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Thread: The Unix Way

  1. #1
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    The Unix Way

    Crap! I am thinking, more and more, that Linux distros are forgetting the whole Unix philosophy. Maybe I should start looking at the *BSDs...

  2. #2

    Re:The Unix Way

    why is that cga?

  3. #3
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Re:The Unix Way

    Oh, I am in bad mood...

    I just think that sometimes there seems to way too much effort to make Linux desktops become clones of MS Windows as in big complex GUIs and monolithic office applications instead of trying to present superior alternatives based on true open standards and the Unix Philosophy of small, powerful, interoperable programs.

    Anyway, I'm better now. ;D

  4. #4

    Re:The Unix Way

    yea - i know what you mean about trying to look like MS windows - and about being in a bad mood!

    i moved my thingy to close a window from the left upper corner to in in from the right on right corner because it reminded me too much of MS crap.

  5. #5

    Re:The Unix Way

    Unfortunatly, I think your right. Alot of projects have their main thrust to clone the interface of Windows or WinXP. Others want to make it run like Windows (startup to default user auto login) and it really drives me nuts.

    But then again the Longhorn screenshots look like KDE+Enlightenment!

  6. #6

    Re:The Unix Way

    [quote author=cga link=board=7;threadid=6588;start=0#62018 date=1047740319]
    Oh, I am in bad mood...

    I just think that sometimes there seems to way too much effort to make Linux desktops become clones of MS Windows as in big complex GUIs and monolithic office applications instead of trying to present superior alternatives based on true open standards and the Unix Philosophy of small, powerful, interoperable programs.

    Anyway, I'm better now. ;D
    [/quote]

    Two words: Gn...ome.

    Really the entire desktop is a series of interacting binaries, and virtually anything can be swapped. Don't like metacity? Change the WM. Don't like nautilus? Change the file browser. Really the only thing that can't be changed is GTK2.

    On an unrelated note, I don't see anything wrong with imitating some of the things that MS has done right. Their user interface for XP is on par with OSX as far as usability goes. I know a lot of people don't like it and think it's ugly, but really once you use it for a while you begin to realize that MS has done their homework as far as usability and aesthetics go. I know a lot of people here are set in their ways because they know a particular environment inside-out, but seriously if you sit totally new users down in front of XP and Fluxbox, I'm willing to bet they'd have a much easier time with XP.

    Linux has gained a lot from watching other OSes and mimicking them. The entire component model used in Gnome (and KParts in KDE) was ripped from either Win9x or MacOS most likely (no proof here, but the concepts were implemented in Win9x looooooong before KDE and Gnome existed). Now I'm all for keeping a GUI usable and not cluttering it or making it bloated, but really the ability to drag a file from my desktop onto an email message and have it automatically attach saves me some time and makes me more efficient. I like being able to copy files and paste them as embedded objects. No, I don't believe that free desktops should aspire to become XP/Longhorn, nor OSX.x. However, if someone else has a good idea, it would be counterproductive not to implement it.

    Final unrelated issue. I see a lot of people here who are for big monolithic office suites like MS Office, Star Office, and OOo. I also see a lot of people who are against them. I myself really like my office suite...be it MS Office or OOo (I use both about equally), it allows me to get things done really rapidly. Setting up a table is as easy as dragging the mouse. Importing objects takes mere seconds. Graphing functions takes about 15 seconds to make it look professional. Those who oppose office suites tend to gravitate towards smaller apps that interoperate (LaTeX, et all). Now I looked into using these applications a while back, but the learning curve seemed to be steeper than that of Vim, and honestly if I have a fully-featured office suite at my disposal then I don't really see the point in learning these other utilities. cga: you called these smaller interoperable components "superior." Could you explain why? I'd like to hear both sides of the argument. Maybe I'm just playing the devil's advocate, or maybe I'm just WAY too bored at work, but I'm really interested to hear the reasoning behind these philosophies that everyone seems to hold.

  7. #7
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    Re:The Unix Way

    Remember that Linux is about choice. If some distros want to become M$ look-alikes and fill that market niche, what does it matter as long as it frees some people from M$? Because those people will have had a relatively easy entry into Linux, they might get curious about the leaner distros and begin learning the ways of Unix and Linux. If not, they are still using Linux! There are many distros and apps for those who want to have a leaner Linux box.

  8. #8

    Re:The Unix Way

    Debian is still very UNIXy, but offers a wide array of tools that are very useful.

    Debian si teh win!!!~

  9. #9
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Re:The Unix Way

    [quote author=Tyr_7BE link=board=7;threadid=6588;start=0#62192 date=1048023856]

    I don't see anything wrong with imitating some of the things that MS has done right.
    [/quote]

    Well, first off, lets backup there a bit. I never meant anything about the "look" of MS Windows. In fact, if you've followed much of my past posting, you'll find that I have often praised the design of the MS GUI, at least the one from Windows 95.

