When (and why) exactly did people start calling deskmodding "ricing"?
this was a lot of fun
thanx for having us on!
Really enjoyed this one! It was great to hear all of you having a group talk. I need to set up mumble.
--( Transcript )--
# Unix Ricing #
Get the power back! - or so they say
# Intro #
We've had an episode about display servers and libraries and then we
had another episode about window managers and desktop environments,
and so the next logical step is to do one about ricing and customization.
This is what we're going to do today in the company of xero, neeasade,
xero: I'm xero, I hangout on the nixers forums, I'm an OP on the IRC,
I also do some text arts, and other stuffs you might know me from,
I post screenshots all over the place wether you want to see them or not.
neeasade: Neeasade here, been on the nixers forums for a few years and
Rice a bit as well.
halfwit: Alright, I'm halfwit.
So ricing, what's the deal about? What's the fuss about?
That's what we're going to discuss.
# How do you define ricing #
There aren't many definitions around the internet about ricing truly
means and what it implies. It's a sort of vague term.
But here's what some have to say...
For example on /rice/, on the infinite (8chan), it will describe it as
"the art of making your desktop or phone look pretty by installing
softwares or modifying configuration files".
So what do our speakers have to say about this?
neeasade: I'd say rice is about control, ultimately, and that relaxing
feeling of knowing that you can edit the visual and programmatic aspects
of your system to your liking. Exerting that amount of control that you
can have is relaxing.
xero: Rice is that vibe! You see a wallpaper that you really like or
you see a colorscheme or even sometimes one individual color and then
you have that ability to tweak aspects of the way you interact with your
computer to fit that *vibe* you're thinking of. So if you're doing a dark
grey scheme you would theme every component of your system to meet and
join together in that visual style. Ricing is tweaking your environment
to feel a certain way and _necessarily_ look and act that way too.
# History (traceback) #
This truly sounds poetic but is there a history behind the term rice,
can we trace it back?
When did we truly start using it in the computing world.
Is it related to eating or growing rice?
Or is it related to the car customization culture in Japan?
xero: That ricing car culture. Ricing was a term that they used for
when you would sup up and asian type of car. It was like a derogatory
term with rice. The ability to sup up a machine and put after-market
parts on your car to make it run better and be more efficient. It's this
one to one comparison because that's what you're doing to your computer:
You're installing those after-market components to make it run differently
and potentially be more optimized or more streamlined, or at least just
tweaked to the desire of the person who is in control. I don't know if
it's true or not, I like the flip to it now where people are now using
the term "beaning", and "ricing" has now become about the visual style
while beaning is about tweaking your workflow and your underlying stuff
to try to optimize it more than visuals... But I don't know if that's
true or not.
neeasade: Completely agree! You hit on it being a sort of derogatory
term, it was adopted in a kind of cheeky manner. "Haha yeah, totally,
ricer over here!"
xero: I also wonder how much of that was derogatory to early screenshot
culture. I've been a wordy person online and I think that I saw more
screenshots of old computers from Japanese people specifically before I
saw American or Western culture online but I don't necessarily know if
_our_ term rice has anything to do with it.
venam: I don't know if the term rice was used the most, why would someone
make the comparison "You're ricing your desktop like you're ricing your
car", and neither where it exactly appeared, but what's strange is that
it took off - It took off as a sort of meme. Historically we can say
that customizzing, not ricing, was there for a long time - as long as
Unix probably existed. Customizing your environment has existed for a
halfwit: If you look at something like Winapp from the Windows days, we
would have custom skins for that all the time. To me that was probably
where it really first started. You have those cool custom skins and it
looks crazy good. It kinda took off from there, I guess.
venam: We mentioned ricing, then beaning, and there's another term
"milking". So how do you define those 3 terms, are there any differences,
and where did they come from. I think beaning was probably "invented"
xero: Yes, that was totally a jmbi word. It was in that one screenshot he
did where all the wallpapers had that orangy-brownish kind of color. He
had 3 black terminals and one of them had "lolcat" text in big letters
that said "BEANS" because everyone was talking about the rice meme. It
was an inside joke.
