Future-proof your skills with Linux, Python, vim & git as I share with you the most timeless and love-worthy tools in tech through my two great projects that work great together.

Bram Moolenaar's Death is a Kick in the Pants for MyKoz.AI Project

I'm a fan of the tools I use, and the toolmakers who make them. I'm a fan of Linux, Python, vim & git, and I'm deeply moved by Bram Moolenaar's death. I'm on a journey to the Noosphere, and MyKoz.AI is my Noosphere endeavor. I'm doing this by adding a Linux subsystem serving JupyterLab to existing Windows 10 or 11 desktops, optionally starting fresh with a 'Reset this PC' approach. I'm packaging it to be appealing to the masses: a path for those determined to master tools for life on a continuous journey of self-improvement.

MyKoz.AI: A Journey of Self-Reinvention and Embracing Linux, Python, vim & git

By Michael Levin

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Continuity over time is one of the values of this journal. It is also another place where you can reinvent yourself, cleanse your palate and start anew. I did so with a new banner at the top. It’s not shown as part of the normal publishing procedure, and it will probably only ever show properly when I shoot YouTube videos of my journaling, which I feel I ought to do again soon. Now?

RIP Bram Moolenaar, creator of vim. I Write this in vim (NeoVim)

That’s what Copilot suggests I write. It’s a good idea, because if not for vim, the original “vi” program may never have made a cultural comeback that it began in 1988 when Bram Moolenaar, I believe first worked on vim. It gained a bunch of notoriety later when it became broadly distributed on the Amiga computer’s “Fred Fish Disk” #591. That’s was Public Domain software disks that were big back around 1991 before the Web (but after the Internet).

I’m writing this in NeoVim, which is a fork of vim. I’m using NeoVim because the Copilot AI needs the NeoVim API to work. Otherwise, I’d be using vim. Apparently that ghost-text that appears as I type is a feature of NeoVim, and not vim. It took me a bit to change and tested my API-compatibility for disruption resistance theories. I talk a lot about future-proofing and resisting obsolescence, and this is a good example of that.

I made the transition from vim to NeoVim. It took some work adjusting my macros and optional journal publishing features, but I did it. “Journals” like this one are actually single text-files that are parsed by a Python script that generates very bare-bones markdown files that get dropped in place in Google Pages (google.io) which uses the Jekyll static site generator (SSG) and publishes the pages.

I use DNS to resolve registered domains to Google Pages. I use the https protocol on the Google Pages side, and apparently Cloudflare to provide the https certificate. At any rate, the site gets published as an https static site that’s stylized with CSS. The CSS is handled on my side in a file that’s in the same git repo as the journal.md. Graphics go in there according to the Jekyll file layout conventions, so usually in a repo/assets/imges/file.png type of path.

Similarly, CSS goes repo/assets/css/style.css and so on. You just edit a few text files and put graphics in location and git commit and push to Github. It automatically gets published as a site. The only cost to this is having a Github account, which you can do for free, and registering a domain name, which you can do for about $10 a year.

A Reflection on MyKoz.AI, Linux, Python, vim & git, and Bram Moolenaar

I find satisfaction in improving things over time. And thus, it is all the more of a learning opportunity when things don’t turn out exactly as planned. This happens not just in relationships with people, but also in relationships with tech. I have some good content, but I’m not “breaking out”. I don’t take time to edit my content, it’s minimally monetized, and I don’t have the best equipment in the world. I’m publishing a bunch of what I do just as a sort of “side effect” of doing what I do. And I like it that way, because I love doing what I do?

What is it I do? Well, it’s rather meta. My favorite thing has turned out to be tending to a toolset that I use to do other things. I’m not the toolmaker, but I’m the tool user. I am a fanboy of the toolmakers and the tools I use. I am keenly aware that vim, written by Bram Moolenaar, is built on the precursor named vi, which was written by Bill Joy.

I’m also aware that Bill Joy was a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and re-wrote much of what is now the Berkeley Unix distribution, and that vi is part of the various Unix and Linux standards. Bill Joy is 68 years old, and Bram Moolenaar was 62 when he died last week. I’m 52 years old and have done nothing like Bill or Bram yet to help the world. To make it a better place. By being a tool-user who in his respects the toolmakers, is able to at least instruct on how to assemble one of the most powerful yet tiny toolboxes in the world. I call it My Cause, and do a Fonzie thumbs-up, pronounced “Ayyy”. But since there’s no .Ayyy domain name, .AI will do. So I call it MyKoz.AI.

Our tools tell us stories. You wouldn’t think such touching human stories come from such (at first) boring and complex tools. But I’m here to tell you the stories are even better than that. Wait until you heart the story of Bell Lab’s recruiting of Ken Thompson to work on research, which later led to Unix being invented quite by accident. And Unix provided the foundation for Linux, which together gave us the Internet and Web, as the work of Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee (and many more folks) were layered on top.

