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Beginning Portable Shell Scripting: From Novice to Professional (Expert's Voice in Open Source) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Expert's Voice in Open Source
  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Apress; 1 edition (November 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1430210435
  • ISBN-13: 978-1430210436
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,136,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Peter Seebach has been using Unix since he needed to sit on a phone book to reach the keyboard. He's been writing professionally about Unix for mass audiences since the last millennium. He is currently employed as a senior software engineer at Wind River Systems and continues to write prolifically on a freelance basis.

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Customer Reviews

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One such book is Apress' Beginning Portable Shell Scripting by Peter Seebach.
J. P. Mens
I highly recommend this book to anyone who kinda knows Linux, or maybe is a Mac user wanting to automate some stuff through the shell.
Michael Nichols
This is one of those books that you can read fifteen times, and get more out of at each reading.
Barton Chittenden

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Peter Seebach on November 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Having heard that authors frequently review their own books, I thought I'd give it a try. This is, without a doubt, the best book on portable shell scripting I have ever written. Sadly, it is also the worst book on portable shell scripting I have ever written.

What I can tell you is this:
* Before I started writing this book, I thought I was fairly expert in portable shell scripting.
* I learned a lot more writing this book than I knew before I started writing it.
* This book has ended up being one of my key desk references, which is pretty funny, because you'd think I'd know this stuff by now.

I'm not totally happy with everything about this book. I'm giving it five stars anyway because I can't name anything I think is better for the purpose right now... But I wouldn't mind revising and expanding for a second edition.

Don't let the "beginning" throw you off; this book was a real eye-opener for me, and I'd been writing shell scripts for somewhere between fifteen and twenty years, including production software. On the other hand, if you've got a bit of programming experience, I like to imagine that you really could have this as your first introduction to the shell, and probably do just fine.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Boyarsky on December 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Beginning Portable Shell Scripting" has a very clear mission - teach the reader how to write shell scripts that will work in all Bourne family shells. The book assumes you know UNIX already. While you don't need to know shell scripting already, it is helpful. The book is very intense if you are using it learn the scripting basics at the same time.

I like how the author starts by showing the interactive command type in by the user vs what is evaluated/run vs what is output. This was a good way to teach shell scripting quoting. I also like the emphasis on what happens in edge cases.

I think that non-portable code could be better flagged. It's easy to gloss over embedded in the text. Or find again. Two chapters really went into detail on portability. I guess I expected it to be flagged throughout.

Chapter two says you can skip it if you already know reg exps. A word of advice: don't. I recommend skimming it anyway the chapter contains valuable distinctions on globbing/shell expansion. I also liked chapter three's multiple attempts at a script showing the errors in each until getting to the desired behavior.

As an aside, there's about 80 pages of appendices and the about the technical reviewer page was both entertaining and written completely in UNIX shell script.

The book mainly loses points for not being aimed at beginners with a title containing the word "beginning."
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. P. Mens on December 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Once in a while I find a book that gives me a memorable impression. One such book is Apress' Beginning Portable Shell Scripting by Peter Seebach.

Seebach covers historic aspects of the Unix shells as well as the ins and outs of shell programming. He explains very well why it is so important to think about portability, and that writing portable programs is often not very much more work than not doing so.

Although the book is titled Beginning Portable Shell Scripting it isn't a book only for beginners -- I know lots of pros who should read this book from cover to cover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alexandros Gezerlis on November 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter Seebach's "Beginning Portable Shell Scripting: From Novice to Professional" is a relatively recent text on shell programming. Even though its focus is mainly on the least-common denominator of a huge variety of shells (including POSIX-compatible, older, and embedded ones), the author also mentions a number of extensions, in the hope that knowing about them will help the reader in one-off scripts, will facilitate understanding of non-portable scripts, and will also make it easier to avoid them.

The Good: Seebach's writing style is enjoyable. At times he's funny, e.g. "The name octothorpe is my favorite because people are completely consistent in not having any idea what I'm talking about"; most of the time he's mildly amusing, e.g. "If you can't write to standard error, you can't display a message on standard error saying that you can't write to standard error"; and throughout the book he just gives off a pleasant vibe. It's important to note that the relaxed tone is not really distracting, i.e. it does not interfere with the flow of the text. Seebach has included a multitude of best practices and common idioms from all aspects of shell programming. Some are pretty simple, e.g. the X"$answer" = X"42" test idiom; others follow from his focus on portability, e.g. don't use test's -a or -o operators -- stick to the shell's logical operators instead; and yet others have to do with security concerns, e.g. if you really need a temporary file, you have to be in control not just of the file, but of the directory it is created in. Throughout the text, Seebach is interested in shell features that will work on the vast majority of available (or not-yet-available) machines, e.g.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christian Haarmann on November 26, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I already have some years of shell programming experience, but it was 6 years ago when I programmed shell-scripts actively. So I needed a refresher that especially explained the details of it which I could not remember anymore. This book did not only refresh my knowledge, but also showed me some new expert tricks and especially focused on portability issues I never noticed before and shows alternative ways. For example how to detect in which shell you are, how to replace a "select" command with normal shell commands in older shells, different ways of parsing options if the "getopts" is not available etc. It will prevent a lot of pain once I start to utilize my old ksh-scripts on the newer machines. I did not program portable, but at least now I know where to change and how. And once it's portable, I will have no future problems running my old ksh88-scripts on new bash or whatever.
Every example is explained. The knowledge of the later chapters build exactly on the knowledge of the previous chapters, so maybe a beginner can also follow up. But for a beginner I would recommend learning the Unix commands and their options first, which is not described in detail in this book. Instead, this book focuses on the glue between them, the shell surrounding, and it does this in detail. So a beginner who just wants the job done quickly would not understand what is so important about it, why a different and sometimes more complicated and longer way to achieve the same effect is much better.
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