Steal My Bash Profile

Feel free to skip the monologue and just get the goodies.

I am in love with the Bourne Again Shell. Bash is a fantastic terminal environment, and a very interesting programming language in its own right.

I grew up using DOS. Unix shells always seemed scary and foreign, for some reason. I think a big part of the reason that I stayed on Windows for as long as I did was that I knew DOS, and could always resort to it in times of need. As a support tech in college, I got very familiar with DOS. It was comfortable and handy.

When I got into web programming, I had no choice but to learn at least the rudimentary basics of a unix-style environment. At that time, I was as a support tech at a software company whose product uses VisualBasic ASP over IIS, and had started playing around in that environment. However, I had no money, and web hosts that support ASP cost money.

By some stroke of luck or persistence, I managed to find a host that was free, Beigetower. That link doesn’t work any more, of course. I don’t know how long that server’s been down. Cuong Nghiem’s still listed as the owner on whois, though.) On top of that, they provided shell access. Not being able to resist the temptation to tinker with a real live web server, I learned enough Bash to poke around. As I learned more PHP, I picked up more bits and pieces along the way.

When I started at Yahoo, it was sink or swim to some extent. I was issued a FreeBSD dev box, and a windows desktop. I did most of my development in my safe windows world, but there are *a lot* of things you have to do on your dev box as an engineer at Yahoo that simply can’t be done in any other way. Bash was a regular part of my daily routine almost from the first day.

Eventually, I fell so head over heels in love with Bash that I had to say goodbye to Windows and get a Mac.

There are many good reasons to get a Mac instead of a PC. They’re easier and more intuitive in a lot of ways. They certainly look a lot nicer on almost every level. But I’d be lying if I said that having Bash right there all the time wasn’t the ultimate dealmaker.

One of the best things about Bash, in my opinion, is the fact that you can add shortcuts to your .profile (or .bash_profile or .bashrc, of course) that will be loaded every time you log in. As soon as I learned this, I started adding stuff.

Eventually, I had my profile so tricked out that it was hideously painful to have to work on a machine that didn’t have my shortcuts. Without my customized prompt, I’d get really confused about which directory I was currently in, and have to type pwd every three seconds just to not get lost. The sequence would usually go like this:

$ la
-bash: la: command not found
$ la
-bash: la: command not found
$ la
-bash: la: command not found
$ alias la="ls -laF"

Those first few entries of la were accompanied by plenty of growling and confusion, every. single. time.

So, I got into the habit of using scp or rsync to send my bash profile to any machine that I’d have to work on. However, some machines have vi, and some don’t. I’d make a change on the profile on my mac, and forget to sync it to my dev box. Machines that I didn’t log into often would be so far out of date that it was the “la” situation all over again. What’s worse, I put some stuff in other shell script files that were called by the profile to do other things, so it was no longer straightforward to keep them in sync. I’d send half the package, and then log in, and be inundated with errors all over the place.

When I switched from FreeBSD to a Red Hat Linux box, half my stuff didn’t work quite the same way. Also, I moved Foo Hack to a great new host, which is running Ubuntu. On the Mac, I use MacPorts, and the Ubuntu slice uses apt-get, and the RHEL of course uses yinst, the Yahoo! package management tool that quite simply makes all others look like crap by comparison. (Sadly, yinst is not open source. There’s this hack to simulate yinst on top of apt, though.) The Ubuntu and RHEL environments used vi as the default editor, but I’d changed that on the Mac to point to mate, the command-line interface to TextMate.

To say the least, a simple sync wasn’t cutting it even a little.

I re-wrote all my bash profile goodies to fit in a single file. Shell scripts were replaced with functions so that they could all live together. The edit command was defined to use the first available editor from a list of alternatives. Then, I put it in a file that was external from the main .profile or .bashrc file, so that it could be synced without overwriting anything that the OS placed in there by default. The only thing to do on a new server was to add . ~/.extra.bashrc to the bottom of whatever profile script it was already using.

I had already added a command called editprof that would bring my profile up in an editor. All that was needed then was a pushprof command that would rsync the .extra.bashrc file to a given host.

I’m releasing it under the WTFPL. There are actually a few files, since some stuff simply didn’t make any sense to have in certain environments. The copy here on foohack.com on github is symlinked from my home directory updated frequently, so it’ll stay pretty up to date. Feel free to copy, learn, fork, or, like the license says, just do wtf you like with it.

A word of warning: like government regulation, this file increases in size but rarely gets revised. Some stuff may be completely useless or pointless. Some of it I hardly ever use any more. Figuring out better solutions to these problems is left as an exercise for the reader.

Get my bash extras.