Nixers Book Club - Book #2: The UNIX-HATERS Handbook - Community & Forums Related Discussions

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The books is hilarious from the get go, halfway between serious rants and poetic prose.
It shows that you aren't alone in your pain with a unix system.

Quote:To Ken and Dennis, without whom this book would not have been possible.
Quote:Why would you spend so much time and effort writing about what you hate if you didn't secretly love it.
Quote:No Gulag or lice, just a future whose intellectual tone and interaction style is set by Sonic the Hedgehog.

So far Ritchie is right, all metaphors, jealousy, emotions, nagging, and not many solutions.

The tone of the first 3 chapter is more or less similar, namely "It's horrible, but there's really nothing better for now", "The best of the worst".
Quote:Unix survives only because everyone else has done so badly.

There's a definite emphasis and contrast on one side with a rosy retrospection, how the past was perfect and solid.
While on the other side, there's also a feeling that Unix is stuck in time and doesn't move on, isn't made for machines of the future.
Quote:Why didn't we learn the lesson from it and move forward?

There are lot of mini-stories about bugs or issues happening to random users. Some of them are relevant today, some aren't.

Sun machines seemed to have been missing a good debugger. ELF was probably not there at the time.
There's a nostalgia about LISP machines and how they don't require thinking about memory management.

I really like one of the author's other book "The Design of Everyday Things", Donald Norman, which has a focus on how instinctive and intuitive interfaces are.

Chapter 1 tries to compare Unix with computer viruses. I don't find that metaphor really powerful when you have a bit of knowledge in the field of evolutionary biology — this applies to any living entity or even ideas (memes anyone).

I love how the author describe Unix as having been written on a whim to be able to play Space Travel.

There are a lot of complaints that aren't really valid today:
- Reliability
- Memory mapped files
- Better command line with completion
- Debuggers
- Standardization (more or less)

And funny remembrance of the Unix war and name battle:
  • AIX is Unix from IBM
  • A/UX is Unix from Apple.
  • They’re both AT&T System V with gratuitous changes.
  • Then there’s HP-UX which is HP’s version of System V with gratuitous changes.
  • DEC calls its system ULTRIX.
  • DGUX is Data General’s.
  • And don’t forget Xenix—that’s from SCO.
  • Initially everyone wanted to call themselves Unix but it got trademarked by AT&T.

It's true that there's a myth of Unix being a standard systems.

Quote:This notion of standards breaks down when applied to software systems. What sort of specification does a version of Unix satisfy? POSIX? X/Open? CORBA? There is so much wiggle room in these standards as to make the idea that a company might have liability for not following them ludicrous to ponder. Indeed, everybody follows these self-designed standards, yet none of the product s are compatible.
You always have to mention CORBA when you mention bad stuff >_<

Chapter 2 is about first impressions, the interface to the system and how archaic it is. Obviously, everyone knows that part.
The naming conventions are cryptic and they stay the same way for backward compatibility. Which leads to lack of consistency and confusion from users. There's also no way to directly distinguish between shell built-in and commands.
And you're left wondering if shell built-in should have their own documentation or not.

There's a lot of complaints about `rm` and glob being dangerous.
Basically the whole system choosing to put the responsibility on the user. Be it for the worse or the best.

There's a good section about special characters in filename and how they get intermixed with arguments.

Last, for a really good time, try this:
% cat - - -
(Hint: press ctrl-D three times to get your prompt back!)

The authors pose a really good point about documentation having an out of date format and not being enough for today. It's true that, also according to them, the best way to learn is through oral stories and anecdotes. Or even by having source code as documentation (that you might even have to steal for that)

Hey maybe nixers could be a provider of unix gurus!
Quote:- Obtaining & maintaining a personal UNIX guru
- feeding your guru
- keeping your guru happy
- the importance of full news feeds
- why your guru needs the fastest machine available
- free Coke: the elixir of your guru’s
- life maintaining your guru’s health
- when DO they sleep?

The concept of Unix not having evolve and stayed in the past come up again all the time:
Quote:The Unix documentation was so concise that you could read it all in an afternoon.

Overall, the first few chapters set the tone: Unix is stuck in the past, we're stuck in the past of the past, and we'd like to jump to a future we don't know but we'll point out all the faults of the present.

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RE: Nixers Book Club - Book #2: The UNIX-HATERS Handbook - by venam - 30-01-2021, 10:10 AM