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Re: Unix philosophy under the gun?

From: Matthew Riechers
Subject: Re: Unix philosophy under the gun?
Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2001 08:52:27 -0400

Ralph Mack wrote:
> > No, I just believe in building tools that can work together and that
> > each do one job to the best of their ability....  If you want a tool
> > that slices and chops, but not dices, then you can write a little
> > program that hooks a slicing tool and a chopping tool together in the
> > way you find most desirable.
> > Please see:  "UNIX Style, or cat -v Considered Harmful", by Rob Pike;
> Greg,
> This requires you to take the time out from being a tool user to
> becoming a toolsmith, no?

I'll try not to get too 'religious'...

UNIX tends to blur users and developers together, which is a Good Thing
for developers :)

With it, you can approach problems very efficiently, but only if the
tools are interoperable, and that means they have to 'do one thing, and
do it well'.

> It means you have to take the time to become
> facile in the "glue" languages for your environment so you can whip
> things together as needed.

That glue is just pipes 90% of the time, and it allows for powerful
one-liners that take almost no time to write. Taking the time to learn
all these arcane tools that you can glue together will *increase*
productivity, but I agree that it takes serious interest and commitment,
and mostly time.

> The do-it-yourself philosophy common to Unix only works if software
> is your life, not just your job, and if your job affords you time
> to do something that doesn't directly drive aggressive delivery plans
> forward. Since I started in the eBusiness software vendor arena, I
> haven't personally met a professional software developer face to face
> who has the leisure to pursue this kind of approach on their day job.
> As it stands today, just about everything that you do with CVS aside
> from checkout, update, and commit to head requires a level of study
> and experimentation that is prohibitive for the kind of shops I am
> familiar with. I think I've now been through most of the learning curve
> but it took me a couple of months. Training time for busy people is
> measured in minutes or at worst hours.
> Ralph

CVS has a UNIX heritage -- you can take the CVS out of UNIX, but you
can't take the UNIX out of CVS.

If your approach CVS with only a non-UNIX mindset, you are effectively
going against the grain, and that makes it very hard to learn and use.
Whether this is a strength or weakness depends on the user and their
environment. Most non-UNIX systems try too hard to cram everything into
a pretty package that is complete, but totally incompatible with the
environment around it, and that leaves little room for the UNIX
philosophy. I believe that is a weakness.


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