venam: How I personally see it: Ricing would be more visual, beaning
woul be more about workflow, and milking would be about low level
"milking the machine", taking whatever resources you can from it.
neeasade: Personally I dismiss the use of the terms that attribute them
to levels of rice, system level rice vs visuals/aesthetic ricing. For
me that's all ricing, whatever.
venam: Let's go back on jmbi's story, the one where just mentioning
beaning in a screenshot to make it take off. It shows how any random
screenshot or any event on the internet can spur some new ideas and new
memetics/movements. It's very interesting to think about.
xero: In the rice sub-culture, specifically, it takes a lot of taste, or
not - weight. Any one screenshot that is really good and really popular,
a thousand people will mimic that setup and do something similar, or
just straight up take that configuration from that person and use it on
their machine. Because they can! That person gave it away for that exact
reason, they wanted someone else to have it. When you go to /r/unixporn
in January and it's all i3 posts, then you go in February and it's all
xfce posts, then it's all 2bwm or windows utility. We get trends in our
scene just like there are trends in the music scene, and other types
of life. One screenshot being really powerful and influence all those
people that's that person capturing that magic of rice. They really did
make a super cool, super aesthetically pleasing setup that inspires so
many other people.
# The misconceptions and non-misconceptions #
So rice does indeed have a vague definition more anchored in social
movements than in standards wiki pages.
Now let's tackle the misconceptions and non-misconceptions about rice
Is it just a peackock challenge.
Is it all just show off?
Will people tell you to install gentoo?
The "oh I'm going so fast changing those compile flags" meme.
Will you look like a 1337 hacker ricing?
Does changing your wallpaper and icons make you a real ricer?
neeasade: I think when people make fun of Gentoo it's like when people
think of Arch users "Oh man you made it through the default install"
because if you haven't ever dealt with partitioning or if you've only
ever been guided by a graphical installer initially then the first time
you do that you feel like "oh I've just done something foreign and it
feels difficult so I better go post about it". Then enough people did
that and it became a meme. That's where it went from there.
halfwit: It's almost like a rite of passage for some people. It's their
first point of pride, which might not be interesting, aesthetically as
a rice, but it's their first crack at it. They just want to share.
venam: Talking about the rite of passage, one thing that is not a
misconception is that just changing your wallpaper and icons doesn't make
you a ricer. That's not a misconception, it's a thing in the movement.
xero: That's not a misconception, that IS a fact! If there's one thing
that bugs me the MOST is the first screenshot post on /r/unixporn or
screenshot threads, maybe I'm a jerk, but I like to downvote those post as
a point of pride. When you look at a screenshot where you can tell that
the person worked at least a day trying to get every single component
of their system to look the same and then you have another person that
installs the operating system, hanges the wallpaper, and maybe if you're
lucky, changed their icon theme or installed the wallpaper of another
operating system unto theirs. That stuff makes me mad. It's definitely
excitement like halfwit said. People themselves aren't doing it in a
mean spirit, they're not trying to negate the things that are the good
parts of the sub-culture but they're just so excited because they were
finally able to try and do something. They want to be a part of something
bigger than themselves.
neeasade: "Thou shall learn through the downvote."
venam: The non-misconception is that if your desktop is too blend,
if it's too flat, if it's too "non-special", then it doesn't enter the
category of ricing.
xero: If you want to be technical then yes, but I think the act of
tweaking and changing stuffs *is* rice. When a person is going through
steps to try and get to that point, maybe it won't be a good rice, maybe
it is, "baby's first rice" as they say, but it's not a _quality_ rice.
halfwit: The issue for me is that when you go on something like
/r/unixporn and you look at all of the high voted posts all of a
sudden there's just that old boring baby's first rice and it's nothing
interesting. It doesn't really contribute to the community growing or
changing as a whole.
# The why you rice #
Ok, so you better build a system where every part is nicely fitting with
the one next to it to be considered a true ricer.
But why would you do that, why spend the time customizing everything.
Why do you rice?
What is the reason behind your ricing?
