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protium
protium

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My profile website is now a terminal

When I was younger I used to think that my profile website would be a really cool, fully featured website, with shiny colors and animations; built with the latest cutting edge frontend technology...
Turns out that the older I get, the more I prefer a simple terminal. No UI, just text and commands.

The last time I updated my profile website, it looked like this:

last profle website

It was already pretty minimalistic, right? But not enough. Now my profile website is just a terminal:

terminal profile

Let's see how this was possible.

A pragmatic approach

A few days ago I was shaping this idea on my head and found this cool library: xterms. It's been used by a lot of apps, VS Code being among them. I decided to give it a try to see how complex could it be, so I headed to the docs and started adding the code to my website. As you can see the docs are pretty good, they are surely autogenerated from TS docs but this is good because it means the code itself is well documented.

Before starting coding I set a few requirements:

  • I don't want to use npm modules. I want my website source to be simple and minimal
  • I want to make use of javascript modules which are supported by all (relevant) browsers
  • The terminal commands should be abstract to allow me to remove or add commands at will with a few changes

Then, how do I install xtermjs without using npm? The solution is simple, I host the files. I extracted the files from the npm packages with this command

npm v xterm dist.tarball | xargs curl | tar -xz
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and moved package/lib/xterm.js into app/

To use javascript modules, I just needed to import the main.js file as module

<script type="module" src="/app/main.js"></script>
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Terminal Commands

Although not using typescript let's say that the terminal commands implement the following interface

interface Command {
  id: string;
  description: string;
  usage: string;
  args: number;
  run: (terminal: Terminal) => Promise<void>;
}
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Then we need a command runner that will parse the user input

interface CommandRunner {
    (term: Terminal, userInput: string) => Promise<boolean>;
}
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The runner will return false if a command was not found.
Let's now define 1 command:

const lsCommand =   {
  id: "ls",
  description: 'list files',
  usage: '[usage]: ls filename'
  args: 0,
  async run(term, args) {
    for (const file of files) {
      term.write(file.name + '\t\t');
    }
  },
};
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Now that we shaped the command, we can think of handling user input.

Terminal basic functionality

The terminal should support:

  • It should show a prompt

  • ctrl + l: should clear the terminal

  • ctrl + c: should send a SIGINT

  • enter: should run a command from the current user input

The terminal should also handle common errors:

  • command not found
  • command with wrong arguments

With this in mind we can start handling the user input.

xterm provides a onKey event which receives a handler function ({ key, domEvent }) => void, so we receive an event per each key press done by the user. This means that we need to track the user input and add each key as a char. When the user presses enter we should evaluate the input we have so far. Pretty straigt forward

let userInput = '';
if (ev.keyCode == 13) {
  await runCommand(term, userInput);
  userInput = '';
  prompt(term);
} else {
  term.write(key);
  userInput += key;
}

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NOTE: xterm doesn't render the user input, so we need to do it when it makes sense (not enter, not an arrow key, etc)

Handling the clear-screen can be implemented as

if (ev.ctrlKey && ev.key === 'l') {
  term.clear();
  return;
}
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and the SIGINT

if (ev.ctrlKey && ev.key === 'c') {
  prompt(term);
  userInput = '';
  return;
}
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At this point we have a pretty basic working terminal, so let's add some more commands

Basic commands

What are the most known commands? For my terminal I want to be able to use cat, ls, rm, exit. But remember that this terminal is actually my profile website, so they should make sense in that context. So I decided the terminal should have a file system, where files are shaped like

interface File {
  name: string;
  content: string;
}
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Example

const files = [{ name: "about.md", content: "once upon a time"}];
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With this in mind, cat will print the file content, ls will print each file's name and rm will delete the file from the array.

