Midnight Pub

A text on text


Luna replaces the bookmark in her book and sets it down. She opens her notebook to an empty page and starts writing, producing the following:

As I've explored pubnixes (pubnices?), the geminiverse, and the smolnet more broadly, it reminds me of how I started with Unix. This was in the late 1990s / early 2000s in the United States. Home machines were small and slow, whereas X11 applications were already large and bloated. The systems I used at the time all had clock speeds significantly below 1 GHz, RAM similarly significantly below 1 GB, and disk space significantly below 1 TB. To make the most of the systems I had available, I learned commandline alternatives to graphical programs. Things like mutt, elinks, centericq (later centerim), irssi, bitlbee, tmux.

Perhaps as a result of this tendency in my "computing formative years", I've always been more comfortable with commandline tools. Even when I had a machine that was capable of comfortably running X11, I would prefer the shell, only starting X11 when necessary to read a PDF or the like. Yet, as with many tech folks, I got a job that gave me a Mac and I was quite pleased with macOS. It's still a fine OS, at least for the kinds of things that I want to do most of the time, but I felt that something was missing.

I wasn't using the shell as much as I used to--graphical mail client, web browser, note taking, and so on. These tools are fine in that they do what I need, but I'm not as present with them as I am when I'm in a terminal. There's a passivity which I'm sure is intentional, deliberate, part of the design. The GUI tools do what I need, but they don't do what I want. There's so many notifications, so many things configured to constantly poll for updates and newness. And this is just things like text messaging applications and my email client, nothing to do with social media. I don't even have social media accounts. I can't fathom the barrage of notifications people must get from Facebook and Twitter and so on. I don't want to.

It is perhaps fitting that I find it most appropriate to use a small computer to access the smolnet: specifically, a Raspberry Pi 4 B. So far, it does everything I need, yet also does everything I want. It's slower than the systems I use every day, yet I find that comforting. Just like when I was a teenager, I have configured a few services on it, with more planned. Nothing too significant: things like DNS, a DLNA server, IPv6 tunnelling. And, of course, all the software I use to access the smolnet. amfora and phetch and slrn and mutt and links. Maybe I'll switch to elinks again, though it being unmaintained worries me, and after all I'm trying to avoid the web with this exploration.

I have noticed something different about my Pi that I find salient: I have my usual mutt/mbsync/msmtp configuration, yet I've not put mbsync in cron like I usually do. This means each mail sync is manual. If I want to check for new mail, I must check manually. I use a separate email account on this machine than the one I use for the rest of my life, and it's delightfully quiet. No one tries to sell me things. I talk to actual people. It's so refreshing to connect, genuinely.

I have more thoughts on this, though they are yet inchoate. The most pressing is that the protocols of the smolnet focus on *documents* (or messages), whereas the wider web stresses *applications*. I'm not quite sure yet where that thought will go, but it's something I want to explore.

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~eaplmx wrote:

Well, what I remember from 1995-2005 (time for high school over here), was the transitionfrom dial-up to DSL, being always connected, first WiFi and smarter devices.

Moving away from Dos 6.22 to Win 95/98/ME/XP. Sadly Mac and Linux were too hipster for my circle, although I had some CDs with Redhat and a distribution by Corel, so it was my first approach.

Then, we awaited for the newer GUI, I remember analyzing the newest Office XP and then the Ribbon in 2007. Comparing vs OpenOffice which remained with the 2003 style.

Also the war between Netscape, Internet Explorer, Oera, then Firefox and Chrome. Now safari and then Brave.

Also RSS, Bittorrent, P2P file sharing like Napster, Kazza (?), Ares and such.

What I'm trying to say is that the war between the hobbyist net and the comercial one is going to be interesting to say the least. We use the same comercial systems (ISPs, carriers) to access both and due to Jacob's law, we are influenced and inspired by both. We try to look for things that resemble what we already know.

For example I was thinking on having a Digg/Reddit/HackerNews clone for the Smol.net, but it makes no sense. As a lot of people have said recently in my feeds, technology has an intention and there are hundreds of technologies with thousands of intentions.

Random thoughts for a nice weekend. Enjoy, friends 🥂

~inquiry wrote (thread):

To me GUIs seem a classic case of setting out to create something foolproof, but winding up creating fools.

~canaryjacket wrote:

I find myself preferring shell-based tools in many cases, if only to have less visual noise in front of my eyes.

Sadly, I find myself spending most of my day in cluttered web apps, tied to services I wish I didn't need.

Sorry for linking a WWW article, but I find this perspective to be helpful in understanding why modern GUIs irritate me so much:

The Condescending UI

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