Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Just talk

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Filed under
Just talk

Ukrainian Flag Editorial

A CONCEPT like "Free software" was formulated more than 38 years ago at MIT (United States). Linux, the kernel, came from a neighbour of Russia in 1991. The father of Linus Torvalds is a politician known for his connections to Russia; he encouraged non-confrontational politics, the mindset of co-existence. At the moment there are attempts to leverage Free software projects for political purposes, mostly by banning Russians and sometimes Belarusians (collective punishment). This approach is deeply misguided because it's unlikely to accomplish anything except harm to Free software. It's striking at the very core of what GNU/Linux is and what it stands for. Be careful what you wish for...

The Command Line Challenge

Filed under
Just talk

Authored by Andy Farnell

Free red light

Cheapskates wonderful guide is currently running a "One Week Command Line Challenge". Some of the students I teach now are so young (to an old beard like me) they think this is some "crazy new thing". Is there new hope and a new perspective to be explored here? Something other than retro and cool. Perhaps historical baggage, the narrative of how "superior" graphical interfaces replaced "old" consoles is an obstacle to new visions for the next generation?

As a lifelong textual user interface (TUI) user this got me thinking. If you were to give me "The GUI Challenge" I'd be sunk! My world (dwm, emacs, w3m etc) feels so familiar, it's in my bones. After thirty or forty years on the command line if I were forced to use "normal computers" it would cripple my ability to do anything.

The command-line is super empowering, but particular. Put me on a Mac or Windows machine and I revert to a child-like flap, randomly clicking around on icons that look promising. I'd be twenty times less productive than my peers, yet, modesty be damned, I'm ten times more effective/productive at average computing tasks than other professionals when in my comfort zone - at the command-line. Isn't this true for us all, that we have our comfy shoes?

Of course this isn't about some innate inability to use graphical tools. I've mastered some jolly complex ones like Blender and Unreal editors (virtual world building), and ProTools or Ardour (for sound and music). One of the most complex I recall was a VLSI/CAD creator that used two four button mice (or mouse and ball).

So, is the command line challenge unfair? I am no more capable of quickly learning a new graphical paradigm than an entrenched GUI user is of adopting the keyboard and console. This probably applies at any age or ability level where you are comparing like-for-like paradigm switching.

No, the issue here is deeper and is about utility paradigms. How do people relate to computers as tools at the highest level - at the operating system level and above?

If you dig back in the Usenet and mailing-list archives, you'll find fascinating, passionate and intelligent debates on the merits of different interfaces going right back to Xerox-PARC. They are really separate computing cultures. There's a fair historical summary here.

The above history ends in 2001. GUIs did not end there, the debate has moved further, and many new things have not been well analysed. Mobile, which essentially emulates button-based handheld appliances, cannot really be compared to GUI (in its traditional sense), even though it's technically a computer running a graphical interface.

It's only since about 2010 that the GUI function of abstracting (hiding away complexity) was subverted by wicked corporations to hide away deception and to effect control. This shift from the abstract to the abstruse and obstructive is what we sometimes call "Dark Computing Patterns", but really it goes deeper than that - visual computing is it's own realm of psychology, politics, semiotics, iconography and subterfuge that in many cases thoroughly bastardises the function of computers qua "tools".

The GUI/TUI debate can be framed in many ways; preference, freedom, extensibility, cognitive overhead, portability, control (tweakability), depth of understanding (legibility), and more.

For me, tool longevity and stability are important. I still use the same applications and skills I learned in 1980. Some people, foolishly I think, imagine that to be a bad/anti-progressive stance. One of the most underrated abilities in computer programming is knowing when something is finished. As is the ability to just use something instead of worshipping it as a digital artefact (cue NFT "first editions of brand apps).

By contrast many of my colleagues must re-learn their entire productivity stack every few months at the whim of corporate developers or seemingly random events in "the market". I literally hear them anthropomorphising:

"Oh, Slack won't let me do that now"

"Oh, Google ate my email"

"Sorry, something broke, can you resend it please?"

Their "computers" are chaotic mystery machines, magic fun fairs where superstitious ritual ministrations must be performed. This sort of Scooby-Doo "clown computing" has no place in serious business, in my opinion. So, another hugely underrated quality that TUIs favour is stability.

Where did this mess come from? In the 1980s "home computers" created a culture of their own, and from there Apple and Microsoft, needed to counter a socially constructed but actually mythical "fear" of computers as nerdy and silly, but also "dangerous". Remember granny worrying that it would "blow up" if you typed the wrong thing?

Continuing a culture of sysadmins from the time-sharing Unix days, we created the "user" as a particular stereotype. To put it quite bluntly, we manufactured "users" to be idiots. Indeed, use of the word "users" instead of a more neutral term like "operators" is significant. The developer-user relationship today is a power relationship, and often an abusive one (in both directions).

