Lazy Shell Shortcuts

Because of the lonely way I learned shell programming (re-purposing and adapting code from others with extensive stack-overflow research), everything I know has to do with script writing. So, recently, while preparing for my first time teaching others about the shell, I had a chance to discuss command-line magic with a more experienced coder, Stephen Turner, and he told me about two basic shortcuts that I did not know.

1. Quickly Subsitute Strings to Adapt Previous Commands

What if I got ahold of a file containing a list of all the names of every student that ever attended Hogwarts (one per line) and I wrote a long command to discover how many students had “Neville” somewhere in their name?

$cat hogwarts.txt | grep "Neville"| wc -l

And now I want to run pretty much the same command, but with a small change — perhaps I want to use the Gryffindor specific list instead. Like this:

$cat gryffindor.txt | grep "Neville"| wc -l

For years, I have used the up arrow and then scrolled to the start of the command in order to change it. But, no longer.
Instead, I can use the ^ caret (on the 6 key) to substitute gryffindor for hogwarts in the previous command, like so:

cat gryffindor.txt | grep "Neville"| wc -l

And Boom, the shell prints out the new command and starts running it!

2. Use History as More Than Just a Record of Your Commands

Did you know that history will bring up a numbered list of your command history? Well, I did. I did not know that you can use those numbers to reissue commands. How cool is that? Answer: So cool. Here’s how it works. First call up your history:

1 ls
2 cd ~
3 plink --out ravenclaws --keep ravenclaw.txt --bfile hogwarts --freq
4 cowsay "Be Lazy!"
5 cat ravenclaw.log
6 head ravenclaw.freq

Take note of the number beside the command you wish to rerun, in this case, obviously, the cowsay command. Now, use an ! exclamation mark and that number to reissue that command:

cowsay "Be Lazy!"


Those of you that already knew such magic, I congratulate you. Any of you that didn’t, I hope these serve you well!


Apparently Everyone Needs to Blog

$cowthink "What's Next?"

$cowthink “What’s Next?”

I recently certified as a Software Carpentry Instructor (more on that later), and when I went to look at the bios of the other instructors I discovered that Every. One. Had. A. Blog. So, I asked Stephen Turner  whether this was a Thing I Need To Do. Well, since you are reading this, you know what he said. So Blogging. Here goes.

In case you actually want to know what he said, he sent me here: Even though I’m not a grad student, if blogging is anything like “optional” community service for college applications, I’d better be doing it, no?