To iterate is human, to recurse divine.

Nerding Out The Windows Console

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Tutorials | No Comments »
PuttyCyg to the Rescue!

PuttyCyg to the Rescue!

So you bought a Mac, and oohed and ahhed at the graphics and the user interface (or maybe you hated it, I don’t really care).  Then the inner nerd called to you and you started messing around with the terminal, loving the linux-like console and enjoying the power that a real OS command line gives you. Maybe you even went so far as to customize the look of your console, perhaps installing Visor in the process for a beautiful full-screen terminal. Ahh, how we love our text.

Then you turn back to your Windows 7 machine and oh how loathsome it is to work with now! MS Dos Prompt just does not measure up. Even their new-fangled PowerShell does not satisfy. We could perhaps forgive this if we could at least get it to run in full screen. But woe is you as  you realize they took out that full-screen mode feature when they moved from Windows XP to Windows Vista. So what’s a poor nerd to do?

Well, if you are a true nerd, you’ve probably heard of Cygwin. Back in the day, it was a way to run a linux distro on a virtual machine within Windows itself. Comes with X11 and all those fancy goodies. Well apparently, they had a change in philosophy when I wasn’t looking and it now comes with a minimal install. You have to choose the packages that go into your build, making it leaner and meaner from the get-go. So yes, go forth and download that. Additional packages to install would be inetutils (which gives you ftp and and stuff like that), as well as ssh (why Windows doesn’t have this natively is beyond me). If it so tickles you, you can get good stuff like gcc and automake as well. And of course, we can never forget good old Vim. If you’re an Emacs fan, that’s available too.  And if you are not quite so nerdy, there’s always stuff like Nano.

So you installed Cygwin and got it running and…UGHGHHH!!! You’re still stuck with that same lousy non-fullscreenable command prompt, albeit with Unixy power. Well, not to worry. Go and get a special version of Putty (this is the program that windows people use to overcome their ssh deficiency) called PuttyCyg.  This will allow you to start up a session in… you guessed it, your own Cygwin instance! Also, unlike the command prompt, you can maximize, or even full-screen it! Amazing!

An interesting side-effect is that since we installed the ssh package, we can ssh directly from our command window, thus voiding the original functionality of Putty. An irony that all true nerds can appreciate. To streamline the whole process, you can alter the windows shortcut to Putty, and feed in a command-line parameter to get it to start up your Cygwin session on the click of a button!

All this seems like an overkill if you consider my original intention. All I wanted was a full-screen Vim. Sure, there’s gVim, but it sucks in the full-screen department as depending on your font size, it’s not quite full screen. It also comes with fancy schmancy mouse and gui stuff that makes it quite… unVimlike.  So yes, I brought out the sledgehammer to squish the itty-bitty ant, and yay! It’s dead! Mission accomplished.

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