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Explaining The Windows/UNIX Cultural Divide 685

Posted by timothy
from the it's-a-long-long-way dept.
giampy writes "Joel Spolsky writes a review-like article on the last book of Eric S. Raymond (The Art of Unix Programming). His views on the cultural differences among Windows and Unix programmers are well explained. Overall, an interesting read." Also on the topic of Windows, badriram writes "Microsoft is reorganizing the windows team, it seems the are separating the OS core development. Seems like things heading in the right direction in creating a more secure OS, and making it more business oriented. Read the article here."
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Explaining The Windows/UNIX Cultural Divide

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  • Separation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy (13680)
    I reckon there might be a gunshot wedding again (with Billy G wielding the gun) if the separation of the parties results in longer delivery times, harder work for "interoperation" etc...

    Simon.
    • Re:Separation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by js7a (579872) * <james@b[ ]k.org ['ovi' in gap]> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:14AM (#7733670) Homepage Journal
      harder work for "interoperation" etc...

      Interoperation is something Microsoft fundamentally doesn't get.

      Instead of interoperating with published standards, they try to interoperate with Microsoft legacy methodologies (e.g., everything must bee visual basic scriptable.) This is a terrible source of security worm-holes. I wish they would reorganize their visual basic scripting fanatics to Antarctica.

      I make it a point to return any base64-encoded text/plain email to the Outlook-using idiot who sent it, explaining that Outlook is obscuring their email text, along with a list of reasons to switch to another email client and instructions for doing so.

      • Re:Separation (Score:3, Informative)

        by GlassUser (190787)
        Instead of interoperating with published standards, they try to interoperate with Microsoft legacy methodologies (e.g., everything must bee visual basic scriptable.) This is a terrible source of security worm-holes. I wish they would reorganize their visual basic scripting fanatics to Antarctica.
        It's called automation. It's not visual basic, it's WSH (which encompasses vbscript, but not visual basic). You would do well to learn about something before you decide to hate it.
        • Re:Separation (Score:5, Interesting)

          by js7a (579872) * <james@b[ ]k.org ['ovi' in gap]> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:57AM (#7734549) Homepage Journal
          It's called automation. It's not visual basic...

          Yeah, it's also called Melissa and several other names [thenakedpc.com].

          Why automation is considered more important than security is one thing, but why do people feel the need to defend that wierd choice of values? Do people who grow up on this stuff and never learn software tools (unix) methedologies really think WSH is an interesting technology?

          • Re:Separation (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Zeinfeld (263942)
            Why automation is considered more important than security is one thing, but why do people feel the need to defend that wierd choice of values?

            The problem has nothing to do with automation. The problem is that some idiot made a program that would execute an arbitrary script sent in email.

            This type of idiocy is not unique to windows. I have seen people do exactly the same thing in UNIX. They just did not make it to the UNIX core because that has barely changed in twenty years.

            So the argument that UNIX i

            • Re:Separation (Score:3, Interesting)

              by DrSkwid (118965)
              A Universal Computing Machine is a white elephant.

              The idea that there is one true O/S is ludicrous.

              I cling to plan9. 256 colours, no multi-media, I can't even play mpegs on it.

              It doesn't have a web browser worth using.

              It has no RDBMS or a dedicated file browser.

              No icons. No buttons.

              http://www.proweb.co.uk/~matt/screeny_dec_03.gif

              But it suits my computing needs for doing work.

              Windows isn't reviled because it is used by common people.

            • Re:Separation (Score:5, Interesting)

              by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:53PM (#7737253) Homepage Journal
              This type of idiocy is not unique to windows. I have seen people do exactly the same thing in UNIX. They just did not make it to the UNIX core because that has barely changed in twenty years. So the argument that UNIX is good security wise starts to look remarkably like the argument that a stopped clock is right twice a day.

              Um, yes that lunacy IS unique to windows. Unix as a practice does not allow email apps to operate as root. A web server running with wheel privilages is considered a design flaw. While it is possible to create an environment where a script could enter a Linux box and infect the system, you would have to have the perfect storm of inept sysadmins running deliberately loose settings, exploiting a bug in the software.

              All that comes free with Windows.

              The chances of that same script being able to infect a second machine is near zero. The other machine would have to be a near clone of the first.

              As far as Unix being locked in time, I would like to point out that we have been using Kerberos and Ldap long before Windows thought it was a good idea. (For your edification, Active Directory is an adulterated implementation of Kerberos and LDAP.) NT and it's ilk are also POSIX complient, meaning they strive to be unix-like.

