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On my Ubuntu systems, bin/open is symlinked to openvt. I'm not sure what this program does, but I'd like to delete the symlink and symlink or alias open to gnome-open. Is this safe to do?

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A modified symlink is likely to get redone by an update at some point. An alias or a wrapper script earlier in your PATH should be perfectly safe.

For your information, openvt runs a command on the first available virtual terminal. If you're not using it, you're not likely to need it and the system doesn't depend on it as far as I know.

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