Screenshots from developers: 2002 vs. 2015

In 2002 I asked a number of developers/Unix people for screenshots of their desktops. I recently republished them, and, seeing the interest this generated, I thought it’d be fun to ask the same people* again 13 years later. To my delight I managed to reach many of them.

* Sans Dennis Ritchie and itojun, who are no longer with us.

So, without further ado:

Brian Kernighan (Unix legend, the K in K&R and AWK):
July 2002

my desktop is pretty boring, since it consists of xterm windows to whatever unix system i am using at the moment. the machine itself is likely to be running some x-window server like exceed on some flavor of windows, though for many years i just used an x terminal.

October 2015

If you thought it was boring last time, check this out!


I don’t know how to make a screenshot, because I normally use my computer in text-mode. I have X and GNOME installed, but I use them only occasionally.


Under X, I use the standard environment of Trisquel, but mostly I type at Emacs in a console.

Bram Moolenaar (author of Vim):
September 2002

Well, my desktop is quite boring. I mostly work with four xterms and a few Netscape windows. The KDE bar hides automatically, you can only see a thin grey line at the bottom.

November 2015

Here is the new one. You'll see that, like before, I have lots of xterms where I work on Vim, Zimbu and email. Now using the Chrome browser, showing off the Zimbu homepage. But clearly everything has become bigger!

Rasmus Lerdorf (creator of PHP):
September 2002

Linux (2.4.20-pre5), Gnome2, vim, Pine.

October 2015

Not that much has changed in 13 years. Still using Linux. Still just a browser window and a ton of terminals hiding behind them. The main change is that switched from Pine to Thunderbird for email at some point. The OS on my laptop here is Ubuntu with Unity although there are a lot of Debian packages installed so it is a bit of a hybrid at this point. Oh, and yes, my son Carl is a lot older now.

Warren Toomey (Unix historian):
August 2002

Ah, my desktop is pretty boring, I used fvwm 1.24 as my window manager and I try to have no more than 1 or 2 windows open per virtual desktop. I use FreeBSD 4-STABLE as my operating system. I first came across Unix when I got an account on a Pyramid 90x running OSx. This had a dual-universe setup: both AT&T and BSD-style environments, chosen by an environment variable. Initially I was given the AT&T environment, but my friends convinced me to ``come over” to BSD. Since then I’ve been a BSD afficionado.

After OSx, SunOS 3.5 and later SunOS releases, until 386BSD 0.1 came out and I started to run BSD at home. Then when 386BSD transmogrified to FreeBSD, I went with FreeBSD.

In terms of desktop, I’m a command-line guy, always will be. My favourite editor is vi, my favourite shell is tcsh (but kudos to rc for elegance). So I don’t really feel the need for GUI things like Gnome or KDE :-)

October 2015

How things have (and have not changed). I'm still a command-line junkie with at least two xterm windows open. I'm still using a 3x3 virtual desktop. However, instead of fvwm, it is now LXDE. I've also switched from FreeBSD to Linux and I'm running Lubuntu as my distribution.

There are a lot of indispensable GUI tools that I use. These include Firefox, lyx, Gimp, KeepassX, Shutter, viking, dia, Wireshark, calibre, audacity, Handbrake and VLC. But where possible I still prefer to script things. My main development languages are still shell, Perl and C.

My shell is now bash. The vi keystrokes are burned into my fingertips and, as long as vim can be ported to new systems, that will be my text editor until I pass on. My mail client is now mutt (definitely not a web client) and my mail is stored locally, not on someone else's server.

The only issue I have is that, since a job change, I now have to deal with Windoze things. Thus, I have VirtualBox, libreoffice and Wine to help me do that.

I started with Unix on a Pyramid 90x. I now have a smart phone that blows the 90x out of the water on performance, RAM and storage. But I'm so very happy that, somewhere down underneath, there is still a Bourne shell and an operating system that does open(), close(), read(), write(), fork() and exec()!

Jordan Hubbard (FreeBSD co-founder, later Director of UNIX Technology at Apple; now CTO of iXsystems):
July 2002
November 2015

You’ll probably be sad (or perhaps not) to hear that my desktop hasn’t really changed much at all - still OS X, though because OS X has virtual desktops now I have multiple “desktops” (6 of them) where runs on one, Safari on another, Calendar, Slack, etc - all on separate desktops. This makes it a bit boring, but here’s the one I probably spend the most time in - the terminal window desktop. :)

Timothee “TTimo” Besset (then id Software’s Linux port maintainer, now independent developer):
July 2002

There we go. Actually, that’s a condensate in one workspace cause I usually use about 4. Some of my favourite apps:

not on the shot, but worth noted

and of course a shot of RTCW

November 2015

'screenshot as code', I maintain my desktop configuration through saltstack:

Discussion: Hacker News; reddit: /r/programming, /r/linux