Vim understander and command line explainer: Sven Gukes is dead

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Anyone who has ever looked at a Linux system knows that virtually every modern desktop environment, no matter how colorful, still contains a terminal emulator. Many system administrators still swear by the benefits of the shell, which can actually do some things much more efficiently than with a graphical interface. Bottom line: If you don’t have a Unix background and don’t have a command line connection, you’ll first need to get used to working without a mouse or touchpad. In addition, it is tedious and difficult to remember the names of the various CLI tools and how to use them.

Admittedly, many see this as more of an incentive than a hindrance, and few people in the German Linux scene are widely known as command-line greats like Sven Gueckes. Unlike some command line jockeys, Gakes never understood his ability to use the shell as a special ability that would justify elitist behavior. He was alien to pitiful glances at those who did not use or did not know how to use the command line. Instead, he made it his mission to bring the console closer to others and make it as easy as possible for them to get started.

The Vim command line editor is a great example of this. There are countless memes circulating the web about the barely intuitive key sequence that exits the editor. Anyone who desperately wanted to close Vim in the early years of their Linux career—perhaps with a layout unfamiliar to the US—can sing a song about it. However, anyone who has spoken to Sven Gakes about Vim or listened to one of his countless lectures on the subject will quickly see Vim not as a cumbersome editor, but as a highly efficient tool that can do more than just edit text files.

An extremely popular conference guest for several decades, Gookes has been an integral part of the German Linux community. Over the years, without any missionary zeal, he gained a reputation as a command line expert who never got tired of answering newbie questions. Anyone who happened to meet him on the train back from the conference and ask him a question about Vim would often come home with a new ~/.vimrc file that Guckes had just put together out of his head — and that often left the other person. the silent one was left behind. Gakes has been able to break new ground again and again, even for experienced Linux users, thanks to his vast experience combined with his friendliness.

In the recent past, he was also interested in the tmux terminal multiplexer, which Gakes introduced to a large number of people in lectures and seminars as a replacement for the outdated screen. Other CLI topics, such as the Mutt console mail client and its successors, are impressive testament to Hooke’s wealth of knowledge, which provided the basis for his extensive lecture work.

Gakes displayed a missionary zeal when he promoted the principles of free software and explained to people the community behind free software, of which he naturally considered himself a member. Guckes not only acted as a community manager for various F/LOSS components. He also learned the F/LOSS principle and was a firm believer that open source and copyleft were the only functional model for software distribution. But here, too, he never acted dismissively from above – he always concentrated on arguments that he repeated and explained several times, if necessary, with angelic patience. And even if a lively technical discussion failed to reach a consensus, Sven Gukes never felt inspired, but almost always enriched himself.

Gakes’ travels are now considered legendary by the community. No wonder: the conferences were central to him in keeping the open source community functioning. So it makes sense that Guckes has since grown into a mini-travel agency: for Chemnitz Linux Days, which is now the largest social event in the German-speaking world (and one of the few still in existence), he set up TuxBus, which allowed people to travel in Chemnitz. Those who traveled to the conference were often able to attend a community meeting hosted by Guckes the night before. Almost as legendary as Gookes himself are the photographs of restaurants where a row of tables is reserved for just such an event on a sign with Gookes’ name.

Sven Gukes died in Berlin on February 20 after a long, serious illness. He will be missed.

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