Dorion Mode

December 22, 2021

Open your blind eyes with CLI literacy

Filed under: JWRD — Robinson Dorion @ 21:20

Did the title catch your attention ? Let's start with an old quote from the log :

mircea_popescu: the fundamental problems are that cli-iliteracy is a serious, life-changing disability. in terms of severity, blindness compares, deafness does not. obviously the afflicted are scarcely aware, but this doesn't mean they're not afflicted.
mircea_popescu: whole "work-years", entire "departments" could readily be replaced by you know, half hour's worth of sed ; they aren't because us corporatelandia mostly exists as makework, to create the illusion for millions of ambitious derps that they're "doing something" lest they take to the streets and start throwing rocks. nevertheless, even if the cutting legs is systematically needed in socialism, to crate the sort of helpless vat-people it can thrive amongst, it's still personally disabling.
mircea_popescu: so you know, as far as the life prospects, the future evolution, however you will name the sum-total potential of a person's existence, understanding how to command line is more important than meeting their father. it'll certaily do a lot for them, and it certainly CAN do way the fuck more for them.
mircea_popescu: gales or no gales, the man who can't cat | grep is closer to a boy than any other man.
mircea_popescu: http://trilema.com/2020/forum-logs-for-24-jan-2020/#25751061 << quite so. using tools, ~thinking in ways which make their activity amenable to useful tools~ and so on.
ossabot: Logged on 2020-01-24 19:54:12 jfw: http://trilema.com/2020/forum-logs-for-24-jan-2020/#2575090 - regarding the "because" there: there was perhaps a degree of teaching it because we'd built it, but I see it more the other way - a text-only Linux being a good choice for the job specifically because it doesn't have the GUI crutch and CLI illiteracy is one of the bigger barriers that otherwise intelligent people face to using serious computing tools.

Quite a lot can be packed into 6 lines of IRC, wouldn't you say ? Allow me to try my hand at unpacking what's being said for the readers who may for the first time find themselves confronted with the realization that they've been operating in a disabled state the entire time they've believed themselves to be using computers2. CLI stands for command line interface. While the socialist revisionist history of computing might hail Steve Jobs' and Bill Gates' cribbing of Xerox's Graphical User Interface (GUI) invention as an advancement that allowed computing to go "mainstream" aka "It's so easy Grandma can do it," technologies always carry costs and benefits.

An initial cost of CLI operation is learning the commands that are available on the system and how they operate. You can think of it as learning the alphabet and grammar when learning to read and write. When writing for human readers, one can convey meaning without perfect spelling and syntax. Computers, on the other hand, are dumb task masters that indeed are faster than humans at performing arithmetic, but only when the instructions are issued to them in a way that they expect and understand and indeed they will throw errors and not carry out the task should the command issued be off by even one character. Thus, there is a learning curve, which includes developing the patience to read the error messages given and understand them. That being said, with the expectation of literacy of operators of the command line, the error messages that are returned tend to be more helpful compared to the GUI environment where users are more likely to click in a knee-jerk to close the message box before reading it anyways3. The costs of time and mental resources required to learn the command line are a reason the for the elitist culture in the early days of computing because to know how to use the things, you had to earn it.

In GUI systems, instead of using words, pictures are the primary mechanism of information exchange between the user and the machine. Sure, maybe some of the pictures are labeled to help the n00bs learn to point and click at them, aka click and cluck, but the keyboard is not the primary driver of machine navigation, it's the mouse or the swiping finger on the various touchscreens, aka fondleslates. At the end of the day though it's all a big crutch because the pictures being clicked result in some command being issued on the system. Instead of learning to issue the commands directly, the user is trained to become dependent on the seeing eye dog called the GUI, woof. While this might result in saving of some upfront learning, the cost of translating the underlying commands and operations to pictures with rounded corners clickers and cluckers feel good about is millions of lines of code that no one understands and a culture valve of escapism for those satisfied with being illiterate. In other words, the cost is bureaucracy and it should then be no surprise the Microsoft and Apple viruses spread so widely in socialist America ; they're not there to empower, they're there to provide the trappings, the hot air for inflating pretentious claims of "progress" and "revolution", while all the while keeping the sheeple dumb, dependent and regularly paying licensing fees for forced "upgrades".

