Where did the Dotfiles desktop environment go?

Photo by Alex Vasey on Unsplash

My dotfiles repo originally was a bunch of dotfiles for Linux. They were tailored towards Arch Linux running the i3 window manager, and several other keyboard driven applications. I envisioned the project becoming a full fledged desktop environment (DE) for link-minded keyboard enthusiasts.

The first commit was back in 2017. I worked on the project up until around 2019. Where has the time gone?

commit 919459e0dadec3b7ac3ef442dcdc45d82523545d
Author: Patrick Motard <[email protected]>
Date:   Tue May 9 15:37:20 2017 -0500

    Initial commit

At one point, there were bash scripts that automated bootstrapping the entire install of the operating system from scratch. Eventually bash scripts weren’t cutting it, so I moved the instalation scripts to a separate repo called dot-ansible that tied the scripts together using Ansible.

Several of the keyboard and configuration driven applications I chose for the DE lacked functionality and configuration that I wanted. I needed to build tooling around each of the applications to enhance them and make the user experience more seemless. So I started building out a program, simply called “dot” in Golang that dot-ansible installed for the user.

This all worked very well. The desktop environment was really nice to use. I was proud of it. I loved working on it in my spare time and improving it slowly over a few years.

It was slow going, but I didn’t mind. It was a passion project. A few of my coworkers (fellow software engineers) at the time used it as their main OS for work and a few for home as well. One used it as a reference while building his own.

There were challenges with the approach I took. There were things that in hindsight I would have done differently. Things that slowed down progress, and hindered adoption and engagement. But every once in a while my dotfiles repo would get another star, and to me, that was confirmation that I was on to something. That people saw what I was doing, were interested, and wanted to follow along to see how far I would go. It was motivational whenever I got feedback from others, and was able to share my ideas of the project.

A few things changed for me that lead me to set the project aside. Mainly, I changed jobs, from working in Linux at Paradigm to Mac OS X at Zendesk. I was no longer using Linux (still Unix though, yay!) full time at work. At home I drifted back to Windows for better hardware support while gaming. Though I am currently writing this article on a separate partition on my home computer running Fedora Gnome, so I’m still around the Linux ecosystem.

In the future I hope to write more on this subject. I’d like to cover the pitfalls and lessons learned. I’d also like to share how I currently manage my dotfiles, and what projects I’m currently working.

For those of you who are still using my dotfiles configuration files, have no fear! You can find them in the master branch of my dotfiles repo where they always were. I will be using the main branch going forward.

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