Bonus: 2015 in review … and a farewell

I know this is premature, considering as we’re only halfway through the year. But May marks the 30th month of this blog, and even though I don’t have statistics, I suspect that there were an unusually high number of tip-top terminal titles in that short span.

So as a final nod to truly great software, I’m going back through anything from the first half of this year, and maybe even creeping a little into the last days of December. Let’s look one more time at the stuff that really shines.

Out of respect for the 2014 and 2013 best-of’s, I’ll lump this together in a crazy, scrambled, unjustified jumble. Hey, you get what you pay for. … ;)

One word: Geekbait.

One word: Geekbait.

Best geek detector: horst. The first gold-star-winner of 2015 was a geekplosion going by the name of horst. In the grand cornucopia of wireless monitors and network tools, horst is a thoroughbred with plenty of visual yummies to keep you entertained. I know next to nothing about wireless technology, except to start up a network manager in hopes of reaching my e-mail. I started up horst once — just once, mind you — and every geek within 25 meters was suddenly and inexplicably pulled directly to my laptop screen. horst may be a great way to get more information about the invisible networks that float around us all, or it may be a good way to meet the geek of your dreams … if you are not already the geek of your dreams, that is. :roll:

Which disk has Jumpman on it?

Which disk has Jumpman on it?

Best archiving tool for your media collection of 25 years ago: fdd. It’s probably not fair to pick at fdd for being a good decade or two beyond its intended audience, and given that it has provisions for CD and other removable media, it’s still useful in this day and age. All the same, it is obviously intended for a different generation, when keeping track of floppies was a tedious chore. With lots of options for searching and naming, fdd wins a tip of the straw skimmer in recognition of a good design regardless of its Precambrian origins. You laugh, but one day you’ll be scraping around the Internet trying to remember the name of this program, so you can use it to catalog your overloaded USB stick collection. …

Finally, an editor that doesn't treat me like an idiot.

Finally, an editor that doesn’t treat me like an idiot.

Best text editor that isn’t vim or emacs: wpe and we. I make a big deal out of text editors that aren’t the twin cancers of the console, vim and emacs. Picking between those two is like asking if you’d rather be hit between the eyes with a ball-peen hammer or with a cricket bat: Neither one is a reasonable choice for a rational computer-using human-type person. And the third-place finisher, nano, is so far behind that it’s really just a timid, simpering speck on the horizon. For an editor with real character, wpe and it’s non-programmer version, we, are sheer genius. Built-in file selectors, popup menus, a Van Gogh-ish palette of color, menu bars, cascading and tiling windows, syntax highlighting and sensible defaults — anything you could want in a text editor without having to suffer through the mind-numbing triple-key combos of emacs, or the asinine, feverish mode-swapping of vim. Yes, that’s right, I just called your editor mind-numbing and asinine. You got problem with that? :evil: I’m getting bold in my last days. … :shock:

Thanks for making the rest of us look bad.

Thanks for making the rest of us look bad.

Rampant overachiever of 2015: httping. I was sorely tempted to throw httping to the top of the list, as a technological salt lick for free-ranging geeks in your local environment. But httping gets its own bracket, and wins the judges’ choice for the most hopelessly overdone title of 2015 — especially since it is, at its core, a rewrite of the omnipresent ping utility. Some ping remakes are content to emit beeps, or bounce like EKGs, or just show a little more information than the classic tool. But that’s not enough for httping, which was obviously exposed to a massive overdose of gamma radiation, because it comes out of the chute like The Hulk jacked up on methamphetamines. httping gives you every possible modulation on ping you can imagine, plus some you only saw in your nightmares. Look, everybody wants to be the ping, but this is just ridiculous. :shock:

Welcome back, Kotter.

Welcome back, Kotter.

