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Via email, "Chris" asks:

Enjoyed the 2006 Linux essentials list. ... Do you have any plans to update the Essentials list for the latest and greatest that Linux 2008 has to offer?

Well, I do now.

  1. Debian GNU/Linux, because of Firefox bug 354622. In particular, comment 39 outlines Debian's position. (Yes, I know Debian still ships with non-free firmware, so Debian's position on Firefox is inconsistent. But no firmware developer has ever tried to force Debian to "bend the DFSG a little.")
  2. GNU Emacs, still.
  3. Iceweasel (see above) + Adblock Plus + NoScript + NoSquint + Greasemonkey.
  4. Pidgin (formerly GAIM).
  5. getmail instead of Thunderbird. It turns out I don't actually want a desktop email client. I use Google Apps For Your Domain to manage my own address @ my own domain, and I archive it with a nightly cron job using getmail.
  6. gPhoto 2 instead of digiKam. It turns out I don't actually want a photo library, just dated directories of image files imported directly from my camera.
  7. On the other hand, I do want a music library, and amaroK is still best-of-breed.
  8. KSnapshot, KTorrent, Konversation, k3b, and k9copy are also best-of-breed.
  9. There is still no good iMovie clone for Linux, but OpenMovieEditor looks promising. I learned about it at FSOSS last week. I fear that Linux video editing will always just "look promising."
  10. I've warmed up to GIMP, which has largely replaced Krita for my (very light) graphic editing needs. At FSOSS, I learned about ingimp, which allows you to opt-in to collect and aggregate detailed statistics on how real people use GIMP.
  11. GNOME Do, a Quicksilver-inspired launcher++.
  12. mplayer, specifically the version provided by the awesome

On the command line side, I now use urxvt, screen, ZSH, and these configuration files. If you use the command line more than once a day and haven't learned about screen yet, you're missing out. I still use SSH heavily, in too many ways to count. If you use SSH and haven't learned about SSH keys and SSH tunneling yet, you're really missing out. Also: sshfs, rsync and SSH, SSH VPN, &c. (Note: most of these work on Mac OS X too, and Windows with cygwin or PuTTY.)

I still use rsync for backups to my NAS, even though I have two Drobo enclosures that I manage with drobo-utils. RAID is not a backup solution, and ZFS on Linux isn't quite there yet.

Things I don't use anymore:

  • A desktop email client. As mentioned above, I use Gmail (on my own domain, so I keep my email address).
  •, or any other desktop office suite. I use Google Docs, which exports to Open Document format. I keep studious local backups in ODF/ODS/etc.
  • VLC. There is very little that mplayer can't handle.
  • Democracy Player. Ze frank doesn't post daily anymore, and I don't particularly follow other video podcasts.
  • KMyMoney. It's good, but I fell behind in organizing my finances and it got left on the wayside.
  • EasyUbuntu (now Medibuntu). satisfies all my illicit patent-encumbered needs.
  • Beagle. GNOME Do is more than enough for my local search needs.
  • Konsole. RXVT-Unicode instead.
  • AllTray.
  • Brightside.

I also no longer use the ratpoison window manager. I've settled on XFCE instead, with the PCMan file manager. I encourage every Linux user to try an alternate window manager for at least a month. Find one that fits your brain and customize the hell out of it.


Taking an idea from Use the Best Available Ampersand and a list of pre-installed fonts from the Complete Guide to Pre-Installed Fonts in Linux, Mac, and Windows, I present "The Ampersands of Linux":

[ampersands in 28 fonts]


Please try to contain your excitement.


And you?


mark@atlantis:~% uname -a
Linux atlantis #1 SMP Sun Dec 2 22:09:17 EST 2007 x86_64 GNU/Linux

mark@atlantis:~% history -1000 | awk '{a[$2]++}END{for(i in a){print a[i] " " i}}' | sort -rn | head
181 cd
167 ls
103 sudo
75 rm
42 lsdvd
40 fp
39 mv
38 ll
37 cat
24 mkdir

And root:

atlantis:~# history | awk '{a[$2]++}END{for(i in a){print a[i] " " i}}' | sort -rn | head
25 mount
20 aptitude
15 cd
11 ls
5 iwconfig
5 exit
5 dpkg
5 df
4 module-assistant
4 cat


  • zsh needs history -1000 where bash just uses history
  • fp is a homegrown wrapper around mplayer that auto-zooms and adjusts video placement to make extra room for subtitles if possible
  • ll is an alias for ls -l

(I've seen this meme sweep through Planet Intertwingly like a bad rash, but Ben's post is what finally prompted me to participate. In proper meme fashion, I tag Joe and Tim to go next.)


It's been about 18 months since Slashdot linked to Tim O'Reilly for linking to Jason Kottke for linking to Cory Doctorow for linking to me for switching from Mac to Linux. (Best comment: "this is just another A-list blogger circle-jerk." As if that was my fault!)

At the time, Jason said, "If I were Apple, I'd be worried about this. Two lifelong Mac fans are switching away from Macs to PCs running Ubuntu Linux: first it was Mark Pilgrim and now Cory Doctorow. Nerds are a small demographic, but they can also be the canary in the coal mine with stuff like this."

18 months later, Apple has sold 4 million crippled phones, billions of crippled songs, and people are predicting that Mac sales are up 40% year over year. And I wouldn't bet against their new movie rental venture either (although this chart is amusing).

So after 18 months, I think we can safely say that no, Cory and I were not "canaries in the coal mine." There are not hordes of fed-up consumers rejecting Apple's vision of cryptographic lock-in. There are not mass graves where people ceremoniously dump their crippled, non-general-purpose computing devices. Outside of Planet Debian and my own personal echo chamber, nobody gives a shit about Freedom 0.

You knew this, of course, but I just wanted to let you know that I knew, too.