I hate the command line!

So, on Windows, if I want to move the My Documents folder elsewhere, I dig around in the settings and find out how to do that. It's a little buried away, but you can find it logically enough.

But if I want to do the same trick with my /home directory in Linux, I have to type in some gibberish. Now cutting and pasting isn't hard, but if it goes wrong (like it just did) then I'm none the wiser. What went wrong? How do I fix it? I'm left running back to Google, or begging for help in forums, to probably be ignored.

Two steps in a GUI or freaking ten lines in terminal!

There's plenty I love about Linux, but this shouldn't be the trade-off…


38 thoughts on “I hate the command line!

  1. Quite frankly, the CLI is exactly what makes me love *nix – to me, using commands is almost always much quicker than using the mouse.Obviously there are exceptions, but the command line still saves me tons of time every day.

  2. Let me ask a follow up question then. Where can I start to learn the command line? A good noob tutorial?

  3. I completely agree. Whenever I sit down and try to figure out Ubuntu (and half the time when I’m playing with Macs) and I ask a friend for help, the first thing they say is, “Open the command line.” Come on now, is there any reason why this stuff isn’t accessible in the GUI? Windows is number one for a reason, and that reason is that even dunderheads like me can figure out how to do things on it.

  4. As an example with Macs…Ever try to show your hidden files so you can find your .htaccess document for your website to edit it? Files that begin with a . are hidden on Macs and I distinctly remember having to type gibberish into the command line to show the files. And THEN there were like A ZILLION HIDDEN FILES in all my folders!

  5. Where can I start to learn the command line? A good noob tutorial?Frankly, I don’t quite know how I learned it myself (I’ve only been using Linux for about 9 months now) – I guess I just picked up bits and pieces as I needed them, thus gradually gaining a more thorough understanding.However, I do understand that’s not for everyone.> Windows is number one for a reason, and that reason is that> even dunderheads like me can figure out how to do things on it.Actually, that’s more due to historic reasons.I’m pretty sure that to anyone starting with a clean slate, Windows seems much more arcane (though I only have anecdotal evidence for that). Windows is not intuitive, just more familiar to most.> having to type gibberish into the command line to show the files.> And THEN there were like A ZILLION HIDDEN FILES in all my foldersSee, that’s where *nix shines for people like me – things like “ls -alh | grep foo” are very elegant and powerful.As I’ve said once you get used to it, I understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

  6. See, that’s where *nix shines for people like me – >things like “ls -alh | grep foo” are very elegant and powerful.See, half the time I’m too tired to even begin remember anything like that. I want to go into a menu and just turn things on and off when I need them.

  7. See, half the time I’m too tired to even begin remember anything like that. I want to go into a menu and just turn things on and off when I need them.You’ll run out of space for menus and sub-menus pretty quickly… *NIX is a huge collection of many smaller pieces of pragmatic functionality. That can be combined together in endless ways to achieve whatever goals you might have. And as such historically it is for what you might call ‘power users’. So just as you wouldn’t request your next door neighbour do root canal surgery (unless they’re a dentist), you wouldn’t expect a non-techie to work with *NIX.With the advent of Linux, and now OS X, the situation has changed somewhat. And whilst both these operating systems have GUI abstractions for many tasks, both might still occasionally fall short in the point-and-click department. However, these things will be addressed – certainly in the case of Linux as its many desktops.Getting back to the merits of the command line: it is fast. If you know what you are doing you can do it faster than via any GUI: sending E-mail; writing a document; deleting all PDF files older than a month and starting with ‘R’; upgrading an application; installing a new application; starting a webserver; adding a user. Can all be one keystroke else command line.Beyond speed there are many things in *NIX/Linux that you just can’t do with Windows. Everything is exposed bare, if you know where to look for it. And yours to control if you know how to interact with it: harden the IP stack with ‘sysctl -w net.ipv4.tcp_max_syn_backlog=1280’; turn off swapping with ‘sysctl vm.swappiness=0’; grab raw data from a firewire camcorder by opening ‘/dev/raw1394’. The list goes on, and on… And when you combine all these system inputs and outputs, with scripts and tools than manipulate data, the permutations are endless. Many tasks that are trivial would under Windows require writing a Visual XXX application that hooks into some DLL or other. If you’re lucky.*NIX/Linux is a Swiss Army knife to Windows rusty old meat cleaver.

  8. Joe: Myself, yes, I’m using Ubuntu. Specifically, the netbook version, with some Kubuntu stuff mixed in.Andrew: Wow, I can’t argue against any of that! But I’m not really trying to. I love the open source philosophy more than any of the technical differences. I’m entirely happy to learn Gimp, Inkscape, Blender, Audacity and all the other great FOSS stuff, but being forced to use the command line to do pretty basic stuff is a horrible experience for people like me.I do actually *want* to figure it out. I even read the Neal Stephenson essay ‘In The Beginning Was The Command Line’ to try and understand the value there. Ultimately though, I think my energies are better spent expanding the skills I already have.

