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Hardware One: How I Learned Linux - Part 3

Apr 11, 2000, 14:20 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by rhandeev)

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"And then I knew. I could never finish learning UNIX. It was like a huge playground, a world all by itself. Using the UNIX command line, you were forever the curious child exploring the woods, never having to grow up. Sometimes you would figure for hours how to achieve a certain result on the command line because it was simply too troublesome through other means; like renaming a whole bunch of files, or concatenating the first few lines of all the files in a directory tree, or transferring a partition of the harddisk across the network."

"You'd struggle with it, come up with a sub-optimal one-liner, and when you finally decided to go look at the man page for the associated commands you'd find that somebody had already thought of it before you, that command line switches already existed to do all the work for you, that if only you had read the manual, you could have done it with a fraction of the effort and in a fraction of the time, flexibly connecting different little commands together to form a bigger one that got the job done."

"I discovered that the UNIX command line was unlike any command line I had known. It was a creative discipline all by itself, where experienced users routinely created works of art. And I had begun to understand why the UNIX man pages are so tersely written. Without that kind of completeness and conciseness, it would certainly be easier to feed the kids, but it would be impossible to feed the teenagers. UNIX gave me a deep respect for good online documentation, a respect that I would later realize was critical to the volunteer software community that I was yet to discover."

"The guiding philosophies of UNIX -- small sharp tools, extreme modularity, layers, clean separation between user and kernel, among others -- had paid off handsomely, for decades proving the UNIX naysayers wrong. People would use the components of the system in ways that the original architects (or the naysayers) never intended, or perhaps even thought possible. And in a world of changing requirements and high software development cost, this flexibility was going to take or break one's software business."

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