In fact denigrating attitudes have their roots in the fragility of early software development. The "user" was an enemy who would always find ways to break our software and exhibit extraordinary "stupidity" by failing to understand our non-obvious interface puzzles. We used tropes like (P.E.B.K.A.C), lusers, and treated others with disrespectful and superior smugness.

Computing had its hashtag moment, and markets demanded that perceptions change. Microsoft solved the problem by erecting some soothing blue fire-hazard cladding around a crumbling DOS. Underneath, exposure to "The Registry" was like staring directly into the open core of Chernobyl.

At that point, enter Apple, who could play Good Cop, adding value by simply subtracting (or consolidating) features. For many, Steve Jobs was elevated to the man who "invented computers". For a certain generation, he did. The ancient science of HCI (human computer interaction) was beaten and disfigured into the designer denomination of UX/UI that emphasised intuition, feel, and experience, which in turn ushered in the age of performative productivity. This trajectory of form over function culminated in neurotic obsessions with $2000 disposable thin laptops and the Onion's infamous Apple Wheel parody that confused many as to whether it was a genuinely good idea.

Meanwhile the command line simply kept calm and carried on. Nothing changed in 30 years. Those who ran the servers, databases, scientific and technical applications never strayed far from the console, except where "presentation" demanded. However, through the mass media and advertising, digital technology became synonymous with these corporate veneers over actual computers, while Hollywood made the command-line a glowing green preserve of malcontents bent on destroying civilisation.

So, although the Command Line Challenge is fun - and I hope it inspires some people to go beyond their comfort zone - let's be aware that human factors, history and politics play a greater role behind the scenes. Yes, it's about mental models, rote motor skills and habits, rather than any intrinsic good or bad. But it's also about culture and popular ideas of what a computer "is".

The emphasis of Cheapskate's article is on TUI allowing the use of older computers. That's a very topical and important concern in the age of climate emergency. If readers don't know already about books like Gerry McGovern's World Wide Waste, I urge you to read more about e-waste. Making the connections between textual interfacing, more modest tech-minimalist use, and a better society and healthier planet, isn't obvious to everyone.

There are many reasons people may prefer to return to the command line. I vastly prefer TUI's for another reason. As a teacher I deal in ideas not applications, so it's a way of imparting lasting concepts instead of ephemeral glitter. Commands are connections of action concepts to words, essential for foundational digital literacy. Almost everything I can teach (train) students to use by GUI will have changed by the time they graduate.

For younger people the difference is foundational. My daughter and I sit down together and do basic shell skills. She can log in, launch an editor, play music and her favourite cartoon videos. We use Unix talk to chat. It's slow, but great fun, because character based coms is very expressive as you see the other person typing. She's already internalising the Holy Trinity - storage, processing and movement.

To make this work I obviously customised bash, creating a kind of safe sandbox for her with highly simplified syntax. This week we are learning about modifier keys - shift is for SHOUTING and control is to CANCEL (you can't get around needing to teach CTRL-C). What we are really working on is her typing skills, which are the foundation of digital literacy in my opinion. I think at the age of 5 she is already a long way ahead of her school friends who paw at tablets.

In conclusion then, the TUI/GUI saga is about much more than interchangeable and superficial ways of interacting with computers. In it's essence it is about literacy, the ability to read and write (type). Behind, and ahead of it, are matters of cultural importance relevant to education, autonomy, democracy, self-expression, and the economy. So if you're a mouser or screen smudger, why not give Cheapskate's challenge a try?

December 25th...

Filed under
Just talk

A merry xmas from tux machines

TOMORROW we shall publish IRC logs for the whole year. It's this time of the year again. News is expected to be a lot slower over the weekend, but we'll stay on top of it regardless.

Discovering Extra Software Freedom With LibreWolf

Filed under
Just talk

Today I decided to refresh my mind and read about the beloved Operating System called GNU/Linux. It is such a privilege to know and to have used this OS for so many reasons. For starters: It's free - as in free-of-charge and free/libre (so both gratis and free as in free speech). You are free - free to modify/tweak and share it with everybody... ah, freedom. It is highly secure and reliable and that is why it has been used by supercomputers (or really huge servers) for so long - in companies, in education, and the largest enterprises. Last but not least, it's easy. It used to be fairly difficult for a new user to try out Linux, mostly because installation itself was difficult, but this is no longer an issue as websites and how-tos are all widely available when needed, as well as other useful things.

Dave Yelling X On The Microphone: LibreWolf!There are communities, real communities, always ready to assist, whenever you need a helping hand. I'm glad that I have tried Ubuntu with Unity as the desktop environment, as I liked the experience and now I'm using Debian with KDE as the desktop environment. Different distro and desktop environment, but it's the same freedom I've enjoyed all along. The most recent change I made was, I decided ditch Mozilla Firefox (as my default browser) and I changed to LibreWolf, so I'm still exploring and familiarising myself with the interface. It's a bit different, but I already love it.

