Jun 022022

It sometimes seems that every time I dive into a Youtube video promising “${N} Awesome CLI Applications” (or equivalent), that most of the suggested applications are not command-line applications. They’re TUI-applications – text user interface as opposed to graphical user interface – or to align with my bad habit of referring to GUI applications as gooey applications, perhaps tooey applications.

Now there’s nothing wrong with tooey applications; I use them every day. Especially nmon (just because I got used to it before I discovered htop). Or btop

Screenshot of btop running

But none of these are really command-line applications; by which I mean they aren’t used at the command-line even if they are (optionally) invoked there. A command-line application allows you to use the shell including pipes to produce an aggregate result. For example :-

» grep mike /etc/passwd | awk -F: '{print $5}'
Mike Meredith

That uses two command-line “applications” to turn a username (“mike”) into a full name (“Mike Meredith”). Yes it can be optimised into a single command :-

» awk -F: '/^mike:/ {print $5}' /etc/passwd
Mike Meredith

… which even improves the search, but makes the point less well. And we can do slightly fancier things too :-

Screenshot of a random URL being picked and turned into a QR code.

(don’t assume that QR code takes you somewhere nice)

I’m not suggest Youtubers should stop making videos about terminal-based applications; I’m not even suggesting they should concentrate on “proper” command-line applications. Just don’t call terminal-based applications “command-line” because they really are not.

Nov 112021

If you follow a certain Linux on Youtube, you may well be aware of an incident where Linus was trying to install Steam on a newly installed copy of Pop_OS! and managed to produce a bit of a mess without a desktop environment. What happened?

I think that when he encountered a problem installing Steam with the gooey, he then obtained a command-line “recipe” for installing Steam – potentially for a different distribution (it certainly mentioned removing lots of “stuff” including gnome-desktop).

Is this a problem with Linus being a bit of an idiot or Linux being a bit broken? A bit of both perhaps.

Linus’ idiocy is perhaps an example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing – he mentioned being comfortable with using the command-line, but would admit that he doesn’t understand everything that goes on within it (to be fair, nobody understands everything even those who’ve been using the Linux command-line for over 20 years). And certainly when apt said “To install this package, I’m going to remove this long list of other packages”, the appropriately cautious should be saying “No” (and yes there is a prompt to allow you to do that).

The Linux command-line follows the principle that if the human wielding it wants to do something dumb, it may warn you but it will let you do whatever you want. That’s handy but scary and dangerous.

Now most users will likely veer away from the command-line – this is where Linus was a bit of an idiot – at least until they have a bit more experience. But perhaps those who make distributions should make the danger a bit more dangerous by adding a warning when opening the terminal (added to ~/.profile so we can remove an unnecessary warning) :-


The command-line can be dangerous if you are not careful. Pasting in "recipes" found on the Internet for solutions to issues can result in serious damage to your Linux installation requiring re-installation.

In particular a recipe should be specific to your distribution and the version of the distribution you are running. 

When looking for solutions on the Internet, always bear in mind that there are idiots out there who will publish “solutions” that are anything but. As mentioned in my hypothetical warning, recipes are very often (especially when dealing with software installation) specific to a particular distribution and version – use it inappropriately and you may well run into serious trouble.

On the subject of gooeys, it would be handy to include a “Solutions” link when an error occurs in a software package manager that takes you to a web page specific to the package you are trying to install. Encounter trouble installing “Steam 6.23”? The solutions link might take you to a page saying “This package is out of date; please run Update”. This would allow links to be specific to the distribution and version in use – a lot more helpful than simply expecting the user to search the Internet for a solution.

King Alfred Looking Down At The Runners