Best do-it-yourself office suite: mined, ol, alot, scim and tapecalc. I’m lumping titles here, which probably isn’t fair, but if you wanted to set up an entire suite of software to manage your home office on a leftover K6-III, you got five grand programs just in the first half of this year. tapecalc is a majestic redesign of the office adding machine archetype, suitable for tabulation, accounting and even just simple math, and won’t run up your budget by burning through that awful thermal printer paper. mined is another prime example of why both vim and emacs should be completely discarded and all their prophets exiled to a very cold place, and a magnificent example of how easy text-based editing should be.

alot won out over multimail as an easy-to-learn, easy-to-manage and easy-to-read mail agent, even if the supporting software will be a bear to set up for some people (myself included). ol is the baby of the crowd, proving its worth just days ago as a to-do list manager and hierarchical note taker, even if it doesn’t have all the flash of some others. And scim wins the seat of honor in the text-based office suite, for bringing the decades-old spreadsheet sc back to modernity, and adding so many desperately needed features that you’ll think it’s Christmas. Even if you weren’t around for all 2 1/2 years of this blog, look at those five programs and you’ll have enough to keep your K6-III busy. (Hey, don’t laugh: Those old Super Socket 7’s are regaining their value, now that they’re vintage technology. …)

How is that even possible?!

How is that even possible?!

Best sights and sounds: shpaint and mpfc. It was probably easy to see coming, but shpaint was a winner in the visual arts department for making terminal emulator art as easy as point-and-click. I don’t know what sorcery makes it possible to do that from bash, of all places, but shpaint made me all misty-eyed, remembering the good old days of Paint Now! (Massive bonus points if you know that one.) Granted, it didn’t really stand up to some of the higher features of other graphics programs, but all told, it was the best artistic invention for the year.

And speaking of artistic endeavors, mpfc overshadowed any and all music players for the console in the last six months, by adopting an easy interface, great color, good sound and a lightweight footprint. I felt a little bit guilty taking mpfc for a spin, and then returning to moc: Test-driving it was like hanging out with your best friend’s SO for a day of fun, and then heading home to eat dinner with your family. :???: Perhaps in another life, we could have found happiness together. … :'(

Save this for Sept. 19.

Save this for Sept. 19.

Best tool for looking at pictures of cats: rtv. The reddit army can stop harassing me for not thinking too highly of their stomping ground, and take solace in the fact that rtv is probably one of the nicest console-based forum browsers dedicated to a single web site. Good color, an arrangement that mimics the visual style of the site, one-key commands for the most common actions, and account management for ease of startup. I’m almost sad that it really only works with one site; a tool like this that could rip through forums and BBSs would be a godsend. I may not be a fan of reddit, but using rtv could be reason enough to visit it. Now stop e-mailing me to tell me your favorite reddit hangouts. >:(

Where shall we go  this time, my little robot buddy?

Where shall we go this time, my little robot buddy?

Best game: scrap. I pulled out a lot of hair before I made this decision. For as brief a time as we had together in 2015, a lot — and I mean a lot — of that time was spent on games. Some of them were magnificent too: Frozen Depths aligned itself with the topmost rung of roguelikes, making it a peer of things like Cataclysm DDA and Dungeon Crawl. nsuds was so well made that it could have been a tutorial on how to design a text-based console game. And if you didn’t know better, net-o-grama could trick you into thinking it was a graphical game. Even hack-of-life managed to astound me, and that game was built on the ancient carcass of a decades-old theoretical population simulation. It was a good six months for games, no matter how you looked at it.

In the end though, it was the simple novelty of scrap that won me over. I was still puttering around with scrap for days after I had written about it, in between the other games that I was skimming through. It’s not a perfect game (what is?) and it is at risk of disappearing into the technological ether of history, if ever jettisons it. But for sheer fun, a simple but challenging premise and a colorful interface, scrap won the crown. Please accept my heartiest endorsement.

And that’s it. That’s all I have to say. I’ve come to the end of all the lists and wikis, indexes and repositories, collections and top-10-lists. :(

Now I’m afraid our time together must come to a close.

I don’t have any words of wisdom beyond what I left at the top of the old blog. We had a good decade, and I hope the past 30 months of silly little text-only adventures were as interesting — and maybe educational — for you as they were for me.

Keep trying new things, keep looking for simpler solutions, and keep using the programs you like best. And remember: Be kind to one another. We’re all we’ve got!

K.Mandla :)

Bonus: A going-out-of-business sale

Today and only today, a special sale on leftover software titles. :D Some of what you find here today might not work, and in some cases it didn’t work for me either.

On the other hand, some just required too much time to set up, and so might be perfectly functional — in fact, it might be just what you always wanted.

