Friday, March 4, 2011

Some Conky Favorites of mine

Conky is, as defined in its own WEBSITE, a "free, light-weight system monitor for X, that displays any information on your desktop. Conky is licensed under the GPL and runs on Linux and BSD." Doesn't sound all that exciting, right? Certainly, it is not the ultimate new discovery in computer technology, but for us Linux users is a neat solution to monitor our system resources straight from the desktop and a darn fine way to beautify it.

Conky itself is pretty ugly out of the box, but with the right theme, it can look awesome. More importantly, it gives users running X a nice alternative to the system monitors provided by the desktop manager of choice, which always tend to eat more resources than should be allowed for any system monitor. Granted, Conky is more resource hungry than top, but it saves users the hassle of actually having to open or switch to a terminal to run it. All in all, Conky runs on roughly 1% of my CPU and 0.2% of my memory, so it doesn't have any perceivable impact on my system performance. Just to give some background for comparison, gnome-system-monitor runs on average on more than 20% of CPU and 2% of memory on the same machine.

KEEP THE SYSTEM COOL WHILE LOOKING HOT

Today I want to show three of my favorite Conky themes, how they look on my desktops, as well as explain how to install them in a few simple steps. Configuration may require some command line activity, but I will try to keep it down to a minimum for the command line intimidated folks out there.

CONKY LUA

This wonderful Conky theme is one of the most complete out there in terms of the amount of information it displays. In addition, it is beautiful and comes with a number of themes that suit some of the most popular distros available, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, etc. Here's how it looks on my current Zorin OS 4 desktop:


Click on image to enlarge.


As you can see, Conky LUA sports a pretty sleek design. Top to bottom, here's what we see:

  • Date & Time
  • Local Temperature
  • CPU Load
  • Memory Use
  • Swap Use
  • Disk Use
  • Network Traffic
  • System Up Time
  • A bit about processes
  • OS and Kernel versions

I am using the Debian color scheme here, but without the Debian logo, which would appear on top of the clock. If you want to see how this and other color schemes work, visit the Gnome-Look.org theme page HERE and click on the thumbnails on the side.

This page is also the right place to download and install Conky LUA, get installation instructions and keep up to date with the latest changes/modifications from the artist/developer. In fact, one can add comments, share feedback and even interact with the author to request new themes (whether that request will be actioned depends on the artist availability and interest, of course).

INSTALL CONKY FIRST!!

Conky LUA and all other themes presented here are just that, themes. They do nothing unless we install Conky first, so that will be our starting point. To install Conky, open your package manager of choice and search for the package conky-all, then proceed to install.

Alternatively, if you want to install from the command line, simply run the following command (assuming your distro uses apt-get as package manager):

sudo apt-get install conky-all

Once the installation completes, you can see Conky in action straight away. It will look bare-bones, but it will definitely work. To start conky from the GUI, use key combination alt-F2, type "conky" (minus the quotes, of course) and run.

To stop conky, simply kill its process. You can easily do so from your system process monitor or from the command line:

sudo killall conky

INSTALL AND CONFIGURE CONKY LUA

With Conky installed and operational, it's time to start installing and configuring some themes, starting with Conky LUA. The first step is to download the theme files from HERE.

If the download completed successfully, you should have 139024-Conky-lua.tar.gz with you now. Opening the file with your archive manager of choice will display a folder containing a number of compressed files inside, one per color scheme. Open the distro scheme you would like to use. Each scheme is made of three files: clock_rings.lua, conkyrc and the corresponding distro logo in PNG format.

1.- Start by creating a folder named .conky under your home folder.
2.- Once done, extract the PNG file into that folder.
3.- The next step is to create another folder, .lua, once again under your home directory (note that these folders may be hidden, so you may need to set your file manager of choice to display all files in order to be able to see them).
4.- Under .lua, create another folder, named scripts, and extract the file clock_rings.lua inside of it.
5.- Extract the file conkyrc, then rename it and add a dot in front of the name. In other words, the file name should end up being .conkyrc.
6.- The script is set to display the temperature for a particular area by default. In order to customize if for your own, first browse the site http://weather.noaa.gov and find your city 4 digit code. Now, open .conkyrc with your text editor of choice and replace the string "LQBK" with the 4 digit code for your city.
7.- You are done now! Simply start conky as already discussed and you will see Conky LUA adding some eyecandy to your desktop.

CONKY COLORS

Time to look into another favorite theme of mine, Conky Colors. This is more than just a theme, it is a powerful script that helps in automating the tweaking of Conky, offering several flavors and customization options. Here's how it looks on my Ubuntu 10.10 desktop:


Click on image to enlarge.


Conky Colors design (in this example using the elementary outfit) is another example of slickness at its best. Conky LUA showed loads of information, but Conky Colors takes that concept even further. In fact, the amount of information shown here is not the complete set that the script offers. Top to bottom, here's what we see:

  • CPU1 Load
  • CPU2 Load
  • CPU3 Load
  • CPU4 Load
  • Memory Use
  • Swap Use
  • Date & Time
  • Root Disk Use
  • Home Disk Use
  • Banshee Progress Dial
  • Wireless Info
  • Network Load

According to the developer Gnome-Look.org page HERE, there are three main outfits for Conky Colors: Default, Cairo and Board. Once again, click on the thumbnails on the side of that page for a preview. As was the case with Conky LUA, this Gnome-look.org page is also the right place to download and install Conky Colors. It is also the perfect place to get installation instructions, keep up to date with the latest changes/modifications and interact with the artist/developer and other members of the community who may be using that very same theme.

