The Unix Haters Handbook - Other *nix-like OSes
Steph
Hey gang,

Just sharing something I was reading, I'd be very interested in some of the rebuttals and thoughts that you would have!

It's a (lengthy) PDF for a book called the Unix Haters Handbook, which enumerates many of the authors complaints and qualms with Unix.


The full pdf is available:

http://web.mit.edu/~simsong/www/ugh.pdf
zge
I've also been reading this on-and-off over the last month. A different perspective is always interesting, especially when most of us are so used to the unix perspective. AFAIK, most of the specific complaints aren't that relevant anymore, but many of the fundamental points still stand. I

'm not that far in, so I can't really say any more, but it's most certainly a fun read that I can recommend to anyone interested in Unix.
venam
It's been a long time since I've skimmed through that book.

The book is kinda purposefully made in a fun way, riddled with ton of metaphors to make it seem more infuriating than it really is.

The author is a LISP machine enthusiast, the kind of people that would want to replace all shells with LISP or Haskell. Not that it's bad but it's kind of niche. And at the same time the author also wants the system to be user friendly. Ironic, maybe?

Here's a bunch of things that are discussed that I find worth commenting on:

The book was published right before the consortium leading to POSIX, so the author could really nag on Unix standards and Unix wars. Nowadays we have them and they are pretty strong, though every flavor of Unix-like OSs adds things to differ in what they do best but that doesn't negate the standards.

A common theme of the book is legacy. Yes, this is the thing to hate the most about Unix, but it's also the thing to hate the most about any big project that span over time. You can't always drop backward compatibility, some projects today are doing that really fast and everyone is nagging when things break.

Lots of tools and utilities have different and inconsistent syntax because of it, there's some annoying inconsistency.
The shell scripting language too is full of legacy and weird quirks. The shell is a powerful and flexible tool nevertheless, it's kind of intuitive for simple tasks. Let's also mention the different shell implementations, the shell medley or "shell game" as the author calls it. There's also no man page for shell built-ins.

There's a whole section about rm... which is irrelevant, there are plenty of solutions to that.

The worst of all for me is the legacy of the terminal, which you can't avoid. X too isn't that bad but it's still full of legacy, but we're slowly (very slowly) moving towards Wayland.

The author spends a chapter on system administration. Today it has become way easier with ton of automated solutions like puppet coming out, and logging and monitoring systems, and volume management (sometimes coming with sweet new filesystems) and RAIDs or backups, etc..

Security too has improved with the advent of service oriented softwares. Things like jailing/containerization, lots of good ideas coming around in the last few years in a lot of Unix-like systems. There's still some legacy there but it's coming around.
jkl
Quote:The author is a LISP machine enthusiast, the kind of people that would want to replace all shells with LISP or Haskell. Not that it's bad but it's kind of niche.

So is Unix. ;-)

Note that the book (in which the preface is wrong: Unix was designed for the PDP-7, not for the PDP-11...) is from 1994, so things have changed a lot. Lisp machines are still around (at least GNU Emacs which is a virtualized Lisp machine is) - and the largest group of today's Unix haters are probably Linux users as Linux is deliberately violating many of Unix's principles (and has gradually been killing every effort to improve Unix; I would even conclude that the rise of Linux has left Plan 9 to rot).




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