              I should also add that Unix does not have a giant world writable configuration system. Regedit is all I need to access the security files, system configuration settings, even policies. Show me a Windows setup that operates without the GUI, without Visual Basic, and without the registry. Then talk to me about security.

              • Re:Separation (Score:4, Insightful)

                by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@gma i l . c om> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @05:45PM (#7739364)
                Unix as a practice does not allow email apps to operate as root.

                "Unix" doesn't have a choice in the matter - it's purely an end user decision.

                While it is possible to create an environment where a script could enter a Linux box and infect the system, you would have to have the perfect storm of inept sysadmins running deliberately loose settings, exploiting a bug in the software.

                Or you need a typically inexperienced and ignorant end user running as root for convenience.

                Not every unix box is managed by a sysadmin (and the proportion that are is only going to get smaller).

                Added to that, with the typical scenario of a single-user desktop machine that spreads these "email viruses", it doesn't *have* to infect the entire machine to have a negative impact and propogate.

                The "well at least under a properly configured unix box a virus can only wipe out the user's files" argument is irresponsible and specious when applied to a typical PC configuration.

                NT and it's ilk are also POSIX complient, meaning they strive to be unix-like.

                No, they implement a POSIX layer for compatibility and to help software migration. If you think NT is striving to be "unix like" you're sadly mistaken.

                I should also add that Unix does not have a giant world writable configuration system. Regedit is all I need to access the security files, system configuration settings, even policies.

                The registry (in NT) is subject to ACLs. It isn't world writable by arbitrary users any more than /etc is.

                Show me a Windows setup that operates without the GUI, without Visual Basic, and without the registry. Then talk to me about security.

                But for some reason a unix box with X, perl (or sh) and /etc can be secure ?

          • Re:Separation (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Afty0r (263037)

            Why automation is considered more important than security is one thing, but why do people feel the need to defend that wierd choice of values?

            It's pretty simple really, automation has a much higher value than security - people are willing to pay more.
            If we went back in time, and made all MS products ultra-secure, but removde the ability to automate anything, most businesses using MS software would not be as productive as they are... a (very) few might still be around because they didn't have to fold aft

  • by KingRamsis (595828) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (sismargnik)> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:25AM (#7733435)
    Windows programming is like playing golf, UNIX programming is like pig wrestling, after years of development on both platforms I feel that UNIX programming gives me the satisfaction of sport achievements, the unforgiveness of UNIX makes very thrilled.
  • by osgeek (239988) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:28AM (#7733445) Homepage Journal
    Joel Sposky writes a review-like article on the last book of Eric S. Raymond

    I hadn't heard that he died. My condolences to his friends and family. He will be sorely missed.
  • by XiChimos (652495) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:30AM (#7733456)
    Does the story of how the divide between windows and Unix came about start with fallen angels?
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:33AM (#7733468)
    forget the programmers, until general knowledge of computers improve and stuborn idoits don't need to have things like " why do i need a password to run a program on MY OWN computer" explained the state of computer security will not improve.
    • by Peganthyrus (713645) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:59AM (#7733553) Homepage
      Well... why do you need a password to run something on your own computer?

      It's sitting right there in your home office. Behind at least one locked door. Maybe even a couple.

      I mean, I have my machine set up to automatically log me in; I turn it on and there it is, ready to go. There's me, my room-mate, and nobody else. I trust my room-mate to stay off my machine; she trusts me to stay off of hers.
      • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:29AM (#7734264) Homepage Journal
        I agree.

        That is not to say however that my home machine doesn't need security, especially as the world becomes more networked.

        Password based security is the most nightmarish of security scenarios: a partial success. Successful enough for people to rely upon, successful enough to impede the adoption of better approaches, but not successful enough to provide the security and convenience people need. Some people do OK with them but they're a tiny minoritt. Upgrading humanity is not an option. Indeed I suspect that the majority of computer "experts" would fail if audited according to strict password management standards.

        The problem is that passwords are an ugly hack that were adopted when the problem was less severe and the stakes were lower. They're a huge Achilles' heel.

        Personally, I think a key like device like an iButton would be much better. It's intrinsically more cryptographically secure than a memorizable password, as well as practically more convenient to manage in a secure manner. In high security apps the key device could be enhanced with biometrics or even password protection, approaches that are insufficient on their own but could thwart casual, opportunistic reuse and buy time for privilege revokation if the hardware key is stolen. The very fact the hardware key must be physically taken away from its users is a huge advantage. Passwords can be "stolen" without their owners knowing.
      • But do you trust the janitor? What about the security guard? What about the 16 year old kid who came in to work with Mom and is bored and wandering the halls?
    • by Zoop (59907) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:07AM (#7733611)
      Joel's theoretical explanation for the divide hinges on the user--his thesis? Windows programmers care about users, UNIX programmers don't.

