Terminal Condition

I spend half my time, easily, in a command-line terminal running zsh. So a new one, even one on an OS I don't run, is interesting:

There are some modern, nice conveniences in this. It's a little ways behind Mac Terminal.app (based on the NeXTstep Terminal from 1990), and vastly far behind iTerm2, but it's more advanced than the usual Linux terminals like rxvt, urxvt, or cross-platform Alacritty or Hyper.

Between this and WSL2 being a full Linux, it's plausible that the best Linux dev environment now (well, this summer when it's released) is Windows. The Year of the Linux Desktop is 2019, and it is owned by Microsoft®. Can you hear the tiny, distant screams of the FSF cultists?

Comparison based on code, reviews, and reddit thread with MS devs involved:

  • Scrollback: The single most important thing a terminal can do. MS does this, but doesn't have logging.

    Surprisingly, a lot of them only support a few pages. I keep mine at 10,000 lines or so, which is probably wasteful but so handy; I don't bother logging since my .zhistory keeps everything I typed, and I have Terminal.app and iTerm2 set to not close tabs automatically.

    Alacritty only just added scrollback last year.

  • Prompt Marking: Nope.

    This is a feature it's hard to live without once you've had it, no more paging up trying to see prompt lines (I have a red ANSI-colored prompt and it's still hard to see). In Terminal.app, Edit, Marks, Automatically Mark Prompt Lines, and then ⌘↑ and ⌘↓ move between them. iTerm2 has it enabled by default, and ⇑⌘↑ ⇑⌘↓ are the keys, which took me some re-learning.

    Nothing else has this, as far as I've seen.

  • Fonts: MS has programming ligatures and displays emoji, finally. Does not support RTL languages.

    I use Fira Code in all my editors and shells, and it's enormously helpful, more readable, and catches bugs: I look for === as a fat-equals symbol in JS, etc.

    Hyper, urxvt, Alacritty support Unicode fonts. rxvt stopped development almost 20 years ago so it barely shows 8-bit fonts correctly.

  • Tabs: MS has tabs! They're currently invisible until you add a second tab, same shit Terminal.app does, which annoys the hell out of me; I don't like UI that reshapes itself, reminds me of T-1000 Terminators (also makes it hard to tile my windows up correctly when they get resized).

    It's not clear if you can drag Windows Terminal tabs around to different windows.

    In iTerm2, I normally keep: First window with tabs for home shell, ssh into my server (running screen, so that has many open shells). Second window with 2 tabs for REPL, editor/running/compiling tasks, and sometimes a third tab for reading local docs. If I need more shells, I usually open them on the first window. I rarely open a third window for monitoring some long-running task; I just drag a tab out to its own window. All terminal windows are stacked on the left side of my screen, because there's no icons under that side of the Desktop.

    urxvt has tabs, but they're kind of a hack, not fully usable.

    Hyper has tabs, but they replace the title bar. Which is cool but also awful like a lot of things it does.

    rxvt and Alacritty don't do tabs, because they insist you use screen or tmux. Which sucks if you want to move a process from one window to another.

  • Profiles: MS supports multiple profiles, so you can use different ones for each task.

    So does Terminal.app, iTerm2, urxvt (but it's buried in a text file config).

    Alacritty, rxvt, and Hyper have a single profile and no UI for changing anything, hope you like editing text files and reloading.

    As far as I can tell, nothing else does automatic profile switching like iTerm2; when I cd to my ~/Code/CodeScheme folder, iTerm2 switches to my dark red transparent profile, including Scheme-specific triggers and copy/paste filtering.

    You can probably do that in urxvt's Perl(!) scripting, but it's not normal or easy.

  • Copy/Paste Filtering: Nope.

    iTerm2 and urxvt both let you set a bunch of regexp to run over lines to get selections correctly matching boundaries, not just space-delimited.

  • URL Highlighting: Nope.

    iTerm2, Hyper, and urxvt notice URLs and filenames, and let you click on them. In iTerm2, hold down ⌘ and click on any URL or path (like in an ls or find result!) and it does some useful action: Opens the URL in your browser or file path in your editor, by default, but you can configure that in the profile.

  • Custom Keybindings: Sorta? Doesn't seem complete, no idea if there's UI for it, but it does exist in their config.

    Most terminals can do this, but most can only remap a few actions. I like iTerm2's, as usual, which lets you bind any action, menu, or run a program on any keybinding. I mostly just use it to launch different profiles with starting paths & scripts.

    Terminal.app only lets you send specific text for a key.

