Friday, May 24, 2013

How to make yourself look busy at work with some terminal CLI apps

When I first started my career, my mentor showed me a pretty cool trick at the time. He pulled up his desktop screen (which at the time was the first fancy Silicon Graphics 20" LCD) and filled it up with four terminal windows and he simply ran "top" in each window. As a young guy in the business, I didn't know any better and asked, "whatcha doing?" He replied, "making myself look busy."

Supervisors, managers, and bosses may be clueless to the UNIX/Linux world. To them, screens with a lot of cryptic windows makes you look busy. It has worked for many people I know over the years and today, I'll show you some CLI (Command Line Interface) terminal apps to "make you look busy." I won't go into the obvious like vim, emacs, and real productivity console apps.

Since today is the slow Friday before a long three day weekend, this post is appropriate for those slackers. Look below.

Here I have the following running on my Thinkpad :  mc, alsamixer, clmatrix, htop, w3m or lynx.

Going from top left:

mc commander is a file manager. It makes you look like you are copying files. Sure, you may be really copying files but I just leave one window open with it. The blue background makes a good contrast and distracts from other windows.

If you are running Linux, you probably already have alsamixer installed. It looks like the metering tool for some energy nuclear turbine levels. Not really, it is simply the command line utility to control your sound card.

clmatrix (cmatrix under OSX mac ports)
This isn't really an app but it looks cool. It is an animated Matrix screensaver that runs in the terminal.


htop is an improvement over the default top. It shows you CPU load and memory usage like your typical system/activity monitor. Believe me, anything with progress bars and scales looks important to the untrained eyes. Bosses think you are monitoring disk space or checking some load balancing. Maybe you are monitoring web traffic. Either way, look for any apps with meters and progress bars.

w3m or lynx

Those other apps are pretty much diversions for the real app you will be using.
Lastly, this is the most important thing to have. a text only web browser. There is the trusty old lynx but I use w3m which acts and behaves more like a desktop graphical browser and even supports mouse clicks.

You can also go to sites like craigslists, which over the past 15 years, has been very text-only friendly. It is great for searching for your new jobs.

If you are paranoid, run a tab and run one of the previous apps mentioned above. You can always toggle when the bosses come by.

Now go google those apps and figure out how to install them. If you are running debian, you can always do apt-get install 'program_name' like 'sudo apt-get install clmatrix'. And if you are running Mac OSX, you can probably get most of these apps via macports.

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