unix / linux: June 2009 Archives

Woke at midnight .. to a disturbing dream. (Didn't get back to sleep 'til 3:30.) Like any artist familiar with affliction, I didn't wanna let good angst go to waste. So I fired up the laptop and resumed my study of the UNIX shell.

The Art of Unix ProgrammingSomewhere 'round 2AM I stumbled upon » The Art of Unix Programmingbook at Amazon.com), by Eric Steven Raymond. (Tho I can't recall how I got there.) He's the guy who wrote How to Become a Hacker, which I quote from time to time.

In his treatment of Unix Programming, ESR uses words like culture & philosophy .. which caught my attention .. cuz I've always been fascinated by other cultures .. not so much for the better/worse comparative aspects, but rather for the mind-expanding effect one gets from truly seeing the world from another's perspective. Plus he writes well (or has a good editor), which I appreciate. Couldn't stop reading.

Here are 10 statements/ideas I found particularly interesting and revealing. Perhaps you might also. (Minor Rad editing for brevity.)

  • Unix was born in 1969. That's several geologic eras by computer-industry standards -- older than the PC or workstations or microprocessors or even video display terminals.

  • Few software technologies have proved durable enough to evolve strong technical cultures, transmitted across generations of engineers. Unix is one. The Internet is another. Arguably they're one and the same.

  • Unix has supported more computing than all other systems combined. It has found use on a wider variety of machines than any other operating system - from supercomputers to handhelds & embedded networking hardware, through workstations & servers, PCs & minicomputers. In its present avatars as Linux, BSD, MacOS X & a half-dozen other variants, Unix today seems stronger than ever.

  • Unix's durability & adaptability have been astonishing. Other technologies come and go like mayflies. Machines have increased in power a thousandfold, languages have mutated, industry practice has gone through multiple revolutions. Still, Unix hangs in there, producing, paying the bills, and commanding loyalty from the best and brightest software minds on the planet.

Been learning the UNIX Shell, which uses a command-line interface (from a terminal) .. something I've wanted to do ever since we upgraded to the Virtual Private Server last year. (Linux is a variant of UNIX.)

Linux shell terminalEven basic knowledge of (how to use) the Linux command line makes life administering a VPS much easier.

The Shell is simply a program that allows users (like me) to interact with the operating system (sometimes termed the 'kernel'). It can be conceived of as a 'layer' sitting between you and the operating system .. hence the term » shell.

Several shells exist, but nearly all Linux distributions come with » bash (Bourne Again Shell) .. cuz it's free, powerful and easy to use.

On my laptop I have installed a copy of Ubuntu Linux that I use to learn the shell (practice). Before jumping into learning the Shell, I figured this was a good time to upgrade my 'installation' of Ubuntu .. to the latest release (» v9.04, 'Jaunty Jackalope').

So I downloaded » this virtual machine (1.1 gig, using uTorrent). Had trouble getting it connected to the Internet, but that was due to my own inexperience with VMware, and not due to any short-comings of Ubuntu.

Anyway, I am really digging learning the Shell, cuz it's something I can use right away. For example, yesterday I upgraded the blogging software we use here at Radified (Movable Type) to the latest version (» 4.26). Something that used to take hours to accomplish was done in minutes .. (using a series of Shell commands). Beautiful.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the unix / linux category from June 2009.

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