For the exit command we can just close the window from javascript: window.close().

hacker man

Going further

I have decided that I wanted to have a file named blog.md which should contain my last 5 posts.
To fetch this info, I used the RSS feed xml file generated by hugo for my blog. All I need to do is to fetch the file, parse the xml document and get the title and links of each post:

export async function fecthLastPosts() {
  const res = await fetch('/blog/index.xml');
  const text = await res.text();
  const parser = new DOMParser();
  const xmlDoc = parser.parseFromString(text,"text/xml");
  const posts = xmlDoc.getElementsByTagName('item');
  const lastPosts = [];
  for (let i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
    const title = posts[i].getElementsByTagName('title')[0].childNodes[0].nodeValue;
    const link = posts[i].getElementsByTagName('link')[0].childNodes[0].nodeValue;
    lastPosts.push(title + `\r\n${link}\r\n`);
  }

  files[0].content = lastPosts.join('\n');
}
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Now cat blog.md prints my last 5 posts, and thanks to the web link addon of xterm each link is clickeable. Noice.
But why stopping here? Every hackerman terminal should have a whoami command. So this command will just print information about my self.

Also, cool web apps contain photos of cats, so I decided to write a randc command what will open a random photo of a cat.
For this I found this amazing rest API

  {
    id: "randc",
    description: 'get a random cat photo',
    args: 0,
    async run(term, args) {
      term.writeln('getting a cato...');
      const res = await fetch('https://cataas.com/cat?json=true');
      if (!res.ok) {
        term.writeln(`[error] no catos today :( -- ${res.statusText}`));
      }  else {
        const { url } = await res.json();
        term.writeln(colorize(TermColors.Green, 'opening cato...'));
        await sleep(1000);
        window.open('https://cataas.com' + url);
      }
    },
  },
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The result:

get a cat

I think this should do it for a profile terminal. I'm very satisfied with the simplicity of it and the commands I have implemented.
I'll problaly add more commands in the future and also implement streams , just for fun.

What command would you add to your profile terminal?
Go have some fun with it: https://protiumx.dev

Update:

I have refactored the project structure to improve readability and make it more generic.
It also loads your command history from the local storage. All the changes can be seen here: https://github.com/protiumx/protiumx.github.io/pull/1

Update 2:

  • rm supports glob pattern

Update 3:

  • added man command
  • added uname command

Other articles:

๐Ÿ‘ฝ

Discussion (59)

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pbnj profile image
Peter Benjamin

What command would you add to your profile terminal?

First thing I tried was vim .

Then I tried sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y vim.

Therefore, I am requesting these features so I can do remote development on your website ๐Ÿ˜…

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protium profile image
protium Author

well, it is possible to use the cloud9 editor with vim bindings ๐Ÿค”
ace.c9.io/build/kitchen-sink.html

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rajeshroyal profile image
Rajesh Royal

๐Ÿคฃ

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oatw profile image
oatw • Edited on

Nice!

What command would you add to your profile terminal?

rm -rf /*
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๐Ÿ˜…

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protium profile image
protium Author • Edited on

Now it supports glob patterns (without flags) ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿผ
github.com/protiumx/protiumx.githu...

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jzombie profile image
jzombie

Hey, nice looking terminal. I did something similar recently, and happened to notice on your terminal the backspace doesn't work if you've gone beyond one line. I accomplished that with using a span tag for the line text, with the blinking cursor concatenated on the end. The actual input being hidden.

You can check out the version I built at: reshell.org/dr-reshell

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protium profile image
protium Author

Nice catch!
I fixed it here github.com/protiumx/protiumx.githu...

Also reshell looks really cool!

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jzombie profile image
jzombie

Thanks!

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dante_inferno profile image
Akash

Nice, I had attempted this, but its a primitive static website since I am a backend dev ๐Ÿ˜…

Check this out
akashdathan.now.sh

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protium profile image
protium Author

It looks nice!