      My immediate reaction was, "If so, how come Windows programs have suck sucky UI most of the time?"

      A colleage of mine had an insightful comment, "Windows programmers don't program for the user; they program for the buyer."

      I think that explains more about Windows from MS to the end-VBScript-monkey than anything else.
      • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @12:20PM (#7735512) Journal
        No, seriously? Windows GUIs suck... compared to what?

        Compared to X? The same X where every single programmer just _has_ to use a different layout, different shortcuts, different menu structure, and for bonus points his own widgets? And where 90% of the GUIs were never even tested in any other resolution or font size than what the developper had? (Here's a hint: 100 DPI fonts are an X standard for a long time now.) And where every app is configured in a different way? And in some cases (e.g., IceWM), contrary to common sense, the changes you do through the menus aren't even saved, and you have to launch a different application to configure your start menu?

        Sorry, from the end user point of view, it's the Unix GUIs that suck big time. They suck like an industrial vacuum cleaner. They suck like an expensive hooker.

        They're made by geeks, for geeks. And religiously defended by hordes of flaming trolls, ready to insult everyone who dares doubt their idol's wisdom.

        What a non-geek user expects is to learn some skills once, and apply those skills again and again. It doesn't matter if you have some cute unique idea. He just doesn't want to have to learn a whole new set of skills for every single program.

        He wants that if in Word CTRL+X is "cut", then in every single program it's still "cut". He wants that if F1 is "Help", then by God, it better be "Help" in all programs. And if one program's scrollbars behave in one particular way, then it better be the same way in all programs.

        For you discovering how yet another widget set works might count as fun. For Joe Average, it counts as a waste of his time. He'd rather do something else in that time. Like be done sending that e-mail, grab a beer and watch TV, instead of still being at discovering how it works.

        And yes, the Windows developpers know that it pays to care about the paying customer. That means, yes, caring about Joe Average who's using those programs. Thinking how you can help Joe Average do what _he_ wants, instead of making it all an exercise in programming for your own ego.

        And until more of the Linux crowd discovers the same thing, I just can't see Linux making it big on the desktop. Sorry.
        • by waveclaw (43274) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @05:55PM (#7739499) Homepage Journal
          No, seriously? Windows GUIs suck... compared to what?

          Compared to X? The same X where every single programmer just _has_ to use a different layout, different shortcuts, different menu structure, and for bonus points his own widgets?


          Not to make you sound like a newbie in the world of computing, but what you are railing against isn't the 'ease of use' of UNIX/GNU/Linux GUIs.

          Many, many people fall into this trap. What you are proposing is the adoption of something both unessecary (and in many cases) Evil, Bad and Wrong. This thing is called an SAA CUA [webopedia.com]. They were practically invented by IBM in the 50s and 60s. These ideas [ibm.com] are simple: do something one way and only one way.

          From the user's perspective, this is okay. I only have to learn quaduple-double-bucky-shift-Q to print once.

          From the UI designer's point of view this is crap. Look at video games. Many custom, learn once and use once indterfaces. Games deal with this by being on the cutting edge of computer-assisted education. They have dollars and reputations staked in 'playability' and 'ease of use' so they do the Right Thing.

          Wrong Thing: pick standard, crappy global contants, enforce those on everyone. Aribitrary user interfaces are just as bad as random interfaces.

          Right Thing: common core behavior in frameworks that act AS EXPECTED, customized application interfaces to the TASK that the application SOLVES or DOES. Show and Walk users through the non-standard parts with HOW-TOs, demos and trainers.

          The Right Way is more work for the lazy, boring person who wouldn't write documentation anyway. The Wrong Way means that you probably will guess correctly on the first try, but the application programmer still didn't do his job.

          This is a very important sticking point with the Aunt Mable newbie computer user argument as well. If good ol' Auntie has never used a computer, learning a KDE (GNOME) desktop or the UNIX command line will be as EQUALLY challenging as learning a WIMP like Windows. MACs were/are easily learned because of some UI choices that favor new users without bothering experienced users (of those UI's).

          Finally, like in the world of video games, with the diversity of UIs in Linux/GNU/Unix I can select those features/interfaces that work best and use them. With a system like Windows, some people won't buy/sell your software unless is meets the criteria in the SAA CUA.

          I appologise for the grammar. I need more sleep and less Trolls.
    • by holy_smoke (694875) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:23AM (#7733734)
      Although I understand and agree with your basic point, I would ask that you consider the "product" of a computer and how that relates to average "consumers" need for a tool to make their lives easier/more entertained (because that is, after all, the basic reason why average consumers purchase computers).

