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05.31.09

63,000 Windows Bugs Versus the Rarity of Command Lines

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Marketing, Windows at 2:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Strong line
A strong command-line interface is a friend, not an
enemy, and it’s a feature, not a usability bug

Summary: The handling of common disinformation and Microsoft censorship through punishment

THE following new comment was eye catching for its capture of the truth.

I’d just like to say what a refreshing change it is, to see a “tech journalist” so simply describe the quite ordinary purpose of those (in)famous “arcane CLI commands” that are so often used as a bludgeon to scare potential users back into the Windows fold. Anyone who’s ever had to fire up regedit to modify the Windows Registry should be able to see that this is not much different, and easier to understand.

This remark about increasing the perceived complexity is a very good one. People like Preston Gralla do this and Microsoft Jack [1, 2, 3] does this on an occasional basis too. He even did this last week. The matter of fact is that the command-line interface is rarely ever needed unless one insists on it, but it is so essential that even Microsoft is mimicking GNU/Linux now by trying to offer a worthy CLI. References are appended at the bottom.

Is Windows really easy and reliable?

Does anyone remember this report from Mary-Jo Foley?

Bugfest! Win2000 has 63,000 ‘defects’

[...]

Not everyone will be having fun at Microsoft next week. While the software giant and its partners celebrate the arrival of Windows 2000 on Thursday, Feb. 17, hundreds of members of the Windows development team will be busy cleaning up the mess.

Yes, that’s how bad Microsoft releases tend to be and Vista 7 will be no exception on the face of it, just like Vista. Microsoft releases prematurely. Regarding the article above, see how Microsoft treats reporters, alongside the PR department better known as Waggener Edstrom:

In 2000 a leaked memo from Microsoft obtained by Mary Jo Foley (of Microsoft-Watch) revealed that Windows 2000 was released with 20,000 bugs and that Microsoft knowingly released it any way. After this incident, Microsoft would not speak to Mary Jo Foley for two years regarding projects and information of any kind.

Not only did she get sort of banned for years (she once told me about Microsoft’s rewards and punishments system), but according to DaemonFC, Microsoft or other people have already airbrushed this incident and factoid out of Wikipedia: “# (cur) (prev) 06:55, 31 December 2006 Limulus (talk | contribs) (→Windows 2000: moved MJF item into main W2K article; it seems like it would be more appropriate there) (undo)

Waggener Edstrom is known to be editing Wikipedia. It does a lot of other things, too.
_______
[1] The Linux CLI for Beginners, or, Fear Not the Linux Command Line!

Most recent converts to Linux spend most of their time in the GUI — the graphical desktop (whether Gnome, or KDE, or XFCE, or some other interface) that’s made to look and act somewhat like Windows and Mac.  

[2] The command line is nothing to be afraid of.

Many people are apprehensive about the command line when they first try Linux. I was too, even though I started off with the command line on my system 80, I quickly became used to the windows GUI. Like an unused muscle atrophies when not used, so did my command line comfort. Using Linux I regained my command line warrior status and it has migrated over to windows too.

[3] Stupid Firefox Tricks, Part I

Simple Bookmarklets: The Power of the Command Line in your Browser

[4] Webmin: can a graphical front end for system administration replace the command line?

We all love GUIs. For the average user of proprietary systems like Windows they are mostly all they ever need or see. Unix systems are rather different. Long before GUIs became ubiquitous, system administrators (and single machine users too) were weaned on configuration on the command line and spent copious amounts of time mastering their craft.

The increasing use and popularity of GNU/Linux has been educating people about its superior architecture, better security and relatively simple configuration files. It is also true though that the huge availability of graphical front ends has brought in a whole new slew of users who feel right at home with them as they did in Windows. However, the usual criticism is that, good and relatively easy to use as they are, they can never emulate the fine, granular control of the command line. There is a deal of truth in that.

[5] 5 Reasons to Use CLI Over GUI

First, I must say that using CLI is not always faster, not necessarily. There are tasks which can be done faster and easier using some GUI application rather than typing a whole bunch of commands. But, nevertheless, command line is still very powerful and it’s more appropriate to use it for certain tasks. I for one use probably 90% GUI tools and applications and only in 10% of the cases CLI. So, you may ask, what’s the scope of this? Well, in the first place, this article is about the reasons I believe to be noteworthy for using CLI in several situations, and what advantages it has.

[6] 10 Reasons Why the Command Line is More User-Friendly than the Desktop

Keying is faster than mousing.

It’s easier to both give and get help.

Repetitive stress injury comes from the mouse, not the keyboard.