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eekee profile image
Ethan Azariah

You could make randc display the images in-line as the w3m browser used to do with X11 xterm in the early 00s. :)

As someone who started using Linux in 1998 and has used a variety of command-line systems before and since, I find your command set interesting. :) If I hadn't known about the help command, it would have been the second thing I tried after repeated attempts at tab completion and maybe ls /bin too. (I'm sure even older Unix users would have been slightly disturbed by my use of tab completion. :p ) But help is a good command. I had to laugh when you declared your command list to be intuitive when the command to list file contents is called cat! ;) It certainly is intuitive for people familiar with the Unix command line and I can understand wanting to exclude others for certain purposes, but I lived through the era where everyone was talking about intuitive interfaces and so I had to laugh. :D

On a practical note, I see you mention glob patterns but cat doesn't support them. I used DOS heavily in the 90s and I use PowerShell a bit now, and I can tell you that inconsistencies in how different commands parse their command lines can be really uncomfortable. Unix systems have the shell handle pattern expansion, so it's always consistent. After years of DOS, I found that to be a relief. But why do I want cat to take patterns? I find typing unfamiliar words accurately to be hard, so whenever I'm stuck without tab completion, I use patterns. It's become a habit because sometimes, patterns are quicker.

This might be a bug:
In Firefox, open blog.md opens a complicated XML file with no style information. Browser info; (thanks for the handy command):
anonymous@protiumx.dev:~$ uname
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64; rv:101.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/101.0

Outside the terminal, I'm sorry to say I find the blog pages hard to read. My eyes don't adjust well to low contrast, and when I try to read it anyway, I get unpleasantly dazzled by brighter bits. I had the same problem with DOS in the 90s; it's a good thing I never had to use it for work. In Linux, when I had too little disk space for both Emacs and X Windows, I chose X Windows because it had a configurable xterm. In both DOS and Linux, there were a lot of programs I just didn't use because I couldn't make their displays comfortable. But on the web in recent years, I used to use a contrast enhancer but the only good one of those turned out to include some really nasty spyware. I should look again to see if others have got good.

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protium profile image
protium Author

Thank you for the insightful comment!
My bad, I forgot that the blog.md file is actually โ€œvirtualโ€, parsed from the RSS feed. I will add a fix later.

Tab autocomplete shouldnโ€™t be difficult to implement, I might take a look as well.
Cheers!

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msc profile image
Mario Sanchez Carrion

Awesome idea! My personal website is pretty minimal, but this is definitely taking things to the next level.

Intuitively, my first command was "ls", and it worked. Then I tried "nano" to open the files. When that didn't work I tried "cat" and it worked fine (also pretty intuitive).

Where I had more trouble is trying to open the resume.pdf file, since cat doesn't recognize the pdf format. I then tried "open" just for the sake of it and it gave me a list of arguments, including resume (without the extension), so "open resume" did work. To make it more intuitive perhaps one upgrade could be allowing the opening of files using the extension (.md or .pdf).

Really great project!

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protium profile image
protium Author

That's a good idea actually, I added it, it should be live now
Thank you for your comment!

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phyberapex profile image
PhyberApex • Edited on

First of all great work. Looks really nice! What I don't like is your advocating for throwing away npm. While I do get the appeal of simplicity you should not forget the features you get from using a packet manager for third party libraries. One being handling of updates. As it is right now you will have to "know" that there is an update for the library you are using. Any updates (even security related ones) you are in danger of missing and thus maybe allowing malicious actors to attack your site. While I think the actual risk here is minimal I really don't want this not to be mentioned as third party libraries and dependency management are one of the top security issues we face today in applications security.

Nonetheless awesome idea :D

~Cheers

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protium profile image
protium Author

That's is a fair point!
I based my decision on:

  • locking the version of xterm I'm using
  • no CI/CD planned
  • simplicity also means less maintenance
  • the script doesn't interact with external services (checked the source) so I'm not risking visitors to be tracked

I'll surely setup typescript and yarn if the project grows. For now it has been super fun to do it, just vanilla js and html

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pandademic profile image
Pandademic

Amazing job , and great article!

I'd just like to report a typo:

Also, cool web apps contain photos of cats, so I decided to write a randc command what will open a rando photo of a cat.

It say's 'rando' , I believe you meant to put random?

Anyway ,

Cheers and nice portfolio!

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hq063 profile image
Gonzalo HQ063

Nice idea, however non tech people might never even realize they can write help to get a list of available commands and might quit without being able to do any interaction.
I would add some legend on terminal welcome message.

