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experiments in the terminal (again)

I've been mucking around once-again with terminal programs; trying to see if I can make this an environment in which I really feel at home. I remember the first time that I used MS Windows (3.1 or 3.11, I think) and how strange it was to get used to a mouse. Till that time I'd been using WordPerfect for DOS, and sometimes Einstein and similar programs. I never imagined I might want to return to that, and now it's quite hard to go back.

My motivation is not nostalgia, but the realization that terminal programs offer greater freedom and promise a more distraction-free environment. I could manage with simpler hardware and software. My computing environment would depend much less upon the vagaries and advances in hardware, software and web services. It's a kind of adventure. In text-based computing there is a greater uniformity in what is presented on the screen. The mouse is superannuated, impressive hardware specs and graphics power become redundant. The screen is clutter free and quiet. I have no doubt that once the adjustments have been made, this would be a much more productive environment.

So I've been making experiments again with Mutt as my mail reader, and Emacs as my text editor. There are programs like ttytter (for Twitter) and MC (a wonderful filemanager). I'm currently trying out the Guake terminal, whereby one flips in and out of a full-screen terminal with the F12 key. Different programs can be opened in different tabs.

The main difficulty in working in the terminal is coping with panic attacks when suddenly stumped about how to do stuff at a very basic level. For instance, I'm relatively comfortable already with all the main Mutt keystrokes. But the need to store and retrieve files and messages opens up whole new areas of uncertainty and frustration. This kind of computing requires skills which grow less and less necessary in a world dominated by IOS devices and intuitive software. And indeed, an alternative simplicity can be obtained by purchasing a tablet or a Chromebook, where there is no need to deal with the operating system. But I find that to be somewhat limiting, a surrender of control. Opensource computing is about retaining control over one's working environment, rather than being subject to limitations that are imposed by large companies.

I feel that a cleaner, simpler, freer computing environment matches the yearnings of my spirit towards minimalism, detachment from consumerism and reduced preoccupation with "things". But I'm not sure yet. It's still an experiment.