And that I think may depend on how and what you perceive rice to be defined as.
neeasade: I think mine mostly matches up with my definition which was
about exerting that amount of control over your system. That's why I
rice, to have a relaxing feeling and working towards the goal, which is
usually a visual goal but not necessarily, it's also about high focus,
let's make all the elements consistent in a certain way to I can that
one consistent screenshot and "BAM look hey guys, here's my goal and
I did it all, it's not completely gross but it's _my_ kind of gross,
my shell scripting". It's all wrapped up together.
xero: I remember my first personal computer was an Apple II GS, it
didn't have a harddrive so you had to boot it from a floppy and there
was a command prompt where you only typed 2 commands ever to mount the
floppy drive and to run whatever program was on it. It had the most
heinous blue background with this white text on top of it and I always
really wanted to change those colors and I strived to figure out how. My
early formative years of trying to learn stuffs about computers was about
trying to change the way they looked more than anything practical. When
I started using Windows computers later I used hex editors and all types
of homemade tools to try and rip apart DLLs and application files to
change the colors and images. I had a totally hacked up version of Mirc,
different images for the icons, and all the GUI was black. 'Cause my
type of rice is black'on'black or shades of grey. As I moved to Linux,
things were designed and setup for you to be able to tweak them the way
you want to. You didn't have to break your computer to try to make it
look the way you want to. That's when I really fell in love with modern
Unix based systems, a lot of things were designed for you to come in
and edit them and change them.
neeasade: Yes, you can just open an editor and change stuffs without
worrying it won't boot the next day.
xero: So it definitely started with my desire to have things my way
but I don't think that's the reason that I keep ricing, I've already
achieved that goal.I keep ricing because I keep getting inspired by
seeing life. You look at a painting and you see a movie, sometimes you
get inspired to create something from something else that you've seen. In
my recent screenshot, I've seen someone else the same day that had a
nature-kind wooden background with 3 of 6 colors of the major palette
that were beautiful. So I took those 3 colors and changed the other 3
and made my own better palette that matched a different wallpaper also
nature inspired. Then I made a whole theme inspired by someone else's. I
keep ricing because I get inspired...and I get bored with the way certain
things are, certain window managers work, or I get too comfy sometimes
in a setup, then I need to shake things up. On nixers we have community
that just tries to get people involved in doing stuffs and I like to do
those challenges. There was a last one where I challenged everybody to
make a monochrome colorscheme. So yeah, I keep ricing and keeping other
people to rice because it's fun doing it. It's a cool way to show your
indiviuality and at the same time to have a group dynamic while doing it.
halfwit: For me it was along the same lines. I wanted that absolute
control over everything to a point where I'm a little bit anal about it
(baby crying in the background - definitely no control over that). The
workflow, of let's say a default i3 always felt cludgy to me and the
aesthetic wasn't quite exactly what I wanted so I started looking,
searhing, and finding all these thumbs I could tweak and within a month
or two I just felt limited. I started looking into other things, and
other things, and ended up on dwm for a while, from there I found window
managing utilities, and I've gone completely crazy.
venam: What's special about Unix is that you can put parts together
and jam them into a pipeline or if it's visual you can make them
work together. So that's the best things, the freedom is my main
reason. Putting parts together is very interesting it's like playing
Lego, you can get creative with them by finding which parts go with
which. Which then later leads to an increase in productivity. The _main_
big, my main reason is about going away from expectations, going away
from the boring old things. I hate being limited.
halfwit: It's fun that you talk about the pipeline and how composable
everything is, it's a part that I also absolutely love. That flexibility
to combine these things in novel and interesting ways.
neeasade: Talking about Legos I thought it's really good when someone
makes a modular and flexible Lego, it's fantastic. About the inspiration
part of xero, it is also a source of drive for me when I see nice color
themes or different aesthetic or styles. There's a guy that posted a
bevel bar setup, his panel, windows, etc.. were trying to bevel. And
that day I wanted a bevel desktop. Then I sat all day trying to send my
desktop back into the 80s.
venam: The modularity part is very cool.
# The how do you rice #
We talked a bit about the why.
Now here comes the how?
How do you rice, where do you check for resources?
Are there steps you usually go through?
Some cool tips you want to give to other ricers.
