Happy holidays with no GUI required!

While not everyone celebrates Christmas, everyone can still appreciate a beautifully decorated tree, especially if there are presents underneath. If you don’t have enough space for a real tree, you can always put one up in your terminal window, thanks to a clever bash script from Sergio Lepore. Even Windows users can get in on the act thanks to things like WSL and Cygwin.

It also is a fun little script if you’d like to try your hand at customizing a bash script. …

Emacs, VIM, Wordstar… take your pick.

Photo by Taras Shypka on Unsplash

Uh oh. You just logged into a docker instance (or a Raspberry Pi, or a server, or your latest Linux-based home automation gadget). You went to call up your favorite editor and, of course, it isn’t there. Sure, you can install vim or emacs or even something like VSCode, but those are all giant editors with tons of libraries and dependencies. Why not try E3? Don’t want to learn yet another editor? You don’t have to. E3 can impersonate emacs, vi, Pico, Nedit, and — no kidding — WordStar. …

Sector editing… with great power comes great responsibility!

Photo by Art Wall - Kittenprint on Unsplash

I’ll grant you that most people will never need to directly edit a disk sector. Why would you? You have a perfectly good filesystem that handles all the details of accessing your files. Until you don’t.

If you are the right kind of person, you’ll eventually need to poke around directly on a disk. Maybe you are trying to figure out an alien disk format. Maybe you’ve had a hard drive failure and you need to see what’s going on. I’ve done both of those things in the past. …

Sure, you know read/write/execute, but there is more… much more

Image courtesy of Pixabay CC0

If you are an advanced Linux user, you probably know all about file permissions set with chmod. You can see these permissions when you do an ls -l and they tell you if you, your groupmates, and the rest of the world can read, write, or execute the file. Old hat.

If you really dig into it, though, there are some extra flags for chmod you don’t run into as often. There’s even more. Each Linux file has a set of attributes that can cause it to behave in special ways that you rarely see people use. Some of the…

A useful technique any time you want to limit a process’s resource usage

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I like to use KDE and part of that desktop environment is a program called baloo. I don’t use it much, but it is handy when I do. But the program can be a huge hog of disk resources. I finally found a reliable fix for this and not only will it help you if you use baloo, but it might help you with some other programs, too.

One of the things that makes it so hard to write Linux software is that there are an endless number of ways to configure a Linux system. Imagine having to create an…

Web browser caching with tmpfs

Photo by Richy Great on Unsplash

Most of us have plenty of RAM these days. If you have a laptop, a tablet, or some other limited-RAM computer, you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you. But if you do have enough memory to run Linux comfortably, there’s a simple way to speed up your browser and many other programs, too. There are really two easy steps to this. The first one will speed up many programs, and the second one will make your browser use the resources created by the first speed up, so stick with it, and don’t jump ahead to the browser topic!

Why should your word processor live in a tab?

The medium app running as a full window; no browser menu and a proper icon!

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time in a Web browser. Things that you used to do in a standalone software program — email, word processing, even graphics — are now handled by Web pages from Microsoft, Google, and others. This is especially handy for Linux users because a lot of software like Office is difficult to run on Linux, but works great in a browser. But there is a dark side that I will show you how to fix.

The problem is the browser is one window, usually full of tabs. Even if you run…

Intuitive ideas about the derivative

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If you went to college, it is a fair bet that you took some sort of calculus class. If you went for engineering or science, you probably took a LOT of calculus classes. Unfortunately, a lot of math teachers like to show you how smart they are and they make simple ideas pretty hard to understand. Plus, in school you have a lot of things — both academic and non-academic — competing for your attention. So it isn’t surprising that a lot of people don’t have an intuitive grasp of some calculus ideas. Sometimes, I think some of the professors…

Because top is so boring…

Bpytop running on my machine

They say a watched pot never boils, and it does pay to monitor your Linux systems. In typical Linux fashion, there are multiple tools you can use. Perhaps the best known is top. When you run top, you can see what processes are running and how many resources they use. There are a myriad of keystroke commands to filter, sort, and otherwise pick through information.

The problem is that top is an old program that looks pretty boring. That’s spawned imitators that look better and often improve on top’s information, too. …

WSL finally gets a display server

Credit: Al Williams from Public Domain Sources

Microsoft has announced some big news: the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) will soon be able to run GUI Linux programs out of the box. It has always been possible, of course, to install your own X server (such as XMing) and do it yourself, but it was an extra install step and you had to launch the X server which itself was a Windows program.

Microsoft, however, isn’t providing an X server, but a Wayland display server and they are calling the whole thing WSLG. Wayland is outwardly compatible with X11, but has a lot of internal differences in…

Al Williams

Engineer. Author. Team Leader. Lots of other things. I blog about hardware hacking for Hackaday (www.hackaday.com), but talk about other topics here.

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