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The Art of UNIX Programming (The Addison-Wesley Professional Computng Series) [Paperback]

Eric S. Raymond
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 3, 2003 0131429019 978-0131429017 1
The Art of UNIX Programming poses the belief that understanding the unwritten UNIX engineering tradition and mastering its design patterns will help programmers of all stripes to become better programmers. This book attempts to capture the engineering wisdom and design philosophy of the UNIX, Linux, and Open Source software development community as it has evolved over the past three decades, and as it is applied today by the most experienced programmers. Eric Raymond offers the next generation of "hackers" the unique opportunity to learn the connection between UNIX philosophy and practice through careful case studies of the very best UNIX/Linux programs.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unix ranks among the great engineering accomplishments of the last half of the twentieth century, and its heir--Linux--seems already imposing and still on its way to achieving its full potential. Eric S. Raymond argues in The Art of UNIX Programming that the excellence of Unix derives as much from the fact that it was (and continues to be) a community effort as from the fact that a lot of smart people have worked to design and build it. Raymond, best known as the author of the open-source manifesto The Cathedral and the Bazaar, says in his preface that this is a "why-to" book, rather than a "how-to" book. It aims to show new Unix programmers why they should work under the old "hacker ethic"--embracing the principles of good software design for its own sake and of code-sharing.

That said, a great deal of valuable practical information appears in this book. Very little of it is in the form of code; most of the practical material takes the form of case studies and discussions of aspects of Unix, all aimed at determining why particular design characteristics are good. In many cases, the people who did the work in the first place make guest appearances and explain their thinking--an invaluable resource. This book is for the deep-thinking software developer in Unix (and perhaps Linux in particular). It shows how to fit into the long and noble tradition, and how to make the software work right. --David Wall

Topics covered: Why Unix (the term being defined to include Linux) is the way it is, and the people who made it that way. Commentary from Ken Thompson, Steve Johnson, Brian Kernighan, and David Korn enables readers to understand the thought processes of the creators of Unix.

From the Back Cover

"Reading this book has filled a gap in my education. I feel a sense of completion, understand that UNIX is really a style of community. Now I get it, at least I get it one level deeper than I ever did before. This book came at a perfect moment for me, a moment when I shifted from visualizing programs as things to programs as the shadows cast by communities. From this perspective, Eric makes UNIX make perfect sense."
--Kent Beck, author of Extreme Programming Explained, Test Driven Development, and Contributing to Eclipse

"A delightful, fascinating read, and the lessons in problem-solvng are essential to every programmer, on any OS."
--Bruce Eckel, author of Thinking in Java and Thinking in C++

Writing better software: 30 years of UNIX development wisdom

In this book, five years in the making, the author encapsulates three decades of unwritten, hard-won software engineering wisdom. Raymond brings together for the first time the philosophy, design patterns, tools, culture, and traditions that make UNIX home to the world's best and most innovative software, and shows how these are carried forward in Linux and today's open-source movement. Using examples from leading open-source projects, he shows UNIX and Linux programmers how to apply this wisdom in building software that's more elegant, more portable, more reusable, and longer-lived.

Raymond incorporates commentary from thirteen UNIX pioneers:

