[TUHS] Another "craft" discussion topic - mindless tool proliferation

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Thu Sep 21 04:15:01 AEST 2017

I fear this thread drifted from Jon's point about improving a tool, instead
of replacing it.

On Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 1:01 PM, Jon Steinhart <jon at fourwinds.com> wrote:

> OK, here's another one that's good for chest thumping...
> I am not a fan of texinfo.  It doesn't provide any benefits (to me) over
> man.

​To me this was just rms trying to inflict ITS/emacs on Unix.  Lars points
out info is just ITS format, the tool is just emacs commands.

The key was that here was a case where the UNIX solution (man) was
perfectly reasonable, worked very well.   But it was not the likely and in
the right flavor of rms.


> This is a systemic problem.  I have a section in my book-in-progress where
> I
> talk about being a "good programming citizen".  One of the things that I
> say
> is:
>     Often there is a tool that does most of what you need but is lacking
>     some feature or other.  Add that feature to the existing tool;
>     don't just write a new one.  The problem with writing a new one
>     is that, as a tool user, you end up having to learn a lot of tools
>     that perform essentially the same function.  It's a waste of time
>     an energy.  A good example is the make utility (invented by Stuart
>     Feldman at Bell Labs in 1976) that is used to build large software
>     packages.  As time went on, new features were needed.  Some were
>     added to make, but many other incompatible utilities were created that
>     performed similar functions.  Don't create burdens for others.
>     Improve existing tools if possible.

​Which is exactly your point.   I think you are spot on here.  Instead of
rms trying to learn to use Unix the way, he inflicted the ITS/emacs way
because he thought it was ``better.''   Which is a tad arrogant.​

I have noted that the folks that don't mind and/or like info, are regular
emacs users.

Someone like me, who can use emacs, but does not find it the only thing (I
could switch between RPN - HP style and algebraic - TI calculators too),
just find texinfo to be an annoyance.  It's different and one extra place
to look.  As Jon said, it does not provide any benefits and in fact is a
detraction because it means the standard Unix tools like apropros does not
index it.

Larry has right idea, with his webroff.  Make html when it is appropriate
I also think, man pages are man pages and not user manuals.   The Perl
example was classic.   We did not learn C from the man page.   What we got
in the C man page was how to run it.  There was a manual (doc) for the
language.   That should have been a manual (in -ms macros) and then run
through Larry's webroff and properly indexed.

Then you get everything.

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