    Those who oppose office suites tend to gravitate towards smaller apps that interoperate (LaTeX, et all). Now I looked into using these applications a while back, but the learning curve seemed to be steeper than that of Vim, and honestly if I have a fully-featured office suite at my disposal then I don't really see the point in learning these other utilities. cga: you called these smaller interoperable components "superior." Could you explain why? I'd like to hear both sides of the argument. Maybe I'm just playing the devil's advocate, or maybe I'm just WAY too bored at work, but I'm really interested to hear the reasoning behind these philosophies that everyone seems to hold.
    My concerns and complaints about copying MS (aside from their despicable business practices) has to do with the bloat-ware, monolithic, mega-app approach to doing things and, in the process, making simple tasks overly complex.

    The Unix Philosophy is based on the idea that small is beautiful. Small programs are fast, efficient, easy to learn and reliable. A small program is much more bug-free than bloat-ware simply because there's just not enough code to have a lot of bugs in it. Small programs don't gobble up system resources by trying to contain every single feature imaginable. The Unix Way is to build a program to do a task, to do that task very well and to keep the size of the program as small as possible while still fulfilling its purpose.

    Small programs can't do a whole lot on their own, however, so that's where the next key element in the Unix Way comes to play, which is to make the programs interoperable. Make it so that you can hand off the output of each program to the input of other programs. Pipes and filters are the core of the Unix Way. One of the reasons why Unix is so keen on plain text files is that they are easy to manipulate with pipes and filters so that you get a kind of streaming or flowing environment in which data is shaped and molded as needed.

    Small, interoperable programs also mean that you can re-use stuff. Take Ispell, for example. Why does each application have to include spell checking code and dictionaries when a central system dictionary can be used and, therefore, text can be passed out to a special program designed for the specific task of spell checking text? One of the most mind-bogglingly asinine things about MS Windows is the fact that the OS has *no* dictionary or spell check apps- such stuff is left to monolithic bloat-ware apps which have to be able to handle secret, proprietary document formats.

    So, in the case of LaTeX, you can use a simple text editor of your choice- anything from Pico to Emacs, to enter you text source file. Yes, you need to learn the markup codes, but they are very simple and many easy, free references abound. Plus, you can setup macros in most text editors to make the process easier. Once you enter your LaTeX source, you run it through the LaTeX program and get a nice output file, properly type-set for you following professional type-setting standards and using professional fonts. That output file can be turned to postscript for printing, PDF, plain text or even HTML.

    WYSIWYG word processors can not come *close* to matching the output of LaTeX. Take for instance your table example- you can click a few things with the mouse and spit out a table in no time, you say. Sure, that is true. But try and get that table positioned properly in a document, with proper page breaks, table numbers and appropriate entries in the table-of-contents. I fight this fight at work in MS Word every day. It sucks. Yet with LaTeX, all that is done for you. Yes, learning to markup the input file is not as easy as "click, click, clickety click", but the end result looks better and takes far less time than fighting with Word. Plus, you get documents that are consistent, precise and professional. Trust me, LaTeX knows much more about proper document structure than you or I or Mr. "Gee, let's see how many different fonts I can use in this document".

    Hunting through menus and dialogs in Word to do WYSIWYG formatting in order to make the document look presentable, is another pain. With LaTeX you just type in your text and markup in a simple editor and hand it off to the type-setter, whose job is to make it look good for you. As in intermediate step, you can pass your source file through lacheck, a small program that performs syntax checking on LaTeX files. That's what computers are all about- doing the menial labor.

    Another nice thing about the Unix Way, and LaTeX in particular, is that your source file is human readable. Even someone who does not know LaTeX markup codes can still read the content of a LaTeX source file. There is no proprietary, closed, binary format that can only work in Company X's bloatWord program, and even then only in the latest version for which you were forced to pay $299 for the privilege of using this year.

    Transparency is another aspect of the Unix Way. I hate WYSIWYG HTML editors because I have no control over the code they vomit up and I have to rely on a user interface design that somebody else decided was the right way to do it. Again, hunting through menus and popup dialogs gets in the way of cranking out HTML, formatted *my* way. And guess what? I can use the same text editor that I used for marking up my LaTeX code. I don't have to learn another program at all, which is yet another example of the concept of reuse. Big, monolithic bloatware programs are typically way too complex for the user to understand what the program is really doing, and this is even more so with programs like Word that actively prevent you from understanding what they are doing by hiding everything in formats that are not human readable. Ever have Word insert a whole blank page for you after you manually add a page break (since Word is too stupid to be able to configure a paragraph across a page break). Why does it do that?

    So, to sum up, what I am talking about is the use of many small, simple-to-use programs which are interoperable and which work in a transparently on open data formats, to produce a superior end result with a minimal amount fuss on the part of the user.

    Hopefully, that all makes sense.

  10. #10

    Re:The Unix Way

    Ion should make you feel better. ;D

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