I recommend you try everything and if it fits, take it home with you. ;)

  • birdsay: A nifty little gimmick, this displays a tweet as an ASCII bird, which only makes sense. I expect this will require a Twitter account though, and I don’t have one, so I leave it to you to explore.
  • btail: A Bayesian log filter, which proved a little more homework than I could appreciate. Functional, just a little more complex than I had time for.
  • clerk: An mpd client, which I believe behaves a lot like dmenu. I hold no grudge against mpd, except that it usually takes a long time for me to set up, and so I tend to procrastinate with mpd-based software. If you use mpd, it might be worth trying.
  • clif: clif intends to make gifs from other sources, all at the CLI. My initial efforts to get it running were unsuccessful; see if you have better luck.
  • content-screenshot: I believe this relies on Chromium, so I’ve omitted it as a graphical program.
  • deco: A text-based two-pane file manager patterned after Norton Commander. This wouldn’t build for me, and I see on the home page that it has been deprecated in favor of another file manager. I’m afraid the code is just too old.
  • demlo: A software structure for tagging and organizing music. I’ve had this on my list for quite a while, but I ran out of steam with tagging utilities way back in December. And then I just plain ran out of time. :(
  • dired: I suspect there are two dired’s: an old one that runs within emacs, and a newer one that works independently. My confusion over the name and my difficulties getting the old one to work kept knocking this file manager down my priority list, and now I hand it off to you.
  • gsync: A tool to synchronize folders against Google Drive. I could build and run this, but it never synced against my account. I suspect Google has updated its protocol to the point where gsync can no longer communicate with the cloud, as sometimes happens.
  • ImageScraper: An image downloader. A submission via e-mail, this never worked for me as promised, even when I buckled and tried to install it with pip.
  • img: An image uploader specific to To be honest, imgur’s pages are always terribly heavy and laden with gimmicks that make it slow to navigate on a 12-year-old computer, so I never bothered trying it. Plus, I’ve outlived three or four third-party image hosts over the past decade, so I don’t have much need for imgur.
  • I believe this is’s in-house upload script, which may or may not be better than the previous title. Again, I leave that to you to discover.
  • marrie: Martin sent me a link to marrie just yesterday, no doubt in response to the deluge of podcast downloaders of last week. You sent it just in under the wire, Martin, but you left me no time to try it … :???:
  • mine: A console interface for Dropbox, which could be quite useful if you rely on Dropbox for cloud storage. I think you can actually run software from the cloud too. :| I didn’t get the chance to try this at all, but I do have a Dropbox account … somewhere. … :???:
  • mu4e: Another mail agent for emacs. The next blog will be “How to take care of all your computing needs from within emacs.” Just kidding. :roll: If I remember right, there’s a standalone version (in other words, without the need for emacs) just called “mu.” And now, little man, I give the watch to you.
  • rhype: A music player specific to Hype Machine. I did due diligence with this, but it came up lacking. Lazy responses from the daemon, almost no control over the actual player doing the work, and very sluggish behavior when trying to access the playlist. See if you have better luck though.

And there it is: The end of the end. Everything I know and ever got, whether through my own efforts or through he kindness of contributors, is now somewhere on this site. All the 400 original tools and the 2000 or so that followed are public record. A treasure trove, for generations to come. :'(

Tomorrow, one last look at the first half of 2015.

ndn: And memories of the past

About a month ago, StreaK left a note about ndn, a/k/a Necromancer’s DOS Navigator. I might catch some flak for this, but I saved it for last, before the shop closes down.

2015-04-26-6m47421-ndn-01 2015-04-26-6m47421-ndn-02 2015-04-26-6m47421-ndn-03

Introductions first. ndn has a precompiled Linux version that you see there, and as you might expect from the screenshots, I find it quite enjoyable. You can see the two-panel menu-based approach that hearkens back to Midnight Commander and its predecessor, Norton Commander.

ndn takes that style and adds multiple window support, a healthy smattering of disk functions (like renaming a volume, like you see above), separate histories for command line and panel activity, and a lot of other tricks. Most everything is driven by a popup dialogue, which I always appreciate.

Even more amazing, ndn adds in a calculator, a calendar, a phone book (remember, this has history back to the modem era), and a lot more. If you try ndn, take your time with the “Utilities” menu, but don’t be shy about the others either.

