Open Source Musings


For years, I've been saying or writing that you don't need to know how to use the command line to use Linux effectively. I've helped more than a few people over the years migrate to Linux, and none of them have cracked open a terminal window. Guess what? They're getting what they need to get done using graphical applications. And nothing else.

But here we are in 2022 and I'm still trying to break that myth. Over the years, and quite a few times in recent months, have tried to call me out over that. They've pointed to articles and blog posts written about the command line as proof to contrary. As proof that the command line is essential if you want to use Linux.

I don't deny that I use the command line — mainly to make some complicated tasks simple. That said, I'm definitely not a command line master. Far from it. I know just enough to be dangerous, to carry out a few tasks. At most, I spend 5% of my computing time in a terminal window.

That time isn't spent doing anything complex. So, what do I use the command line for? Here's most of what I do in a terminal window:

  • Read RSS feeds with newsboat.
  • Convert files using pandoc.
  • Publish a couple of websites using GitLab Pages.
  • Use three or four simple scripts (which I cobbled together through trial and a lot of error or which were written by people I know) to automate tasks — scripts like this one.

And not much more than that. Hardly the behaviour of a seasoned, hardened, deeply technical command line guru, is it?

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli #opinion

(Note: This post was first published, in a different form, at and appears here via a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.)

How do you usually copy all or part of a text file when working on the Linux desktop? Chances are you open the file in a text editor, select all or just the text you want to copy, and paste it somewhere else.

That works. But you can do the job a bit more efficiently at the command line using the xclip utility. xclip provides a conduit between commands you run in a terminal window and the clipboard in a Linux graphical desktop environment.


Linux has been around for 31 years. It's evolved, changed, and improved considerably over time. The Linux of today is a far cry from the Linux I first took a look at in the mid 1990s.

Compared to their early counterparts, the Linux distributions of today are (for the most part) easy to install, easy to set up, and easy to use. You don't have to compile your own software or kernel. You don't need to edit and tweak a raft of configuration files to get a system working. Unless you want to, that is.

Today, you can use just about Linux distribution out of the box. Or when you start up a computer that comes with one pre-installed. How times have changed.

Yet, in some circles, Linux still has reputation of being difficult. To install. To set up. To use. To understand. Especially for folks with few, if any, technical skills. There is, in certain corners online, a 1998 rather than a 2021 mindset around Linux. In those corners, the myth that Linux isn't ready for the ordinary computer user continues to survive.

And there's a feeling among some Linux devotees that making things too easy for users is antithetical to what Linux is about. That was brought home to me, again, in a recent discussion I had online with a few folks.

When mentioned that I use, and really enjoy using, elementary OS, one person in that conversation was more than a little shocked. Almost on cue, they trotted out the stock arguments against elementary and distros like it. That, among other things, elementary is too dumbed down (their words, not mine).

I was forced to reminded that person that I'm not, have never consider myself to be, and never will be a so-called power user. And while I agree that elementary OS isn't for everyone, it does have its audience.

What has always attracted me to it is the ethos behind elementary — even more so than that of Ubuntu and its variants. elementary is aimed at the ordinary computer user. It caters to their needs, to what they want and need to do. elementary OS isn't designed to be heavily tweaked or fiddled with. The collection of software is curated, but it focuses on what are (for most people) everyday tasks.

In the minds of some, by embracing elementary OS I'm trading away quite a bit in the way of customization for ease of use. I'm trading away what makes Linux special. That may be true, but a lot of those customization of which folks like that speak aren't really my thing. They're not of much interest to me. And, I'm sure, they're not of much interest to elementary's audience either.

As I keep pointing out, and probably will until the day I leave this life, is that not everyone uses a computer in the same way. Everyone's needs are different. There's no reason why there can't be Linux distributions for all users, regardless of their needs.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opinion

Ever come across a task for which you thought There has to be a little utility that can make this easier? Me, too. There are a lot of those kinds of tasks. It should come as no surprise, for Linux at least, there are a lot of little tools to tackle those tasks.

If you're wondering what's available for elementary OS, keep reading. This post takes a look at three utilities, ones that you might not always use, but which are handy to have around when you need them.


Sometimes, you download an application which, even after you install it, doesn't appear in the Applications menu. I run into that a lot with software that's written in Electron or that's distributed as an AppImage. To get around that, you can create a desktop file.


(Note: This post was first published, in a slightly different form, at and appears here via a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.)

Let's take a trip back in time to the early, simpler days of the web. A time when most of us went online using low-powered PCs or dumb terminals, often over slow dial-up connections. Some of use visited web pages using command-line, text-only browsers like the venerable Lynx.

Jump forward to these days of web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and a few others. You'd think that browsing the web at the command line would have gone the way of the tag. You'd be wrong. Web browsers that run in a terminal window are alive and kicking. They're niche, but still get the job done.

Let's take a look at three browsers for the command line.


Here's the latest in an irregular series of short posts that introduce a few Linux terminal tricks.

Besides sticking your head out the window, what do you do when you want to find out what the day's weather is going to be like? Chances are you jump over to a weather service website or fire up an app on your phone.

Why not crack open a terminal window instead? All you need is a command line utility called cURL. cURL is standard kit with most Linux distributions. If it isn't installed on your computer, you can get cURL using your package manager.

How do you use cURL to check a weather forecast? At the command line, type this:


Then, press Enter. Something like this displays after a few moments:

Using cURL to grab a weather forecast

The in the command, in case you're wondering, is a console-oriented weather forecast service. cURL goes to the internet and grabs weather information from In turn, determines the forecast for your location using your IP address.

If you're masking your IP address, you can get the forecast for where you are by adding the name of your city to the command. Let's say you're in Osaka, Japan. Get your weather forecast by typing:


Do that to get the forecast of another city as well. You can also use three-letter airport codes or the name of an attraction (like the CN Tower) view the forecast for a locale. You can learn more by reading the documentation.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli