The Unix Haters' Handbook
slawmaster at gmail.com
Sat Apr 5 17:04:38 CDT 2008
On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 2:41 PM, Liam Proven <lproven at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm sure that the UHH is old news to folk hereabouts.
> When I was a baby geek, I remember reading about this seminal text, a
> distillation from a long-active mailing list called UNIX-HATERS. Now,
> it's available for free:
> (Yes, I know. Don't hold the URL against it.)
> It's a good & enjoyable read. I'm nearly at the end of it now.
> It's interesting to look back at this 1991 (-ish) book from the
> perspective of 2008. How many of the criticisms levelled against Unix
> were stuff that users of then-older OSs thought was deranged.
> Today, the same sort of rivalry exists between Unix and Windows
> people; the stuff before them is nearly forgotten now. I mean, I've
> been in this business for some 20y (and another 5-10y before that as a
> hobbyist) and I've never seen TOPS or MULTICS or ITS or anything like
> What I'm wondering is, how many of the criticisms levelled against
> Unix (and thus, by association, Linux) in this book from 17y ago are
> still current or valid today. I've been using Linux for 11-12y now,
> but I still regard myself as something of a beginner, whereas I've
> known Windows since it was 2 and can make it jump backwards through
> flaming hoops.
> A lot's changed. Hardware is much more homogeneous - a modern personal
> computer is either an IBM-compatible x86 box or something much like
> it; even later PowerPC Macs, Acorn-compatible RISC OS machines, Amiga
> clones and stuff like that are very PC-like in many ways. They use the
> same slots, buses, interfaces, RAM, disks and so on.
> The old problems that plagued Unix 1980s & 1990s Unix - incompatible
> keyboard layouts & terminal control codes, untrustworthy filesystems,
> lousy performance, all sorts of things - have gone away now,
> obliterated by advances in hardware and software design, increasing
> consolidation and standardization of the computer industry, and the
> simple progression of Moore's Law. Once, "Eight Megs And Constantly
> Swapping" was pejorative; now, an app that uses only 8MB is positively
> If you don't already know it, give it a read.
> I am not really a Linux expert - maybe a power user or competent
> sysadmin, at best. I do have lots of comparative OS knowledge, but
> most of it is of systems that came along long after Unix. I'd be
> really interested to know the thoughts of modern Unix gurus on how
> much of the criticism in the UHH is still valid today.
> Liam Proven • Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/liamproven
> Email: lproven at cix.co.uk • GMail/GoogleTalk/Orkut: lproven at gmail.com
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Some of them are still accurate. Others are a little outdated. Some,
and these are the ones that kinda annoy me, are the kind of complaints
that people come up with when they are unwilling to think outside of
their favored OS's techniques. I mean, the complaints about command
names? "rm" is not particularly intuitive, but good things require a
little learning. I admit that TOPS-XX and VMS did pretty good with the
ability to shorten command names, but "DELETE" is only one of several
possible commands a new user might try--"REMOVE", "JUNK", etc.
Complaints about how Unix is "silent" when there is no output--"grep"
returning nothing instead of saying "No matches" when there aren't any
matches--these are basically invalid. They're the kind of thing people
who don't use or understand pipes will say.
I don't feel like going through the document again and finding more things...
However, Unix is old. We should be looking elsewhere. Plan 9 is one of
the few non-Unix/non-Windows operating systems still in development
today; it breaks out of some of the old Unix ideas. I would much
rather see 10 new operating systems in active development than have
Unix/Linux/Windows take over the world.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
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