Nixers Book Club - Book #4: The Art of UNIX Programming - Community & Forums Related Discussions

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phillbush
Long time nixers
As proposed here the next book of the Nixer's Book Club is gonna be «The Art of UNIX Programming».

[Image: The_Art_of_Unix_Programming.jpg]

Quoting from Wikipedia:
Quote:The Art of Unix Programming by Eric S. Raymond is a book about the history and culture of Unix programming from its earliest days in 1969 to 2003 when it was published, covering both genetic derivations such as BSD and conceptual ones such as Linux.

The author utilizes a comparative approach to explaining Unix by contrasting it to other operating systems including desktop-oriented ones such as Microsoft Windows and the classic Mac OS to ones with research roots such as EROS and Plan 9 from Bell Labs. The book was published by Addison-Wesley, September 17, 2003, ISBN 0-13-142901-9 and is also available online, under a Creative Commons license with additional clauses.

The book is online for free here (just follow the links).

Some chapters are really long, others are not. I think we can do 1 to 2 chapters per week.
As usual, our sessions will take place on Saturdays.
Our first session will be May, 8 (in two weeks), when we will discuss the first two chapters.
See you then!
venam
Administrators
Oups posted in advance
Chapter 1 and 2 are about the underlying philosophy and culture of the
Unix movement.

In my opinion, from the reading these two lines sum it up really well:

"Mechanism, not policy"
"Unix + Fun hacker culture + open source movement, community-building devices"

I really like the way this is written, a bit distanced from the topic
to be able to look at it from all sides. A middle-way.
No heavy partisanship or tribal writing, and seeing the positive and
negative aspects of the different ideas and ways of perceiving things.

The mechanism, not policy, reminds me of the last book we read, the
Wayland book, which took this to a next level with only having the
protocol defined.
The same goes for PipeWire, for those who have gotten into it.


Quote:And a vicious circle operates; the competition thinks it has to compete with chrome by adding more chrome.

I've shared that one on IRC, because when taken out of context today
that sentence is super funny.

Even McIlroy was unto it.

Quote:The original HTML documents recommended “be generous in what you accept”, and it has bedeviled us ever since because each browser accepts a different superset of the specifications. It is the specifications that should be generous, not their interpretation.

-- Doug McIlroy

McIlroy adjures us to design for generosity rather than compensating for inadequate standards with permissive implementations. Otherwise, as he rightly points out, it's all too easy to end up in tag soup.

Another sentence that caught my attention and which we should reconsider
today with all the tech-paparazzi, drama, absolutism, and purism
happening:

Quote:If someone has already solved a problem once, don't let pride or politics suck you into solving it a second time rather than re-using. And never work harder than you have to; work smarter instead, and save the extra effort for when you need it. Lean on your tools and automate everything you can.

Torvalds's cheerful pragmatism and adept but low-key style catalyzed an astonishing string of victories for the hacker culture in the years 1993–1997,
Against purists and absolutists.

The history chapters are written sort of like a sci-fi, à la Star Wars trilogy.
That resonates well in creating a kind of folkloric aspect to the topic.

The writing was advanced for its time, predicting that open source could
be used as a marketing tool, a brand of differentiation.


Quote:The other (and more important) intention behind “open source” was to present the hacker community's methods to the rest of the world (especially the business mainstream) in a more market-friendly, less confrontational way.

The open-source movement is winning by commoditizing software. To prosper, Unix needs to maintain the knack of co-opting the cheap plastic solution rather than trying to fight it.

This reminds of of all the cheap boards that are getting sold today,
these could be the new "personal devices" of tomorrow. Or to stay closer
to reality: mobile phones.

Overall, nice setup and writing style, with a good tone.
Lots of cultural anecdotes and historical trivia in the first chapters,
but it's good to review them in retrospect. Personally, I like that way
of describing things.
ckester
Members
(26-04-2021, 06:22 PM)phillbush Wrote: Our first session will be May, 8 (in two weeks), when we will discuss the first two chapters.
See you there!

Where is "there"? Is the discussion on the IRC channel?
phillbush
Long time nixers
(01-05-2021, 04:53 PM)ckester Wrote: Where is "there"? Is the discussion on the IRC channel?
Sorry, I meant "see you then"/at that time.
The discussion will be here, on this thread.
ckester
Members
OK, got it. Pulling my copy off the shelf for some after-dinner reading.