Much of what ndn can do is arranged by submenu, and that makes it mostly easy to follow. There are also provisions for user-defined menus, and a special function menu just for Linux tasks.

With all that going for it, I still have a few small problems to report. First, as you can probably see if you look close at the screenshots, I’m getting some screen artifacts when I run the precompiled version in Arch. I don’t blame anyone for that; it’s a distraction, but it’s just the nature of the beast.

Second, there are some obvious leftover “tools” and “menus” from the DOS era. The letter strip you see along the bottom of each panel clearly corresponds to drive labels under Windows, and double-clicking on one in Linux just drops you into /dev/, which doesn’t really help.

It would be nice if that area instead showed mountpoints or even polled devices like sda1, sdb1, sr0 and so forth. As it is, that strip is wasted space. Add to wasted space: Displaying file names in the same color as the background for certain file types. That’s an unfortunate oversight. :\

ndn is also a very powerful suite of tools, and will take a lot of time to learn all the commands. But to complicate things, it appears there are different controls when running under X and when in a virtual console. Keyboard navigation seems disabled under X, meaning you have to do all your selections and menu action with the mouse. On the other hand, gpm was no help in a console.

Those are the main reasons I was hesitant to include ndn in this list: It seems a lot of its functions will hinge on graphical support. Which makes it not much better than undistract-me, which we talked about a few days ago.

And why save it for last, you ask? Nostalgia, mostly. If you remember the text-only era and the parade of file managers and disk checkers that all ran within consoles and had no graphical support, ndn is like a trip down memory lane. Popup menus drawn and shaded in hashed boxes, menu bars triggered with ALT+letters, and F-row hotkeys will take you back to the software of 30 years ago … all the way down to the color scheme. It’s a good feeling.

So if you take issue with a leftover DOS file manager, overstocked with utilities and rather haphazardly converted to Linux, appearing here at all, that’s my excuse: It reminds me of other times. :)

ol: One last editor and outliner

A long time ago, I used to keep notes and lists with a normal, everyday text editor, and just draw up a outline format if I needed to show some sort of structure or to-do checkboxes.

Sometime around 2008 or 2009, I found two new applications that quickly took over those roles — one was vimwiki, which I may only need for another day or two, and hnb. hnb was on my system, in spite of its age, for a long five years until I found tudu last summer.

hnb and tudu (and the emacs and vim plugins that do much the same thing) are not the only hierarchical note-takers available. You can add ol to that list, with my endorsement … whatever that’s worth. :roll:


ol stands for “Outliner Lighto,” if the home page is to be believed. And what you see in that image is probably the best snapshot of what it does and how it works.

Arrow keys will navigate through a tree, and leaf nodes expand when you navigate through them. Press “d” to delete a note and all its children, Enter to edit a note, “t” to convert it to a checkbox for to-do lists, “x” to mark a task as done, and so forth. The empty file startup screen will give you help and instructions, if you need it.

Probably one of my favorite things about ol is the cut-and-paste action, or better called the “grab” function. Press “g” and you carry a note with you through the tree, allowing you to arrange and rearrange to your heart’s desire.

Since the display effectively updates as you navigate, it’s a lot easier to organize and visualize than the traditional cut-and-paste model. I like that a lot more than tudu’s way, which borrows yank-and-paste style of vim. And you know how I feel about vim. :evil:

ol is also colorful, even going so far as to assign colors to note depths, which is another wise evolution. hnb and tudu haven’t picked up that idea yet, and it’s one that is probably worth adopting.

I see that ol is written in pascal, which strikes me as unusual, but also completely irrelevant to using the program. As an added bonus, if you’re an hnb user and decide to use this moment to emigrate, there’s a utility that will convert hnb’s text format to a style ol can use.

ol doesn’t have some of the more detailed functions of tudu — like displaying a percentage complete for to-do lists, or allowing extended notes, deadlines and schedule dates. ol probably won’t dethrone tudu for me, for those reasons. I find with tudu that I can rely less on wyrd now too.

That alone is no reason to deny ol the gold star it deserves — for a clean interface, plenty of startup help, easy controls and a few innovative ideas for hierarchical list tools. Don’t spend it all in one place: :star: Enjoy! :)

since: Since you last checked

I promised I would get since onto these pages before the end comes, mostly because I don’t remember any other log viewer that has this behavior by default … and I want to be able to remember it in the future.


