The UNIX Effect ( The SF Experience )

January 3, 2007 at 11:09 am | Posted in History | Leave a comment

I wrote this blog a long time ago, IIRC, in February of 2007. It originally appeared at blogspot, Google’s Blog facility, then on VOX and now at my final weblog here at wordpress. I have just edited it a little here to reflect my true intent. I hope you will enjoy my classic article 🙂

 

Last night i was reading William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome”. i have not found it in India so i ordered it from UK, one of my friends bought it for me & i got it when he came here in India. last night i read “Fragments of Hologram Rose” (FoHR). one night before that i read “The Gernsback Continuum”(tGC). i was utterly confused on what exactly William Gibson wants to say/present to the SF reader. i will explain here my experience with FoHR as i wrote the entire article on my experience using pencil at 2:00 am in the morning.

 

Reading FoHR left an ache in my heart & brain. Now as, no longer a newbie to programming, I feel, Hacking, Electric-Guitar, Music-composition, Martial-Arts & SF are closely related or in my words they are merely different names for the same thing, a thing that exists inside us, inside the Hackers (i am still not a hacker, not yet, but i am on my way) or these things just represent “one thing, one man” from different angles . If you think Hacking means piracy and breaking into someone else’s computer, please stop reading this BLOG and go to http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html#what_is . I do not like Crackers, just some days ago some Spammer spammed the Free Volunteer BLAG Wiki with porn sites. I literally hate such kind of people.

 

Reading tGC also left me in the fog of confusion on “if a person becomes too much involved in his profession, when he breathes his profession, when he sleeps his profession then he no longer remain himself or he becomes the one? the one unique human possessing technical-expertness that no one can match. I still can not say whether i understood tGC and FoHR but everybody thinks in a different way and everyone extracts different meaning from the same piece of text. Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold The Moon” and “The Requiem” left me in deep pain in the end. After reading “The Requiem” i saw my dead body lying in front of me, i saw my death, i felt it. when i finished reading it i was not able to breathe properly and was unable to speak as i felt as if my throat was locked for 7-8 seconds.

“Ok, you rats. Okay. i’ll stay behind “

 

“The Man Who Sold The Moon” by Robert A. Heinlein

Heinlein died but he gave something to us, something very important to the world. His writings reflect the true reality of life. RMS will die someday causing a great loss to Mother-Earth, or to this whole Universe(if i say correctly) but he had already given us so much: GCC, Emacs, GTK+, GPL, FDL & the word “copyleft” that reserves special place to mention “all rights reversed” & the upcoming GPLv3. not to mention the great works of Ritchie and Thompson, C and UNIX… they are damn special men.

All of the things, that i know & learned, i have learned from Hacking. I never heard of word SF. I hated Indian novels & i hated people who write & read them but one day ESR told me [2] & i read a short-story “Robot and The Baby” by “Uncle John McCarthy” [3] and i felt it was not SF, it was *me* in the pages, it was *me* in the fonts. (well, i still hate Indian movies & India novels but now i love the English ones)

I feel, Hacking, Electric-Guitar, Music-composition, Martial-Arts & SF are closely related. IOW, they are merely different names for the same thing, a thing that exists inside.

Some people, NO, not only programmers but most people too just do not get that, that sentence just does not make any sense to them. What should i say to them: “Windows users” ? .

Every Windows user, whether a programmer or a general user, has his beliefs, his world, his way of understanding the OS, his way of understanding the software & this world, he has a 100% impractical understanding of everything he thinks he understands well. why i say this? use Linux base GNU OS or BSD UNIX for 1 year & then you can have a look at “their world, their understanding” into their eyes, in their body, the physical movements they do & *into* the things they speak. when they speak? ….Why? because “when we open our mouths to describe this world we only describe ourselves, not the world”, not my words but they sum up neatly what i want to say. Some weeks ago i met a groups of Window users, all i saw was handicapped, blind,deaf & dumb personalities. Now i am not saying every Windows user is handicapped, there are exceptions of course & it is better if we do not build our lives on exceptions. whenever i say something it must be applied to the 90% of the population. BTW, do you really think you can get 10% handicapped Linux users, i doubt it (except if they are not running UBUNTU). Use Linux based GNU system for 1 year & you will understand. Why i keep on saying “for 1 year” because “UNIX possess common-sense” Windows design does not, try Google for that. Common-Sense happens at command-line, when you have GUI for *everything* then you loose common-sense. Try Google/Yahoo 3-4 search engines if you doubt it, if you think i am biased which i am not. Remember I have used Windows for 4 years & with UNIX i have only 1 year of experience (10 moths, to be exact).

