Software utilities I cannot live without

CLI:

  • jq: you don’t need anything else than this to manipulate JSON data. Well perhaps gron if you need to grep through JSON, but for anything else jq does the job.
  • autojump: it’s a utility that learns path patterns in your filesystem. So if you frequently visit a very/nested/directory/with/long/path, all you have to do is j foo where foo is any part of the path name, to “jump” there.
  • fzf: a fast fuzzy finder. I use it with my shell (for browsing command history) and vim (for finding files or, yes, browsing history). I recently realized I rely on fzf to such a degree that I stopped writing down complex commands anywhere, I just enable maximum history size in my shell and fzf takes care of the rest. And yes, it’s that fast.
  • rg/ag: you can use either of those to search for a string in a given directory (recursively). Both utilities are very fast.
  • mc: I’m old ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

macOS:

  • divvy: of all the “tiling” window management utilities for macOS, I found divvy to best suit my needs because it’s simple and I can assign keyboard shortcuts to position windows on a grid. And it lets you define that grid, with padding and all. Unobtrusive, simple, fast, and just works.™
  • pastebot: the best clipboard manager for macOS.
  • backblaze: not a “utility” per se, but an off-site backup solution that, again, just works. It’s very simple, flat rate, reliable, and it backs up your whole drive and any external drives too, if you wish. They never let me down.
  • timeout: I can’t live without this in times of corona. Normally, you go to a meeting room every now and then during your day, or you go grab a coffee with your colleagues. But working remotely I notice I have a tendency to just sit my ass down for hours, and not move at all. Time Out reminds me to stretch for 15 seconds every 30 minutes, and to get up and walk around the house for 10 minutes every hour. You can of course customize everything in this app.

Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation, developer edition

Dell announces another in its series of “developer laptops” with Ubuntu pre-installed. This time it’s the überpowerful M3800 mobile workstation, available with everything from an i7 CPU, through a Quadro K1100M graphics board to a 3840×2160 display. I remember ArsTechnica’s review of the XPS 13 developer edition, in which they basically said the best thing about the laptop was that it was “unremarkable”, which by today’s standards is the best compliment. Dell managed to deliver a premium quality linux laptop that just worked, Cupertino style. If they manage to do the same with the powerful 15” mobile workstation and, as they announce in the blogpost linked above, with the upcoming XPS 13”, we’ll have Linux-powered alternatives to both the Retina Macbook Pro and the Macbook Air. Which would be brilliant.

You seem to be doing a great job, Dell.

Linux gets frozen, what do you do?

Linux gets frozen, what do you do?

I’ve been using linux for the better part of the last 15 years, and I didn’t know this command. I would always try with Ctrl+Alt+F3 or some other F to get to a virtual console and then either kill the processes, sudo reboot, or simply do a hard reboot if even the console was unresponsive. The solution in the link above seems more elegant.

This is one of the most useful linux commands

setxkbmap -option "ctrl:nocaps"

It sets caps lock to ctrl, which is its most useful and reasonable binding. Useful especially in latest releases of most distributions, since newest Gnome control centre libraries remove the GUI to set the above (seriously, Gnome people, what’s with the constant removal of useful stuff, huh?).

update: Anya tweets a protip:

I guess whether .xsession still works depends on what kind of desktop env you’re using, afaik it doesn’t work on GNOME/Unity. Also, Unity still has a UI where you can put “startup applications”, and these can be arbitrary commands.

Switching Season Report, 2013 Edition

Every couple years I get the urge to peek out of my Apple-furnished hole and survey the landscape of alternative devices and operating systems. I call this urge switching season […] I figure that the least I can do when the urge to switch strikes me is to share what I’ve learned in the hopes that it saves other people some time.

via Alex Payne — Switching Season Report, 2013 Edition.

