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Re: Unix philosophy under the gun?

From: David Fuller
Subject: Re: Unix philosophy under the gun?
Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2001 10:26:14 -0400

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

Ah, but this is not necessarily a Good Thing for businesses.  A business
may not be able to afford to let their developers take the time to build
the glue they need.  Which is why "the whole package and a pickle too"
is becoming more popular.  I've been looking at using CVS at my company,
and have some projects working in it.  But to roll it out for our whole
department isn't likely to happen because it would take our developers
time to get all those 'glue' pieces in place.  We ran some sample
numbers and it would likely cost us more in the long run to use CVS than
some $1000/seat software because of all the glue we would need.

> 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'.

Or, it means that the tools have to be built to be modular and easily
extensible.  Look at Apache.  Check out the list of modules for Apache. 
Apache does HTTP well, but with all the modules available for it Apache
has become much more.

> 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.

It takes serious interest and commitment to learn how to glue those
things together.  Then you have the problem of maintainability.  If you
have to build those glue pieces in house that also means you have to
maintain them in house.

> 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.

I will agree that incompatibility with the environment around you is a
Bad Thing.  But the cost of 'gluing' CVS together with other things is
prohibitive.  And the training costs of CVS are equally prohibitive. 
Many people who would like to use an Open Source version control tool
come from the non UNIX mindset, and will have difficulty because, as you
say, they are 'effectively going against the grain'.  For die-hard UNIX
people this isn't such a bad thing.  But for the rest of the world...

-- David F.

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