Scripts that get around

I couldn’t think of a better title, but infinite second-guessing is what has kept this blog update-less for two years. No more.

Making computers do stuff I want

I’ve recently been expanding my knowledge of Bash and the *NIX system in general1. It has been extremely rewarding both as an intellectual hobby and in terms of increasing my productivity and lower-level understanding of what exactly is going on under the hood when I’m doing …well anything on a computer. In any creative or intellectual field composed of an array of siloed information - a horizontal of verticals - the deeper down you can get into the most number of verticals, the more useful your creative contribution will be / the better you’ll understand the overall topic. This excellent Wait But Why post discusses this general concept quite a bit in the beginning and it really spoke to me. I recommend you listen to it so it can speak to you also.

But I’m seriously digressing. This post is about how I set up some super simple and fun Bash scripts in concert in order to solve an actual problem I often have:

I want to able to do certain minor custom command-line things on a number of different computers.

The tasks are simple: things like “open up vim inside a certain directory” or “transform some string on my clipboard” - super easy stuff that doesn’t necessarily warrant an afternoon of experimenting and blog-post-writing. But now I have a framework for myself to expand upon, plus I learned some cool stuff along the way (I purposefully didn’t search Google for a preexisting solution, which I am sure exists since I already use something similar for dotfiles)

A github repo for you

Here is the repo I made. The bones of it are as follows:

  • - duh.
  • - this installs the scripts for you so you can use them right away.
  • directory and files example files - these serve as instructions. explained in readme.
  • the actual bash scripts.

The general idea is that the installer makes scripts executable and symlinks in a place in your PATH, getting its relevant information from the directory and files in order to be flexible and environment-semi-agnostic.

There are many things I should change2, so this blog post might quicky be reflective of some past version of the repo rather than the present version you see but I’m sure the general idea will hold true.

Serious things I learned:

  • The ~ character gets expanded by Bash. This can make weird things happen if you’re unsure how you’re using the ~ in different parts of your script. I kept getting unknown file or directory errors on ~/scripts when I was working on the chmod a+x part. It was extremely confusing! which brings me to…
  • -xv is your best friend. Appending it like: #! /bin/bash -xv will activate debugging and verbose output. Using that I was able to see the very important single quotes in this output: chmod a+x '~/scripts/testing-executable'. Since the tilde there is part of a literal string, Bash wasn’t expanding it to $HOME like I needed it to. The NON--xv version of the output was simply: chmod: ~/scripts/testing-executable: No such file or directory which I unfortunately could not make sense of for a little while :)

Comments, suggestions? Send me a tweet or email or pull request or postcard!

  1. I highly recommend this site to start off: 

  2. a big obvious one that somehow only ocurred to me now is to put the scripts in a folder. jesus.