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Linux and the Unix Philosophy
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2003
* * * * *
Five stars for "Linux and the Unix Philosophy" because foremost it is an excellent discussion of the importance of the Open Source revolution.
Also, what this text does is not to repeat the basic Unix design's principles e.g. 'everything in Unix is a file' e.t.c., but instead it focuses in some inspiring and innovative approaches to software engineering, mostly applied in the GNU/Linux world.
It finaly proves in many ways the superiority of GNU/Linux - and Unix in general - in contrast to the other "desktop" systems.
One thing I enjoyed the most is the parallelism between some Unix tenets and corresponding real life examples. Having read a lot of texts about Unix and Open Source Software I deeply recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2008
If you're considering purchasing this book - let me make this easy. At sixteen years old (1986) I was using DOS with my younger brother on an IBM PC. All I got were beeps and control characters. I had no mentors that understood DOS better than me. Unix had been cooking for 16 years! Why couldn't Unix have been ported to the PC? Fast forward ten years and I had a Bachelor's in Computer Information Systems and I earned a living using MVS/JCL/COBOL II/DB2/CICS/ROSCOE/FILEAID. It took me days to slice and dice text files with JCL/FILEAID - it was like using a screw driver to remove nails. I still remember these JCL and Fileaid syntax. Unix would have made these tasks child's play. Today, my JCL and Fileaid syntax knowledge is worthless. If I'd learned grep awk instead - my skillset would be highly prized for the foreseeable future! In short, learning Unix/Linux syntax is an awesome investment. Why? In case you didn't know Unix/Linux will be going strong when your children's children are dead! This book actually made me sad. Sad that I was 37 years old before I encountered a Mike Gancarz's book that tells the Unix/Linux narrative. If only I'd gotten the message sooner when my mind was a sponge - I'd be so much farther along today! So here goes. If you're an old fart - maybe you should forget Linux - keep paying Microsoft a small fortune to re-badge their OS every 5-7 years. This book will make you see things from a brotherhood perspective. Your brothers want you to use their OS free. Yeah I want more Linux games too. Give them time. But in the mean time invest some time in learning the command line. I swear to you that Linux is logical, and even approachable, regardless how cryptic the command-line flags look at first. Every minute you invest in learning Linux can be passed-on to your kids, grandkids, & so on. Linux is eternal. This book tells you nothing of the syntax but you'll learn the Unix/Linux mindset. I skimmed at parts, but this is a necessary first step. This is where you should start your journey to learn Linux. I share your pain. Chin up - we're in this together.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2003
Few books can really do a proper job of talking about philosophy vis-a-vis software development. Mike Gancarz finally delivers--and wonderfully--on such an attempt. It can not only broaden your mind, but also improve the quality of the software you develop (if you're a programmer).
You needn't necessarily be a programmer to appreciate this book, there is no code or assumption that you have any development skills whatsoever. You should at least really appreciate software systems as works of architecture. I'll leave it at that.
My *only* criticism is that at times I wasn't quite in tune with the author's sense of humor, but that's my only criticism.
I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2009
The author was a programmer before, so in writing this book, he draw both from his personal experience and his observation to depict the software world.

I think this is more of a practice and opinion book rather than "Philosophy" book, however I have to agree with him in most cases.

For example, here is Mike Gancarz's line of thinking:

1. Hard to get the s/w design right at the first place, no matter who.
2. So it's better to write a short specs without considering all factors first.
3. Build a prototype to test the assumptions
4. Use an iterative test/rewrite process until you get it right
5. Conclusion: Unix evolved from a prototype.

In case you are curious, here are the 9 tenets of Unix/Linux:

1. Small is beautiful.
2. Make each program do one thing well.
3. Build a prototype as soon as possible.
4. Choose portability over efficiency.
5. Store data in flat text files.
6. Use software leverage to your advantage.
7. Use shell scripts to increase leverage and portability.
8. Avoid captive user interfaces.
9. Make every program a filter.

Mike Gancarz told a story like this when he argues "Good programmers write good code; great programmers borrow good code".

"I recall a less-than-top-notch software engineer who couldn't program his way out of a paper bag. He had a knack, however, for knitting lots of little modules together. He hardly ever wrote any of them himself, though. He would just fish around in the system's directories and source code repositories all day long, sniffing for routines he could string together to make a complete program. Heaven forbid that he should have to write any code. Oddly enough, it wasn't long before management recognized him as an outstanding software engineer, someone who could deliver projects on time and within budget. Most of his peers never realized that he had difficulty writing even a rudimentary sort routine. Nevertheless, he became enormously successful by simply using whatever resources were available to him."

If this is not clear enough, Mike also drew analogies between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and Elvis. The book is full of inspiring stories to reveal software engineers' tendencies and to correct their mindsets.
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Often you can consider unix and linux to be interchangeable. The common linux commands have the same names as their earlier unix counterparts. And, gosh, a linux system overall is really not so different from a unix box. Gancorz explains this in detail. He discusses similarities and differences. The biggest of the latter being that each unix is a proprietary operating system. But even before linux began, many unix shell scripts and commands had migrated to most other unixes. The lesson here is that there really isn't a big culture shock in going from one to the other.

There is a section in the book advocating storing data in flat text files, as opposed to some binary format. Hear, hear! Though the book could have added several remarks to further strengthen the case. XML has been widely adopted, in no small wise because it is expressed as text. Ditto for HTML. The easy reading and editing of HTML also helped push its success.

Another section talks about how often portability is more important than efficiency. As in a shell script that is more portable than a slightly faster C executable, which produces the equivalent output. Just like the use of Java byte codes, versus native binaries.
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on November 3, 2014
I love it, but I'm having a hard time squaring the shift from Linux/Unix to Java/JVM as a 'fellow traveller'. In my experience, the two are not well matched, at least from an administrative point of view. The abstraction of the JVM is a distraction in Linux. However, the enthusiasm shown here is quite enlivening! :) The Java/JVM subject seems like a bolted-on tangent, and detracts from the overall read.
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on September 3, 2013
This must be the best computer book I have ever read.
It's pure Zen.

It made me a better programmer FOR SURE.

I went from a messy Java-SILO-wannabe-OS coding style to an 100% bash/scripting revitalized REAL life
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on December 6, 2014
The work does not intend to do more than explain the reason to prefer and to work in a Unix/Linux setting.
The text is well written and conveys its points well.
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