Let’s get something straight

I do my best to contain my emotions when I run across something on the forums that irritates me or makes me angry. It’s not very often that I have to restrain myself; when I do see an opinion that I feel is ill-informed or misguided, I generally try to reroute my emotions to this space, where I have a little more room to express myself.

What has gotten my goat lately (aside from the random nitpicking over default themes), is the constant attempts to earmark command line use as some sort of detriment to Linux altogether. Like this.

The command line is not blocking the progress of Linux on the desktop. Not in the least. What does block the progress of Linux on the desktop is the fact that I can, if I want, use the command line.

Yes, as I have mentioned before, the real impediment to Linux is simply the fact that I can do whatever I want with it. It’s not a cohesive force, a single unified front. It’s a splintered mass, and so there is no singular spot that you can put your finger on, and say, “This is Linux.” LaRoza’s command-line-only MacBook, and my GTK1.2-driven Pentium III, and my mother’s preinstalled Ubuntu laptop are all the same … we just all want to do things differently.

So if you’re waiting around for the command line to die, or worse, trying to equate the glacial advance of Linux to an imagined “reliance” on the command line, you’re wasting your time. Get over it. It’s not the command line that holds back Linux, it’s my freedom to choose whatever shape I like.

Now if you were to get your way, and I was forced to relinquish my command line, in favor of glossy knobular buttons and slow and clumsy GUI arrangements, two things would happen.

First, you would have a very angry Me on your hands. And Mr. McGee, please don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Second, you’d be subtracting the element of choice from Linux, and that’s dangerous ground. You take away my command line and you’re limiting the freedoms of the people who use the OS, and a lot of people use the OS because they get those freedoms. Maybe they don’t like the command line either, but if you refuse that one point, the herd becomes skittish.

Either way, start limiting what people can or should do with their own computers, and you’ll have a lot of emigrants on your hands. Then your user base narrows, your popularity wanes, and you’re back to where you started — a glossy, knobular button and nobody to share it with.

So get past it. Stop pretending the command line has the least bit of influence on Linux’s popularity. You don’t like it? Don’t use it. But don’t blame those of us who do for some perceived lack of progress. Remove it and you’ll get no progress at all.

Edit: Sigh. Another non-believer.

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10 Responses to “Let’s get something straight”


  1. 1 todd 2008/10/07 at 3:39 AM

    Why do so many believe linux to be a sentient being with dreams of empire?

    Nice response; alienating users is no way to expand the base.

  2. 2 darrelljon 2008/10/07 at 4:21 AM

    Yeah! If user’s don’t want to use the command line they don’t have to. Don’t ask for it to be removed though!

  3. 3 zmjjmz 2008/10/07 at 4:22 AM

    What confuses me more is that both Mac OS X and Windows have a command line, and look how they’re doing!
    So how would getting rid of the command line help Linux?

  4. 4 びっくり 2008/10/07 at 7:49 AM

    You know Windows was a dominant force for many years, regardless of the fact that I could pull up a DOS prompt and enter commends. I think it is possible to create an OS that will serve the average user, but maintain more flexibility for the user that wants to control things. I’ll stick with Ubuntu for now; although I rarely use the command line.

  5. 5 Colin Jones 2008/10/07 at 10:29 AM

    I have a relatively new computer, 2.2 ghz and 1 gb of ram, but I’ve found that 90% of the time I’m using terminals to do stuff. ncmpc for music, ssh and friends, emacs, the date command, my todo list, etc.

    And if you get ride of the terminals, people would have no idea what to do in the event that X stopped working. :|

    If they don’t like the terminal they should just remove it from their own menus, not force us to do the same. Or if they’re worried about new users having to use the terminal, they should write a graphical tutorial wizard for teaching the cli.

    *end rant*

  6. 6 Dr Small 2008/10/08 at 4:17 AM

    Writing (or taking screenshots) of how to do a certain task in the GUI generally takes about 3 times longer than it would to write a simple two string command that anyone can execute in the command line, regardless of what DE or WM you are running.

    I say, the command line should stay, and it will stay. There are far to many users that use it for every day usage (mainly because it saves alot of time). Besides, how would I run my server, without a command line? What are we going to do now, eliminate SSH and write some GUI SSH Server that operates without a command line? Foolishness.

  7. 7 seltied 2008/10/14 at 3:54 PM

    I feel the need, late at night on this Monday, to agree on this one. Not quite the wordsmith though, I will do my best. Without getting verbally assaulted (but I hear the Linux crew is a tame group), I must admit that I am an avid Windows user; born and bred, as it may be, on every version of Microsoft’s offering since Windows for Workgroups 3.11. With that in mind, the most intriguing (and often engrossing) part of “old” Windows was the capability to make magic happen via the old white-on-black command line. In fact, it was often vital for certain commands (such as finding out the MAC address of your system).

    To assume that the command line is faux pas and unusable to the majority of a user base is, quite simply, to make the same mistake that progressive versions of Windows have done: assume your users are ignorant. Try using the command line in Windows Vista and you are warned (via the ingenious User Access Control) that you may be “damaging” your system. It goes to show that the mystique and romance of plodding through text-based interfaces no longer exists. I cannot count how many times I would get looks of amazement and bewildered wonder when I would launch the Command Prompt in windows, maximize it to full screen, and start banging away on tracert, ipconfig, and ping commands to find out why an Internet connection wasn’t working. Co-workers would gasp in awe! And yes, PetePete, I do know what “grep pattern files” means, because to me, the excitement of command line usage lies not in the frustration and assumed ignorance of not getting a command to work, but the sense of accomplishment and reinforcement when it does work. In my opinion, every user, be it Linux, Windows, or MacOS, should have that sense of accomplishment and excitement when they sit at the keyboard.

    Just my two cents. Rock on, K.


  1. 1 CLI cheatsheet wallpaper « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/10/07 at 7:50 AM
  2. 2 Boycott Novell » Links 08/10/2008: More GNU/Linux Mini-Laptops, Recession Helping FOSS? Trackback on 2008/10/09 at 12:01 PM
  3. 3 When you put it that way … « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/03/25 at 11:27 AM

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