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32BitsOnline: A [Book] Review of Unix Secrets

Feb 17, 2000, 23:06 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Christopher Murphy)


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"Back in this primordial elder time, the software was free and the operating systems were free and everyone shared everything with anyone who was even remotely curious. So, why were there secrets? It was kind of an accident, really. Printed documentation was sparse and, even then, the information it contained was hidden away in plain sight. The secrets, the words of power, were obscured by obfuscated technical language. Only your standard acolytes ever even bothered to seek out the documentation, as yet another of their rites of passage towards attaining guru status."

"But this is a different time and a different world. Today, mere mortals are bombarded with literally hundreds of books proclaiming to contain the knowledge of the ancients. One of these books is Unix Secrets, written by James C. Armstrong, Jr. It is 1106 pages long (excluding a comprehensive index and the complete text of the GNU General Public license) and nominally claims to be just such a tome of hidden knowledge. In reality, however, it is a relatively well-planned text prepared by a seasoned Unix veteran. It is positioned for intermediate-level UNIX users and attempts to move them towards an expert level of proficiency. In other words, it takes the view that intermediate users are well acquainted with a small to medium range of Unix tools, all of which are engineered to perform a single task very well. The text introduces new tools to the user, comparing and contrasting their usefulness to other more widely known or available toolsets. It then instructs users how to use their tools in concert with one another to perform complex tasks."

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