30 days in a terminal: Days 2-5 — Social media in shell

Using social media in a Linux shell works for some platforms, but others are proving to be impossible so far

30 days in a terminal

My adventures, for the first day or so, in using nothing but a Linux terminal proved to be mostly successful. I ended up needing to jump through a few hoops to get my work done, but everything was doable.

After having spent the full weekend within the confines of the shell, my results are much more of a mixed bag.

In this article, I focus on social media: Twitter, Reddit, that sort of thing. For some of them, I have totally awesome solutions. Some I’m still struggling to find a solution for—with very little hope in sight.

Twitter

Being able to read and post to Twitter was an easy challenge. The first terminal-based Twitter software I tried was Rainbowstream, which worked surprisingly well. It looked rather awesome to boot.

In the interests of completeness, I tried a few others out, too. One Twitter client worked amazingly well (with a tabbed interface for separate streams and searches), but it was somewhat less adept at actually posting to Twitter. And by “somewhat” I mean “couldn't post anything to Twitter to save its life.” Another worked great but was so hideously ugly, and the commands to use it so cumbersome, that I yearned for it to die a speedy death.

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Back to Rainbowstream! At first it worked remarkably well. Then, over time, it began adding extra letters to some of my words. I already do an excellent job of misspelling words, so I don't need my software to make me look any more stupid.

So, I began simply using the mobile version of Twitter via the various terminal-based web browsers. It’s a tad clunky, but it actually worked fairly well. And, let's be honest, having a constantly running instance of lynx or w3m with the old-school, mobile twitter page up uses a heck of a lot fewer resources than a Chrome or Firefox tab. All in all, not so bad.

Reddit

Finding a great Reddit client was easy as pie. Multiple people recommended rtv. A quick “pip install rtv” later, and I'm using Reddit completely via the terminal.

It took just a couple of minutes for me to get the hang of the hot-keys. (Hit “?” for a single page help screen with all the commands.) Browsing, searching, posting, commenting—everything works (at least everything I typically use on Reddit).

I can't say enough good things about rtv. In truth, I find interacting with Reddit in this way faster and more enjoyable than through the website. I wasn't expecting that.

Google Plus

Google hasn't opened up an API that would allow people to write reasonably powerful G+ clients. Even after having people asking for this for years now. Which is lame on Google's part. (Come on, Google, you know better.)

The net result, as it applies to my current computing situation, is that I have no functional Google Plus client in my terminal. All is not entirely lost, however.

Using w3m as the web browser, I am able to post to and comment on G+. The solution is somewhat cumbersome, but it’s doable. Within w3m, I am able to select the text field for typing a new post and then have w3m open up an instance of another text editor (in this case, I use nano) where I can compose my post.

This solution means I can post, for example, my blog posts to G+ and let people comment on them. It makes for a mildly miserable experience for reading and interacting with folks on the social network, but at least I can share things in a pinch. 

Facebook

Meh. I just loaded the facebook mobile site and never even bothered searching for another method of browsing and interacting with Facebook. It's not an amazing experience, but it got the job done. And since I was doing the same thing for G+, I just gave up and went with it.

YouTube

I have a semi-functional (but not entirely pleasant) way to browse YouTube and watch videos (displayed using ASCII characters) right from the terminal. No framebuffer. Straight terminal. This is going to be a separate post, as I'm actually writing a script to automate some of this and make it a more enjoyable experience.

General Thoughts

I’m less than a week in, and already things are getting a bit painful.

Don't get me wrong; some things have proven to be easy and downright enjoyable to do via the terminal. And I straight up love the speed and responsiveness of using text-only software in a shell. It's amazing the—highly noticeable—difference in performance even when compared to lightweight graphical applications.

And I'm slowly falling in love with tmux as my “window manager.” Tweaking the key-bindings a bit has resulted in an amazingly enjoyable workflow.

Really, the big problems I'm encountering fall into two categories:

  • Lack of a web browser capable of handling images and JavaScript 
  • Inability to do highly graphical, WYSIWYG-type work (graphic design, video editing, etc.)

In other words: I miss Gimp. I miss Kdenlive. I miss Inkscape. And, perhaps for the first time in my life, I miss Firefox. I miss it... so much.

I've had to boot up my “backup laptop” twice in the past five days. Once to hop on a videoconference, the other time to do a few minutes of work in Gimp. Not bad, all things considered. But that begs the question: Will I be able to find any way to eliminate the need to boot the backup, Xorg-powered laptop every few days? I really can't see how. But I'm going to keep trying.

Then there's the fact that I've made it only five days and am already feeling some pain. Twenty-five days to go. Is there any chance on this green Earth of ours that I actually make it all the way to the end without rage-quitting all things terminal?

I haven't the slightest clue. But I'm stubborn. So, who knows. Maybe.

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