Elephant and Its Ivory

Filed under
Just talk

Elephant and Its Ivory

LIVES at risk. This is a travesty. REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA'S MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY AND TOURISM: "We should manage elephants based on science and not emotions." By auctioning/selling off 170 live elephants? Give us a break. Oftentimes, animals were to make a sacrifice over humans because they are just "animals", so they can't speak to us, and can't protest. We're asked to assume they're just the least important, therefore we can eradicate (or "cull") them -- as simple as that. How I wish the the Animal Kingdom will become a force and burn this kind of society just to make a statement -- and then, maybe, humans will truly realise the value of animal rights. Shame on those African countries which don't give a shit about all those people who tirelessly devoted their time and life to protecting the wild animals, and specifically the elephants. Animals can't speak, but they can see you and they can feel you; just look into and gaze at their eyes, doesn't that give you goosebumps? Burn.

Microsoft Loves Painting Apple (or "GAFA") as the Problem

Filed under
Just talk

Mask Me No Questions: The 'new' Microsoft; Mask Me No Questions

Summary: The latest twist in Microsoft's PR strategy is, divert attention and blame to other companies [1,2], even if their alleged abuses are in fact a copy of Microsoft's own

  • Microsoft Backs Epic’s Apple Battle on Game Technology Access

    The graphics technology, known as Unreal Engine, is a suite of software used by millions of developers to build 3-D games and other products. Cutting off Epic from Apple’s iOS and Mac developer tools would mean the gaming company can no longer distribute Unreal Engine to other developers, Epic said in its legal filing. Microsoft, which makes the Xbox, uses the technology for games developed for consoles, PCs and mobile devices.

  • Microsoft Supports Epic Games, Says Apple Blocking Access to Unreal Engine Would Harm Game Creators

    In a declaration in support of Epic Games [PDF], Microsoft gaming executive Kevin Gammill wrote that "Apple's discontinuation of Epic's ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers." Specifically, Gammill said that games utilizing Unreal Engine will be put at a "substantial disadvantage," citing Microsoft's own racing game Forza Street for iPhone and iPad as an example.

In the face of an Orangutan

Filed under
Just talk

Orangutan

Mother of two species.

The camels' outcry

Filed under
Just talk

Camel

When a human doesn't know what to do and people don't know how to tackle the real issue, the animals are becoming the sacrifice. Billion of animals were lost to bushfires alone and millions are slaughtered every day, yet the audacity to kill the camels is astonishing. I wonder what would be the humans' reaction if the animals called for human culling. Think about it.

Why Tux Machines Occasionally Adds Editorial Comments

Filed under
Just talk

Editorials

Summary: Editorial remarks (or Editor's comments, "Ed" for short) play a role in highlighting potential inaccuracies -- and manipulations of the mind -- when those aren't so shallow and aren't abundantly obvious

Recently, and as lately as a few hours ago, Richard Stallman exchanged some messages and we might meet again in a few months (he is traveling to the UK). Stallman and I share a concern about neglect of truth and history; for instance, many GNU programs are nowadays dubbed "LINUX COMMANDS" (I saw one example of that just 2 hours ago) and people sometimes lose sight of the important goals, focusing on brands instead of philosophy, political aspects and so on.

"Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading."

I would like to take this moment, on the last day of this year, to explain where we stand on issues pertaining to software freedom. A few times in the past one reader bemoaned my editorial comments (marked "Ed"), which typically bemoan something about the cited article/s. Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading. One example of that is openwashing. Another rather common and increasingly ubiquitous example concerns Microsoft "loving" Linux (it actually loves Windows).

We live in a world with Public Relations and marketing agencies. They exist to mislead; they shape perceptions -- that's their business model! To blindly link to just anything online without commentary or curation would likely lead us astray. Truth does matter. Facts need to be checked. This is what Tux Machines strives to achieve; throwing the word "LINUX" into something like Google News would expose one to loads of cruft, irrelevant stuff, plagiarism, pure spam and sometimes intentional lies. With no human operator or editor just about anything can be dunked into search results, owing to SEO manipulation and mishandling of indexes. I've seen that for well over a decade. Automation just doesn't work; someone who understands the problem domain needs to assess things for quality and accuracy.

"To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond."

My adult life (since age 18 or so when I became a GNU/Linux user) involved very hard work and lifelong activism for software freedom. Not everyone agrees with me and if sometimes I may say something readers disagree with (e.g. in editorial comments), then it's likely because I try to be realistic, not jingoistic. Moreover, no two individuals will agree on everything 100% of the time. That's inevitable. So some readers might dislike these editorial comments. To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond.

