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A friendly Finnish hacker. I am technology consultant, open source advocator and entrepreneur. My expertise areas cover HTML5, Python, Plone, Javascript, WebGL,UNIX and mobile web. Mikko likes sushi, Angry Birds and dislikes winter. Mikko is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 43 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

What's Wrong with Unix People?

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From #zsh @

<xxx> I wouldn't ever want to position a cursor using a mouse.
      not even in an editor. a mouse has its uses.
      but that isn't one of them.
<yyy> yes i agree

(yes… it has been taken out of the context, but the message is pretty clear)

I don’t want to flame here, but the argument that one should not position a cursor using a mouse reflects either total 1) ignorance 2) stupidy 3) lack of vision. What do you think all normal 99,9999% users out there would like to do?

This attitude of UNIX community holds back the technology and usability. As long this kind of visionless, all good technology was invented in 70s technology mindset stays around, UNIX command line and shell cannot really progress. And it hasn’t. No mouse positioning. No tooltips for commands. Not even a way to copy file to local from the remote shell.

Should one compare this kind of communities to ultra-orthodox religious communities? All change is bad, you are bad, do like the grandpa says?

The correct answer is that

  • It’s natural to position cursor with mouse
  • People do it with all other programs out there, including other single line text widgets
  • There is no excuse or technical reason why one shouldn’t be able to do it in a shell
  • If the software stack and terminals don’t support it then we should fix them and update them to reflect the modern human interface paradigms

and you can have cursor positioning by mouse support for zsh.

Published at DZone with permission of Mikko Ohtamaa, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


John J. Franey replied on Sat, 2012/12/29 - 11:18am


Poor title.  You are not flaming, you are generalizing.  You won't win readers.  You lost me.  I'm a unix 'person' and there are plenty of things wrong with me.  However, whether I focus a cursor on the shell with a mouse or a key stroke is a matter of my own preference, and does not implicate the quality of my person.   There are many users who are much more efficient, even in windows, without ever touching a mouse.  Ever watch an Excel power user work out a complete solution with the keyboard only?  That is beauty.  Person-machine interface working fluently together.

Raging Infernoz replied on Tue, 2013/01/01 - 9:30pm in response to: John J. Franey

No, the author is dead right, too many *nix developers are stuck in the text shell dark ages, running on archaic and limited hardware.

I am a developer, I am visually oriented, so hate the stupidly heavy emphasis on magic key combination except on the very rare occasions when I need to repeat lots of operations fast; otherwise it really pisses me off e.g. I prefer the visually better visual designed NetBeans IDE to the frankly ugly kludged Eclipse IDE.  I hate Vi, Vim, and even MicroEmacs with a vengeance.  I loved the visual power of CygnusEd on the Amiga, and Directory Opus on the Amiga then Windows.

Any OS without Directory Opus is inadequate to me because it is the best directory management tool I have ever used period on any OS, because loads of operations can be tied to icon buttons.

I have a Logitech MX mouse at home and at work because a great mouse is that important to me!

Keyboards are for typing text content, less so for commands; visual is king now, as we see for tablets.

Mark Unknown replied on Thu, 2013/01/03 - 5:28pm in response to: John J. Franey

"Ever watch an Excel power user work out a complete solution with the keyboard only?  That is beauty.  Person-machine interface working fluently together."

Actually it can be quite frustrating. I am like, if you just used a mouse.... 

True story: Back when I was doing COBOL we had some sort of issue and to get it done required a lot of cut/paste, etc all in a terminal emulator. Someone who could type tons faster than me (like who can't) was going at it. I said trying using a mouse. So they let me do it and with a mouse and keyboard i got it done much faster than they were. 

Moral of the story: Just because you can doesn't mean you should

Second moral of the story: use your tools  and use them wisely.

Emmanuel Rousselle replied on Mon, 2013/01/21 - 10:02pm

A few points:

I've worked with UNIX for a number of years and I have yet to meet a UNIX user, superuser or administrator that believes that positioning your cursor should not be done with a mouse. Maybe I was just lucky.

There are situations where using a GUI is preferable to using the command-line and others where the command-line is just more efficient. Smart people realize that.

Also sometimes, even though a GUI interface makes more sense, the UI design is so bad and inefficient that you kind of wish there was a command-line interface available. I experience that on a daily basis when using web apps developed in-house at my job.

Mark Unknown replied on Mon, 2013/01/21 - 11:06pm in response to: Emmanuel Rousselle

" I experience that on a daily basis when using web apps developed in-house at my job."

There might be a way. Many times they just don't know or don't tell you. If the apps were built based on SOA principles then you should be able to do things via cmd line. We do. :)  (and I bet Netflix does too ;) ) The problem is that most developers, even thought they think they are building layered apps are really just building screens and databases.

Ujas Ujass replied on Fri, 2013/08/23 - 7:03am

A friend of mine helped me to find the best big boys toys by creating a simple Unix program that searches for the best results. I have been using Unix for a long time and I always use the mouse cursor. Even if some people say that UNIX community holds back the technology and usability you must know that a lot of great things can be accomplished by using Unix.

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