So you see, modern “free” computing (free as in libre) is a story of coincidence, layered on cooperation and community. It’s a story of people who were willing to leave their comfort zone and share their work with others, who often get “bit” by the “sharing bug” and become addicted to the process of sharing. There’s so much meaning and purpose to be found in the sharing of tools and knowledge.

These things I advocate, Linux, Python, vim & git seem at first like a “geeky” thing to do and a lot more trouble than it’s worth. But I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth. These tools are some of the most powerful tools in the world, and are so much more love-worthy and capable of sustaining you financially and spiritually through the years than I think most people realize. It takes awhile for the significance of vi, vim and NeoVim to sink in.

My own stories regarding my gradual path to LPvg (Linux, Python, vim & git) are bittersweet and for another time. This article is intended to get across how deep this rabbit hole goes. It’s designed to be a gentle chat with Morpheus (for Matrix fans) without being cornered into an “either/or” choice. We know what Neo’d do. He’d take the red pill. But I’m not here to tell you that you can stay on Windows 10 or 11 and still chase the rabbit down the Linux hole.

See, we’re in what’s called the Nooshpere. It’s a term coined by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who lived from 1881 to 1955. He was a paleontologist and geologist, and he was a big fan of evolution. He was also a big fan of the concept which was to become the Internet, which he predicted in 1945. He called it the Noosphere, which is a play on the word biosphere.

When all human knowledge flows out into one big mix, only the most new, novel, unique and creative ideas resist compression. Everything else can be described with pointers and references to things that previously exist. They are compressible. If you want to live in the Noosphere, you have to be uncompressible.

MyKoz.AI Real/OS is My Noosphere Endeavor

I’ve done it before. The initial concepts date back to 2009, probably. I can trace it in Github to 2013 when I finally decided I could put things with compiled binaries that I don’t have the source to in a repo. I called it Levinux, and it was (and is, because it still has a fanbase) a way to run Linux on the desktop of Windows or Mac. It was a way to get people to try Linux without having to install it. It specifically taught the trick of connecting to it remotely with a terminal.

This was back in the days where a tiny free easy to find program PuTTY was the way to do it on Windows PCs. Macs had the ssh program built into their Terminal, because Macs were Unix-based already. For Dune fans, I very much thought of Levinux as the Pain Box of the gom jabbar from the opening scene of the first book, where Paul Atreides is tested by the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother. He had to stick his hand in a pain box that the cognizant mind knew was not dangerous without pulling his hand out even while it felt like it was burning to prove he was human enough to be a leader.

Since those days, PuTTY itself has been maligned with false distributions that include malware. And the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) has been invented, which is a way to run Linux on Windows without a virtual machine. It is so clever how that all came to be with the “Circles of Protection” behind NT so gloriously coming into play, that it’s for a separate article. Suffice to say that the “virtualisations” features coming into being on the Intel processor in the form of the Hypervisor perfectly dove-tailed with the “Circles of Protection” that were already in place in Windows NT.

That’s why two great operating systems can run side-by-side on the same machine. There used to be a distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 virtualization, with the former being the very expensive and stable stuff designed for servers, and the latter being the free stuff designed for consumers running on top of Windows or Mac. But now, with the Hypervisor features built into the Intel processor, the distinction is gone. NT which still underlies Windows 10 and 11 is a Type 1 Hypervisor. I don’t know the backstory of how the Mac pulls it off (with 3rd party software), but it does. And you can get a similar effect on Linux with KVM. So, it’s Linux subsystems for everybody!

You’ve Already Got a Desktop (Not That They Matter)

Running Linux subsystems asks for very little compromise… except that you stop thinking of Linux as an alternative desktop. Sure, there are endless choices of desktops, but they’re all just a way to get to the Terminal, because that’s where the true career and life-changing power of Linux resides. It’s not in “yet another desktop”. That’s a red herring. It’s a distraction. Focus!

Just use the desktop you’re familiar with. For me, that’s Windows 10. Microsoft is doing everything in its power to push you along to Windows 11, but if you have 2 laptops in your life and know how to back up your data and switch around between hardware, then you can always perform a “clean install” of Windows 10 on one of your laptops. Over time, you can use this “shake and bake” approach to switching between at least two pieces of hardware to always be able to introduce small changes in process and software to your life. It’s a great way to keep your mind sharp and your skills up to date.

What you’re doing is swapping out what you can think of as your “Host OS” for a Linux subsystem. You’re not replacing your desktop. You’re not replacing your laptop. You’re not replacing your operating system. You’re just adding a Linux subsystem, and doing a bit of building there using new FOSS techniques that help you gradually make your skills timeless. It’s a sort of Noah’s Ark approach to computing. The concept of Digital Nomadism is a great way to think about it. You’re not replacing your home. You’re just adding a home on wheels.

