Monday, February 28, 2011


The first thing I ever heard about Google's new keyboard was it's lack of a Caps Lock button. My response was instant and visceral. Years, wait, no, it’s decades, of inchoate anger and frustration suddenly came into focus. It hit me LIKE A TON OF BRICKS: I hate caps lock.

I do. I really do.

The caps lock button is a nearly useless imposition in almost exactly the wrong place on a keyboard.

Think about it. How often do you have to, or even want to, type something in all caps. And even when you’ve wanted to, did you really, after some reflection and hindsight, really want to. Or was it a juvenile outburst that ultimately detracted from what what you were trying to say. Like crying during a confrontation with your boss, or insulting someone’s mother during an argument (that’s not in any way related to the person’s mother).

Without the caps lock button, you would have had to hold down one of the shift buttons while typing each letter. That’s awkward. Appropriately awkward. Awkward enough that it forces you to think about the appropriateness of capitalizing every letter.

In this case, eliminating caps lock is like storing a rifle unloaded. Or counting to ten before replying.

And even if you could come up with a reason for having a caps lock button, why would it be right between two important and useful buttons like Shift and Tab; right where my little finger can tap it when I'm trying to capitalize a single letter (which serves a useful purpose) or tabbing (to indent or move to a different box in a form). How many times have I screwed up a log in because I accidentally hit caps lock and, as a result, typed my (hidden) password with lowercase and uppercase reversed.

Sure keyboards include a little LED to let you know that you've accidentally hit the caps lock button, but that's like building the Eiffel Tower so that you can put a red light on top of it so airplanes don't hit it.

No caps lock is an ingenious innovation. Sure it's nice to invent something new, but to accomplish something new by getting rid of something old, omnipresent and useless is a triumph of imagination. It's like Sherlock Holmes hearing the silence of the dog that didn't bark.

Not everybody is enthusiastic about living without caps lock. I listened to a Slate podcast with people complaining about it.

“We need capital letters,” one person said, as if Google were trying to ban capital letters altogether. I don’t believe that’s Google’s (note the G) intent or the effect of it’s action.

Want proof? I’m writing this on CR-48, using the very keyboard onto which Google ingeniusly eliminated caps lock. Note the capital letters at the beginning of sentences.

Capitalization can survive without caps lock. (Whether it can survive Twitter, instant messages, and Generation Y is a different issue).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's all in a uname, if you use ` and not '

If you want know which Linux kernel you're running, you can just type "uname - r" (without the quotes) into the terminal -- we've been through that before.

You can also use uname to insert your kernel version into another command.  For instance, if you want to install the linux headers (which have to be the right ones for your kernel) you could use:
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-2.6.35-26-generic
Assuming that's the kernel you're running.

Unless you know the version off the top of your head, you can save yourself a step by putting uname into the command, as in:
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-`uname -r`
Seems simple, huh?  But there's a catch: those aren't single quotation marks surrounding uname -r.  They're backticks.

If you look closely, you'll see that they're ` and not '.  The backtick (aka grave accent) is often on the same key as the tilde (~) just under Esc on the upper left of the keyboard.

Stop that!

Sometimes it seems easier to start something from the command line than to stop it.  Ping, for instance.

To stop whatever you're running in the terminal, type:


That's it.

If the issue happens to be ping, you can do it preemptively, by limiting the number of pings.  Just use this command:

ping -c [number of pings you want]
as in:
ping -c 7