Here's one tip that I personally want to mention and it's about
consistency, everything in a rice should be consistent.
So please choose the applications that go the best together. That's why
you should avoid using different widget libraries for your graphical
xero: RTFM, read the manual that's step number 1 in ricing and in
using computers in general. If you don't know how the application
works how do you expect yourself to use it properly. It's like the Lego
pieces, if you don't know how each tools in the pipeline are supposed
to work together how do you expect to be able to put them together
to work correctly. Research how things work and are supposed to work
before you can figure out how you can make a chain of multiple of them
work together. For ricing specifically, a lot of the time I look for
examples. If the author of the tool gives a config file of their own
it's the first thing I look at before the manpage. If it's a new tool
I've seen from a screenshot then the first configuration I'll try will
be the one of the person that made that screenshot for that tool I
haven't seen before. A lot of the time I check the config file before
even reading the manpage but reading the manpage shows you other options
that undoubtedly aren't in that config file because nobody hits or rarely
have every single option in one file.
neeasade: Agree, the rice channel compiles a list of resources where
at the top it's written "how do you do this" and the first thing is
"google it". Figure out how to read the manual and make sure you're
comfortable and go from there.
xero: That's true if you want to get support for anything. If you join
the IRC channel of any project and you ask them a question about the
configuration of their software they expect you to have done your footwork
research first and to know the specificities. Or else they're gonna tell
you to RTFM before to even try to talk to you. That's not always true,
not everyone is super mean, but in a lot of cases they do expect you
to have done at least some efforts on your own before asking for help,
and I respect that.
neeasade: This definitely affect the quality of feedback you receive
from questions and their perception of how far you've done research on
your own. If it's "Oh my first place to ask was here" then you may not
get a warm welcome.
venam: Let's put things back in perspective. If someone doesn't
know anything about ricing I don't think they'll go directly to
the configuration, I think they'll first need to get somewhere to
get inspired. There are a lot of those places such as /r/unixporn or
8chan/rice or nixers.net. Then after getting inspired you have the "How
do I do this thing" moment. Then comes the time to learn how things work,
you get acquainted with your surrounding, you modify settings step by
step. Little by little and then reuse and recycle, get inspired and
restart. That's the whole cycle of things.
halfwit: Exactly, a lot of things are about playing with the little knobs
and finding out what did what. Eventually you end up on something that
venam: Also, at some point you may want to list the things, a list of
actions/configurations/changes you want to apply on your system. There
are a bunch of wikis that do that, listing resources about the shells,
the window managers, the colors, the fonts, etc.. It helps get ideas
about whatever you could possibly do.
xero: That comes out of your perception of how you are artistically
crafting your operating system, it comes with your level of knowledge
about the system that you're using. If you're going to install an OS
that has a full desktop environment from the start like Ubuntu or Linux
Mint it's different then when you install a linear system that doesn't
anything other than the base where you're going to have to install Xorg
and install the window manager, etc.. Component by component. A more
baseline system like a Debian net install or an Arch Linux type. I started
with a setup where you had a system that already existed and to change
your window manager was to replace a large component of a system that
already existed. It was good in the formative years but now that I already
know the window manager and tooling that I want to use to create my own I
don't have to install a lot of other unecessary window managers. At least
for the time when I'm focused on one compared to another one. That makes
my system smaller and leaner and now I understand every component and
there's low maintenance level. You only have the things installed that
you actually actively use. I don't install things I don't need otherwise
it becomes cruft, it becomes bloat, as we say in the chat rooms. Then
the first task in ricing is to decide what components you want your
system to have and then to configure them. Inspirationg being a big
part of that decision, seeing how different things work through videos
and screenshots. That's the fun and exciting part of ricing, to want to
try new things. You then get shown the linuxbbq cream live cd that has
76 window managers pre-installed and configured and it blows your mind.
venam: Definitely starting from scratch is a good tip for new users. Do
you have other tips other than "don't freak out if you think you broke
it or that you're missing stuff".
