Skip to main content

Old Man Yells at Cloud(-Enabled Terminal)

·4 mins

Recently a co-worker pointed out a new terminal app they had tried and were excited about. I went over to the site and trawled through the features, and just felt overwhelming… meh.

  • Input like a code editor! … ok, i guess?
  • Fast native rendering! … what are you doing with your text that you need that?
  • AI Command search with GPT-3 … oh god no

But then I realized that it’s a more general thing for me when looking at new applications. I just don’t care that much any more. There are nearly 2000 apps for me to investigate in my platform’s app store… and I think I’ve earnestly tried about 5?

I am pretty stuck in my workflows.

Using the same text editor & mail client (non-webmail) since the 90s. Forking & fixing a ~10-years-dead CLI music player rather than actually moving to something maintained. I’ve used Firefox since it came out, and have now been using a specific RSS reader for ten years. I even use a third-party Android launcher… just to avoid dealing with the change when Google decides to move things around (or Assistant-ify them).

It wasn’t always that way. I remember the days where new window managers and desktop environments would come out every few months. But at some point, it just didn’t seem interesting to me to browse the new apps any more.

Maybe it’s normal to not adjust.

Consider the interfaces of other “tooling” in the non-software space. The hammer I buy today is more or less the same as the hammer my dad and his father used when building houses. The big difference between his drill and mine is that mine doesn’t have a cord. (Although, don’t get me started about forced refreshes due to battery technology). Once you’ve got a tool that does a job, do you really need to change it much?

This is also structural - one of the benefits of much open source software is that as long as you can get it to build, it never really goes away. There’s usually no cloud service shutdown that disables it, no bankruptcy that means you can’t re-subscribe. As long as you’re happy using ancient unmaintained software, you can continue to–and as long as your computer can launch a web browser, it really doesn’t matter too much about the rest of the system.

It’s also a matter of time and burnout. If after a day of work, cooking, cleaning, parenting, what-have-you, I’ve got an hour of spare time, do I want to spend it looking at new music players? Or spend an hour puttering along through Knights of the Old Republic? It’s not a hard choice.

Maybe it’s natural as you get older.

Research says that our music preferences get set most clearly as teenagers, and “choice of computering tools” doesn’t have nearly the same joy of discovery as new music does.

I’ve noticed this some elsewhere as well. Chatting with some folks who were considering ordering a SteamDeck, I’d say about ¾ of the discussion was not around installing the latest AAA games from major manufacturers, but instead around all the emulators that run on the SteamDeck. They want to get the fancy new handheld hardware… that they’d use to play the games that are a link to their past (sometimes literally).

But how to get out of this mode?

Old and cranky is not a way to go through life. Yes, not wanting to learn a new IDE for me might be the same as my parents still getting a newspaper. But if I can reliably compare myself to Seymour Skinner, that’s probably not a good thing.

It’s the children who are wrong

So, yeah. Here’s to accepting my obsolescence, and not worrying about the rest. Back in the day, there was a new IRC client every few months; now there are 12 matrix clients in the app store, and each of them is somebody’s baby. Life goes on. That new terminal isn’t for me, and that’s OK.