Lions' Commentary on Unix
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Lions' Commentary on Unix [Paperback]

John Lions
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 1977 1573980137 978-1573980135 6
The most famous suppressed book in computer history! * Used as an Operating System textbook at MIT"After 20 years, this is still the best expostion of the workings of a 'real' operating system." --- Ken Thompson (Developer of the UNIX operating system)After years of suppression (as trade secrets) by various owners of the UNIX code, this tome has been re-released, and we owe a debt to all involved in making this happen. I consider this to be the single most important book of 1996. Unix Review, June 1997"The Lions book", cherished by UNIX hackers and widely circulated as a photocopied bootleg document since the late 1970's, is again available in an unrestricted edition. This legendary underground classic, reproduced without modification, is really two works in one: the complete source code to an early version (Edition 6) of the UNIX operating system, a treasure in itself! a brilliant commentary on that code by John Lionswith additional historical perspective essays added in 1996.Lions' marriage of source code with commentary was originally used as an operating systems textbook, a purpose for which it remains superbly well-suited (as evidenced by it's ongoing use at MIT).

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Product Details

  • Series: Computer Classics Revisited
  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Peer to Peer Communications/ Annabook; 6 edition (August 1, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573980137
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573980135
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.6 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The book for Unix kernel geeks May 28, 1998
The Lions Book was illegally pirated for many years after its publication, with fifth-generation photocopies being the most prized possessions of many Unix kernel hackers.
It was republished shortly after the author died when the politics of the ownership of the Unix sources settled down.
So what's so special about the book?
The first reason is that John Lions believed strongly that just as in literature, where being able to read and analyse great works is more likely to lead to being able to write comparable works, software designers should learn to read and criticise working code. He chose Unix, 6th edition, running on the PDP-11. His book is a subset of the kernel sources, with commentary.
The second reason is that the code itself is, in general, pretty fine stuff. It includes the legendary comment /* you are not expected to understand this */. It's amazing that so much of modern Unix functionality already existed in the mid-70s and ran in only 32kbytes of RAM.
And thirdly, it's a historical document that describes a real operating system, that's come to effect the development of most subsequent system software.
It's a great read, if you're a geek, and you suspect that good code, like good literature should be read and enjoyed.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and Inspiring January 31, 2000
This is the kind of computer book which makes me wish all my friends were programmers so I could share it with everyone I know.
Although the version of Unix it documents is wildly out of date and the C code would make a K&R compiler laugh in disbelief, the underlying elegance of the code shines through. The commentary is brilliant -- Lions pushes the reader to understand for him or herself, all the while providing clear guidance through the most complicated pieces.
Having programmed for years, I've never fully understood such deep mysteries as how process switching works, or how the OS bootstraps itself. Although I am sure that things are much more complex today, having read and pored over this old text and having achieved that elusive feeling of enlightenment, I now feel that it all makes sense.
My only complaint is that they should have printed it as two volumes as it was originally produced. Constantly flipping back and forth was frustrating. But other than that, a total pleasure.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and insightful historical perspective July 24, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I learned about the existence of this manuscript 16 years ago, yet could never find a full version, until the book came. I have read most of it and it is beatiful. Many of the tradeoffs the early UNIX versions had are there. Context switching is done via coroutine jumps, the callout table is used only for the teletype, the very origins of the scheduler and swapper are neatly explained among many other things. PDP11 architecture is simple enough to make this book still a jewel for those interested in learning OS concepts and evolution and specifically UNIX.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Way June 2, 2003
Any comments made on a superlative commentary on superb code would be largely superfluous. This gem should be part of any Operating Systems course. The greatest of the pleasures offered by the book is the opportunity to read the source code, version 6 of the UNIX Operating System. It is a unique opportunity to see the real masters at work!
Highly recommended, with Maurice J Bach's "The Design of the Unix Operating System" as a supplement.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest OS Introduction June 28, 2000
This book is a true computer science classic and will never go out of print. It is the greatest introduction to operating systems there is. I lived for years with a 5th generation photocopy and i am very glad to own a new, clear copy.
Buy it, study it, learn... give it to your children.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for Unix lover November 23, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have been working with Unix for more than 5 years, and read more than 20 books about unix itself. But I never seend book like this much well explain about internal architecture. Unix 6 on PDP-11 is old, but main idea still remain all major distribution.

It great helpful for my understanding about Unix.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete, Yet Small Enough to Grasp November 14, 2006
The world is full of books on operating systems: their theory, their internals, their applications, etc. The Lions book connects OS theory to practice better than anything I have ever seen. Reading it beforehand certainly made graduate-school Operating Systems a lot easier.
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