      Consumers want a tool to use, whether it be for games, email, finances, or just internet surfing. Quite frankly they don't want to spend a ton of time learning about how to use it, and many don't care how or why it works just as long as it does work.

      The tug-of-war that exists is that computers by their nature are complex and flexible. Consumers by their nature are very insistant on their desires which in include simplicity, flexability, safety, cost, and utility.

      Calling them "stubborn idiots" only highlights the divide of understanding between the computer literate that understand and desire ultimate flexibility, and the average consumer that just wants to use their computer, like a toaster or a vcr or a Sony playstation, without a lot of hastle.

      Somehow the creators (programmers and hardware vendors) need to accomodate for that, because I assure you that the average consumer won't change.

      Although I despise Microsoft's business ethics, I appreciate their dedication to the principle that I mentioned above.

      Linux is in a very good position to make headways in this regard as well, but it will take a fundamental understanding by the programmers and harware teams of said principle to make real headways in the desktop market.

      Anything less will ultimately limit the adoption of Linux to, for example, server, web, and corporate applications.

      "The masses" are what they are, and deriding them for it won't influence them to change, however it will influence them to avoid the product.

      Lets find a way to meet them where they are while preserving the fundamentals.
      • by DoraLives (622001) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:12AM (#7734118)
        Until some "benevolent dictator" comes along and FORCES ALL *nix's to look and act sufficiently similar to an end user of average or even less than average intelligence, *nix will be going more or less nowhere in the grand scheme of things.

        Is this bad enough news? No.

        Furthermore, until the same "benevolent dictator" FORCES ALL *nix to employ the use of focus groups, user feedback, and other methods of optimising the UI to suit the needs and wants of the AVERAGE JOE, ALL *nix will continue to suffer a host of maladies from merely looking clunky up to and including full incomprehensibility to the guy we're trying to promote this stuff to.

        Apple came a gnat's whisker from pulling this double burden off, but because they run a MORE EXPENSIVE machine that is NOT COMPATABLE with the Great Shoal of Computers, they failed.

        Proceed with the downmodding children, I can take the hit.

  • Mirror world (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mattjb0010 (724744) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:35AM (#7733474) Homepage
    but it does mean that Americans getting off the plane for the first time in Tokyo are confronted with an overwhelming feeling that this place isstrange, dammit

    It's funny, but coming from Australia you'd think I'd feel right at home in both the UK and US, but there are lots of little things that make me feel slightly out of place in both countries. I think Gibson's "mirror world" term describes it best. And it's much the same with programming, not that I've explicitly programmed for windows, but it's quite a difference writing GUIs in Java or C++ as opposed to command line tools in Perl or C. Each to their own, I guess :)
  • by mydigitalself (472203) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:37AM (#7733487)
    "The Windows programmer will tend to start with a GUI, and occasionally, as an afterthought, add a scripting language which can automate the operation of the GUI interface."

    1) No, a VB programmer will do this.
    2) No, a good windows programmer will create an object (COM/C# Class) and then write a GUI that will call this object.

    also interesting:

    "They don't like GUIs much, except as lipstick painted cleanly on top of textual programs, and they don't like binary file formats. This is because a textual interface is easier to program against than, say, a GUI interface"

    i would say that textual interfaces were more popular before bandwidth started becoming readily available. the rise of bandwidth has seen a rise of GUI applications because it is quite feasible to VNC from home->work and to run GUI. before ADSL it was a pain in the arse and using textual interfaces was fast and convenient.

    • I am not sure why people bother reading Joel Sporsky's weblog -- half of what he writes is tripe, and half is heavily biased by his ego. Someone else quoted Joel's jab at how "the Unix world is so full of self-righteous cultural superiority;" apparently he does not realize that he is an exemplar of the Windows version of the same.

      If I wanted to follow his lead and oversimplify the differences between Windows and Unix programmers, I would say that Unix programmers care about code (period) and Windows progr
    • by awol (98751) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:33AM (#7734299) Journal

      "They don't like GUIs much, except as lipstick painted cleanly on top of textual programs, and they don't like binary file formats. This is because a textual interface is easier to program against than, say, a GUI interface"

      This is so naive as to be laughable. The thing that soooo many windows programmers do not understand is that the "text" based paradigm of the UNIX world is exactly that a paradigm and the metaphysics of that paradigm are so deeply ingrained in the approach to programming that the real benefits are often underestimated. If I write a command line program, I need only understand 4 interfaces stdin, stdout, stderr and argv and only half of them are readable! Within that, we have lines and whitespace as standard concepts, again trivial to grok.