xero: Step 1 is about understanding, as said before. Know exactly
what you're changing. You should be able to undo those changes you've
made and "unbreak" your system. If you keep good backups and you
destroy your computer you should be able to recreate it and continue
from where your backup was before. A lot of people are really scared
about the possibility of breaking something so it keeps them away from
taking risks, they'd rather be safe. You're never gonna succeed in and
you're never gonna make bonds in life if you always play it safe. I
originally started with virtual machines, booting an OS in virtualbox
or another partition. Partitioning makes it more easy to replace one of
the pieces. If there's one partition with photos, videos, mp3, documents,
etc.. then the OS partition can get blown up a 100x and you'll still have
those important files that you don't want to loose if your computer gets
messed up. Proper planning with disaster recovery, backups, segregating
what files are where, and understanding what you're doing are steps that
can help take risks and possibly get some gains. You can even continue
on that step even further and reach that zen of you having no personal
files on your system. You can boot today, boot it tomorrow and it can be
it's own unique beautiful snow flake every single time. To do that you'd
have to completely segregate your digital life from the computer. To have
a USB drive that holds your small amount of file, or to have a VPS that
you would connect to or mount within your own machine. Your computer
itself can become transient. I have a lot of friends that are starting
to live with Tails where everytime they boot their operating system
it's completely run from a ramdisk. Everytime they boot it's started
over. And they built a layer on top of that where once they boot they
apply their layer that sets up their customizations that are autonomous
from the operating system.
# The extreme cases and stories #
Perfect segway to the extreme cases of ricing stories.
We got some nice tips, now let's discuss our favorite extreme cases in
the world of ricing be them positive or negative. The ones that inspire
us in a good way or in a bad way.
neeasade: It's been entertaining to watch z3bra's path from ricing on
desktop to system level ricing, to custom containers, to writing a
package manager, to writing a whole bunch of C utilities. It's fun to
check in on him from time to time and see what he's up to lately.
halfwit: I'm always reminded of that one guy who did absolutely everything
in a framebuffer. He had a pdf viewer, a web browsers, and everything,
it's not the most beautiful rice but it certainly fits that.
venam: My personal favorite is vain. vain is that dude who wrote his own
window manager, his own terminal emulator, his own bar, his own shell, he
did everything from 0 to the end. It's all his, nothing is not customized.
xero: It's hard to pick the most extreme examples. I used to love hearing
tales about vimrc files where they had over 2K lines in one config file
for one tool. The text editor has become its own sentient being. So
many config in a single file, you've gone beyond the level of ricing to
almost writing a new tool on top of your tool. Another extreme is the
stuffs you could see on the gdesktop threads before they got banned with
all the creepy lolicoon stuffs. I feel like every single window doesn't
have to have an anime character in it. Maybe it does and maybe I don't
understand their state of mind. People can take that stuff to the extreme,
using the exact same element on everthing that you have in your OS. The
same shows and anime characters in every single window, from web browser,
to terminal, the corner of your pdf viewer, that takes it to the extreme.
neeasade: As they say "no wifu no lifu".
venam: Let's go to the other side of the spectrum the extreme negative
cases. My personal one is the beginner ricer, the one where they "want
to go full minimalist" and then you find out that they installed two
components of two different desktop environments. Second example is
about beginners that follow step by step processes tutorials, the kind
of articles "7 easy steps to follow", and then come on IRC to cry about
the broken part of their system.
neeasade: "Hey guys I'm new to this I just installed Arch and Numix icons,
isn't that the best thing ever? I know it is, thanks!"
xero: I want to virtual bitch slap those people! 15 downvotes in one
click! In ONE time, drop the guillotine on that stuff.
neeasade: I got a creepy rice story. I did see a screenshot where
someone had made an RMS (Richard Stallman) emulator chatbot and they
were asking it about their day and stuffs. It was posted on Github at
some point. Part of what was feature was the ascii art that brought up
the face of Stallman in the terminal to reply to your queries.
xero: I'm all for ascii art... but man, creepy Richard Stallman ascii
art talking to you I think I remember seeing that too.
# Now what? #
Let's move to the now what.