It’s hard for me to be sure though, after so many years and so many log utilities. :\

since seems different because, as you might have inferred from the screenshot, it only displays log data since the last time it checked. So you can see the last portions of pacman.log at the top of that image, then the repository update. The next invocation of since only shows the two lines that had been added.

I’m sure other tail-esque tools can do this, and possibly add a few nifty tricks in passing. It’s just a matter of finding the right flags and getting them in order.

For its own part, since keeps its state file in ~/.since, and you have the option to ignore it. You can also tell since to use a special state file, to run periodically, to ignore compressed logs, ignore missing logs, and a lot of other options.

I am not a real bloodhound when it comes to keeping an eye on logs, so at its best, since is useful … but only rarely. On my pseudo-desktop system, there’s almost no call for it.

On a more complex system or in a situation where log files are critical, it might save you some time trying to get the information you need. I’m willing to give it a thumbs-up. :)

rfc and httpdoc: Two terminal references

I have a couple of simple but related tools today, both from the same author. At left is rfc, and at right is httpdoc.

2015-04-25-6m47421-rfc 2015-04-25-6m47421-httpdoc

I’ve known about rfc for a while, but got a reminder about httpdoc earlier this week via e-mail. Since they both have the same style and same creator, it makes sense to lump them together.

rfc, when supplied with a number or a topic line, will pull the text of that RFC from the web and dump it into your $PAGER. No fancy formatting, no color-coded document histories, just one-shot quick access to RFCs all the way back to … well, back to number 1.

The home page has a three-step process for “installing” rfc into your $HOME directory, although I daresay it could be rearranged to allow for more than just one person to use. In any case, it takes very little effort and rfc itself won’t bog down your system, seeing as it’s just a bash creation.

As an added bonus, rfc will keep its documents stored locally, so you don’t have to re-download a request. If you rely on rfc frequently, you’ll probably be interested in some of the built-in actions — like update or list, which give rfc a little more oomph, and search, which … well, you should be able to figure that one out. :roll:

httpdoc is similar, in a way. As you can see above, httpdoc becomes an offline reference tool for HTTP documentation. In the screenshot above, I only showed the 404 status code, but httpdoc can also return documentation on header fields, if you need that.

I can see where httpdoc is still being updated even in the past few days, so I expect there will be more references to come.

httpdoc is written in go, so you’ll need that installed before it will play along. There are also some environment variables that you’ll want to adjust before using it, but it’s nothing complicated.

Both of these tools might strike you as too simple to be noteworthy, but that will depend a lot on your perspective. I use things like dict on a daily basis, and even have it hot-wired for thesaurus entries as part of my .bashrc.

If you have a similar need for RFC or HTTP documentation at the command line, then you might find both of these install-worthy. Necessity is the mother of invention. Or is it the other way around … ? ;)

undistract-me: Quashing your ADHD

I fear this little utility might be usable only for a discrete set of fans. Technically speaking it’s a text-based application, but … well, I’ll let you take a look and see what you think.


In principle, it’s rather simple: undistract-me simply takes note if a shell command takes longer than 10 seconds to execute. If it does, it waits until the program finishes, then throws up the alert message you see in the screenshot above. Kind of cool, in an odd way.

Strictly speaking though, you’ll need all the underpinnings of a graphical desktop, plus whatever alert system is in use there, before you’ll get close to that kind of behavior. On my semi-graphical Arch system with just Openbox, I ended up adding gtk3, polkit, dconf, json-glib and a mess of themes and libraries before the git version was close to running.

So I don’t know if I’m being fair by including it. Don’t expect to suddenly plop this into place on your 400Mhz Celeron running screen, because you’re going to need a lot more to get close.

I won’t deny that I like the idea though, and if something comparable could be implemented in a text only environment, it might be worth trying. For my own part, I used to append long-running commands with aplay yoo-hoo.ogg so I would get an audible when something finished.

So in that way, I can sympathize. But unless you use a lot of terminal commands on a Linux Mint desktop and need some sort of blinky reminder when one finishes … well, like I said, it will probably only appeal to a slim range of fans. :\