Commands are standard where GUIs are not.

[...]

[7] Why can’t free software GUIs be empowering instead of limiting?

But when graphical user interfaces finally did become available, it was a fantastic improvement. With a well-designed GUI, you don’t have to memorize a whole micro-language of commands and options to get things done. The trade-off, at least with the classic “Windows-Icons-Menus-Pointers” (WIMP) GUI, however is that it isn’t as expressive: it’s much easier to say the common things you need to say, but much harder to say things that the programmer didn’t expect you to need. The surface simplicity comes at a terrific price in underlying complexity, and that creates practical limits on how flexible the system can be.        

[...]

Blender, showing the results of my first go at the Gingerbread man tutorial, and a whopping lot of menus and buttons. This is definitely not a “luser”  interface, it’s designed for power users only

[8] Geek to Live: The command line comeback

The advent of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) forever revolutionized personal computing. A windowed system with point and click icons made computers usable for anyone who couldn’t deal with a black screen and a prompt waiting for arcane textual commands. But in recent years, this enormous interface change is coming full circle. Amongst power users – and more and more, regular Joe’s – the command line is making a comeback in modern web and desktop applications.

[9] Seek Enlightenment for an easy-to-use Linux GUI

There are numerous reasons to become an Enlightenment user:

    * You need a GUI on an older machine that is not powerful enough to run
      the more resource-intensive KDE or GNOME
    * You want something a little different
    * You want to control users so they only have access to certain
      applications
    * You want a GUI that is stable, fast, and flexible

Those reasons may not be show-stoppers, nor will they see IT departments migrating hundreds or thousands of desktops to Enlightenment, but the small list above is reason enough to have many making the switch from their typical GUI to E.    

[10] Two Reasons the Command Line Trumps the Graphical User Interface

Before I get into this I will state for the record I am not a text mode Luddite. I use a graphical user interface (GUI) every day. In fact I am using the fluxbox window manager GUI as I write this article with a WordPress GUI and Firefox GUI. I like my GUI chewy goodness as much as any visually stimulated human. However, for certain tasks a GUI is just not the best choice.

[11] Is Linux Easy to Use?

Today’s Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Suse and Fedora can be installed very easily. In Ubuntu the user required actions are just 4-5 clicks. The installer is clever enough to partition the hard disc without loss of data and co-living with other operating systems installed prior. I love this feature a lot.

[12] What is so bad about the command line?

Graphical interfaces serve a purpose and so does the command line. It doesn’t matter which operating system you use. So I will not accept any arguments that the command line is bad. The command line is good in my humble opinion and those who shy away from it are missing out on a large piece of the computing experience.

[13] Command Line vs. GUI Reality Check

The downside of this is a lack of flexibility. In order for a capability to be available, there must be code in the GUI application. The command line gives an administrator complete control of maintenance procedures, and under certain circumstances, this is the only option.

From a design perspective, the choice of command line vs. GUI seems pretty straightforward. First, how quickly does the code need to be produced? Second, which interface makes the user most productive? While there is plenty of room for different points of view on the answers to these questions, it is simply not true that one is always better than the other.

[14] Along the Commandline

Naturally, we talk about the BSDs, Linux and Mac OS X whenever we speak about shells and commandline interfaces. But why does the commandline have a reputation that belies its power? Why did the hold over users’ minds exercised by Apple and Microsoft lead to an almost complete rejection of commandline interaction? Why do we, the masters of the commandline, feel slightly sheepish in the presence of the GUI builders?

[15] What Non-Techies Should Know About The Command Line

When faced with a shell prompt, the only thing some people, especially non-technical users, feel prompted to do is close it and stay in the confines of their graphical castle walls. For many people, a command-line shell is an unfamiliar thing. It’s foreign, and requires learning foreign languages to speak to it, as far as they are concerned. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way; the command line can be kind of fun. Whether you need to open a Bash prompt to solve a driver problem, or compile a program, or just to automate a simple task, it’s always good to at least be familiar with your command-line shell.        

[16] Fear and loathing at the command line

Whatever the reasons, fear and loathing of the command line is so strong that the claim that GNU/Linux still requires its frequent use is enough to convince many people to stick with their current operating system. The claim is no longer true, but you can’t expect people to understand that when the claim plays on so many of their basic fears about computing.    

[17] Linux administration will become GUI

The question is, how long will it be before the Ubuntu Server edition includes a GUI install option? Instead of resisting this change, we should be encouraging it by improving the graphical interfaces that server admins need. This is how Ubuntu can gain faster adoption in the server market.  