      As a programmer it is up to me to present my output in the format understood by the stdin/argv scanner of the program I want to call and the process by which I can discover that format is of varying difficulty based on the complexity and quality of the program I wish to call, but generally pretty simple process nonetheless.

      The next generation of interaction between programs (or lets call them objects) requires a huge leap in complexity. It is this next generation paradigm that many windows programmers would claim to use. But for it to work, the self discovery of those input and output formats and some standard nomenclature to allow them to communicate with each other to make the discovery is required. For example, my spreadsheet program may have many different inputs, a clipboard, a file interface, a dynamic data interface etc etc and its outputs might be equally complex, but the critical thing is that it must be able to tell my data capture program that it is a spreadsheet stlye application and that phrase "spreadsheet" style application must make as much sense as a "stdin/stdout" style application makes today. Whilst I agree with this posters point about creating an object, and then using a GUI to call it, the point is somewhat moot since the discovery process means that in the Object focused world there is no capacity for this communication to take place and so the programmer is left with the task of doing all the mapping between objects since a "data capturey" type object doesn't really grok the metaphysics of how to present to a "spreadsheety" type application. Now, don't misunderstand, I am not suggesting that UNIX can do this any better, but the paradigm under which a unix programmer operates understands something about the metaphysics of how applications talk to each other and so the UNIX programmer will think in a reuse/talking to other programs kinda way to a level, even if it is at, overall, a lower level of functional richness, that a windows programmer cannot really hope to emulate.

      $0.02

      • by 11223 (201561) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:48AM (#7734460)
        Ugh, no. Your approach leaves out the single most important factor in designing a GUI interface to a program - error handling. When your backend program gets confused, or goes off into an infinite spinloop, your GUI frontend simply becomes confused too - it won't pop up an error; instead, it may pretend to work, or it might hang waiting for a response from the program.

        There are two ways to solve this - bring the functionality into the same address space as the GUI (so if it hangs, force quitting won't leave the confused backend around), or use a network-style protocol with a defined ping/pong approach, and when the backend fails to ping, kill it.

        But text-based interfaces are always fragile. Just look at any of the millions of cdrecord frontends out there. They never quite work properly, because cdrecord-of-the-week always has some new diagnostic message, or error, and the program gets confused.

    • by Khazunga (176423) * on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @11:18AM (#7734795)
      i would say that textual interfaces were more popular before bandwidth started becoming readily available. the rise of bandwidth has seen a rise of GUI applications because it is quite feasible to VNC from home->work and to run GUI. before ADSL it was a pain in the arse and using textual interfaces was fast and convenient.
      That completely misses the point of a textual interface. When Unix people talk about textual interfaces, the important interface isn't the user-interface. It's inter-application interfaces that really matter. Unix applications don't talk to each other via strange, binary, unreadable protocols such as Corba, COM, DCOM, COM+ or whatever MS is selling these days. They talk text. Simple, human readable, text. Stuff that I can probe and poke and dismantle. Stuff I can disassemble and assemble together again. I can pick and match little utilities to process data the way I want to.

      Take cdrecord. cdrecord does the same stuff that the windows cd-rom recording libraries do: write a cd-rom. How do you feed the windows libraries data to write? I don't know. Are they self-documented? Nope. How do you feed cd-record? The most obvious way: give it an image to write via stdin:

      cat image.iso | cdrecord

      If I didn't know this, cdrecord --help tells me what to do. man cdrecord has a longer explanation with examples. I can get the application, usable by end users, and place it inside my backup scripts. Do this with the windows libraries or Nero or some other burning application. Tell me how long do you have to sift through documentation to do this: Find a way to backup a disk partition to a cdrom using the windows libraries. In any unix, this is something like:

      cat /dev/sda1 | cdrecord

      Will a end-user have trouble using command line cdrecord? Naturally. But cdrecord is a core application, which shouldn't be used by end users. That's what the Rule of Separation [faqs.org] is about. Grab krecord or something like that, and use it.

  • by Spoing (152917) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:40AM (#7733500) Homepage
    I'm slowly coaxing, pulling, the admins I work with from the "trust the product, just fix problems that managers mention today" to actively tracking down problems before they occur and having a DAMN PLAN!

    I introduced one of them to Nessus [nessus.org], not because it was a Unix program, but because it is a damn good (the best?) security auditing tool available.

    His reaction to a security audit showing our primary app server had multiple potential holes just in the programs that support the app? "Well, we don't use that software much, we only use it to get into the program. All the work is being done using the other programs."