  • Images: Sorta? Only if they're embedded in fonts.

    This is a neat trick in iTerm2: images. I use imgls all the time to see a thumbnail of every file with details (protip: I changed ls -ld in the script to ls -1Fskd for a more concise listing), and then ⌘-click to open what I want in Acorn; it's better than opening Finder and trying to read a long filename under a thumbnail.

    I'm unaware of anyone else being able to do this.

How to Configure Vim

I just had the unfortunate experience of using the standard vimrc on ubuntu (which I loathe, but it's the most stable OS on this VPS), and now I sympathize with people who think they can't use Vim. So here's my much less annoying vimrc. You'll want to make a ~/tmp folder if you don't have one. Adjust the augroups for the languages you use; I was forcing some syntax files to load because they had bad defaults like PHP as HTML, no idea if that's improved.

" Mark Damon Hughes vimrc file.
" To use it, copy it to ~/.vimrc

set nocompatible    " Use Vim defaults (much better!)
filetype plugin on
set magic
set nrformats=

set errorbells
set nomore wrapscan noignorecase nohlsearch noshowmatch
set backspace=indent,eol,start

"set smarttab expandtab shiftwidth=4
set nosmarttab noexpandtab shiftwidth=8 tabstop=8

set encoding=utf-8 fileencoding=utf-8
set listchars=tab:__,eol:$,nbsp:@

set backup backupdir=~/tmp dir=~/tmp
set viminfo='100,f1,<100

set tw=80       " I use this default, and override it in the autogroups below

" ctrl-] is used by telnet/ssh, so tags are unusable; I use Ctrl-J instead.
map <C-J> <C-]>

" Don't use Ex mode, use Q for formatting
map Q gq

map <Tab> >>
vmap <Tab> >
map <S-Tab> <<
vmap <S-Tab> <

" Always have syntax highlighting on
syntax on
hi Identifier guifg=blue
hi Statement term=bold guifg=blue
set guifont=Menlo_Regular:h14
set guioptions=aAemr
set showtabline=2
set mousemodel=popup_setpos

augroup c
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.c set ai tw=0
augroup END

augroup html
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.html set tw=0 ai
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.html source $VIMRUNTIME/syntax/html.vim
augroup END

augroup java
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.java set tw=0 ai
augroup END

augroup objc
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.m,*.h set ai tw=0
augroup END

augroup php
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.php,*.inc set tw=0 ai et
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.php,*.inc source $VIMRUNTIME/syntax/php.vim
augroup END

augroup python
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.py set ai tw=0
augroup END

Software Tools Quote

"Finally, it is a pleasure to acknowledge our debt to the Unix operating system, developed at Bell Labs by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. We wrote the text, tested the programs, and typeset the manuscript, all within Unix. Many of the tools we describe are based on Unix models. Most important, the ideas and philosophy are based on our experience as Unix users. Of all the operating systems we have used, Unix is the only one that has been a positive help in getting a job done instead of an obstacle to be overcome. The world-wide acceptance of Unix indicates that we are not the only ones who feel this way."
"Software Tools in Pascal", 1981, by Brian W. Kernighan, P.J. Plauger

As every neckbearded n-gate reader will now rush to well-actually at me, BWK's experience writing this book led to Why Pascal Is Not My Favorite Programming Language, but note this rant is about "standard" ANSI Pascal, not the somewhat improved P-Code Pascal of the '70s or the free-wheeling super-powered Turbo Pascal of the early '80s, and nothing like modern FreePascal. Standard Pascal was a deliberately simplified pedagogical language, not a systems programming language, which the later ones are.

Anyway, the book's interesting as a problem-solving exercise, but the Unix part amused me. And no, Linux is Not Unix. Buy a Mac or install BSD if you want UNIX®.

Oracle Murders Solaris

For those unaware, Oracle laid off ~ all Solaris tech staff yesterday in a classic silent EOL of the product.

Simon Phipps


Solaris was a better server and development platform than anything else (OK, after HPUX and SunOS reached EOL), but getting management to spend money up front was always a massive battle. SUN did themselves no favors by going back and forth with SPARC and x86, and getting a freebie OpenSolaris running was a challenge.

But now the world runs servers on piece of shit free-as-in-freebase-heroin Linux, paying fedora-wearing dipshits at DeadRat for "support" consisting of "no, you go fuck yourself".

This future has been brought to you by lawyers and the lowest bidder.

I'm too bummed out to make a playlist for today, so here's a couple of Apple's: