Garbage Collected Directories

September 3, 2013

“I wish all these temporary directories wouldn’t clutter my home directory.”

We are all familiar with directories cleverly named “tmp”, “test”, “whatever”, or “DELETE-ME”. These directories are usually created for short-lived experiments or to contain a “mess”.

For example: you download a package, untar/gunzip it, ./configure; make; make install. You start to play with what you installed and forget about the directory you’re leaving behind. That clutter will haunt you later.

I created a simple script to clean up after myself, I call it tad (__t__hrow-__a__way __d__irectory). The code is on Github, but here’s a snapshot:

tad() {
  local ts=$(date +%s)
  local d="$HOME/.throw-away/$ts"
  mkdir -p $d
  (cd $d; bash)
  rm -r $d
}

This creates a directory under $HOME/.throw-away, changes (cd) into it and launches a shell there. When the shell exits, the directory is deleted with all its content.

In practice, it means that I type tad and I’m in a sandbox. And when I exit the shell, the sandbox is gone and I’m back in the original directory from which I issued the command. This script is the formalization of something I used to do manually.

What does it mean to have garbage collection for directories?

It changes the way you work. I have had this script for quite some time: I use it all the time and keep finding new ways to use it. Not having to name the directory and not having to clean up frees me – those things are accidental complexity.

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