Tools can be a subtle trap.

– Neil Gaiman, The Sandman

My ThinkPad X220 in all its glory

Working on my old ThinkPad x220 feels easy because I’ve used the same software for over a decade.

And while it’s tempting to switch to one of the endless new apps out there, there are good reasons to trust old tools.

The Lindy Effect

My boring desktop

The Lindy effect posits the older something is, the longer it’ll be around.

According to the Lindy Effect, you can assume most software is halfway through its lifespan.

So, Vi will be around in 2068, whereas Visual Studio Code will be defunct before the end of this decade.1

Debian 1993 28 years old
Bash 1989 33 years old
XMonad 2007 15 years old
URXvt 2001 20 years old
Tmux 2007 15 years old
Vim 1991 30 years old

The average software running my laptop is 24 years old. So, 24 more years of this desktop (right!? 😅).

Preserve your flow state

My desktop has features that are missing from other people’s computers.

These features whisk me into a flow state and keep me there; they preserve my limited attention, willpower, and (frankly) mental capacity.

Vim instead of a new notetaking app

Sage advice from @netcapgirl on Twitter, 2022-04-27

The problem with most notetaking apps is editing text outside Vim breaks my brain.

Vimwiki has piqued my interest, but I have yet to use it.

Meanwhile, I keep boring notes in Vim using a bash script, Pandoc, markdown, and a distraction-free writing environment.

In the end, I get a bunch of webpages available on http://localhost/~thcipriani/brain:

This is basically Roam + Obsidian + Notion…right?

Bash instead of DuckDuckGo

Some folks rely on DuckDuckGo (or, worse yet, Google) for basic utilities:

  • Calculator
  • Dictionary
  • Spell check
  • Unit conversion

But you can achieve the same thing faster, without breaking your concentration.

  • Calculator

    I stole the calc bash function from Addy Osmani in 2012 and have used it daily since.

    (/^ヮ^)/*:・゚✧ calc 6922251*8
  • Dictionary

    I 😍 dictionaries.

    One of the best dictionaries for writers is available as the gcide-dict package in Debian:

    (/^ヮ^)/*:・゚✧ dict fustian
      Fustian \Fus"tian\, n.
         1. A kind of coarse twilled cotton or cotton and linen stuff,
            including corduroy, velveteen, etc.
            [1913 Webster]
         2. An inflated style of writing; a kind of writing in which
            high-sounding words are used, above the dignity of the
            thoughts or subject; bombast.
            [1913 Webster]
                  Claudius . . . has run his description into the most
                  wretched fustian.                              --Addison.
            [1913 Webster]
  • Spell checker

    Spellcheck is available almost everywhere, but when it isn’t, people tend to search for whatever word they’re spelling. I wrote a script called spell which uses aspell to improve my spelling:

    spell in action
  • Temperature conversion

    units is a unit conversion and calculation program. And its database is one of my favorite sources of trivia.

    You can make scripts for the most common functions. I made one called temp, which uses units to show temp in both °C and °F—handy for talking about the weather.

    (/^ヮ^)/*:・゚✧ temp 100

Scratchpads instead of pinned tabs

Scratchpads are little windows you summon with a keyboard shortcut. I’ve combined XMonad and Chrome to get little floating web apps all over my desktop.

  • ⌘ + Shift + p is an ever-present notetaking terminal window.
  • ⌘ + Shift + s is Google calendar.
  • ⌘ + Shift + o used to bring up an org-mode capture template, but now it brings up todoist (yes, I’m suitably ashamed).
XMonad NamedScratchpads 👏

The year decade of Linux on the desktop

There’s a bitter joke that goes like this: “It’s the year of Linux on the desktop.”

People say it in video calls when they can’t get their audio to work. But, honestly, I’ve had a pleasant decade of Linux on the desktop.

And when Wayland finally happens? Well. I guess I’ll have no choice but to stop using computers forever ¯\_(ツ)_/¯2.

Anyway. Here’s to the next decade and beyond.

Thanks to Brennen, Kostah, and Željko for reading an early draft of this post and making it less terrible. <3

  1. There is precedent here:↩︎

  2. or, I suppose, I could finally figure out how to use SwayWM↩︎