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An Illustrated Guide to Some Useful Command Line Tools

This post is a living document and will be updated over time. It should be obvious that I have a strong preference for fast tools without a large runtime dependency like Python or node.js. Most of these tools are portable to *BSD, Linux, macOS. Many also work on Windows. For OSes that ship up to date software many are available via the system package repository.

The lines of code that changed everything.

Code shapes our lives. As the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has written, “software is eating the world,” though at this point it’s probably more accurate to say software is digesting it.

Text Editing Hates You Too

Back in 2017, I was building a rich text editor in the browser. Unsatisfied with existing libraries that used ContentEditable, I thought to myself “hey, I’ll just reimplement text selection myself! How difficult could it possibly be?” I was young. Naive. I estimated it would take two weeks. In reality, attempting to solve this problem would consume several years of my life, and even landed me a full time job for a year implementing text editing for a new operating system.

XML is almost always misused

In 1996, XML was invented. No sooner than it was created, it was adopted for all manner of misconceived applications for which it was a poor choice. It is no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of all XML schemas I have ever seen have constituted an inappropriate or misguided use of XML. Moreover, these misapplications of XML fundamentally fail to understand what XML is in the first place.

My Most Embarrassing Mistakes as a Programmer (so far)

I agree with the saying: “If you’re not embarrassed by your old code then you aren’t progressing as a programmer.” I began programming recreationally more than 40 years ago and professionally more than 30 years ago, so I have made a lot of mistakes. As a computer science professor, I encourage students to learn from mistakes, whether their own, mine, or famous examples. I feel it’s time to shine a light on my own mistakes to keep myself humble and in the hope that someone can learn from them.

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