Are you a Wizard?

As you probably already know, I have been trying to live more on the command line these days. I’ve been using Pine as my primary email client and doing most of my file management with command line tools, and stuff like Midnight Commander. I have been also toying with the idea of switching to a tiling window manager, but it’s been hard to wean myself off KDE. Still, this exercise has been especially fun when dealing with co-workers who have never experienced the subtle magic of command line lifestyle.

Recently a coworker received a 7z archive in the email. Being a clueless techno muggle he did the only thing that seemed reasonable in that situation. He completely ignored the help desk, and the approved channels and instead emailed it to one of the developers (namely me) with a note along the lines of “Please open and email it back to me ASAP, this is mission critical stuff!!!1″. Why? Because that’s what programmers do, right? They unzip the files when needed and browse the web the rest of the time. To add insult to the injury, he also wandered over to my desk and did the whole “Didja get that thing I sent ya?” thing from Harvey Birdman.

Once I ascertained I can actually un-zip and re-zip the file (as a regular zip) for him faster than explain to him why he shouldn’t bother me with this I decided to put on a little show and do it all without ever touching the mouse.

Since I was already in Tmux working on something in vim I hit Ctrl+Z, C to open a new pane. I changed the default Ctrl+B command because Z is much easier to reach. I typed in pine real fast. I have it configured to execute the i command on start-up so it went straight into my email. His message happened to be the most recent one so I just hit Enter to open it and V to open the attachment view.

From there I hit S to save the attachment to my home directory and Enter to confirm it. I hit Ctrl+Z, | to split Tmux screen in half (yet another custom keystroke I set up to make Tmux actions easier to remember) and typed in mc to open Midnight Commander because the file had like a mile long name with 37 spaces in it and I wanted to do it fast. I quickly located the file, and picked inside with mc to confirm it will extract to its own directory (instead of dumping a lot of junk into my home folder) and hit F2, @ and typed in:

7za x

The file unzipped just fine, so I hit F8 to delete the 7z archive, and used Midnight Commander’s Alt+S incremental search feature to jump right onto the extracted folder. From there I once again did F2, @ and typed in:

zip -r

I hit F8 again to delete the folder, and without skipping a beat I typed in:

pine -attach_and_delete

I typed in his email, hit Ctrl+X to send, and returned to vim with Ctrl+Z, 1. Then I turned around very slowly, put hands behind my head and said: “Done.”

His reaction was along the lines of:

Are you a Wizard?

Are you a Wizard?

I actually had to do a little bit of convincing to make him believe I actually managed to “magic” his file into usable format without ever opening Outlook, or using WinZip. And yes, we actually pay for a few dozen WinZip licenses simply because despite many hours of training, and countless memos a lot of our users can’t wrap their heads around Send To –> Compressed Zipped Folder context menu in Windows.

Was this the fastest way to do this? Probably not. I could have likely avoid a few steps and minimize my hand movement off the home row just by cutting Midnight Commander out of the equation. That said, Midnight Commander looks kinda cool when you put it side by side Pine in Tmux.

What was the last time you confused your users by doing something without touching the mouse?

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10 Responses to Are you a Wizard?

  1. iwre0 SPAIN Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Oh, yes ! thats cool! I like the way you do those things but i think that perhaps you made a mistake.
    The next time that luser gets the same problem with the same type of file, sure he’s not going to resolve by himself. He will call you again !

    Thats why i prefer to teach them the “easy way” (click, then click and finally click…) to all my lusers…otherwise the evil get into me and i would convert in BOFH

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  2. Milos Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Recently I came across atool a script for managing file archives.
    Beside others it provides also the utility arepack which repacks archives to a different format. So you can simply do the task by running:
    arepack archive.7z
    Yes, and last time someone was watching me working, he asked “Are you using DOS or what?” :)

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    iwre0 wrote:

    The next time that luser gets the same problem with the same type of file, sure he’s not going to resolve by himself. He will call you again !

    I’m aware of that. In fact, sending me the file, and then coming over to my desk was kinda an explicit statement of “I don’t want to learn anything, I just want you to do it for me”.

    I know from experience that there are users who will call the help desk so that someone can remote-in and double-click an installer for them. I once spent 20 fruitless minutes trying to get a lady to click on the “Team Viewer” icon on the desktop, only so that I could remote-in to un-check the offline setting in her outlook. Eventually I decided that it will be faster for me to just run two flights of stairs up and fix it in person. Some lusers can’t be reached.

    @ Milos:

    Atool is awesome! Thanks for the tip!

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  4. sapientidiot UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    I suppose sending back a link for would have gotten you in trouble, but that’s been my solution to such problems.

    How people can have a job without knowing how to use computers is one reason I’m so glad to be self employed these days. Working as tech support again would probably drive me mad, especially if it wasn’t actually part of my job.

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  5. I once stepped through some code to answer a tester’s question while they were watching my monitor.

    They were glad that I was dropping everything to help them out, but they grew bored and impatient after 5 minutes :P

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  6. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    Working at a Linux based SW shop, there are no real lusers here; even the HR/PR/Sales person (we’re a really small company) is just not familiarized, but she isn’t stupid or lazy, she would’ve been able to unzip a 7z file by herself.

    That said, the less technically capable of my bosses often remarked something about not understanding why I used “obsolete tools” when I was in VIM. He stopped when I made a GET request for an XML doc, changed some stuff with a regex and then made a PUT to store it, all without leaving VIM, thanks to ‘:read !curl …’ and ‘:write !curl -d@- …’

    Other than that, some people were mildly curious about Pentadactyl, but that’s all.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ sapientidiot:

    If I know my users, LMGTFY would probably result in a panicked call call to the help desk along the lines “OMG, MY COMPUTER HAS BEEN HACKED! THE MOUSE IS MOVING BY ITSELF AND IT IS GOOGLING!” followed by a broadcast email to the entire company saying “I’ve been hacked, and if I ever emailed you then you are probably hacked too!” followed by “OMG, WHAT HAVE I DONE, DO NOT OPEN MY LAST EMAIL! OR THIS ONE! OMG, OMG!”

    Then this happens.

    IceBrain wrote:

    Working at a Linux based SW shop, there are no real lusers here

    Man, must be nice. :)

    And yeah, gotta love the “obsolete” tools that are still in active development after 20+ years in service. :)

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  8. astine Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    So Luke, did you answer the question? ARE you a Wizard? You sure sound like one to me, with all those magical terminal incantations and ‘midnight commandments’ and whatnot. Are you also an alchemist?!

    Reply  |  Quote
  9. JuEeHa FINLAND Links Linux says:

    Hello from consoleland! I am bit curious why didn’t you just use shell oneliner? Those are very nice when doing such things. You can just leave it running and make it so it exits when it is ready.

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  10. Bob the Builder CANADA Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    At work, we used to have a cordless rechargeable mouse on the conference room computer. Just before a presentation was scheduled to start, we noticed that the previous user had forgotten to put the mouse back on its charger, and was dead. OH NOES! What to do? So I proceeded to show everyone that yes, Virginia, one can use Windows without a mouse, and it’s even faster that way for most things.

    It’s amazing how one can use Windows for ten years and not know about Alt-tab.

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