At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks. There are different types of attacks. I think Free software will endure regardless. On a more positive note, Free software is nowadays used everywhere, it's just not being called that ("Open Source" is the term corporate media prefers) and it has been leveraged as a low-cost 'cushion' for DRM, surveillance, militarism etc. Think of companies like Facebook and Netflix (GNU and Linux at their back ends). Is this what we strive for? Closed systems that are merely built upon Freedom-respecting stacks?

"At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks."

Software freedom is a huge objective in a world where almost everything becomes digital (only more so over time). I think it's up to us to somehow guide the world's software towards ethical uses, without necessarily imposing how it's used, and that is perhaps a future challenge for the Free Software Movement. It's a monumental challenge because politics can be a massive terrain to navigate. Over at Techrights I mostly focus on issues such as patents (laws), with emphasis on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO) granting software patents in Europe and so on. Patents on algorithms are one kind of barrier (among many) impeding Free software adoption.

Koalas Need Our Help

Filed under
Just talk

Koalas Need Our Help

Watching videos/photos of Koalas being rescued from a charred/burning forests in Australia is heart-breaking and devastating. More than 350 Koalas are reported being dead and these numbers are growing. Those who live far from Australia (just like me) can't help physically rescue them, but a small amount of money/donation to sustain the hospital/facilities, volunteers and rescuers is of great help. Koala is just one of the many species that perish from the bushfire and they need our help, so please donate through the GoFundMe page and through other legitimate websites. Help those who support animal welfare.

Syndicate content

More in Tux Machines

today's howtos

  • How to install go1.19beta on Ubuntu 22.04 – NextGenTips

    In this tutorial, we are going to explore how to install go on Ubuntu 22.04 Golang is an open-source programming language that is easy to learn and use. It is built-in concurrency and has a robust standard library. It is reliable, builds fast, and efficient software that scales fast. Its concurrency mechanisms make it easy to write programs that get the most out of multicore and networked machines, while its novel-type systems enable flexible and modular program constructions. Go compiles quickly to machine code and has the convenience of garbage collection and the power of run-time reflection. In this guide, we are going to learn how to install golang 1.19beta on Ubuntu 22.04. Go 1.19beta1 is not yet released. There is so much work in progress with all the documentation.

  • molecule test: failed to connect to bus in systemd container - openQA bites

    Ansible Molecule is a project to help you test your ansible roles. I’m using molecule for automatically testing the ansible roles of geekoops.

  • How To Install MongoDB on AlmaLinux 9 - idroot

    In this tutorial, we will show you how to install MongoDB on AlmaLinux 9. For those of you who didn’t know, MongoDB is a high-performance, highly scalable document-oriented NoSQL database. Unlike in SQL databases where data is stored in rows and columns inside tables, in MongoDB, data is structured in JSON-like format inside records which are referred to as documents. The open-source attribute of MongoDB as a database software makes it an ideal candidate for almost any database-related project. This article assumes you have at least basic knowledge of Linux, know how to use the shell, and most importantly, you host your site on your own VPS. The installation is quite simple and assumes you are running in the root account, if not you may need to add ‘sudo‘ to the commands to get root privileges. I will show you the step-by-step installation of the MongoDB NoSQL database on AlmaLinux 9. You can follow the same instructions for CentOS and Rocky Linux.

  • An introduction (and how-to) to Plugin Loader for the Steam Deck. - Invidious
  • Self-host a Ghost Blog With Traefik

    Ghost is a very popular open-source content management system. Started as an alternative to WordPress and it went on to become an alternative to Substack by focusing on membership and newsletter. The creators of Ghost offer managed Pro hosting but it may not fit everyone's budget. Alternatively, you can self-host it on your own cloud servers. On Linux handbook, we already have a guide on deploying Ghost with Docker in a reverse proxy setup. Instead of Ngnix reverse proxy, you can also use another software called Traefik with Docker. It is a popular open-source cloud-native application proxy, API Gateway, Edge-router, and more. I use Traefik to secure my websites using an SSL certificate obtained from Let's Encrypt. Once deployed, Traefik can automatically manage your certificates and their renewals. In this tutorial, I'll share the necessary steps for deploying a Ghost blog with Docker and Traefik.

Red Hat Hires a Blind Software Engineer to Improve Accessibility on Linux Desktop

Accessibility on a Linux desktop is not one of the strongest points to highlight. However, GNOME, one of the best desktop environments, has managed to do better comparatively (I think). In a blog post by Christian Fredrik Schaller (Director for Desktop/Graphics, Red Hat), he mentions that they are making serious efforts to improve accessibility. Starting with Red Hat hiring Lukas Tyrychtr, who is a blind software engineer to lead the effort in improving Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Fedora Workstation in terms of accessibility. Read more

Today in Techrights

Android Leftovers