  9. I wasn’t trying to argue against it either, really. It’s just that it gets really frustrating when you can’t *afford* a new machine or a copy of Windows, so your only options (other than pirating) are open source operating systems…and you can’t always just install them and USE them like you can with Windows or even MacOSX.Like Foomandoonian said, I’m willing to learn how to use the alternative programs. I think that The Gimp is completely backwards and unintuitive, but I’ve found alternative programs that I actually really liked. The problem lies with trying to figure out how to do something that you think ought to be simple, but people in the forum snub you for your ignorance or start with the fearsome, “Open the command line” and leave people not knowing what the heck they’re actually DOING.The thing is, there may very well be an easier way to do a lot of this stuff, ways that are more intuitive for people to learn, but the people online don’t bother to learn them because the command line is faster, and the people trying to learn don’t have time to read a huge operating manual and half the time trying to find documentation online is an un-fun experience.

  10. Sorry to sound dumb – have you tried asking on the ubuntu forums? Otherwise please contact me and I’ll do my best to help you work it out.

  11. Yeah, and if not forums join a local Linux user group. The people on the mailing list should be more than happy to help, and they have meetings too…Calophi, whilst I appreciate that cost will be, for many, the main reason for them to use Linux, it’s not fair to get angry at it and its community for perceived shortcomings. The thing about open source is that you get the most out when you also put something in. So I’m not suggesting you code missing functionality in some GUI! But you may want to think about contributing to FAQs and howto guides. Spend time to find a community that suits you, E.g. a local LUG, get the help you need, and then help others by documenting the problems you encountered and their respective solutions.Granted, command line is not easy. When I learnt UNIX and Linux together back in the mid 90s I spent many a night up until 5AM pulling my hair out. With far fewer online resources and just a few folks on IRC helping me along. And it at the time felt like a huge battle just to get online (writing scripts to get a modem to dial and ppp Etc)! So it was fairly time consuming and stressful sometimes. But well worth it. Microsoft may make things “easy” for you, but they also dumb everything down far too much. To the point that when something goes wrong you often have no idea how to fix it. And remember how they also make it easier for virii and trojans Etc to infect your machine.The value in Linux and open source is much greater than its zero cost of acquisition: It’s in the freedom to be able to fix things that are broken; to be able to build on the efforts of others and make things better; to continue enjoying a secure platform and not be forced by a vendor to upgrade to a more resource hungry version; to have a community drive requirements and not a vendor, its partners and its shareholders; to be able to know what your computer is doing and not worry about it reporting back to vendor HQ; to allow you to copy your media without restriction. Etc… So, whilst I genuinely feel your pain, and would not want to appear uncharitable, I’d suggest that, yes it might not be as easy as when you were being spoon-fed by Microsoft, and yes you might have to learn some new stuff and it might at first be an uphill struggle. But when the going gets tough, think about the people who wrote those 10million+ lines of code to get you to where you’re at, persevere, and think about what _you_ can do to make it slightly less painful for the next person who comes along. And lastly, don’t assume that the old way, the Microsoft way, is _the_ right way. It may well just be how we were conditioned to think during the period where they had a monopoly. Just as if you were born into a life of being woken by a punch to the head, you might come to take it for granted, but it doesn’t make it right.

  12. Still mulling over this subject, so consider this a placeholder response:I feel very much the same as Calophi, but I understand exactly where Andrew is coming from. Joe: Thanks for the offer, I may very well take you up on it later! I am a member of the Ubuntu forums, and Launchpad (and a few others). I have had very mixed results there:1. I find an answer. It’s meaningless command-line gibberish (to me), but I paste it in and it fixes my problem.2. I find what looks like an answer, but it assumes the reader is more advanced. Self-depreciating pleas for a dumbed-down answer go ignored.3. My problem is similar to others, but the fixes don’t apply to my specific setup. Since no one can recreate my problem, no one can help.I don’t mind jumping through some hoops to get help. I’m polite, and try to be complete and accurate in describing my problem, but sadly I typically get result 1, 2 or 3. Most people seem friendly and helpful, but it’s just not their job to fix my every little problem.

  13. It’s things like this (among many others) that make me remember why I can’t be arsed with Linux every time I even consider re-installing it.I tried it once (actually several times), it didn’t do what I wanted straight away so I uninstalled it and went back to Windows – which DID do what I wanted straight away.I know I’m lazy – but I’d rather pay for a system that does what I need straight away than spend hours installing a system for free that doesn’t.My time is worth more than the cost difference.Oh and Windows – Right Click My Documents > Type a new location > Save it

  14. So, to summarize, maybe this post should have been labeled “I hate that my Linux distro makes me use the command line”…

  15. Nah, I hate the command line in general. There are plenty of programs out there on Windows that do awesome things but are command line only or work better in the command line that I will just not touch. I’m afraid that I’ll do something stupid and screw everything up and I’ll go to a forum for help and no one will help me. It’s happened to me before and it just isn’t worth the trouble.

  16. Re-reading what you are saying here, I suspect all that is happening is that you have to give permission to the root to move files, using the sudo or similar command, see halfway down this page: https://help.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/desktopguide/C/linux-basics.htmlThat is just a security feature and prevents you from doing something disastrous without thinking it through properly.I’m a Ubuntu user (rather than expert) and very rarely use the command line for anything. Linux can be annoying for the user, but I found so could Windows. The difference with Linux is that at least you can get it to work eventually.