[18] Linux on the line: musings on the CLI / GUI flip-flop

People are a funny lot. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. And one person’s primary means of instructing a computer is met with disdain by another. There’s a perennial battle between mousers and keyboard jockeys, and “what’s in” appears to go in cycles.  

[19] Pros and Cons for Using CLI

In this article I will debate on several major advantages and disadvantages for using the command-line in Linux. When I think it’s ‘better’ to use CLI, when not, and how can this can impact the work speed.

[20] Who needs the command line? (Well, actually, we all do)

“We’ll always have Paris”, Humphrey Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman in the iconic climax of Casablanca – and we will always have the command line. Here’s looking at you kid!

[21] Ars at FOSSCamp: revolutionizing the command line with Hotwire

Unlike Powershell, Hotwire includes a rich visual user interface with support for features like easy history browsing (command history is stored in a SQLite database), icons in file listings, and progress bar displays for certain file operations. The user interface also provides extensive support for advanced autocompletion mechanisms that can be customized by developers.    

[22] Death of the command line

It’s hard for me to imagine using an OS without a strong command line. Even Microsoft has recognized the for that with their Monad Shell (though they are at least temporarily removing that from Vista). Linux of course has its Bash shell, Mac OS X has Terminal (which now defaults to Bash) – everybody knows you need a shell.

[23] The CLIophobia of the Linux Newbie

CLIophobia (n): An irrational fear of operating ones’ computer using the Command Line Interface. Sometimes referred to as Terminal Angst.

[24] You use Command Lines all the time and don’t know it!!!

Man, the heat Linux catches over command lines! The flames! The trolls! The clueless screaming for help! And all the while, command lines are right under your nose the whole time! Yes, even on the most mousy, GUI-driven, WIMPy, point-n-drool interface, whether it be Macs or Microsofties, you’re typing commands into prompts every day!

[25] Microsoft PowerShell isn’t Vista-ready, either

As a few other bloggers noted yesterday, Microsoft’s newly released PowerShell command-line shell and scripting language doesn’t currently work with Windows Vista.

[26] Worm targets Windows PowerShell script

Virus writers have created an experimental form of malware written in Windows PowerShell script, the command line and scripting language used by Windows.

[27] Repairing Windows XP in Eight Commands

    * C: CD ..
    * C: ATTRIB ?H C:\boot.ini
    * C:ATTRIB ?S C:\boot.ini
    * C:ATRIB ?R C:\boot.ini
    * C: del boot.ini
    * C: BOOTCFG /Rebuild
    * C: CHKDSK /R /F
    * C: FIXBOOT

[28] Random Windows Vista Disconnects

   1. Go to your start menu
   2. Open the Command Prompt by typing cmd in the search field
   3. Press Ctrl-Shift-Enter while the command prompt is open to run the
      command prompt as administrator
   4. Type netsh winsock reset then press enter
   5. Then restart Windows Vista

[29] Vista – Fix Large File Copy and Network Disconnect

One of the “new features” in Vista, of course is the new networking stack. As with anything new, you can expect problems but did you know you can disable some of the “advanced” features (for the time being)

After reading all kinds of posts and a couple of MS FAQ’s, it seems the main culprit is the Receive Window Auto-Tuning Level.

One thing people seem to forget is, you can turn this off and on via the command line.

[30] Missing In Action

Microsoft’s infamous Patch Tuesday was this week and the updates that automatically downloaded and installed on my computer caused it to be unbootable, even in safe mode. So, since Wednesday, I’ve been busy using the wonderful Ultimate Boot CD for Windows to get my data off the hard drive and then reload my machine. Wonderful fun.

[31] Reflections on the command line

That’s one of the best things about the Unix command line – no backtalk, no second guessing, no false comraderie. To me the assumption of user competence is profoundly user friendly -and infinitely to be preferred to the smarmy checks and failsafes Windows puts on.

[32] Microsoft PowerShell to make it into Longhorn Server, after all

Microsoft’s command-line scripting shell, originally code-named “Monad,” and known now as Windows PowerShell, is going to be part of Longhorn Server, after all.

[33] IRC Clients for Linux Part 2: List of 5 CLI Clients

As a conclusion, I strongly recommend Irssi, followed by WeeChat and Epic4. The first two are powerful enough, flexible, documented and have scripting support, while the latter is a little harder to use (at least in the beginning) and it has its own scripting language. Despite this, Epic4 has the advantage of giving you total control over how you want its interface to look like, and it also provides many scripts on the official website for customising it. BitchX is too old now and it’s no longer updated, while TinyIRC offers only the minimum features needed to connect and interract with an IRC server.

