Wandering Thoughts archives


I am not a (Unix) purist

Someone from outside looking at my environment and what I use and do might think that I'm a Unix purist; after all, I use an odd and limited shell, a stripped down and custom desktop environment, and I persist in reading my email with MH (which is a very Unixy thing in the abstract) instead of a modern IMAP client. I could go on, but I think you get the general drift. That impression would be a mistake. I am not really a Unix purist.

Oh, I certainly have a tinge of it (along with the upturned nose that goes with it, which I try not to let show much these days). I feel genuine attraction to the ideals of Unix and much of their embodiment. But ultimately I'm a pragmatist who is interested in getting things done, not an idealist. I use all of the minimalistic, Unix-purist things that I do because they work well for me, not because I'm intrinsically opposed to their alternatives and refuse to touch them because they're impure.

One consequence of this is that I'm perfectly happy to depart from the straight and narrow path of Unix minimalism and purism when the result works better for me. I have in the past, I do right now in various ways, and I undoubtedly will do so in the future. It's just that I tend not to talk about these departures because usually they're not interesting (because non-minimalism is increasingly the default state of things on Unix, for good reason).

Sidebar: my latest non-minimal departure

As one might guess from a recent interest, I turned on filename completion and command line editing in my unusual shell. Previously I had two or three reasons for not doing this: it wasn't efficient on old machines, I thought it was impure, and it clashed badly with 9term, one of my terminal emulators. Well, old machines are long gone, a Linux kernel change broke 9term, and using bash (by default) on some systems around here had slowly sold me on the real and seductive convenience of filename completion. I found myself missing it in my regular shell then realized that now that I'm not using 9term there was no reason not to build a version with GNU Readline support.

So far I rather like it and actually think that I should have done this some years ago. (This is often how changes in my environment go.)

unix/IAmNotAPurist written at 00:01:22; Add Comment

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