    For the record, the system was an HPUX server running an older version of Apache 1.x. The app gateway is through Apache to Weblogic, though the main application program runs on the HP box, not elsewhere.

    This is not simply an aversion to Unix or command lines. The lax security extends into all the Windows systems as well. For example; all drives readable/writable on the network by any user.

    It's a lack of professionalism, not intellegence -- the guy is plenty smart. Adding a little fear to the mix (we print checks dammit!) doesn't raise his concern too much. I've not raised the possibility that he, personally, might be held to blaim for security issues and I doubt that it would work with him.

    My only hope is that slowly, without forcing him, he will see that there is something behind my comments and tips. Maybe a light will go on, and he will decide to take a look.

    • My only hope is that slowly, without forcing him, he will see that there is something behind my comments and tips. Maybe a light will go on, and he will decide to take a look.

      It sounds to me like you are trying to get fired. But, since I am looking for a job at the moment, what company are your working for?

      I'm willing to get paid to sit around letting the system fall apart -- then heaping all the blame on the boss. That works for me... it's a built-in promotion.

      Once the boss is out of the way, I can f
  • by Lord Kholdan (670731) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:51AM (#7733527)
    Only thing I know about Windows/UNIX cultural divide is that I cant use the computer in the *nix world the way I like.

    And yes, that means I prefer GUI over commandline by far and would never touch commandline. To those who think it's a fault: It might be only a personal preference but trying to debate it is like trying to debate whether apples (fruits, not the computers) taste good. In that sense, Windows offers me greater freedom to do with my computer what I want to.
    • by Talthane (699885) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:08AM (#7733614)

      The fact that you can't use a *nix machine the way you want isn't a reflection of the Windows/Unix divide - it's a reflection of your personal preferences, experience and background. It's not remotely cultural.

      I can't make my Windows machines work in the way I like to (mix of command line and GUI), whereas I can make my iBook and my G4 work wonders because I know OS X / Unix well. That's not cultural either - it's a reflection of the fact that my computing experience has always been some distance from the Windows world.

      Just because you don't like something or don't feel comfortable with it doesn't necessarily mean it's a fault with the system as a whole. It can equally easily be a "fault" with your own experience.

    • by Hatta (162192)
      What is it that microsoft gives you the "freedom" to do that you can't under unix? Besides running 95% of commercially available software. It's ok that you like GUI apps, I use mozilla, gaim, and xchat frequently myself. But linux has a GUI too, and for my purposes at least it's better than windows. Why? Network transparancey.

      But I don't mean to get into a bunch of feature comparison here. We're talking about cultural differences. So here's an example. When I don't know how something works in linux, I
    • by xdroop (4039) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:41AM (#7733851) Homepage Journal
      In that sense, Windows offers me greater freedom to do with my computer what I want to.

      Good. Great. Bully for you.

      I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you truely limit your comments to your wants and needs. The problem is that the standardization naz^Wadvocates (oops, almost invoked Godwin's Law, sorry about that) always extend their needs as trumping everyone else's needs. This is just as much a crime when it comes from those whining that Linux needs a standard GUI (or whatever) because the unstated subtext is always "the one I am using".

      My needs are different from yours -- I find that I cannot use a Windows system the way I want to, and am much more at home on a unix system. I find I cannot use a KDE inteface the way I can use a olvwm interface. With a modular system like unix, I can use the interface I want, even as other users on the same system use a completely different one, and all without causing undue problems between them.

  • by Frubjub (704006) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @08:56AM (#7733549)
    I've encountered too many Unix programmers who sneer at Windows programming, thinking that Windows is heathen and stupid. Raymond all too frequently falls into the trap of disparaging the values of other cultures without considering where they came from. blah blah blah
    Well, if you've ever encountered a windows zealot, from the point of view of a unix person (I don't consider myself a zealot, I just think unix makes my job easier/possible), you'll know that they are even more zealous than the unix zealots. It seems pretty clear what the author's views are.
  • by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:00AM (#7733558)
    Interesting essay, but Mr. Sposky seems to miss out on a situation I have observed more and more over the last five years: as Windows-based personal computers have moved out of the realm of the "power users" and into the hands of the general public, including the general management ranks, the initial sense of elation, power, and control is gradually replaced by a sense of bubbling frustration.

    To wit: why is it so difficult to accomplish this seeming simple task? Why can't straightforward business task x be accomplished with these shiny new computers? What do you mean we need to hire 5 VB programmers for 3 months to move this data from here to there, or cause this function (which should have happened automatically) to occur every night on schedule?

