Two different usage patterns
July 22, 2008
Recently, for my version of recently, a shell history meme has been going around various places. Thinking about the meme and what it would look like for me has led me to thinking about two different usage patterns in Unix graphical environments; I will call these persistent and disposable.
People who follow the persistent pattern like long-lived, multi-purpose contexts; for example, they are inclined to leave a terminal window or a shell session active for a long time, and over its lifetime such a shell will wind up doing many unrelated things. By contrast, people who follow the disposable pattern have short-lived, single-purpose contexts; for example, if they need to do a new thing they open a new terminal window, do the thing, and then close it.
This difference matters because it changes what you care about. If you're a persistent pattern person you probably don't care too much about how long a new shell session takes to start, because you do it rarely, but you probably do care a lot about good shell history because you have a lot of it. If you're a disposable pattern person it's the other way around; you care a lot about fast program startup, but not so much about history.
Most of the time I am strongly a disposable pattern person (as I put it once, 'one window, one purpose'), to the point where I not infrequently close one window and open up an identical new one just because the new one will be used for a different job. This does mean that I don't really have anything to say on the shell history meme, because I throw away my shell histories when I exit my shells.
(A one window, one purpose approach doesn't necessarily mean no persistent programs; sometimes the best way to get fast disposable windows is to keep a program around. I have a fair amount of infrastructure designed to make getting new windows fast and easy, so that I'm encouraged to throw away old ones.)
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