betty: Anti-aliasing

I have two applications within a theme today; one of them I talked about a month ago on some other random site, and the other is relatively new. Or it is to me, anyway.

First up is betty.


betty was steamrolling the Linux underbelly of the Internet for a while this summer, winning fans as a “Siri for the console.” Proponents suggested you could type just about any request of betty, and she would run the appropriate command and provide results. Rather than learning esoteric commands and flag sequences, betty could translate a request, pump it through the appropriate tool, and give you back an answer.

Which sounds like a fantastic idea, and I’m fully on board with betty … except as you can see above, it doesn’t quite work.

betty has preset commands she understands, most (all?) of which are listed on her home page. Deviate one character from those, and she’s lost.

Or worse, there are a few that supposedly work, that don’t. That’s what I hoped to show in the screenshot: that my typing skills were not to blame for betty’s empty replies.

I won’t harp too much on betty because I got most of my shots in last month, when fanboys hailed betty as The Golden Child of Linux and promised she would revolutionize life at the cursor. Suffice to say that betty doesn’t actually translate your commands, doesn’t parse context for a reply, and doesn’t tolerate deviation from her set list … hopefully.

Which means at best, betty works the opposite of an alias. Instead of just typing date +"%A", you’re typing in betty whats today, then sifting through her possible responses. If you hoped to save time typing, you didn’t.

And if you need to know the day of the week so frequently that you’d consider using betty for it, you’d do as well to use alias dow='date +"%A"', and do things the old-fashioned way.

But that’s enough for now. It will be a while before betty fulfills her promises, and becomes the natural language translator for the console. In that time, imagine how many traditional commands you could learn. … 😕