Linux UI: crippling itself?

I was recently talking with a friend about commandline prompt gadgetry, and our tangent conversations drifted to 256colour support in X terminal emulators. xterm. gnome-terminal, and presumably kterm and others also, though only the first two have I looked at.

256 colour support is there. It’s in the code. It works. It’s nice. And it’s… not only not enabled by default, there is no clear and simple way of enabling it even if you WANTED TO.

I was going to blog more about this, but the following IRC fragment I think says it all. Any questions?

<nemo> it'd be sure nice for a distro to set itself up with no self-crippling
        for ancient stuff that, frankly, nobody is using anymore
<nemo> (or if they do, then it's being used by people savvy enough (probably)
        to work out the compatibility issues themselves
<nemo> ubuntu does a good step, I think, but probably not enough
<nemo> 256colours should be the GLOBAL DEFAULT these days
<Screwtape> Every time somebody suggests that, they get shouted down by people
        who say things like 'BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I SSH TO MY
        FreeBSD/OpenBSD/Solaris/Dragonfly/Xenix MACHINE!'
<Screwtape> We can't even figure out whether backspace should be ^H or ^? :( 
<nemo> [a] don't use this distro then
<Screwtape> It's hardly global domination if everybody stops using it. :( 
<nemo> it's hardly global domination if we're compromising ourselves for the
        compatibility of those who DON'T use it
<nemo> [b] have a nifty 'set_maximum_compatibility' script, which backwardsify


<nemo> so, what else has potential, but is held back by... historical compatibility?
<nemo> and by 'potential', I mean "it's there on your system now, just waiting for
        you to apply the correct settings'
<nemo> I am identifying terminal colours, and default prompts
<nemo> (terminal colours, and all the terminals, applications (screen, elinks, etc),
        etc that go with.
<Screwtape> I.. can't think of anything else off the top of my head, sadly. :( 
<Screwtape> Or perhaps luckily.

In fairness, it’s not like it’s not been noticed before:

<nemo> 2003... status new
<nemo> wtf
<nemo> amuses me that my no-X11 server has terminfo for 'gnome' and 'gnome-256color',
        but my ubuntu desktop does not

And in case anyone wants to bring their terminal into the 21st century with 256colours instead of 8 (“tput colors” will tell you what yours can do), Screwtape has a nice little writeup here:

<Screwtape> <-- Here's my
        automatic $TERM hack.

PS: As a final note: Shortly after this conversation, Screwtape filed the following debian bug report for vim’s syntax handling of sh scripts:  vim-runtime: sh syntax highlighting should default to POSIX.

PPS: Originally blogged to: Please consider leaving comments at the blog rather than facebook or other social media side that this post may be propagated to. Thankyou :)

One thought on “Linux UI: crippling itself?

  1. Pingback: Nemo Thorx (nemo) 's status on Saturday, 31-Oct-09 06:54:07 UTC -

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