What's the current state of ricing, where do you see it going.
what are the trends we currently see today?
neeasade: The current trend that I see a lot is about people writing
their own theming system. It's been happening for a while in the past
couple months. It has increased in frequency. Template systems where you
can rotate themes, and they all vary in flexibility and what you can do
with it. It's intersting to see how people can customize their system,
be it template, or compile, or meta insertion mechanism.
xero: You're the trendsetter. You were one of the first person I saw
working on a project like that. I have to admit I love seeing the butthurt
anger between people's choice of programming languages or template system
in those setups too. And then people create counter projects where they
take almost the exact same schema and just changing what the backend is.
halfwit: I find that we've been going towards a lot of tools that do
smaller things such as wm utilites for example. It seems like it's going
towards programs themselves being modular and controllable.
xero: It's the Unix philosophy, man! Everything should do one thing and
do it well without worrying about the rest of the pipeline or before. It
only focuses on its one purpose in life to be exactly and the best
version of that.
neeasade: From a desktop/WM perspective it's very useful. When you stumble
upon some utility and you know you have the perfect use for this. "Thank
you person who wrote this I'm gonna use it in my script over here".
venam: There's definitely a trend for those small utilities that you can
jam together. There's also a trend for removing the control out of the
window manager and using a third party. There's a trend for auto-theme
setters. Aestetically speaking we see a lot of minimalist interfaces or
on the other side of the spectrum we get that flat-like UI.
xero: Another trend is about custom sysinfo scripts. A little bit of
ascii art plus statistics. More people are making their own custom one
instead of using the classic screenfetch of archey.
neeasade: Been pretty exciting to notice that.
halfwit: I definitely look forward to what's coming next. A changing landscape.
xero: I hope we're gonna keep going in a direction where new ideas
arise and people are gonna try new things. Inventing new styles, new
utilities and new ways to do things. Let's continue to progress forward
instead of going stagnant and everybody just copying from each other and
having cookie cutter screenshots. Let's have new and innovative ideas
in the scene.
venam: It's only on Unix that you can find the distinction between
a dislay server and window manager and all the utilities plus the
choices. It's only on Unix that we can innovate the human computer
interface and interaction. I hope in the future we can find new ways
other than stacking and tiling. Whatever novel way we can find.
xero: Yeah, for each their own favorite type of interaction.
halfwit: Cater the system to who you are rather than cave to the system.
venam: That's a positive aspect of rice. That's what the community brings
and it has some value.
Quote:Another trend is about custom sysinfo scripts.
Oh, yes, the same Conky script everyone seems to use. :)
The primary problem with deskmodding is that once someone has done a thing, it is not special anymore.
Fourteen years ago, Windows deskmodding with ridiculously colorful icons was a thing which regularly hit the "best desktop" contests - and won. If I did that today, it would probably make them spit at me (or praise me for my retro style...).
As most people fill their desktop with the applications they work in anyway, the best deskmodding is probably which makes you work more efficiently; hotkeys, additional info bars which are always visible, et cetera. You simply never have the chance to show off your desktop in the real world and it will bore you quickly.
(08-04-2017, 08:28 AM)jkl Wrote: The primary problem with deskmodding is that once someone has done a thing, it is not special anymore.I don't think that's an issue, this same phenomena happens with anything creative.
That's a differene between creation and original endeavours, or you make something completely new or you just do something that is rarely seen in the context.
(08-04-2017, 08:28 AM)jkl Wrote: Fourteen years ago, Windows deskmodding with ridiculously colorful icons was a thing which regularly hit the "best desktop" contests - and won. If I did that today, it would probably make them spit at me (or praise me for my retro style...).It's fun to see this scene evolve. Re-using "forgotten" styles is original in my opinion, and what's truly creative is to give them a new life in a new context.
For me, ricing is about getting my environment aligned with me. This means:
- Same color scheme in every application. I don't like it, when an off-color window is standing out
- vim navigation. My fingers are used to this
- hotkeys. many hotkeys. I rarely use the mouse...
- Resource usage. Go away with your 3d animations etc. I mostly use 3+ year old hardware because it's not yet broken. I don't need hog ram with eye-candy.
Great episode guys!
Does anybody start ricing a new application after installing (and RTFM) instead of using it first?
ricing > productivity