Also, open resume opens a 404 page on protiumx.dev/resume.pdf

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protium profile image
protium Author • Edited on

I actually made it for tech people and recruiters only, since it has mostly data about my work experience or blog posts.
Thanks for the catch! I moved that file and forgot to update the url

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rajeshroyal profile image
Rajesh Royal

tip: - if you are using ad blockers you may not see the terminal text. You may need to open it in incognito.

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protium profile image
protium Author

which add blocker? I didnโ€™t experience the same

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rajeshroyal profile image
Rajesh Royal

Ghostry, Popup blocker, YouTube ad blocker, and Ad Blocker [hand sign logo] these three.

Thread Thread
protium profile image
protium Author

Interesting. I only use uBlock. I guess the popup blocker will block the command randc or open since it opens a new tab/window

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christiankozalla profile image
Christian Kozalla

I experienced this differently. I'm using brave both on my phone and laptop. On my laptop everything was working fine, but on mobile I could see my own text input and command output

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juniordevforlife profile image
Jason F

Where's the neofetch command? ๐Ÿ˜

Kidding, sorta

This is awesome! It's projects like this that keep the web fun!

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protium profile image
protium Author

That could be fun! I just need to figure out what information would make sense to show haha

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snikhill profile image
Nikhil Seth

To borrow and modify a lyric: "The older I get the more I realise" that it is the simple stuff and not complex ui that makes a portfolio success.

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dhanush9952 profile image
Dhanush • Edited on

commands not working in mobile browser?
..
Its working only in PC web browser.

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protium profile image
protium Author

Which browser? I only tried on my iphone with chrome.
But also I didn't plan support for mobile yet. Maybe it makes sense to at list rotate the screen ๐Ÿค”

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dhanush9952 profile image
Dhanush

Android with chrome. You have done it unique. I have not seen anything like this before. Keep up the good work. ๐Ÿ‘

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hammzj profile image
Zach Hamm

I've been looking to do the same thing for a while! This is awesome stuff. Really love this.

Also, I very much enjoyed how that exit command works ๐Ÿ˜‰

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protium profile image
protium Author

๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿป

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vardhiro profile image
Dhirodatto Biswas

Nice idea though but not working in my phone ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜“.

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protium profile image
protium Author

oh damn, which browser?

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vardhiro profile image
Dhirodatto Biswas

Chrome.....

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vulcanwm profile image
Medea

This is really cool!

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protium profile image
protium Author

thanks! โค๏ธ

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khuongduybui profile image
Duy K. Bui

hey I wanna report a serious bug! I ran the command "whoami" but got the output from "whoareyou" instead!!!

Nicely done my friend.

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protium profile image
protium Author

haha that was a dilemma to me. it makes sense to use whois but whoami is well known for printing information about current the user. in this case I changed the command description to current developer

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dinniej profile image
Nguyen Ngoc Dat

Pinned, will try to make one my own

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protium profile image
protium Author

Would love to see the results :D

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Very good execution

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protium profile image
protium Author

oh thanks Ben!

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anthonybrown profile image
Tony Brown

Thatโ€™s really cool

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jmau111 profile image
jmau111

pretty cool!

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Cool concept.

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zodman profile image
Andres ๐Ÿ in ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

good effort!

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snelson1 profile image
Sophia Nelson

Excellent read

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andresbecker profile image
Andres Becker

This is great inspiration for my own site

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protium profile image
protium Author

Really glad thatโ€™s the case!

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sakitkepala profile image
Andika Priyotama

Really cool! I feel inspired to get one ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

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milanobrtlik profile image
Milan Obrtlik

It's super cool!
For us, developers.

What about people not familiar with CLI? E.g. project managers, HR... You bring hard times to them really quickly :D

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protium profile image
protium Author

Actually this was also intended for them. I truly think recruiters should have a good grasp on the tech side

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akoshodi profile image
Akinwale Oshodi

Tab completion

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aaravrrrrrr profile image
Aarav Reddy

Nice post

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ismaestro profile image
Ismael Ramos

what happened?

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protium profile image
protium Author

maybe some github pages issue? I can see the site normally