We can attempt to hop into the Noosphere, pivot to a new destination, leave our comfort zone or otherwise challenge ourselves to grow without having to sacrifice our current lifestyle. We can do it in a way that’s not a binary choice. We can do it in a way that’s not a “fork in the road”. The language of “flattening the curve” has come into our lives in a big way with the Covid-19 pandemic. We can flatten the curve of our own learning by making it a gradual process. That’s what MyKoz.AI is all about.

So Then Why a “Reset this PC” Approach?

We’re not replacing our desktop, but we can cleanse our palate. We can start fresh. We can start with a clean slate. It’s just that the new slate isn’t quite so shocking as Linux Mint or Ubuntu or Plasma or whatever else your Linux friends are telling you is going to be so much better. The truth is your laptops are rigged to give you a positive, successful experience minimizing driver problems and other weirdness. Why walk away from all that into the wilderness? Why not just remodel where you’re already living?

Windows for better or for worse is the world’s most used operating system. It’s familiar. It’s important to know professionally. It’s got drivers and game support. It’s much that you need, but also much that you don’t. And to get the balance between the two more advantageous to your Tech Muscle Memory, you can just start fresh. You can just “Reset this PC” and start over. Reinstall and don’t give it an Internet connection or a Microsoft account. Just use it as a Host OS for your Linux subsystems.

It’s All About Muscle Memory

You’re going to develop a new way of thinking about your computer. This involves developing new “muscle memory” for your fingers and your brain. It’s new habits that take awhile to set in, and quite an amount of “suspended disbelief” to get you to the point where you’re willing to try it. It’s exactly the same as with a movie or video game, where you have to let yourself go into the flow and just accept the premise of the story if you want to enjoy it.

Starting your journey on your old friend Windows, but in the stripped-down but patched-up form of what Microsoft themselves called “The Last Windows You’ll Ever Need” is a great way to get started. To a large degree, this claim holds true even for patched-up Windows, but for the way it tries to slam commercialism down your throat with the Search Box in the Taskbar, and the inability to turn Cortana off. We’ll get to those pesky details later. First, we abide by the 80/20-Rule: 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.

That old familiar Host OS stripped down should still have that familiar feeling and be 100% compatible with everything you used to be doing. I believe many people get a feeling of relief and surprise that it can always be this way. At very least, it forces a re-evaluation of what’s important and what’s not. It’s a life hack. It’s a way to get a fresh start without having to give up the familiar. It’s that same feeling you get with a new phone when you have to make that decision between reinstalling all your apps or recovering from a backup from your previous phone (if even possible based on your details).

What’s the Point of All This?

The point of this is that to get better and better at something over time, which we presume to be one of the goals you have if you read this far, you need to be able to build on what you already know. By internalizing a skill to where it’s automatic, like riding a bicycle or driving a car, you can then build on that skill. The part of your brain that was previously deeply occupied performing the skill, while acquiring learning, is now free to focus on other things. You have freed up your “executive function” to focus on other things. The mechanics and skills of actual driving are now automatic.

And so it can be with your computer. What field of endeavor does not have a component to it that doesn’t involve writing, data or both? What I’m talking about here with Linux, Python, vim & git are the 80/20-Rule FOSS tools of the trade for writing, data and both. You might not have heard of the LPvg platform spoken about this way before, but vim is just as good of a writing environment as any word processor, and after you’ve had a few positive experiences with Python under JupyterLab, vim is where you’ll switch over to “real” automation.

In time, the process becomes self-perpetuating. Following my advice, you’ll soon be journaling in vim like you’re seeing me doing here. You’ll be hearing your own voice “forced” through the actualizer of writing. You will take your abstract and inarticulate thoughts and articulate them through the manifestation engine that goes from thoughts-to-bits.

That’s what I’m doing here. You’re reading this because I’m thinking it into existence through vim. I say vim, but it’s NeoVim. I will use them interchangeably now, in honor of Bram Moolenaar who just passed. But also a shout-out to the whole NeoVim team for making it better.

So the point of this is to manifest. The point of this is to actualize. And if you think there’s something excessively “woo-woo” about that, then I will kindly remind you that you’re here reading this, and to think about the sort of magical connection between us that’s happening right now.

Linux for Life

Am I convincing you? Am I helping to change the course of your life by helping to impart the realization that all code you want to have a long life should run on Linux as the code execution platform? Certainly Microsoft agrees, or they would not have included the Linux Subsystem in Windows 10, so fully complete in ways that they seemed to be reserving for Windows 11, including Linux graphics support. But they backported that all to Windows 10. There’s a level of commitment here to bringing Linux to the masses that’s unprecedented. It’s because if Microsoft doesn’t do it, developers will look elsewhere for development platforms that are modern and up-to-date.

