Considering it’s been a year and a half since I started cataloguing console-based software, and it’s been more or less a two-a-day post rate, it might be a surprise to you if I say I’m actually looking forward the next 100 or so programs. It’s a bit of a surprise to me too. There are a couple of reasons for it though.
For one, thing almost everything that I have left has been added in the past year. That means it’s either something I stupidly overlooked — like
head, which I use almost every day but somehow managed to miss 😕 — or it’s new enough to be under development or currently maintained.
That won’t be the case every time, but I anticipate a lot fewer duds in the next 100 programs than I had in the last 1000.
There’s another reason: Some of the stuff is genuinely cool. A lot of the past 880+ posts have circled around time-honored software — some of it as old as computers themselves. But new minds have since taken a seat at the keyboard, and Die Neuen Kinder have a way of looking at things that is different than their parents and grandparents.
Here’s an example for you: histo.
Until about a month ago, I thought for sure that the gold standard for console-based data plotting was gnuplot. It’s been around for three decades and shows no signs of dying.
But gnuplot’s console mode is sort of an afterthought. gnuplot does a lot more in the graphical arena, even if it can spit out a line graph drawn with asterisks.
histo isolates that single task and handles it with a lot more style. You can see the results above.
You’ll get the same — or at least similar — results in a virtual console; histo doesn’t limit you to an X-based environment, like spark did.
An added bonus: histo can handle streaming data too, so it’s possible to pipe active values through histo, and see a continuous diagram.
One thing I don’t like about histo: Negative values are shows as shaded blocks, rather than pulling them below the X axis. I realize that’s a small complaint, but it seems to me that for as well as histo handles resizing to a terminal and managing a stream of unpredictable data, it shouldn’t take much more effort to show a proper downward track for negative values.
But what do I know. I couldn’t build a program like it if my life depended on it. Knowing histo is around — and other clever tools like it — means I have a lot to look forward to.