Tooling Around

It is instructive to compare the amount of time spent learning the tools of a trade to the time spent practising the trade; You’re almost certainly doing something wrong, in the short term, if the former is disproportionately longer than the latter.

Case in point? I spend over two months looking for the perfect blogging client, nitpicking things like keyboard shortcuts (and their absence, thereof), GTK dependency bloat and ‘Movable Type’ support. I don’t even have a movable type blog. The search for the ultimate blogging client has been more-or-less consummated, but at the expense of an indelible fallow period.

Initial Excitement Syndrome

My drive to learn the tools of general PC frippery far outweighs that to engage in the frippery itself- it’s the ultimate malaise. Two years on a Linux box have been witness to five desktop environments, six window managers, five (or more) terminal emulators, two text editors (yeah, Vi and Emacs), three content publishing systems (with little published content)- even three metadata taggers- and while we’re at it, several distros. It’s a wonder I got any work done.

A conservative estimate of the number of application keyboard shortcuts/commands I’ve memorized over the years (excluding Alt-Tabbing and other Windows keys) suggests a figure between six and eight hundred key combinations and commands. If that sounds unreal- here’s the Ratpoison (window manager) cheat sheet. That’s one of several.

The truly egregious excesses, though, have been the misadventures in the murky depth of scripting language hell. What began as a simple mass renaming requirement led to a whirlwind tour of Bash scripting, Sed, Perl, Scheme, Emacs-Lisp, Python, and for reasons baffling in retrospect, GNU-Octave and GNUplot. The Sisyphean task of writing the mass renaming script was carried out over a period of sixteen months, culminating in four lines of code, at the cost of losing the ability to code in one scripting language without involving the syntax of all of the above- a rosy state of affairs.

In the long term, versatility in fooling around might be a good thing- I haven’t been doing this long enough to become blindingly proficient at it- but clearly, taking sixteen months to rename three hundred files rips apart the threadbare argument.

No matter. A near perfect lightweight blogging client is now at hand, and fittingly enough, the inaugural post is a reflection on the tendency to value the tools over the trade.

A resolution of sorts, then. Fewer tools, more work.

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2 comments

  1. Kailash

    Finally you’ve realized what I have been telling you all along about going through the pains to learn, fix and set up a distribution of linux(and everything that does or does not come along with it) and all the finer details and short cuts and bypasses, only to realise that you have to do it all over again because the latest release is already out! Anyway, I don’t think you did it for the end result, you did it because you loved learning new things, you have always loved learning new things, making things better and simpler, and you will never change, and I hope you never do things with just the end in mind.
    I knew you were a good writer, but man I never thought you were this good. Awesome articulation man, keep it coming!

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