Open Source

Keeping the command line alive

Over the last year I have noticed something: I pretty much consistently leave a terminal window open on my desktop at all times. I am using Aterm running with the command:

aterm -tr -sh 50 -fg yellow -bg black +sb

plus I am removing the border (I use Enlightenment) so all that exists is a shaded rectangle with a command prompt.

I have found this to be incredibly useful — for so many reasons. But one thing it's proven to me is that I simply don't want to be without the command line.

I consider the Linux desktops to be one of my specialties, so I am very fond of the GUI. But there is just something inherently "Linux" about the command prompt. Not only is it the single most versatile tool, it's also the least assuming, least resource demanding, and least intruding. The way I run my terminal it's just there, in the background, waiting for its next command. Sometimes it's "top", sometimes it's "ls -l", sometimes I'll flush iptables, or secure shell to another account. But it's always there and ready.

But it makes me Linux evolves into the environment it is becoming, what is going to happen to the command line? We've seen Microsoft shed the terminal and then bring it back. But I just can't imagine Linux without bash. Can you imagine not being able to roll your own bash scripts and run them from the terminal window? I know I can't. I depend upon scripts for so many things.

Of course I realize that there is GUI frontend for nearly every command line tool now. But sometimes the frontend just doesn't have the flexibility as the command line. Imagine leaving open every frontend for every command you use on your desktop. Let's see, off the top of my head I'd have:

  • Konqueror for ls, cp, mv
  • Gftp for ftp
  • Gtop
  • yumex for yum
  • system-install-packages for rpm
  • vlc for play

You get the idea. Pretty soon your desktop is covered with applications and your system resources are down to zilch.

So instead I just leave that command line open...even on a desktop machine. It's just too useful.

Sure I'm old school. Of course I'd rather just have a Window Manager and not a Desktop Environment. Yes there are many times I'll use Pine instead of Thunderbird. But that's just me. Naturally, though, I fear the evolution of the operating system is going to attempt to leave the command line behind. I'll be a relic. A forgotten dinosaur from an ancient, musty past who will have to content himself with running old-school distributions.

But then I think I'm okay with that. I think my romantic connection with the command line is a good thing. Even while the GUIs get better and better, I'll keep my strangle hold on the command line. And so long as my addled brain can remember all the switches and flags, I will keep using the command line. And in the very spirit of the OS itself I will hoist up my Tux flag and yell, "It's my Linux! I'll use it the way I want!"


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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