That Linux feeling… on Windows

I have been trying to get along with Windows Powershell at work for the past couple of months and, while it is a huge improvement on the more traditional Windows console, it is nowhere near as functional as the Bash terminal I spend most of my time in when at home. So I started poking around online and ended up on the Cygwin.

Cygwin is:

  • a large collection of GNU and Open Source tools which provide functionality similar to a Linux distribution on Windows.

This does sound good, but it also sounds like potentially much more than I need. I am, after all, only looking for a terminal that I can use to edit and shunt text files without being driven to curse my keyboard.

Luckily, I do have a small Windows partition on my own laptop, so I thought it would be worth giving it a spin at home before screwing up my work laptop enough to attract the attention of the helpdesk.

Before I go on, I shall reiterate that much of the Cygwin functionality os of no interest to me. I really am just looking for a functional terminal environment that I can use while at work.

The install was easy enough. This being a Windows application, it’s just a case of downloading the setup.exe file and clicking on it. You do need to hang on to this file once the install is completed, though, as it also provides the package management functionality for Cygwin. As someone who frequently bins everything, this felt a tad odd to me – but it’s not a problem.

The install creates its own file structure under C:cygwin64 which took me a moment to find. That said, it makes sense that the *nix environment isn’t mixed up with the rest of the Windows stuff. It’s easy to find and, once you are aware of this, the Cygwin terminal starts in the expected folder.

And onto Vim. This is installed by default, or appears to be. Even though the initial screen says Vi Improved, it does look like Cygwin is actually installing Vi by default.

So I added an alias (alias vim=vi) to my .bashrc and renamed my .vimrc to .virc and then things went a bit wrong as Vi is unable to support any of the functions in my default .vimrc. So, back to the setup.exe file I went where I found and installed vim-minimal.

This does not seem to have helped as I am still seeing a whole bunch of comman not available errors.

I was also rather unnerved when I tried the ftp command and saw my password being echoed back at me as I typed it.

At this point, one of the twins came in and wanted to play Cat and Mouse and I’d had enough of being in Windows, so tinkering was abandoned. But, based on first impressions, the Cygwin Terminal is going to struggle to meet my needs.

The search continues.

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