Is It Time for the Linux Command Line to Sunset?

English: A typical command line in PC-DOS.

English: A typical command line in PC-DOS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Command Line Interface has its uses, acknowledged Mobile Raptor blogger Roberto Lim, “but no piece of technology targeted at the consumer market should ever require that something be done via CLI; keep it as an option or you can take it out all together. “If it is there, it should just be there for the IT people or tech support to use when you encounter a problem.”

This story was originally published on June 28, 2012, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News .

There are many topics that tend to come up in a recurring manner around water coolers throughout the Linux blogosphere, and not just the great “Year of” debate, either.

No indeed, another shining example more than a little familiar to most of us who spend any time here is the much-abused command line — specifically, whether it’s outlived its usefulness in this era of the GUI.

Well guess what? The debate is back!

Trusty or Crusty?

That’s right — “Is the command line a crusty old relic?” was the name of the Open Ballot posted recently by the excellent team over at TuxRadar, and the conversation hasn’t died down since.

So what shall it be? Has the command line interface outlived its usefulness? Or is there still a place for this trusty old tool?

Linux bloggers haven’t held back expressing their opinions.

Pretty vs. Powerful

“The Command Line is far from being a crusty old relic,” opined Google+ blogger Linux Rants, for example. “It still holds more power and versatility than can be found in any GUI on the planet.”

It’s true that “GUIs are pretty and have great eye candy,” Linux Rants conceded. “They make computers easy to use for people that don’t want to actually get to know their computer, but they hold only a fraction of the power that you can get from a command line.”

GUIs are also significantly slower to use, he added: “Just the simple task of separating two kinds of files from a single directory, ‘mkdir GIF;mkdir JPG;mv *.gif ./GIF;mv *.jpg ./JPG’ and I’m done — five seconds to accomplish that. How long would it take in a pretty looking GUI?”

English: Screenshot of Windows PowerShell 1.0 ...

English: Screenshot of Windows PowerShell 1.0 Deutsch: Screenshot von Windows PowerShell 1.0 فارسی: عکس صفحه‌ی نمایش از ویندوز پاورشل نسخه‌ی 1.0 Русский: Сессия в Windows PowerShell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Long Live the CLI

Indeed, “as soon as someone shows me a way to efficiently construct a for-next loop in the GUI that lets me manipulate a series of files in a particular set of ways, I’m there,” agreedHyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza. “Until then, there’s bash.

“Cute pattern-renaming tricks in file managers just don’t cut the mustard compared to being able to use xargs, sed, tr and so on to allow one program to act on the output from another program, and having to use a whole bulldozer when you just want to reinvent the wheel slightly doesn’t make any sense, either,” Espinoza added.

“The CLI is far from dead, and nothing can beat it for complex tasks,” echoed consultant andSlashdot blogger Gerhard Mack. “Even Microsoft has realized that and pushed a better command line for their servers for the last few years.”

The Right Tools for the Job

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, took a similar view.

“Saying that GUIs obsolete CLIs is like saying word processors obsolete Emacs or VIM,” Travers opined. “They are different tools for different jobs.”

Travers sees it as a matter of information density.

“A GUI is very good at providing dense info to the user, but very poor at receiving dense info from the user,” he explained. “A CLI is a bit more rounded but will never be as good at providing dense info to the user as a GUI is. Where it really excels is in receiving dense information from a user.”

Keystrokes Rule

Case in point: “Imagine how many mouse clicks and keyboard strokes it takes to tell a GUI ftp program, ‘download file.txt but into myfolder, not the current local directory, and rename it to myfile2.txt,'” he suggested. “Last time I tried this it was at least 8 clicks plus typing.”

In a command line ftp tool, on the other hand, “you just type: get file.txt myfolder/myfile2.txt,” he pointed out. “Much easier, and the typing better flows from thought.”

So, “there are many tasks, including many sysadmin tasks, where GUIs do provide better tools,” Travers concluded. “But there are many more areas where keystrokes are just a better way to tell the computer exactly what you want done.

“Just as surfing the web in elinks (a terminal, text-only browser) can be a bit painful, so too can managing computers at the GUI be needlessly painful,” he said.

For Geeks Only

Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, wasn’t convinced.

“Using the Command Line evokes a sense of pride, so I expect to get flamed by your readers,” Lim told Linux Girl. “But I have to admit, I usually wind up typing commands from a guide without fully understanding their import.”

The Command Line Interface has its uses, Lim acknowledged, “but no piece of technology targeted at the consumer market should ever require that something be done via CLI; keep it as an option or you can take it out all together.

penguin Tux, the Linux Mascot

penguin Tux, the Linux Mascot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If it is there, it should just be there for the IT people or tech support to use when you encounter a problem,” he opined.

Put another way, “it is like creating a website via gedit,” Lim concluded. “It’s cool. But in this day and age, who really wants to type ‘< P >’ instead of just pressing the ‘Enter’ key?”

So, “is it a ‘crusty old relic?’ Most people do not even know that it is still there,” he added.

Not a Desktop OS

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet took an even stronger view.

“YES YES YES!” hairyfeet began. “There are only TWO reasons to use CLI — repetition and scripting — and how many desktop or laptop jobs require writing scripts or repeating the same actions constantly? That would be pretty much none, which is why I say as long as CLI is the dominant way to do anything in Linux, it is a SERVER OS and not a Desktop OS.”

To wit: “If you think Linux is ready to take on the desktop, then accept my challenge,” hairyfeet said. “Take ANY distro and REMOVE CLI for a period of one year. Make your OS behave as does every actually modern OS does on the planet.