  • Ken Thompson, the inventor of UNIX.
  • Ken Arnold, part of the group that created the 4BSD UNIX releases and co-author of The Java Programming Language.
  • Steven M. Bellovin, co-creator of Usenet and co-author of Firewalls and Internet Security.
  • Stuart Feldman, a member of the Bell Labs UNIX development group and the author of make and f77.
  • Jim Gettys and Keith Packard, principal architects of the X windowing system.
  • Steve Johnson, author of yacc and of the Portable C Compiler.
  • Brian Kernighan, co-author of The C Programming Language, The UNIX Programming Environment, The Practice of Programming, and of the awk programming language.
  • David Korn, creator of the korn shell and author of The New Korn Shell Command and Programming Language.
  • Mike Lesk, a member of the Bell Labs development group and author of the ms macro package, the tbl and refer tools,lex and UUCP.
  • Doug McIlroy, Director of the Bell Labs research group where UNIX was born and inventor of the UNIX pipe.
  • Marshall Kirk McKusick, developer of the 4.2BSD fast filesystem and a leader of the 4.3BSD and 4.4BSD teams.
  • Henry Spencer, a leader among early UNIX developers, who created getopt, the first open-source string library, and a regular-expression engine used in 4.4BSD.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley; 1 edition (October 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131429019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131429017
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative and readable, though very biased November 27, 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Raymond does a good job of explaining the philosophy driving the Unix-style of programming. Coming from a background programming Windows, I always thought of the Unix approach (lots of abbreviated command-line utilities, mini-languages, pipes, semi-unstructured text-based process integration) as down-right primitive. However, after reading this book, I've started to understand the philosophy (and the practical reasons) for adopting this approach. I'd definitely recommend this book especially to newbie programmers from the Windows or Mac (pre-OS X) worlds. That said, I do have some criticisms:
One of the problems with this book is the overly partisan tone it takes - one gets the impression that absolutely nothing Microsoft has ever done is of value, but the other major desktop PC OSes (Apple, Linux) represent different forms of perfection. (At home, I run Mac OSX, RedHat Linux and Windows, and have a reasonable sense of their relative strengths and weaknesses.)
So, be warned: Art of Unix Programming paints a one sided picture. The author is a well-known figure in the open source community, one of its fiercest advocates, and one of Microsoft's most vocal critics, so it might seem to strange to wish for less anti-Microsoft spin from this source. After all, the Raymond brand certainly carries with it an obligatory expectation of Windows-bashing, doesn't it?
One of the only Windows design decision which Raymond doesn't condemn is the (now discontinued) .ini file format. Even the thorough-going support for object-orientation in Windows is given short-shrift: after explaining the many horrors of object-oriented programming (according to Raymond), Unix-programmers are praised as "tend[ing] to share an instinctive sense of these problems." This section ([...
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The patterns of UNIX and how you can use them April 17, 2004
Format:Paperback
Even for a primarily Windows programmer, this is a great book to read. He provides a great overview of the Unix design philosophy, its evolution over time, and the things that it still doesn't handle well (user-centered design). He also digs deeper into a lot of the patterns in program organization and coordination to help you choose what to build into a utility, what to expose as a library, and what to package as a set of binaries. There's even a small bit of programming advice from place to place. I'd highly recommend reading the book to at least get a sense of perspective when you're designing your next system. He's right on the mark that the Windows and UNIX worlds have a completely different philosophy on program construction, each with their own merits.
His comments about the Windows registry were a bit distressing, though -- not because they're negative, which I consider fine. Rather, it was obvious he'd never used it (comments like "there's no API for it") and it was also clear that he hadn't even bothered to research why it existed and what problems it was intended to solve. The comments were typical of what I'd expect of a Slashdot troll, but not of a bright, respectable person like ESR. I've programmed on both platforms extensively and only comment on what I have first-hand experience and knowledge of; I'd expect him to do the no less, especially as an author.
It was also curious that several times he implied unit testing == XP == agile software development. For as tuned in as he seems to be to methodolgy work, missing the forest for a single leaf is a bit embarrassing.
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51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Autohagiography with some programming tips December 24, 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The writing style of this book tends to hurt the reading experience, as Raymond trumpets his own minor achievments in the free software community. The work feels like it needed one more rewrite before being released to the public: some related sources Raymond hadn't yet read at the time of writing, and some of his advice gets repetitive.
The exposition itself is not up to par with The Elements of Programming Style. Raymond tries to give a list of programming rules or principles to follow, but it reads more like a list of slogans that should be taken as axioms. While The Elements of Programming Style itself had a list of rules, the rules were well woven with each other, well defended, and they were used as a means of conveying a larger story. In Raymond's case, he relies upon the slogans in absence of such a story.
Thus, the book ends up more like a list of random unrelated tips. Some very profound, like his writings on threads (which he acknowleges Mark M. Miller for his help). Others are very shallow and pointless in a book that supposes to call itself about "Art." Some of the pieces appear only to function to attack Windows, and sometimes the information about Windows is embarassingly inaccurate.
One final criticism is that Raymond does not understand object-oriented programming very well and misses the point in several cases. You just need to see the popularity of Python, Java, C# (Mono), OO Perl and C++ in the Linux world to see that Raymond is off base calling OO a failed experiment. In fact, with almost any matter of opinion in the book you can feel Raymond's bias and be hit in the face with misinformation or dull false dilemmas.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great history
Learn a lot about the thoughts and rationales behind C and UNIX.
Good reading. Entertaining, generally engaging. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Goodbye Helicopter
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read. Could be named "What non-UNIX programmers miss" as well.
Backed by my own 30 years in development and QA (btw, most of the time with MVS and more with Windows than with Unix), I'd underline almost every single point Eric makes in this... Read more
Published 13 months ago by mibo
3.0 out of 5 stars programming book without any code
If you expect to see any code, you'll be disappointed. The author gives ample examples, but mostly preaching the Unix philosophy or religion, at many times repeating the similar... Read more
Published 14 months ago by davez
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Sits Next To My Bible
All of my life, I've searched for a manual on UNIX that is both clear, and concise. The Art of Unix Programming is one such book.
Published 19 months ago by Little Commandlet
2.0 out of 5 stars mount /dev/sermon
As someone who's programmed on Unix for many years, I've known about esr for some time, and probably should thank him for being part of a chorus that encouraged me to learn things... Read more
Published on February 3, 2010 by Bruce Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars I'd give it 6 stars if I could
I got a great deal out of this book - I switched to Linux fairly recently, and had reached the "state of maximum confusion."(I hope. Read more
Published on January 23, 2010 by G. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, Good Principles
Eric S. Raymond is a controversial open source developer and evangelist.

The true is that he has a good points and ideias of how to develop using the unix pratices (eg. Read more
Published on November 4, 2009 by Sebastiao Barata
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I had read this book back in college
The author does a great job explaining the Unix tradition and where it came from. This book is filled with design considerations and high level concepts related to programming... Read more
Published on February 16, 2009 by Daniel S. Fava
3.0 out of 5 stars Unix is dead
This at least is the overarching message conveyed both directly and incidentally throughout Raymond's book. Read more
Published on January 2, 2009 by Cikkle
5.0 out of 5 stars Unix triumph at its best
First of all this book is also available online and is thus very accessible to many more people. It is a delight to read and I would call it a classic. Read more
Published on October 8, 2008 by Anton Hristozov
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