    Yet when I drop down to the command line to run an NT Posix utility which replaces those five VB programmers with a simple script, or pull up SQL*Plus to quickly make mass changes to the database, they sneer "why are you still using that archiac technology?".

    The problem that Mr. Sposky doesn't address is this: 2/3 of the problems addressed with computers today (even so-called personal computers) are data processing problems, and there is absolutely no evidence that a GUI is an efficient way to handle those problems. Yet rather than use the best currently available tool (the command line and scripts), or devise a better one, Mr. Sposky and the Windows advocates would have us shoehorn every task into a GUI + complex API world. Um, those don't work very well, I am afraid. If you don't like the command line, fine, but could you propose something better? Because all I see right now is frustration.

    sPh

    • by Stiletto (12066) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:11AM (#7733639)

      Many windows programmers approach a problem with the question "What should the user experience?" whereas a UNIX programmer approaches a problem with "What is the data coming in on stdin and what is the data that goes to stdout?"

      Windows programmers see the actual data processing as a secondary task that the GUI (and only the GUI) makes happen. Unix programmers see the GUI as a seperate app, which monitors and controls the central data processing app.

    • The problem that Mr. Sposky doesn't address is... and there is absolutely no evidence that a GUI is an efficient way to handle those problems. Yet rather than use the best currently available tool (the command line and scripts), or devise a better one, Mr. Sposky and the Windows advocates would have us shoehorn every task into a GUI + complex API world.

      If you read the article, you would notice that the ENTIRE POINT was that there isn't one true way of doing things. The secondary point is that some *nix p

    • by Azghoul (25786) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:39AM (#7733836) Homepage
      I think you missed Sposky's point completely, but...

      I believe we need to have "end-user focused" programmers, and I think there are a few sneaking into our world (H Pennington, Miguel de Mono come to mind). They'd be folks who know the "unix way" but focus on the "final" solution: The end app that will be used without piping off to other apps, without having to support connections to 15 other things, whatever. Just what the user needs right then and there.

      There's a dearth of those kinds of apps now, but they seem to be arriving more and more.
      • by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:54AM (#7734524)
        I think you missed Sposky's point completely, but...
        If you read the article, you would notice that the ENTIRE POINT was that there isn't one true way of doing things. The secondary point is that some *nix people are pulled into some sort superiority complex.
        The cultural schism is so sharp that Unix has never really made any inroads on the desktop. Aunt Marge can't really use Unix, and repeated efforts to make a pretty front end for Unix that Aunt Marge can use have failed, entirely because these efforts were done by programmers who were steeped in the Unix culture.
        Well, I actually did read the article. Although over breakfast, and of course not as deeply as I would have like. Then again, reading deeply is against the Slashdot Code of Posting anyway ;-).

        However, as the snippet from the original article above shows, I don't think my interpretation is entirely (if at all) incorrect. Mr. Sposky seems to me to be saying that the Unix metaphor is "less usable" to "Aunt Minnie" (pretty insulting, BTW: my Aunt Minnie was programming calcuating machines before Mr. Sposky was born, but that's another topic) due to its inherent nature.

        I am observing that the Windows metaphor works great for the first 2-3 years, but then the end user runs into a brick wall where he can't do what he wants, doesn't know why, and has no tools or path at his disposal to move forward. I have seldom seen a person who grew up in the Unix (or VMS, or TOPS-20) metaphor hit that same wall and not be able to figure out a way around it. It was primarly my Unix and VMS background that allowed me to figure out how to make Microsoft LAN Manager 1.1 actually work, for example, when the Microsoft technicians were clueless (another long story).

        sPh

    • Try this... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by johannesg (664142) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @11:30AM (#7734924)
      Sometimes you need to do something once every three months. Clicking in a gui would get the job done in maybe half a minute, while reading up on the required command line actions would take half an hour. So in this case you need a gui.

      At other times you need to do the same repetitive task thousands of times, over dozens of machines, every single day. You'd better be able to automate that, so you need a command line option here.

      So, here is my rather remarkable suggestion: programs should, as a rule, cater to BOTH. Have both the gui and the commandline option available at all times. When you need it, use whatever is best for you, mixing options any way you like. Because gui and commandline are not at all mutually exclusive, no matter what many uninformed people will tell you.