“Sadly I doubt you’ll even be able to get most Linux distros to boot at all without Bash or some other shell,” he predicted. “It has become such a crutch for everything that I doubt you’ll even get to a desktop without it.”

For Some, Priceless

That view, however, was far from undisputed.

“BASH commands and scripts are a wonderful tool for system administrators,” blogger Robert Pogson offered. “Few others users need to bother with them.”

That said, “such things may be crusty, but they work very well,” Pogson opined. “I can type a command and check the time on every machine on my network, or update software, or add a particular application to a particular list of PCs or all of them.

“That’s priceless,” he added. “Gold and diamonds are ancient, too, but they are valuable.”

Lingua Franca of Linux

In fact, “one thing that I find valuable with scripts and commands in GNU/Linux is that with hundreds of distros, it’s all but impossible for a system administrator to be conversant enough with all the distros to do all the basic operations without commands and scripts,” Pogson pointed out. “The same goes for helping novice system admins or remotely administering a PC.”

So, “I like to call that language the lingua franca of GNU/Linux, covering all distros on all PCs with any installation,” he said. “A Debian guy can help a Red Hat guy or vice versa, even if one uses GNOME and the other uses Xfce.

“Can an XP guy help a ‘7’ guy?” Pogson added. “Maybe. Maybe not. Can a Debian Sarge guy help a Debian Squeeze guy? Yes. Commands are the right way to do IT. It’s a unifying force in GNU/Linux.” 

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New images of the BlackBerry 10 L-Series handset leak online

With the official launch of the BlackBerry 10 operating system scheduled for January 31, 2013, the leaks of the devices that are set to be launched with it are continuing to pour in. After appearing a few days ago, an upcoming L-Series handset from BlackBerry has surfaced once again, and this time around, leaked images of the BlackBerry 10 smartphone had surfaced on Twitter and then it was swiftly removed.

The upcoming BlackBerry 10 device gets caught on cam again

The upcoming BlackBerry 10 device gets caught on cam again
Prior to the images being taken down, a website called Tech Suplex had managed to acquire the images and from the images, we can see some of the features of the upcoming BlackBerry 10 interface as well as the battery housed in the handset, with the back panel removed.

The images do not show us anything new from what we had seen earlier. However, one image does shed some light on the connectivity features that will be found on the handset when it is launched. The handset features connections such as NFC, VPN, Mobile Hotspot, Bluetooth, Internet Tethering and Wi-Fi.

New icons featured here

New icons featured here
The report also notes that the handset has an incredibly fast boot up time of just 8 seconds. From the images, we can see all the different angles of the handset giving us a fair idea of what to expect once it goes official in early next year.

Previously, a few images surfaced online, which showed a BlackBerry L-Series handset, giving us a glimpse of what we can expect to see once the first BlackBerry 10 handsets arrive.

The battery bay of the device

The battery bay of the device
According to a post by CrackBerry.com, one of its readers has posted images on its site of an evaluation unit of an L-Series BlackBerry 10 smartphone. This handset is placed alongside a BlackBerry Bold 9700. From the images we can see that this is a sleek-looking device and in comparison it is a lot thinner than the Bold 9700. This is a good direction Research in Motion is going in, and hopefully for the brand, this handset, along with the new OS, should succeed.

Research In Motion (RIM) had announced that it will hold its BlackBerry 10 launch event on January 30, 2013. The event will happen simultaneously in multiple countries around the world. This day will mark the official launch of its new platform, BlackBerry 10, as well as the unveiling of the first two BlackBerry 10 smartphones. Details on the smartphones and their availability will be announced at the event.

BlackBerry 10 will offer a large catalogue of the leading applications from across the globe and across all categories, including Games, Productivity, Social, Lifestyle and Leisure, Multimedia and Published Content, as well as applications designed for business and enterprise use.

The BlackBerry 10 platform has recently achieved FIPS 140-2 certification, which means that government agencies will be able to deploy BlackBerry 10 smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 as soon as it is available. The company claims that this marks the first time BlackBerry products have been certified ahead of their launch.  In addition, RIM recently announced that BlackBerry 10 smartphones have now entered more than 50 carrier labs with many more entries expected in the coming weeks.

Microsoft announces 40 million Windows 8 licences sold since launch!!

Microsoft claims that it has sold a whopping 40 million Windows 8 licences since its launch on October 26, 2012. Tami Reller, the Windows Chief Marketing and Financial Officer, revealed this information during a speech at Credit Suisse 2012 Annual Technology Conference. Reller said, “The journey is just beginning, but I am pleased to announce today that we have sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses so far.”

Microsoft announces 40 million Windows 8 licences sold since launch

Recently, Microsoft revealed that it had sold four million upgrade copies of Windows 8 in the first few days of the new OS going live.

This is quite a milestone for the company and it is really pushing the new OS to the point that all newly launched laptops and ultrabooks are powered by Windows 8 even though Windows 7 is still a very stable and well-supported OS. Microsoft sold 60 million Windows 7 licenses from its launch (October 2009) till December 2009.

The details of “licenses sold” seems to be in the grey area as it does not clarify whether these licenses are sold to consumers, organizations, distributers or manufacturers who are offering Windows 8 straight out of the box.

Notably, no details about the sales figures of Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet were revealed. Microsoft’s Surface Pro, the tablets running Windows 8 Pro will be available from January 2013.

It’s nice to see that Windows 8 has an app store but at launch there were only a few thousand apps and they didn’t include big names such as Facebook and Twitter. Also the learning curve for the new OS is a bit high which may turn off the traditional Windows user. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that Microsoft has done a pretty good job with its new desktop/tablet hybrid OS.