The Working Centre Linux Project


Applications are the heart of the WCLP project. We needed to find user applications that our users would be happy with, and we needed to find a convenient backend for installing the operating system. As documented on the main page, we have high requirements of our software. Here is some of the software that meets those requirements.

X Windows Manager

IceWM is a fast, relatively lightweight window manager for X. Some IceWM features we like include:

  1. It supports a taskbar, which goes a long way towards making the Linux desktop look like Windows. The taskbar includes some really nifty features, such as network and hard drive load monitors.
  2. The taskbar comes with a menuing system similar to the Windows “Start Menu.” Furthermore, Debian’s menu system updates the “Start Menu” whenever new applications are added.
  3. It supports themes that look vaguely Windows-like.
  4. It has a WinNT-style logout menu which allows you to shut down the computer without using the command line, in a fairly graphical way.
  5. Although virtual desktops are not a feature of standard Windows installations, they come in handy when working in lower resolutions.

Other mentionables: XFCE

Word Processor

Abiword still lacks many features of Microsoft Word or’s word processor. However, it works fairly well with 16MB of RAM on a 486. It is also under heavy development, and soon it will be useable for relatively sophisticated reports. Provided that its resource consumption does not bloat too much, it should prove to be the best of the lightweight word processors. And it certainly looks a lot like Word!

Another important feature Abiword offers is good Rich Text Format support. File compatibility is an important consideration for our software.

Other mentionables: the SIAG office suite, TED.


Opera is closed source, but we like it anyway. These folks have good community support, and they are working hard to compete against Internet Explorer. Until recently they were the only free-beer web browser we could find that supported web standards.

Unfortunately, Opera is becoming less and less suited to our needs. Because Opera is proprietary, it makes redistribution of the distribution difficult. More importantly, Opera 7 is an unusable mess on any system with less than 32MB of RAM.

Other mentionables: links, w3m, Dillo

Spreadsheet Application

Gnumeric has a lot of GNOME bindings; we are afraid that its resource use will bloat to the point it becomes unusable. For now, however, the spreadsheet is full-featured and mostly compatible with Microsoft Excel.

To our surprise, we discovered that most of our users do not use spreadsheets, so this software is relatively untested on our systems.

Other mentionables: The SIAG office suite

Mail client

Sylpheed is an impressive GUI mail application. Its user interface resembles that of Outlook Express, and those users who have tried it have little difficulty finding their way around. Furthermore, it is featureful and under heavy development. There is some danger that it will bloat, but for now it seems to be an excellent lightweight mail application.

Instant Messaging

Gaim serves as our instant messenging client, mostly because it is under constant development and because it supports many different IM protocols. It is usable, although some users complain that it does not resemble their favorite instant messaging client.

File Manager

GNOME Midnight Commander used to be the hot file manager because the GNOME project used it as its default file manager. Then along came Nautilus and the GNOME dropped GMC like a stone – in fact, GNOME bindings are no longer included in the source. But for some reason, we wanted a Windows Explorer-type filemanager.

GMC has the potential to be a really excellent non-GNOME file manager. It is not there yet, and it probably will never be. However, it supports links on the “desktop” and is usable, so we include it.

Other mentionables: XFCE, FoxCommander, the ROX filer


The Ace of Penguins offers card games. No Windows actalike is complete without solitaire!

Audio Player

Gqmpeg is pretty, functional, actually runs under 16MB of RAM and supports both MP3 and Ogg/Vorbis files. We chose it even though many of our machines do not have enough processing power to play MP3 or Ogg/Vorbis files well.

Graphical Login Manager

GDM is awfully bloated for a login manager (it depends on 50MB of GNOME libraries), but it allows automated logins fairly easily.

Other mentionables: WDM (The WindowMaker login manager)


To maintain the installer backend, we use the following software:


FAI stands for “Fully Automatic Installation.” It is a set of scripts and configuration files that allow administrators to non-interactively install Debian using a network connection.

FAI is fairly powerful. By twiddling with configuration files, administrators can customize installations for different classes of machines, different hardware, and so on. This power comes at a price, of course: the learning curve is high. However, many helpful souls live on the FAI mailing list, and the package is well documented. FAI is also under development, so we may see support for CD-ROM based installations soon.

Apt-move is a Debian script we use to maintain a local mirror of our packages. We do not have the disk space (or bandwith) to keep a copy of the entire Debian archive, so we download the packages we want onto a central server, and then use apt-move to move those packages into an appropriate directory structure that can be used to install base packages.

Applications We Need

We are unhappy with some of the software applications we bundle, and there are other needs we cannot fill. If you know of applications that will fill these needs, please let us know.

A Web Browser

We would like to have an open-source web browser that supports web standards and runs well on systems matching our minimum requirements. Mozilla and its derivatives are all far too memory-hungry. Increasingly, Opera is becoming unusable on our systems.

So far, the two projects with the most potential appear to be Dillo and Links, but neither of them supports Web standards yet.

A File Manager

GMC is slow and unsupported. The ROX filer is cool, but does not look like something out of Windows. Maybe the XFCE filer is the answer?

Many, many filers exist, but none of them meet our needs. Many of them are fine file managers, but few of them attempt to look Windows.

A Login Manager

GDM is too heavy for a login manager. Surely a simpler login manager exists (or could be easily written) that supports automated logins?

Applications to Investigate

Ever so often we find or receive links to interesting new software that might be appropriate for the distribution. This is where we list them so we remember to try them out. The links in this section are volatile.


Shorewall is an easy-to-configure text-based firewall. Debian packages seem to be available.

Kernel Patches

The Tiny 2.6 kernel, maintained by Matt Mackall, offers patches which allow the 2.6 series kernel to run on small systems. Probably we cannot use this directly, but it is worth tracking.