The Joy of Text-only Computing

Rich Hickey's talk Hammock Driven Development discusses the importance of stepping away from the computer for the purpose of development. The modern computer is a sort of Rube Goldberg machine of distraction where we begin with good intentions and end with cat videos.

The problem I have is, this distraction continues for me even when it's time to sit down and start coding. It bothers me that even when I do an hour of solid coding, I can't say that hour has been entirely spent coding, as I can when I do things like exercise or meditate. There have invariably been emails checked, a few non relevant websites visited, and more than likely a lot worse.

This distraction is especially hard at the beginning of a project; I have a few things that have enough momentum to sustain my interest, but starting a new project suffers the worst from distraction.

This is when I remembered that I'd had an older Acer Chromebook R11 sitting in my closet for a few months.

So I wiped ChromeOS off and installed GalliumOS with some difficulty. I then completely uninstalled all X11 packages, leaving me with a pure console text environment. I use tmux, vim and multiple tty sessions to navigate the console. Tmux is set up with a battery and time display. Using only the console appears to improve the already-good battery life of the Chromebook to obscene levels, I have not intentionally drained it but I would estimate 3-4 days of moderate usage.

I use w3m to look up things on GitHub or stack overflow; w3m is limited enough that I feel no desire to use the wider internet, just solve the problems I'm having and get back to coding. As an aside, it's a great feeling when your JavaScript-heavy Gatsby site runs perfectly in a console as well.

It's early days yet, but it's nice to turn off all my real devices and have an hour or two of quiet coding at night.