Python for Power

So Microsoft is convinced, but maybe not you. Python, you ask? You heard it was a slow and dead-end language and that people are moving onto other things like Go or Rust. Well, I’m here to tell you that Python is the most popular programming language in the world, and it’s not going anywhere. As recently as this week, mixed right in with the Bram Moolenaar news, was the news that Python PEP 703 – Making the Global Interpreter Lock Optional in CPython was accepted. This is a huge deal. It means that Python will be able to run concurrently on multiple cores, thus removing one of the last remaining objections to Python as a language.

Oh, and did I mention that Python hired Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python, to work on Python full-time? He’s been working on Python for 30 years now, and even though he stepped down as the BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life), he’s still very much involved in the language, and on-staff at Microsoft. Intel, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and many other companies, including the US Government, are all heavily invested in Python. Then there’s all the startups and small businesses that use Python. Oh, did I mention the machine learning and data science communities? Python is the language of choice for those fields.

Vim for Verve

Vim? Oh, that’s the most controversial of the LPvg bunch. But I’d humbly submit that “vim emulation mode” sometimes called “vim bindings” is the most popular add-on to other editors, from vim’s ancient rival Emacs, to the modern contenders like VSCode, Sublime Text, and even Microsoft’s own Visual Studio. Vim is the most popular editor in the world, not merely because it goes back to 1976, works great on slow, low-bandwidth connections (useful for remote server maintenance), is part of the Unix and Linux standards (ships in some form with every distribution), but it also gained this status because it lives up to the hype. Year after year. For decades. Against all odds. Surviving cataclysms like the too-soon loss of Bram himself.

Git for Greatness

Git? Well, that’s the easiest sell of all. Git is the most popular version control system in the world. It’s what GitHub.com was built on, but you don’t need GitHub to use git. You can use git locally, or you can use git with any other git hosting service. It not only helps you have infinite backup and undo capabilities, but it also helps you collaborate with others. The collaboration features were developed to be robust enough to support the development of the Linux kernel itself, so to say it’s battle tested is an understatement. And those same collaboration features can be tweaked to turn it into whole deployment systems for releasing and scaling your work.

LPvg for Life

These four tools, Linux, Python, vim & git, are the 80/20 Rule tools of the trade for writing, data and both. They really are so much more than “just 4 things”. Linux in particular contains so much that I have to specify that even there we have to pair it down. Remove the GUI and you have a headless server. Remove almost everything you can’t re-install from a package manager and you have a barebones server. Technically, the main thing you need is a way to get into it, traditionally an SSH server. But if you’re following this path of jumping on the LPvg bandwagon on the Microsoft Subsystem for Linux, you already have the Windows desktop GUI, so you can really focus on the parts that matter.

This is where you leave your comfort zone. I know that if I were to ask the average sojourner to open the Linux Terminal, an icon I leave out on the desktop after the MyKoz.AI installation, they would be lost. That’s one of the various reasons I have a JupyterLab icon on the desktop. It’s a way to get started with Linux without having to use the Linux Terminal. It may not be immediately obvious, but JupyterLab is Linux application (in the case of MyKoz.AI) that runs on Linux, but is accessed through a web browser.

This is why in the same Intro Repo that I have available immediately upon running JupyterLab takes you so quickly from Jupyter Notebook to a Linux systemd daemon service that runs in the background. It’s a way to get over that almost insurmountable hurdle that plagues all Notebook users of going from Notebook to 24x7x365 server. If you “mock up” your Notebook to to do some data science or machine learning task, and then you need it done according to a schedule, or even just keep running without scheduling, most people are stuck. They don’t know how to get from Notebook to server.

And so the reason we go to LPvg through JupyterLab is because it’s a way to get started with Linux without having to use the Linux Terminal. This is the one key skill that will elevate you from an undifferentiated Jupyter Notebook tire-kicker to a Linux power user. And it’s not just about Linux. It’s about the Linux Terminal.

The joke goes that in a millennium from now, when our space-faring descendants return to Earth and greet our Earth-bound descendants, they will open their chest plates and show them how they’re still booting from a Linux kernel.

MyKoz.AI for the Masses

Okay, so to actualize this further, I’m going to have to check off a number of items from my to-do list. Maybe today!

            - README.txt: Write it for the Newbie (how to).
            - Intro Repo: Clear Instructions for the Newbie
            - NeoVim path: Show them how to start vimtutor.
            - Pipulate Repo: Reboot FOSS SEO from scratch.
            - WHIM Repo: With Help, I Monitor (systemd)