Speaking UNIX: Man oh man
Jul 29, 2009, 14:32 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Martin Streicher)
"With seemingly countless commands available from the UNIX
command line—a quick, cursory accounting yields more than
1,500—and each of those with a raft of features, it's
impossible to remember every option, nuance, and permutation.
Worse, because the universe of UNIX commands evolved over a 40-year
period, there are few punctilios. For example, -l means "long
format" in ls, but other file-related utilities do not assign the
same meaning to the option, if that option is available at all.
Further, and ironically, some command-line programs support --help,
which prints a terse usage hint, but not all do. As powerful as the
command line is, the learning curve can be proportionally
"At least at first. Over time, like learning any skill, oft-used
command permutations become instinctual and part of muscle memory.
Moreover, depending on the shell you use, you can commit a
frequently used command-line combination to an alias or a shell
script, reducing the burden on your memory. Some shells also
maintain lengthy histories that persist previously used commands
session over session.
"Alas, memory fades and new challenges arise. To truly master
the command line, you can't fight the man. The man system, that is,
UNIX's built-in, online reference system. In fact, the UNIX
community has a longstanding mantra reserved for the most
confounding problems: "RTFM!" or "Read the frickin' man page!"