[34] Review: MOC, text-based audio player

Today I’ll continue with an overview with screenshots of MOC, and hopefully in a few days I’ll also review mp3blaster.

[35] 5 best-practices of a successful Linux user

Do not run away from CLI: You’ve not got hold of quite a few ways to fix things on your Linux machine. You may be happy using the GUI window to install new apps. This may be synaptic, yum, yast or whatever. But having a good hand at the terminal is never a waste. If you can accomplish some basic tasks on the terminal, I am sure you’ll be far more confident and proud than you were without this ability. Hacking into or tweaking you machine is definitely fun but do not intend to just copy-paste commands from the Internet cloud. Try using the man page to know what each of the commands do, so that next time you know what you’re doing before you hit the return key on the terminal.

[36] Look Ma, No Terminal!

A common misconception with Linux is that you have to know how to use the terminal in order for you to use linux. The fact is you won’t have to use the linux terminal more than you would use CMD in Windows or the terminal in Mac OSX. Today we will look into some of the applications that a “normal” computer user would use without having to know the terminal. Here the term “normal” is vague; since every computer users needs are different from one another, but we will try to cover some basic applications that a normal computer user might use.

[37] Got Scripts?

Where’s the FUD? For years, Windows zealots have denounced Linux for being arcane, hard-to-use, and backward. Heavy reliance on the CLI for administration was cited as a failure to progress (through obstinacy, ignorance or both). Now, it appears that Microsoft is admitting that a powerful shell is indeed useful, forcing its fanboys to dine on crow tartare.

[38] SWM, Shell User, Seeks Soul Mate for GUI-Free LTR

“There is a sad truth to the world today,” wrote the anonymous poster of the ad. “I am part of a dying breed of people known as ‘shell users.’ We are an old-fashioned bunch, preferring the warm glow of a green screen full of text   over the cold blockiness of a graphical interface…. The whole ‘Microsoft Windows’ fad will fade away sooner or later, but in the interim, our kind is facing extinction.    

[39] Pimp up your Terminal with Guake and Yakuake

If you’re wondering whether Guake and Yakuake are Polynesian happy mushrooms, you’re a bit off mark. These are Linux command line terminals, modified to behave like the console in the popular First Person Shooter (FPS) Quake. Hence, the funny names.

[40] More lightweight diversions

A couple more, that deviate slightly. Terminal-based entertainment, short of watching movies piped through aalib, could always take the obvious route and remain text-based, as it was a long time ago. To that end it’s still possible to play some telnet games, including Space Tyrant, which is still maintained too.

[41] 13 Terminal Emulators for Linux

Konsole: This is a powerful and full-featured terminal included by default in KDE. It features desktop transparency, background images, profiles, tabs, notifications and plenty schemes to choose from.

[42] 10 Command-Line Applications I Use in Debian and Ubuntu

In this article I’ll briefly review ten of my favourite CLI (command-line interface), not necessarily the most popular or most powerful of them. So if you don’t find your personal favourite, (e.g. Midnight Commander or mp3blaster), it’s because the article includes the tools I use more often.

[43] Rush Hour: Newest GNU Restricted User Shell

The latest stable release of the GNU Restricted User Shell (Rush), version 1.5, includes new configuration offerings and a notification feature.

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3 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    May 31, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Gravatar

    Best to stop using the name “CLI” and call it for what it is, the shell. Obviously there are the decade that MS has spent hiring PR firms and using its minions to criticize and ridicule the term. Less obviously, for some, is that the term “command” puts the very wrong idea that these are finite, unchanging and learned just-in-case rather than just-in-time like in regular programming. Because that is what it is: programming. Whether the shell script you write is a single line one-off or a long-term utility, the way of thinking is the same: it is simplistic programming

    http://www.freeos.com/guides/lsst/
    http://tldp.org/LDP/abs/html/
    http://developer.apple.com/documentation/opensource/Conceptual/ShellScripting/Introduction/Introduction.html

    Learn one on one system and you will know your way around any other in short order. You will also be able to handle remote adminstration with as much ease as local tasks. You will be able to automate and batch process. No more powerful system administration tool exists than the shell.

  2. aeshna23 said,

    May 31, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Gravatar

    Microsoft’s propaganda against the Command Line Interface or shell is part of Microsoft’s efforts to spread learned helplessness among computer users. The user is taught that he doesn’t have the ability to fix what is wrong with his computer and must have an “expert” solve his or her problem. The disempowerment is meant to as offensive strike against the user empowerment which is the source of the FOSS movement.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 31, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Gravatar

    They are catching up with bash now.

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