“It’s a Unix system. I know this!”

Watching how computers are used in movies and TV shows can be amusing Some scenes have become (in)famous – the quote at the start of this post is from Jurassic Park

“I’ll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic… see if I can track an IP address.” is another famous one, this time from CSI:NY

One of my current favorite characters is Garcia from Criminal Minds, her fingers fly over the keyboard as she sets up a filter to tunnel through the reverse proxies to find the unsubs location. Windows open on her terminal faster than the eye can follow, streams of multi-colored code flowing around. What hogwash and nonsense.

Well, I thought so until I sat next to a Vim wizard…

But first, backtrack a year and a half. I was being interviewed at Atomic Object and part of the interview involved doing some actual testing, sitting in the office surrounded by the developers working. What I noticed was the lack of IDE’s – I’d spent a lot of my programming career with Visual Studio and was used to seeing that style of editor but here were all these developers with screens full of code, windows that multi-paned, text in different colors. I asked what they were using. It was Vim.

“It’s a Unix editor. I know this!” I exclaimed (I didn’t really but it makes the story sound good).

I didn’t know Vim but many,many years ago at the start of my IT career I was using Vi so when I went to play around with Vim I found that I still had some of the muscle memories from that day such as using Esc : wq to save my file.

Fast-forward back to the present and now working at Atomic I’ve had firsthand experience of watching them navigate through directories, popping up files, searching, opening another one, dropping back to the command line. Like any master craftsman, there is something wonderful about watching them at work.

I’m not suggesting that once you’ve finished reading this then you should go off and start learning Vim. There are many articles around that suggest why it could be a useful tool to have on your toolbelt and I’ve started to learn it as I can see how it can be useful for me.

What I am suggesting is that watching a master craftsman at work is a great thing to do.

  • Is there a design wiz who seems to make up beautiful layouts with a few clicks of a mouse?
  • A tester who can crash a program within 5 minutes of getting a new release?
  • A security expert who gets into the system that was supposed to be secure?
  • Watch and see how fluent and at one with their tools they are.
  • Talk to them and find out how they became so skilled.

Be inspired to become your own wizard…

About the Author

Phil Kirkham: Phil is a developer turned tester and has been involved in IT for 30 years. He moved from England to Grand Rapids, MI to work for Atomic Object. He also blogs at Atomic Spin (http://spin.atomicobject.com/)Phil can be found on Twitter as @pkirkham