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As promised, some thoughts on the History section of the Art of UNIX

First, off the obvious - there's just way too much RMS-bitching and
self-evangelisation. While I may think that RMS is obsessive and does
some things that work out negatively, he clearly has brought an awful
lot of unixy stuff to where it is today - without him there wouldn't
be a GNU/Linux, in my opinion. The kernel's not a whole world of use
without the crap around it.

Now I may be mistaken, but I thought that RMS started his crusade over
a print driver. No mention is made of this in the book. Hmmm. I'm
probably mistaken.

He takes massive opportunities to promote himself, for eg pointing
out that he wrote the CATB, and so far he's the only person in the whole
wide world to come up with a coherent argument for the fact that I,
Chunky Kibbles, like open source software. He also slips in other
references that, if someone makes the effort to look stuff up, will also
lead back to him - the whole open-sourcing-of-mozilla thing immediately
springs to mind. In CATB, he explicitly points out that was his
doing. Here, it's more of a hint that you need to look up... to find
out it was his doing.

He comes up with a list of things that you could do to create an
anti-unix. This, in and of itself, isn't too bad. But I don't like the
single-minded approach that an anti-unix is a Bad Thing.

You know... a lot of people just don't want a unix. For a variety of
reasons, they don't like unices. I have several friends who, having had
sufficient experience with both unices and NT, have chosen NT. Not my
choice, but whatever.

The implication just seems to be that if it's not unix, it
sucks. Personally, it's my humble opinion that he's mostly right. But
that's based on my own experience and requirements.

With the exceptions of Apple [notably, the Interface guidelines and
another point I'm going to come to] and Be [as an academic interest
and a toy, not a real OS], he simply never claims that any other OS
has any merits, Which just seems narrow-minded.

The book is not presenting a fair and unbiased opinion on this topic.

Throughout the whole history, it seems that Linux takes up half of
it. That Linux was the first truly uniting force to create a proper unix
[after the first, which he implies was never popular enough to become
a force in and of itself, and lost all interest when it became commercial].

It seems that, according to him, unix was badly fragmenting for the whole
period of time between the original AT&T/MIT commercialisation up until
the advent of a working Linux kernel, 92-93.

Well, goddammit. Make your mind up. Is unix a thing that you can rely
on between vendors, systems, platforms, etc, etc, that everything is a
variant on a single theme, and that unix is a Good Thing?
Or is it a stupid, fragmented, non-portable system that Sun, DEC, HP, and
IBM all conspired apart to try and destroy in the interests of creating
a commercial, different, OS? If it is, then 25 years of unix's 35-year
history gathers together to make something that's not unix. Something
just doesn't gel, in my head.

He also seems to contradict himself. Metadata on files and elseplaces
in the OS is a good thing or a bad thing, take your pick. But please,
pick one.

According to my reading of this book, Metadata is cool when it's extended
attributes in Linux 2.5, or your filesystem is a database when you're on
Be. Metadata in the form of a registry [or anything else NT uses] blows,
and we're all pretty ambivalent about Mac's Resource Forks. I understand
these are all different things, but in the book they're all linked under
the nebulous idea of metadata.

Make your damn mind up.

Of course, if you're reading this particular book, I'm guessing that
you either side with his rantings, don't care about them, or are against
them. Any of these ways, it's a bit like me sounding off about whatever
I usually sound off about in #i.o - no-one's actually basing their
judgement on it alone, and if they are, they shouldn't be.

Finally, a quote from someone's slashdot .sig:

For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion:
  Write Your Own Damn Code.

Just made me laugh.


Forgot to mention two books:
Sidney Sheldon's "The Sky is Falling". Thorough mindless trash. I read it
in about two hours on the airplane, as time-fodder. The story was good
all the way through, as I've come to expect from him, but the ending
simply cleaned up one loose end. Just one.
And there were many many ends that weren't cleaned up. The book kinda
just stopped. c.f. Eaters of the Dead.

The other book, actually the first one I read this holday, was
incredible. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold. It's written from the perspective
of a girl who's killed, rather unpleasantly, while she's still really
young. I'm happy to confess that I'm a complete wuss and that violence
doesn't really do it for me. I nearly put the book down at the end of the
first chapter, but since it was apparent the rest of the book wouldn't
be like that, I carried on.