I have it exactly like Alex Payne – I’ve been living in the Apple-ecosystem for the last 3 years, and I am sorry to admit that the 2010 13” Macbook Pro is hands-down the best computer I have ever used. It’s fast (especially after having an SSD upgrade last summer), silent, portable, has great keyboard, and its software is boring like hell – it doesn’t crash and I don’t have to tinker with it to make wifi work after resuming from suspend. Despite all that, whenever I see a nice Thinkpad,1 I’m immediately browsing the best second-hand computer store in the world searching for a used X201 or X220 in good condition. It’s partly nostalgia, partly the love of XMonad, and to a small extent dislike of Apple.2 And every time it happens, I’m performing an analysis similar to the one Alex Payne did, arriving at mostly the same conclusions: Android sucks, Linux on the desktop mostly sucks, Windows is not considered due to it not being unix-based, and Apple sucks least on all fronts.

It’s all rather sad.


  1. A friend just recently bought a used X201 Tablet. He’s running Ubuntu on it and says everything’s fine and dandy. I love the way this machine looks.
  2. However, I am not pro-Dell, pro-HP or pro-Google either. All corporations are evil, it’s their duty.

Dell’s Linux Ultrabook gets more pixels

The complaint has been heard. In postings to the Dell Community site and to Dell Web Vertical Director Barton George’s blog, Dell has announced that as of today, the XPS-13 Developer Edition will be equipped with a “1080p” screen.

via Dell’s Linux Ultrabook gets more pixels, European availability | Ars Technica.

If Dell’s offering was present back in 2010, I probably wouldn’t have defected. Project Sputnik brings something the open-source community always wanted: a high-end ultraportable laptop with a high-resolution screen and full linux support from Dell. Now available in Europe as well.

How Would You Fix the Linux Desktop?

How Would You Fix the Linux Desktop?

aussersterne:

The culture of Linux remains the culture of 1993 mid-range computing—but we no longer live in a world in which CS students can’t afford the hardware/software they use at school and mainstream OSes can’t do the fun stuff. Quite the opposite. It’s funny to think back at how thrilled I was to have X11 on the desktop (compared to Windows 3.1) versus how I feel now, twenty years on, comparing KDE or GNOME on Fedora or Ubuntu to OS X 10.8. The tables have been exactly turned. Linux is still essentially the same in architecture and philosophy, while the rest of the world has moved to a completely different paradigm in which computing is essentially appliance-driven. In 1993 Linux was ahead of its time. In 2013 Linux is a decade behind.

These days, I want an complete, polished, turnkey appliance at low cost and with no labor time investment, not a set of building block. Today’s appliances are fast, intuitive, stable, durable, powerful, and integrated like the iPad (which I do, yes, use for serious work about 5-6 hours a day). For most users (which is where I have always ultimately fallen), Linux is solution in search of a problem that no longer exists.

Ask Slashdot has an interesting discussion about current state of the linux desktop, which has become (again) a heated debate after Miguel de Icaza’s blogpost and Linus Torvalds’ reply. There are some very insightful comments, like the one by aussersterne above, but more importantly the discussion gives a good picture of the linux/FLOSS community, with different views on what linux desktop is or should be, different backgrounds, ideas and problems. The first comment sums up the problem, or meta-problem to me:

Hatta:

I’ve been using Linux on my desktop for 13 years now. It works just fine for me.

Right.

How I stopped being a desktop linux enthusiast

It’s actually about “how I’m stopping to be a desktop linux enthusiast”, because I’m still using linux on my desktop/laptop, and I still think it’s a much better solution than any Windows OS. It’s just that I’ve been using various linux distributions for many many years (since 1998 I guess) on every computer I’ve owned and thought it is a nearly flawless system. It’s not, and in fact it’s getting on my nerves.

It’s all about hardware, you know. I’ve never had any problems with a desktop computer running linux, but on all the laptops I’ve owned (all two of them), there’s always been some issues. When I was a teenager in high school, I could spend months recompiling the kernel, optimizing, patching, searching for solutions. But I’m an old man now, and I get really mad when something simply doesn’t work.

Continue reading “How I stopped being a desktop linux enthusiast”