 

BTW, most Linux users do not know the word GNU, what’s GNU? GNU is not UNIX. well, everybody who knows GNU also knows this but what i have seen that i have got a command-line addiction after using GNU OS for more than 1 year. i say “Linux based GNU system” or “GNU OS” rather than Linux because Linux is not the system we use, it is just the kernel, only kernel, only & only a kernel. all other utilities, softwares, BASH shell, low level tools, compilers, debuggers are from the GNU project. Even Linus Torvalds used GCC to compile Linux kernel. Hence, it is technically and completely incorrect to say that I use Linux, a desktop user uses the GNU system based on Linux kernel & GNU is at least 6 years older than Linux. anyway i was talking about my command-line addiction. first signs appeared 1 month ago but i did not understand it. i thought i need a distro which forces the use of shell for configuring the things like networking, printing etc. so in last one month i tried more than a dozen of distros like Frugalware, Arch, Gentoo, PLD, CRUX etc. i even tried LFS (Linux From Scratch). right now i am using CRUX, Gentoo & LFS are good choices too.

 

I did not want a Desktop & Shell alone is not good for watching Bruce Lee’s movies. my intentions brought me to Window Managers. i think that was what i was aiming at, building my own flexible desktop. I found {fvwm, sawfish,SCWM} as my favorites. Why go through all this “trouble” of creating partitions and file-systems, configuring & building all the programs & reading all those compiler errors when i have GNOME at my disposal. because UNIX tends to have “an effect” that i call “the UNIX effect a.k.a. command-line addiction” on people who do programming for their own satisfaction, not for a salary [4]. Its sure that i will do a programming job and it does not mean i do programming because i want money. if money is the only concern, i could be selling water purifiers or bank-loans, that’s what i did in my earlier life. why do i love system programming, why do i love UNIX philosophy. these are wrong questions. i must admit real questions are:

 

1.) why i fell in love with “UNIX way” after using GNU for 1 year. why i left programming & hated this profession during my college years when i was using Windows?

 

2.) Why i like system programming so much & why i think UNIX philosophy & UNIX behaviour are deeply rooted into “the way system programmers think”? ( i am talking this from a “UNIX user” perspective. i am not a programmer, not yet.

 

3.) it is 04:00 PM, just afternoon. why i am reading about UNIX, GNU, BSDs OS design, L4 micorkernel, Oberon & i look again at my wall-clock, it’s 01:45 AM, midnight!

 

I think 2 things are responsible for my addiction, indirectly. Indirectly because i found them only after i chose Linux based GNU system. i did not chose GNU system because i read them, using GNU system was a much earlier choice. from my experience these 2 points, each describing a different thing, are actually just the 2 facets of a nameless that exists inside:

 

a) “Master Foo discourses on the UNIX nature” [5]

 

b) “Fifteen years ago, there were articles on computer addiction users were getting online and had hundred-dollar-a-week habits. It was generally understood that people frequently loved programming enough to break up their marriages. Today, it is generally understood that no one would program except for a high rate of pay. People have forgotten what they knew fifteen years ago.” [6]

 

i still can not call myself a programmer. i fall short of many technical points, hence i need to read K&R2, the Wizard book & Sonya Keene but 1st i need UNIX 🙂

 

…..talk to you later…..bye

 

“But each fragment reveals the rose from a different angle, he remembered, but delta swept over him before he could ask himself what that might mean”

 

“Fragments of a Hologram Rose” by William Gibson

 

[1] you can read a little about Knuth in this book http://www.mhhe.com/math/advmath/rosen/
in this book Kenneth has included very short biographies of nearly all mathematicians.

[2] http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/reading_habits.html

[3] http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/

[4] http://ironphoenix.org/tril/fvwm/

[5] http://catb.org/~esr/writings/unix-koans/unix-nature.html

[6] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/shouldbefree.html

 

 

Copyright © 2007, Arnuld Fraser, #331/type-2/sector-1, Naya Nangal,
Distt. – Ropar, Punjab (INDIA) – 140126

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided this notice, and the copyright notice, are preserved.

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