My dotfiles

By Michael Gebis, Mon 09 August 2021, in category Linux

In late 1991, I walked into the Computing Services Office at UIUC and timidly asked "Is there where we get an email account?" Not only did I get an email account, as mentioned in My First Hack, but they also gave me a sheet of paper with a bunch of Unix commands with single-line descriptions of what they did.

From that single sheet of paper, I learned to run "ps" to see a list of processes that other people were running. I saw a bunch of cryptic commands from other users, and immediately needed to know what they were. "What is this 'grep' I keep seeing?" From there, I bootstrapped myself into more and more complex commands. Onwards and upwards. Eventually I found Usenet, ftp, and FAQs, which really opened things up. Before the web, this was about as good as it got. (I mean I guess I could have talked to people, but my pride forced me to do it the hard way.)

One thing I loved about UIUC was the academic culture of sharing--almost everyone opened permission to their home directories, and encouraged others to poke around and see their dotfiles. I learned a ton from friends and strangers, just looking at what they had set up. That wasn't necessarily the case everywhere--when I later went to Purdue, users tended to be much more locked down with their files.

I recently realized that I missed that feeling of sharing. But of course I'm just behind the times--it's alive and well on github. A ton of people put their dotfiles in a public "dotfiles" repository for the world to see.

There are a lot of tools to manage your dotfile (HN thread); I personally chose yadm since it's so simple and lightweight. It's worth nothing there are plenty of other reasons to save your dotfiles on github--source control is an obvious plus. Being able to quickly bootstrap an account on a new computer is another. But whatever tool you choose, I hope you choose to share.

Oh yeah, it's nothing special, but here's my dotfiles repo. I'll keep adding to it going forward.