Since my previous post, I haven’t posted about Asahi Linux. This is for a simple reason: I wasn’t using it. I never took the time to set up a tiling window manager, get dropbox working, and all the things I felt I needed, and I slipped back to using my trusty Dell Ubuntu laptop for Linux, and using my MacBook M1 just for macOS.

But then I tried again! And wow, has Asahi Linux changed! It’s Fedora, not Arch now, and installation was much easier! So I wanted to share how my experience has gone. I’m not particularly stoked to spend too much time on sysadmin tasks for my personal computing, so this is more a narrative about what actually has happened in my adjustment to it, rather than a reflection of Asahi at its best, but I thought I’d share where I was at.

Most things are amazing. I like Fedora. Adjusting to using dnf instead of apt was easy enough. It’s also just nice using a more powerful and quieter computer for my day-to-day Linux-side tasks, so Asahi’s main goal is absolutely fulfilled. Good job!

Wayland and Sway#

The biggest issue is that X Windows is dead, and Wayland is now king. This isn’t an Asahi specific issue, but it was Asahi that really got me over this annoying hurdle. I knew it was possible to get X Windows working on Asahi, but it is very deeply recommended against, and I didn’t want to try it. That’s not an issue per se, because I know X Windows is rotting. But, it does mean that I can’t use XMonad anymore, as XMonad is X Windows specific.

So, of course, Sway it is. It requires configuration and learning a new tiling window manager, which is annoying. Worse, there seems to be no way with the version of Sway that comes with Asahi to actually get title bars to go away. The work-around of setting the font size to 0 doesn’t work on my version, and of course there should just be an actual setting for it but the PR seems to be stuck.

I don’t know why anyone wants titlebars in a tiling window manager, so I don’t know why no title bars isn’t the default. I have no idea why this hackish work-around was considered acceptable. Are Sway users or maintainers just into extra information that uses up a lot of screen real estate? I use tiling window managers partially to not waste space (and attention) on distractions from what’s actually going on in my window, so this is a disappointment. Look at how pointless it is:

Screenshot of Sway

EDIT: This has been fixed by advice from a helpful person in the comments, without me having to do any dev work! Thank you so much!

But this matches how I feel about the switch from X Windows to Wayland in general. Lots of reconfiguration, lots of new workflows, lots of old tools that don’t work. (Does ImageMagick import take screenshots still? Hmm, doesn’t seem to. OK, grim it is.) If you’re a user of a desktop environment like KDE or Gnome, it’s great! If you aren’t, well, you have to re-figure out everything, which is something that I don’t have time for, because I’m not really a hobbyist in “having and using a computer” anymore. I have things I actually want to do with it!

And, the tools on Wayland are actually less polished. Wayland in general might be the future, and I know this will get better over time, but there’s so much work to be done.

Ironically, this is probably one of the best pro-C++ arguments over Rust.

EDIT to explain: There’s lots of people who would have a huge learning curve to go through to transition. That investment can’t be taken for granted, as both C++ and Rust have both steep and long learning curves, especially if used in a systems context. Perhaps that’s one of the biggest reasons for resistence to Rust.

I don’t maintain computer desktops for a living, unlike programming which I do do for a living. If I did, I’d have time to learn all this new stuff more thoroughly, and maybe even get involved with things like Sway. But as it is, I’m just frustrated at having to learn new things just to get things done.

This titlebar thing isn’t the only Sway issue. I’m also experiencing this issue, which is unfortunately closed, because there seems to be some sort of work-around – even though it hasn’t worked for me.

I’m just sort of dealing with it for now. I know that with some amount of work I could get all of these things smoothed out, but I’m worried that it’ll involve actual dev work on Sway itself, and I don’t even want to run a custom build of Sway. I just want the prepackaged Sway that comes with Fedora to be good, and to work with the prepackaged version of gvim. Is that too much to ask?

I know this isn’t Asahi Linux’s fault, or even really Fedora’s fault. I know this is to some extent what I sign up for by using tiling window managers. It’s just a completely normal consequence of a large transition. However, I think people who are pushing Wayland over X Windows should be aware of how many little things it’s messing up for people. I also think that Sway deserves more love (that is, work) as a project, given that I can’t be the only person in this sort of situation.

Box64 for Baba Is You#

A happier story is that running Intel binaries on ARM is great! I had a false start with qemu-user, but it turns out box64 just does the trick. Box64 allows you to run Intel binaries linked against native (ARM) libraries, which is quite impressive! Unfortunately, the one in Fedora’s package manager was compiled for the wrong page size, so I did have to recompile it.

But it runs Baba Is You no problem, which is an excellent game!

Box64 integrates super well with Linux. You can just launch the Intel binary, and it Just Works™ if you have it installed. I think a build appropriate for Macs should be available if installed on Asahi, and I also think that it should be part of the default installation. Then, you’d be able to “just run” Intel Linux binaries. How nice!

I haven’t tried any other programs out in it, but I suspect it’ll be not perfect but very very good.