Literally Living In The Console

Posted on May 27, 2021

I’m writing this in a tty console. No, not a terminal emulator, but the real thing. I can’t even take a screenshot right now, because that’s not how ttys work (2021-05-28: actually, you can!) And no, this isn’t just for the meme or trying to act h4cx0r g1rl… It’s actually part of my workflow.

I’m a sway user. sway (or other WMs for that matter) is awesome for me because it makes my desktop almost totally free of any distractions. I mostly use text-based/CLI applications, so most of the time all my windows are just instances of my terminal emulator of choice.1

Yet there is that one single program that “ruins” it all for me… Firefox.

Actually, it’s not Firefox itself, but web browsers in general. I switched to Firefox back quite recently to be honest, after several years using Chromium. If I could manage to successfully compile surf,2 it’d be no different… Web browsers are effing distracting.

I know this is way more a problem with myself than a problem of the technology I happen to use… Well, partially. I mean, I am overly dependent on web services like radio streaming on YouTube, Wikipedia, blogs I follow, specifications, etc., and I know I could migrate quite a bunch of these things to dedicated programs. On the other hand, we all know there’s little room to escape from this web-based mess we’re in right now since the advent of single-page webapps, Node.js, Angular, React, Google’s interests in routing everything we do on a computer through the web, and the list goes really long. This ain’t news.

So, sometimes… I need switching my GUI off and go into a console session. Especially when I feel a bit stressed and need to focus on whatever I need to really get done. The cold, dark console, the gray monospace font and the feeling that you went back in time into the 80s or early 90s… helps… a lot.

Of course I’m not that crazy to go into a tty without any sorts of session support! This is what pstree outputs on my system right now:

$ pstree
systemd─┬─abduco───dvtm-aristatus─┬─dvtm─┬─bash───vis
        │                         │      └─bash───pstree
        │                         └─dvtm-aristatus───sleep
        ├─dbus-daemon
        ├─dhcpcd─┬─dhcpcd───dhcpcd
        │        └─2*[dhcpcd]
        ├─iwd
        ├─login───bash───abduco
        ├─ntpd───{ntpd}
        ├─systemd───(sd-pam)
        ├─systemd-journal
        ├─systemd-logind
        └─systemd-udevd

I use the abduco +dvtm3 combo as my session manager and terminal multiplexer setup, respectively… but certainly a bit more complex than good ol' tmux.4 abduco only deals with attaching and detaching terminal sessions (I could tell abduco to run vis directly, for instance!) and dvtm is basically a WM for terminals (that’s what is meant under a terminal multiplexer!). tmux, on the other hand, conflates both functions into one single program… But in the end, no matter which the setup is, the idea is to manage your console session with tools that give you a desktop-like environment; e.g., creating window panes, rearranging them, mutiple workspaces, you name it.

Oh, the peace and joy this brings to my life!

How did we lose it? Why? I mean, I know why. We’re in a mess where everything competes for our attention, because attention is money. Us people who use FOSS operating systems are sort of in a better place than most people, I guess? I mean, I even a standard Ubuntu install comes with way less distraction-inducing traps than a standard Windows or macOS install… least to say any of the mobile operating systems… Those are designed to distract you! The web is also designed to distract you… and “normal”5 web browsers play their part in that.

I do believe we need to get our precious life and time back from our devices and tech gadgets. It’s getting harder as everyone, myself included, seems to have lost it. I am addicted to notifications; I can feel it when my phone’s battery dies and can’t charge it for a long period of time for some reason. We have been brainwashed… and in general, the web, even on a minimalist Linux system like mine… is part of that nasty, dirty business…

So, let the dark, silent console be my refuge… Give it a chance to be yours? W ( not? ~~ ~~ _(2021-05-28: actua y, you can_)


  1. alacritty right now. ↩︎

  2. The culprit is webkit… which is such a PITA to compile! ↩︎

  3. dvtm-aristatus is just a wrapper script that tells dvtm to use my custom status bar… the same one I use in sway! Oh, the benefits of UNIX-y tools! ↩︎

  4. I have absolutely no experience with screen, so I can’t say anything about it… at all… I don’t think I’ve ever used it in my life… ↩︎

  5. i.e., everything that isn’t lynx, w3m, etc. ↩︎