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The Call for Sessions for #LibrePlanet 2021: Empowering Users is now open! Have something to say about the role user freedom, free software, digital ethics, or technology plays in empowering users? Submit your session before Oct. 28th!

One of my favorite command line tools is `dict`---a dictionary and thesaurus. I use it multiple times a week. If you find yourself prefixing search queries with `define:`, this tool is for you.

If you install `dictd`, you also get the freedom and privacy of answering your own queries on a system you control, without the need for Internet access.

Another tool I often use at the end of a pipeline for data visualization is gnuplot ( It supports far more sophisticated graphs than I can ever hope to have use for.

I typically prototype using its interactive prompt, and then either write that to a static script, or generate the script and pipe it. It's an essential tool for command line data processing.

I use Graphviz ( for more things than I could possibly recall. It is one of my core tools for data visualization for a wide range of data, and it's quite easy to use and generate graphs for.

If graphs get so large that the visualizations are no longer possible to grok, or if querying is needed, I may opt for a graph database instead.

The graph description language DOT ( is simple enough to be useful for mapping out thoughts too.

To adjust the color temperature of my screen, I use redshift (CLI). I use an i3 keybinding to perform adjustments manually rather than relying on the time of day, since lighting varies wildly depending on the room I'm in, whether we have lights on, weather, etc.

I also sometimes use it to reduce strain on my eyes instead of reducing screen brightness because my X200's monitor makes a high-pitched whine when I reduce brightness even the slightest.

...I get some intense nostalgia looking at some of those screenshots.

Speaking of compositing, I remember back in the day I bought a new video card just so I could have smooth effects with Compiz and Beryl, like a cube desktop; painting fire; rain; wobbly windows; etc.

And now I have no effects to speak of.

(Compiz Extras + Beryl later merged into Compiz Fusion, which is now just Compiz.)

Yesterday I mentioned that I use i3 as my window manager. Unlike some others, i3 does is not a compositing WM---it doesn't provide double buffering.

Consequently, I may notice tearing when scrolling in my web browser, switching workspaces, or looking at fast-scrolling terminal output.

To fix that, I use compton. It provides other features, like shadows and transparency, that don't make sense for me in a tiling WM. I just use the `-CGb` options.

I use the tiling window manager i3 ( When I log on, I'm greeted with a blank screen. Most of the time I have a fullscreen terminal or web browser, without even a title bar.

On my 4k work monitor I can actually take advantage of sophisticated tiling.

I used to use xmonad (another tiling WM), so my keybindings resemble what I'm used to from that.

I make heavy use of workspaces. i3 also allows me to rarely use the mouse/trackpoint.

Let's start with a program that knows how to get out of the way: unclutter.

I don't ever see this program run, and I usually forget it exists. I have it placed in my ~/.xsession as `unclutter -idle 1 -root`, which hides my mouse cursor after one second of inactivity. This is great for me, since on a typical day, the only time I use the mouse is when I use a web browser; otherwise, it gets in the way of whatever I'm reading or typing.

Over the 15+ years I've been using GNU/Linux, there are many programs that have become second nature to me. As a hacker, I enjoy tinkering with my system---why use a desktop environment when I could do the same thing with 100s of programs and hand-written scripts...!?

Each day I feel up to it, I'll give thanks to a free/libre program that has made a positive impact on my life, from every corner of my operating system, with the hope that others will find them interesting too.

A little known fact about me: half a lifetime ago, as a teenager, I studied and practiced illusionism and mentalism for a period of a couple years. I learned a great deal and got quite good at it so that I could help defend others against certain cases that I considered to be unethical deception. I could expose how it was done.

A recent conversation with someone reminded me of cold reading and the Forer (Barnum) effect, which people ought to be aware of:

By the time DRM-enabled monopolies are investigated as monopolies, years of freedom & positive innovation have already been lost. Eliminate the state-sponsored subsidy of DRM locking users to one App Store and stop this from happening in the first place.

The toxic, polarizing politics in the USA has forced me to reflect a great deal on my own terminology in recent years as an activist; it can be challenging to both get one's point across while at the same time not being divisive / polarizing.

I have much to write on this topic, but in the meantime: please consider how you may contribute constructive discourse, rather than hatred and negativity. Where you see problems, present suggestions or solutions, not overt negativity.

It's easy to forget, amidst all the threats to our software freedom, that ours is an inherently positive story, celebrating creativity and skill. Check out this beautiful comic by Sacha Chua @sachac, read more, and share with #userfreedom:

Police use face recognition, drones, automated license plate readers, and an arsenal of other invasive tech. Atlas of Surveillance is a searchable map containing thousands of datapoints that allows you to see what is deployed in your area.

Check out this interview with Perttu Ahola, the developer of free software sandbox game Minetest: You can find Minetest in the Free Software Directory:

Writing As a Means to Another End:

On writing, exploration, and some personal experience with Imposter Syndrome.

(I feel like an imposter just claiming that I may have Imposter Syndrome; I don't want to offend anyone who may have it worse than me.)

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Mike Gerwitz's Mastodon Instance

Mike Gerwitz's personal Mastodon instance