  17. FND: I’d agree with that entirely! ‘I hate that my Linux distro makes me use the command line’ is exactly my problem. Of course, there is a place for the command line, it’s just alien to users like me.

  18. Sure, Windows in many cases “just works”. And this holds true not only for users, but for viruses, trojans and other malware. They all love the way things are made easy for them too. Hence why we have things like huge criminal controlled botnets, made up of the Windows machines of masses of unsuspecting users, churning out tons of spam, and worse.Beyond which I still maintain that the Windows Way is not necessarily the correct way. Not that there even will be just *one*… And that a vehement dislike of the command line, supported by the “tried it once/twice/… and hated it” argument, is a bit like going on holiday and winging about everyone speaking “foreign”. It makes about as much sense as picking up a violin and giving it 5 minutes bowing before putting it down, declaring it rubbish, picking up a stylophone and thinking the two are musically on a par.

  19. It’s one thing to want to have a hobby and play an instrument, or to take some leisure time to go on vacation, but computers aren’t usually a hobby or vacation. People need them to help with their jobs or their schoolwork and don’t have a lot of time to spend futzing about with one option when another option just works (like Windows or MacOSX).If there is a program I want to install on Windows or Mac, I go and I download it and I install it. It took me forever to figure out how to go get Ubuntu packages to install that weren’t included in the distribution lists that the OS comes with (though at least I didn’t need a command line for it, if I remember right). And I’m already a bit more computer-savvy than most people, who probably would have just given up.Is it good that people are that lazy and want to do something simple? No, it isn’t. But people are lazy and people want easy. So if there is a demand why isn’t there a distribution rising to meet the need?

  20. Again, I agree with the others. Using repositories is not ‘the Windows way’ but isn’t exactly tricky.

  21. Calophi: You say that, but installing an exe on Windows is not as straightforward as you may think for the uninitiated. I’ve seen users struggle to install even a simple programme. Like Andrew keeps saying, it’s only simple because it’s what you know.Andrew: I’m not trying to suggest in any way, shape or form that the ‘Windows Way’ is somehow correct. Here’s the thing: I could buy a Mac and learn OSX, just by playing with it. Sure, I’d have to adapt myself to some stuff that seems odd – maybe even wrong – but trial and error would get me there. The same doesn’t apply to Linux. If I want to use free and open software, I have to prove my worth. At least that’s what it feels like sometimes. If distros like Ubuntu are serious about being ‘Linux for human beings’, then the ‘superior way’ isn’t going to cut it…

  22. I think it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Ubuntu as an OS for regular/naive users should still be considered (pre-)beta.

  23. I think Ubuntu is fine for most regular users most of the time. It requires learning a new mindset to Windows for sure. When you get problems, you find someone to help. If you’re using a OP that never has problem, the chances are that it isn’t Vista in any case (which to my mind is far less beta than the current version of Ubuntu).

  24. Haha, my eyes crossed just trying to read that. That isn’t really Ubuntu’s fault that this app is like that, but it’s a great example of the specific open-source developer attitude that we were talking about.I think that more developers need to at least write their documentation with newer users in mind now that more people are reaching out for alternatives. A short blurb that says whether they are working on simplifying installations or making a GUI would really help users to know which apps might eventually be more user-friendly and which ones weren’t meant for a normal user to screw around with.

  25. OK, you know what, I wouldn’t bother with something which expected me to do that much work (and which there doesn’t appear to be an easy alternative). Forget it, I’m with you 100% on this one.

  26. Though, one could argue that if someone is looking to install micro-blogging software, they probably already had to figure out how to use their package manager to get their preferred browser and chat program, and in that case the section with the URLS at the top *might* make sense. The only reason I understand it is because I wanted the most recent version of Pidgin or Gaim or whatever it was at the time that wasn’t in their sources, and I had to hunt down the package own my own.

  27. Ha ha :)I’m going to take a stab at Gwibber later. It’s a shame Adobe haven’t got AIR running nicely on Linux yet, because I’d rather go that route.

  28. Calophi: I’ve had to add a few repositories myself, so I’m actually reasonably confident I *can* install Gwibber based on that info – but even with a few months experience, I’m still pretty unsure.Joe: I appreciate the pointer there. Still not exactly straightforward, is it!

  29. Nope. I’d wait until someone could be bothered to make it easier. I spend too much time socially networking as it is anyway.

  30. My issue with Linux is
    1) Command line solutions often given over GUI solutions. I like being able to find it in the GUI and not worry about exploding the universe
    2) Badly written help assuming you understand basic command line concepts (believe it or not I am learning Powershell and now I get things like parameters etc)
    3) The worst. Condescending techno douchebags who treat you as a fool when you ask questions

    FYI – I have NEVER called MS for help in my 20 years until their cloud stuff. So support for MS products does not exist in my world. Just the people offering help on forums are less “developery” and there are less smart people who are douchy out there

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