[TUHS] How Unix brings people together, or it's a small world

ron minnich rminnich at gmail.com
Tue Feb 7 02:42:11 AEST 2017

On Sun, Feb 5, 2017 at 2:11 PM Dave Horsfall <dave at horsfall.org> wrote:

> Unix itself pretty much changed the world; without those two bods we'd all
> be running M$ Windoze, and believing that it's wonderful ('cuz Billy told
> us so).
> --

yes and no. Yes, because the ideas made it out. No, because, well ...

In 1976 or so bwk came to udel as we had just set up a Unix V6 at that

He gave a great talk. One example was looking up all the words in the
dictionary that could be created with the upside down characters form a
calculator (left as an exercise for the reader).

He ran a standard dictionary tool, and pointed out that
o it could not run in a pipe
o it had a prompt, meaning even if run in a pipe there'd be output we did
   not wan
o it was wordy, telling us "when it was compiled (like we care) ..."

I always loved that 'like we care" part.

he pointed out the core concept: small simple tools that do one thing well,
and that you compose with | operators.

What a long strange trip it's been. Lots of commands are now little shells:
git --help
go help
bash --help

and many interns I now work with are astonished when I point out that bash
can be part of a processing pipeline.

Further, back then, processes were cheap. You used them and tossed them. I
saw a talk a few years back about why you should use i3 instead of wmii;
one reason was that starting processes was so expensive that i3 did things
much faster (this is actually true now; people tell me all the time how
expensive it is to start a process).

Why are process slow to start?
LD_DEBUG=all date
strace date and count the system calls

"modern" software techniques have completely forgotten all the lessons of
Unix. It's been sad to watch. Linux today is much more like the systems
Unix displaced than it is like Unix. So, yes, the world changed, but not as
much as we might think. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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