Living in a shell

Since I started working for my new employer the amount of time I’m spending inside a terminal window is rapidly increasing. And I like it. I’m learning more in a few months than I did in the past 5 years. I’m discovering superhandy commands and utilities that I had never used or even heard of before. Utilities like w, last and the various *stat utilities. And I’m becoming better and better in using utilities that I already know but that always remained hard to grasp simply because I didn’t use them extensively. Think of Vim, screen and sed. Or on a lower level, the Bash shell itself.

I’m particularly starting to develop a fondness for Vim. I’ve worked myself through a complete Vim book and when I finished it I was like, Vim is not arcane at all, it’s actually quite simple. It’s all about terseness, doing things in the fastest, most efficient way, memorizing the most important commands and forcing myself to use it for things I would normally do in say, gedit. So now I find myself easily copying whole blocks of text, commenting and uncommenting multiple lines with just a few keystrokes, using markers and buffers and browsing faster through files than possible with a mouse.

Currently I’m reading a book on Bash and it already provided me with a lot of new insights and ideas that I could use in my daily work. My scripting skills are a bit feeble so hopefully this book will help me to improve these. Luckily I have great colleagues that are very knowledgeable when it come to things like Bash and Vim so I’m coming along just fine. But I want to be able to purge a Sendmail mail queue filled with spam like I saw one of my colleagues do recently. What he did on top of his head was just amazing:

for i in `ls | grep qfr`; do w=`grep $i | wc -l`; if [ "$w" != "0" ]; 
then echo $i | sed -e 's/^qfr//'; fi;  done | sed -e 's/^/*/' | xargs -n 50000;

This allowed him to create a list of all spam messages which he simply ran through rm. It’s no rocket science but I’d really like to be that proficient too. Another colleague of mine is just awesome with regular expressions and Vi. For example, I recently asked him how I could delete all text between parentheses including the parentheses, for example a list of packages I copied from /var/log/apt/history.log, and he immediately replied %s/([^)]*)//g. Yes, I’m blessed that I can work in such an inspiring environment.

Living in a shell

A month on a Mac

During the second job interview with my new employer I was asked if I’d like to use a Mac or a Windows PC with the assurance I’d get a Linux workstation after my probation time. Just put me behind a Mac then, that’s closer to Linux than Windows and from what I recalled it comes with a native terminal that does SSH. And what do I need more?

So there I am in front of a big, glossy screen and a tiny keyboard that lacks some familiar keys. My findings so far? Kind of neutral. I’ve got my terminal and I can run SSH from the CLI so I’m happy. There are some quirks that annoy me though (in no particular order):

  • No Compose key and I had to jump through quite some hoops to map a key as a Compose key.
  • No easy way to map a keyboard shortcut for opening a terminal. I had to resort to something called ‘Automator’ to get it working. And it still doesn’t work the way I want too. When there are no windows open pressing the shortcut doesn’t do anything. When there are open windows it works but why does it open two terminals when pressing the shortcut for the first time? Not a real big deal as I need multiple terminals anyway (I just can’t get used to tabbed terminals).
  • I prefer non-glare monitors to glossy ones.
  • No Home, End, PageDown and PageUp keys. Not a real big deal either, in fact, it’s a real good incentive to start getting accustomed to Vi(m) shortcuts since I kind of live inside Vim these days. I even bought this, great stuff.
  • Can’t get used to the default window management settings. For instance when you minimize a window and Alt+Tab to it the window doesn’t open. So I’m not minimizing any windows anymore since this is really annoying. Haven’t looked into changing this behaviour though, it’s probably something relatively simple.
  • Annoying pop-ups from updates and programs that are downloaded from the internet (“blabla” is an application downloaded from the Internet. Are you sure you want to open it?). Especially the latter ones are annoying. Disabling the pop-ups has to be done from a terminal. Wow, so much for a “user-friendly” OS.
  • Clicking the close button of an application doesn’t quit it. Cmd+Q does. This is something I won’t get used to either. Actually I don’t want to get used to the Cmd button at all.
  • I prefer a panel with a window list on it. I don’t know how other folks do it but this Alt+Tab stuff is counter-efficient in my case.

Are there things I particularly like about Mac OS X or the Mac itself? Actually no, can’t think of anything. Yeah, the keyboard feel is really nice but that pro gets nulled out because of the missing keys, ~ being placed next to the left Shift key and the Fn keys being mapped to the F1/F12 keys. Add to this the meaningless keys with all kinds of arrows on them and this key with a crossed square. No idea what they do. On a software level MacPorts is nice, it allowed me to install some of my favorite tools that I found were missing. Other than that I can’t wait to have my own workstation with Linux on it. The plan is that I get a Dell XPS 15 with a dual monitor setup. Something to look forward to.

And yes, I have to deal with quite some Windows servers now. I’m not going to dedicate a blogpost to my findings on that OS. Just one word. Meh.

A month on a Mac