Because of its script nature, Conky Colors is more powerful and flexible than mere themes, but it is also a bit more complicated to set up. Don't let the installation section (following next) intimidate you, it does contain more CLI stuff, but most of it is plain copy-paste material!

INSTALL AND CONFIGURE CONKY COLORS

Before we can go ahead and install it, Conky Colors has some requirements that need to be in place for everything to run smoothly, packages that need to be installed and configured prior to Conky Colors first run. To complete the installation of the packages required, open your package manager of choice and install the following ones:

- aptitude
- python-statgrab
- ttf-droid
- hddtemp
- curl
- lm-sensor


Alternatively, you can do the same from the command line in one go:

sudo apt-get install aptitude python-statgrab ttf-droid hddtemp curl lm-sensors

Now, set the right privileges for hddtemp:

sudo chmod u+s /usr/sbin/hddtemp

Finally, run the following command answering YES to all questions, even the last one which defaults to NO.

sudo sensors-detect

As a last step, restart your session by logging out and then back in.

Once all that is complete, we need to download the theme files from HERE. Just click on the Conky Colors Source button. If the download completed successfully, you should have 92328-conky_colors-5.0b2-2.tar.gz with you already. Open the file with your archive manager of choice and extract the conky-colors folder to a location of your choice (your home folder is probably best). Now, follow these few simple steps:

1.- Open a terminal and access the conky-colors folder you just extracted.
2.- Type make and hit enter.
3.- Now, install Conky Colors by running sudo make install.
4.- Once done, run Conky Colors by entering conky-colors {options}.

To see all options available, you may type conky-colors --help. To give you an example, here's the set of options I use:

conky-colors --cairo --theme=elementary --cpu=4 --swap --clock=cairo --banshee=cairo --network --wireless --calendarm

The command above will generate the Conky customization of your choice. However, we still need to run Conky to see those settings come to life:

conky -c ~/.conkycolors/conkyrc &

Voila!

CONKY HUD

Let's now go back to simple with an easy to set up Conky theme, Conky HUD, which is shown below rocking my Moon OS desktop.


Click on image to enlarge.

The design is once again pretty sleek, but the interface is highly simplified, showing just a summary of the system monitoring information (albeit the most relevant bits for standard users).

From left to right we see:

  • Current Time
  • Memory Use
  • Disk Use
  • CPU Load

INSTALL AND CONFIGURE CONKY HUD

As usual, let's start by downloading this Conky theme from its Gnome-look.org PAGE. If the download completed successfully, you should have 137505-conky_HUD.zip with you. Open the file and extract conky_HUD.lua and conkyrc_HUD under .conky folder, which should be created in your home folder (create it yourself if it is not the case).

To start Conky HUD, run the following command:

conky -c ~/.conky/conkyrc_HUD &

RUNNING CONKY ON STARTUP

If you end up liking Conky, chances are you will want to see it there as part of a regular system boot up, without having to manually start it on every session. If that is the case, you can easily do that by creating a very simple bash script, as follows:

1.- Open your editor of choice and type the following:


#!/bin/bash

sleep 15
conky &


This little script would wait for 15 seconds before starting Conky, which is handy so that it doesn't get in the way of anything else loading for your new session. Now, if the Conky theme you are using is one of the ones we have discussed, which require more specific commands, the script should be modified as follows:

For Conky Colors

Instead of conky &, use conky -c ~/.conkycolors/conkyrc &

For Conky HUD

Instead of conky &, use conky -c ~/.conky/conkyrc_HUD &

2.- Save your script and grant it with execution privileges.

3.- Set the script to run as part of your Startup Applications.

CONKY LOVE

I have come to love Conky, even with its quirky, sometimes plain complicated configurations. I think a GUI application to handle these themes would be a blast, but for now, I simply enjoy having my system monitor beautifying my desktop.

Thanks for reading!

PS: Thanks to the great staff at WEBUPD8 for spotting and sharing these great Conky themes and obviously to the artists and developers who put them together!

8 comments:

  1. Great post - I just installed conky lua. I like it's simpler yet elegant look. I too removed the png file to make it cleaner.

    Yakup M

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Yakup: Thanks, sir!

    Glad you are enjoying Conky LUA!

    ReplyDelete
  3. awesome post! Very easy to follow. Where did you get the background for Zorin OS?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks!

    As for the wallpaper, I can't find it anymore, but a very similar one is here:

    http://sammyie.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/wallpapers-del-martes/

    ReplyDelete
  5. Any ideas on how to make conky play nice with KDE? I have tried to make it work couple of times and while the functionality is just fine; the transparency goes askew with a plasma desktop.

    To illustrate what I mean take a look at this screen I posted online:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/60738522@N02/5537277193/

    Your suggestions will be welcome

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post, really helped me thanks, subscribed and looking forward to more

    Desktop
    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/8caAponMkVOuTtpJW934gUs3bZ8Iv2v7yHIBdY6_cxk?feat=directlink

    ReplyDelete
  7. Here's the original Debian wallpaper:
    http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs39/f/2009/002/b/a/Debian_Red_Metal_Hex_by_monkeymagico.jpg

    ReplyDelete
  8. nice, and very easy to follow, thanks!

    ReplyDelete