation hooks, etc:

- $HOME/.minos/config
- /etc/minos/config

A simple ini like syntax is used, e.g.

    wallpaper /usr/share/minos/wallpapers/minos.png

To look-up a value, use minos-config key, e.g:

$ minos-config wallpaper

See minos-config -h and http://minos.io/doc/config for further details.


Minos uses a Rolling Release over LTS cycle, meaning it pushes frequent and small updates to LTS releases and doesn’t provide named releases by itself.

There is a parity:

▸ 1 deb package => 2 git repositories
                \__  program src
                 \__ deb packaging

Which requires a package to compile correctly in all LTS supported releases with the same deb code in order to be accepted, other Debian based distros create different packaging code for every release, that’s unacceptable in Minos due to the limited human resources and general waste it would be.

Deb source files are located at https://github.com/minos-org/

foo-program     (custom/freeze program)
foo-program-deb (deb packaging)
            get-orig-source target (must retrieve content)
    debian/README.source (step by step instructions to build package)

Deb binary packages are located at https://launchpad.net/~minos-archive/+archive/main, and are created using daily recipes asociated to every source mirror.

In certain ocasions, base repositories are modified to introduce changes or delete problematic files, those changes are automatic and described at: https://github.com/minos-org/minos-sync

Choosing default applications

▸ Default applications are selected with good documentation, flexibility,
configurability and as few dependencies as possible in mind.
▸ Systems supporting composition/specialization are preferred over
▸ Keyboard oriented applications are preferred over pointing interfaces
▸ GUI programs are nice but rejected if they use ancient graphical
interfaces or use considerable resources.
▸ When in doubt http://suckless.org/rocks provide additional hints about
how software is selected into the project

Choosing default behavior

 ▸ Toggle solutions are preferred over multichoice.
 ▸ Use/Set vi like applications/settings are preferred
 ▸ Defaults are configured with a focus in the out-of-the-box experience


Minos is built on top of the most popular Linux distribution system to get a lot of free software and an easy integration with third-party providers. At the time of writing this, that’s Ubuntu, however future development should be towards a multi-channel system such as SubUser or BedRock Linux.

That’s it, happy tiling 😊