An upside to computer literacy development using the command line is the usage of words over pictures to operate the machine makes it easier to combine actions and even script them because one can be more precise with standard commands than repeating mouse clicks. The "|" character, referred to as the pipe and located between the Backspace and Enter keys on a standard US keyboard, is the operator for chaining commands ; or to be more precise, to make the command on the right take as its inputs the outputs of the command on the left. Thus, if you didn't know what MP was referring to in his `cat | grep` example, you at least know now he's talking about combining two commands.

A key part of the context for how this chaining of commands is achieved in Unix-like, command line-centric, systems, such as Linux and the various BSDs4, is the idea that text is the universal interface between both the human operator and the machine and between commands on the machine. Everything on the system is a file and a file is simply a sequence of bytes, with each byte representing a character. This allows one to use a multiplicity of simple, standard tools on a given file depending on what one wants to do, e.g. reading (cat/more/less), writing (vim/nano), compare (diff), search (grep). Compare this to the bureaucracy in GUI systems where only certain programs can be used to operate on certain file formats, e.g. "Excel" can't open .docx files and "Word" can't open .xls files and "Notepad" can't open either, so sales guys end up doing everything in Powerpoint, including Excel, you know ? There's no freedom and the concomitant burden of choice in deciding what tool fits the job, it's the bureaucrat's world and you're just living existing in it.

The practice of building literacy in the command line environment involves reading manual pages to better understand how the programs operate and/or track down the functionality you're looking to perform, but perhaps don't recall off the top of your head how exactly to write the command. This culture of literacy defies that infamous Elon Musk quote, "Any product that needs a manual to work is broken." I could see this mantra being useful for someone aiming for a "market" of suckers who'll pay for years worth of self-driving functionality that they never actually get. Nevertheless, the CLI grew out of an elite culture that well understands after tits, everything is learned behavior :

asciilifeform: 'the only 'intuitive' interface is the tit - everything after that is learned.'
mircea_popescu: ^
mircea_popescu: (the cunt also)
mircea_popescu: oddly enough.
asciilifeform: on which end.
mircea_popescu: on both ends.
mircea_popescu: dealing with the fallout is learned, but using the things is innate.

mircea_popescu: http://trilema.com/2019/forum-logs-for-31-aug-2014/#1403384 << actually this is pretty good a point, seeing how the tit actually goes INTO the face.
assbot: Logged on 30-08-2014 22:56:02; asciilifeform: 'the only 'intuitive' interface is the tit - everything after that is learned.'
mircea_popescu: a true interface.

To put this finishing touches on the "picture" painted here, maybe as you look in the mirror later today you realized you've allowed yourself to become adapted to the GUI world of manual toil, clicking and clucking in an unnecessarily complex environment in which learned helplessness has become your mode of existence, sucking off the withered tit of money printer fueled, fast food technology equiped socialism. That you've become comfortable swallowing all the updates the true masters of the machine you bought with your hard earned Satoshis push on you for your own "safety" and remain dependent on complicated programs purpose built for simple minded users to be squeezed for cents. Maybe you don't like what you see and want to change. Well, I'm here to tell you there's an alternative available, if you're willing to work for it. That alternative is learning to grow into someone who can combine simple tools to perform complex tasks. Where text is the clean, universal interface and automation of tasks is manifestly accessible with some reading and practice. Where you develop the patience to read what the machine is teling you and where you decide what changes to accept on your system, from whom and when, if at all.

When you open your eyes and gain sight, the lights can be bright at first, but with that brilliance comes powerful tools which can only be accessed and operated from the command line such as GPG5, V6, bitcoind, GBW, and the list goes on. Their authors and maintainers aren't so interested in GUI support because they're interested in replacing fee simple, group think, bureaucratic, socialism with alodial title, individualistic, market driven, capitalism.

If you want a guide on this journey of acquiring sight, come talk to us at JWRD, we offer a program that'll save you time in acquiring sight.

  1. The original used the now retired ossabot logger, so I replaced with links to the canonical log on Trilema. []
  2. It's more likely the makers of the computers and/or software they've bought are using them. []
  3. And if the error persists, they'll just power cycle the machine and three times too since that's what the IT guy told them to do the last time they came for "support", y'know ? []
  4. It is a historical fact that when Apple was failing in the '80s and they acquired NeXT and Jobs after they had fired him a few years prior, NeXT, which was based on BSD, became the basis of MacOS. However, while you could get a Unix-like shell on MacOS as recently as a few years ago when I checked last, the people that pay for Macs ain't shelling out for the command line there. It's there more as a historical accident then "design". []
  5. Or its improvement. []
  6. Or its improvement. []

2 Comments »

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