The whole book is written from her perspective, sitting up in Heaven. As
it goes, once you die and go there. From there, she can do pretty much
whatever she pleases, except go back. Including reading people's minds
and instantly knowing what's going on wherever she wants. Normally my
mind rebels and simply refuses to accept stuff like that, but this was
written in a way that just never seemed a problem to me. And I REALLY
enjoyed this book. It's about how a bunch of people deal with a little
girl's death. And for anyone who reads it, Ruthie can be my new hero.

Currently, I'm reading "Survivor" by Chuck Palahniuk,
Something-not-yet-published by Gwyneth Jones [but I need to read it's
predecessor first - I simply don't understand a lot of it, clearly
because it's a continuation], and the Art of UNIX Programming.

Look forward to a bitchy review of the History section of ESR's book
when I remember to bring my notes with me. I've not yet started the
technical bits, but so far there's been an awful lot of RMS-bashing and
self-masturbation, pretty much everything you'd expect from ESR.


I just read "The Reader" today, by Bernard Schlink, or however-you-spell-it.

Fantastic book.

I really enjoyed the whole affair parts of it. The romantic interest,
all that. But the whole thing where it's a book about the holocaust is
a problem for me.

See, I always hated history. And if I hate something, you can be assured
I will go out of my way not to learn it, even if it's an interesting thing
[I mostly hated it because I was forced to do it, IIRC]. So I'm reading
this book, and I didn't:
1) know much about this before I started
2) grow up in Germany

It's really hard for me to grasp a lot of the finer
Germany-and-or-Holocaust parts of the book, because he spends a lot of
time alluding to, floating generally around, and pretty much avoiding
the exact topic he's talking about. If you know stuff about it, then
I'm sure that he's putting an incredible spin on the whole thing,
and extracting new-and-unexperienced emotions from the astute reader.

I, being the backward an uneducated sod that I am, simply didn't grasp
the finer points of the Germany-related stuff, or of what I'm sure were
parallels between the long-running affair and the Holocaust.

Even after all that, it was a fantastic book. I really recommend that
anyone who gets much in the way of reading done reads this.

His other book I've read, "Flights of Love", is also fantastic.

Other books I've read this holiday include "Prey" by Michael Crichton,
and "Dead Air" by Iain Banks.

You know, I never realise quite what a depth there is to Michael
Crichton's books until I see the movie and am so offensively
disappointed. All of his books I've ever read, with the exception of the
Great Train Robbery, I've been able to blast through in a couple of hours
[three at the outside] the first time, and about an hour and a half the
second and subsequent times. Doesn't ever seem like long enough to really
get some good content in. I always really enjoy the book, but after I've
read it I've never felt I read what might qualify as a truly great piece
of writing or a literary classic. Great read, good fun, fabulous stories.

The Great Train Robbery was written in a different style, for good reason
[just read it]

Just by the way: Congo, Jurassic Park [/et al/], Sphere, TimeLine, Great
Train Robbery, Eaters of the Dead [the movie "The Thirteenth Warrior"],
Andromeda Strain, and probably others - all really good reading, and
completely disappointing movies. Notably, the Eaters of the Dead, which
missed out the WHOLE point of the book, IMHO. But also the rest for just
losing out all depth.

"Prey" was a really good read. I recommend that one. Hope they don't
turn it into a movie, because whoever does it will undoubtedly overdo
the special effects and give completely the wrong impression of the
intelligence of the swarm. But that's just my humble opinion, having
read every other one of his books, and watched all the movies where
they're availble.

And now for the disappointment. I hate to say it, but I didn't get a
whole lot out of "Dead Air". Usually Iain Bank's books [and most of his
SF stuff, under Iain M Banks], is really good all the way through. In
fact, his book "The Bridge" is possibly one of my favorite books ever,
with pretty much all of his others high up in my list.

Dead Air has a really good ending. It's gripping for about the last 3 or
4 chapters, had me completely sitting on the edge of my proverbial seat,
for the 15 mins it took me to read them.
Unfortunately, the build up was easy reading but generally dull. Some
guy, who spends a lot of time talking on the radio, having various
bits of illicit sex, and doing drugs. Oh - and does it with a Scottish
accent. Woohoo.

Worth reading for the ending, I guess, but since his
ending-to-end-all-endings in the "Wasp Factory" [incredibly
good book. Seemed humdrum until you got to the end the first time,
and suddenly everything changes], I've been vaguely disappointed with
the endings of many other books.

When this .plan was written: 2004-01-08 14:32:54
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