  • Binary libraries (Score:5, Interesting)

    by woodhouse (625329) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:00AM (#7733560) Homepage
    Any Windows developer will tell you about the time they spent four days tracking down a bug because, say, they thought that the memory size returned by LocalSize would be the same as the memory size they originally requested with LocalAlloc, or some similar bug they could have fixed in ten minutes if they could see the source code of the library.
    Actually, it's a hell of a lot easier to program for a library with well written docs than having to delve into the source code. If you have to read the source, it usually isn't a time-saver. And call this flamebait if you will, but in my experience, MS APIs have some of the best documentation out there; I've never come across a situation where I would need to see the source code after reading the relevant pages on MSDN.

    Of course, if there was a bug in the library itself rather than the application using it, it would be another matter.
    • Documentation??? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nickyj (142376)
      MS products and APIs have some of the WORST documentation I have ever seen. They make a point of pointing out the obvious stuff and not even telling you the important stuff. I have been spending time using the MS VSS command lines to write scripts for automation of builds and such. Well the VSS docs are VERY incomplete. They fail to meantion that output may be multi-line for commands that SHOULD come back with a single line. There is also very little information on some of the important behaviours of some o
    • by GbrDead (702506)
      Three years ago I had to do something very simple with Microsoft's Crypto API. It has two layers: high and low. The high level functions did some common tasks, though totally non-customizable. So I had to use the low level ones. The documentation was vague. Only if they have published the high level functions source, me and the company I worked for would have saved a month. Or maybe I'm mentally retarded. So here is another example: IFS kit. It costs $1000, and it comes with 0/zero/none/not a single line of
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:02AM (#7733562)
    ESR: "Whenever possible, prototype in an interpreted language before coding C."

    Hello, Mr Raymond, there are actually quite a number of high-level compiled languages, that will give you most of the convenience of an interpreted language with most of the speed of C. Write your prototype - and then deploy it, because it's already fast and robust enough for everyday use.
  • by Brown Line (542536) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:02AM (#7733563)
    Sposky writes, "Raymond all too frequently falls into the trap of disparaging the values of other cultures without considering where they came from. It's rather rare to find such bigotry among Windows programmers, who are, on the whole, olution-oriented and non-ideological."

    Au contraire, Mr. Sposky, most Windows people I deal with are ignorant of anything that doesn't come from Redmond, and not willing to learn. God knows I've meant plenty of UNIX bigots, but at least they know something about Windows - they have to, there's no avoiding it. The same is not true about Windows bigots: they combine their parochialism with a triumphalism that is as infuriating as it is unmerited.

    One other aspect of the two cultures that Mr. Sposky doesn't discuss but is worth bringing up: UNIX bigots are not trying to shoulder Windows out of the marketplace - we couldn't, even if we tried. The Windows culture, however - or its corporate sponsor - is in fact trying actively to extinguish all competition. This is open-mindedness? Give me a break.

  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscowar ... TBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:06AM (#7733593) Journal
    Is not about the command line or GUI.

    It is that Microsoft's own development teams have always programmed with inside knowledge of the OS, able to bypass the official API whenever necessary.

    This was explained to me by the director of a large bank in Brussels that abandoned a huge Windows-based project after finding that COM+ and MSMQ could not talk to each other, and this after spending time with the actual developers at Microsoft to resolve the issues.

    Each Microsoft application is written "to the metal", reimplementing huge pieces of code that should be abstracted into layers.

    Many of the security issues in Windows software stem from this design model: a typical Linux security issue can be fixed by a single patch in one layer, but typical Windows security issues reappear in application after application.

    And this is where the Unix model is strong: it is all about layers, formal documented interfaces, and clean separation. When Microsoft decided to add MSIE to the operating system, they were not just screwing their competitors, they were setting themselves up for a fall.

    Good software must be built in layers, with formal and definite separation between layers. Microsoft is learning this now, mainly because it simply cannot make its current designs secure.
  • ha ha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by koekepeer (197127) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:08AM (#7733619)
    The very fact that the Unix world is so full of self-righteous cultural superiority, "advocacy," and slashdot-karma-whoring sectarianism while the Windows world is more practical ("yeah, whatever, I just need to make a living here") stems from a culture that feels itself under siege, unable to break out of the server closet and hobbyist market and onto the mainstream desktop.

    i think the article shows a bit of a polarised image. okay, i see the point of OS advocates being too tech-oriented, but we also have some [kde.org] efforts [gnome.org] that really try to aim at end users, more or less succesfull. allright, it's not as easy as using MacOSX, but it's quite close in many aspects. and quite usable for the novice, especially in the distributions that try to make it simple (xandros, lindows, etc)

    linux on the desktop? very possible. a lot more likely than the writer of this article would like us to believe IMHO
  • by dido (9125) <dido.imperium@ph> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:09AM (#7733628)

    If I recall correctly, the "silence is golden" maxim in Unix programming arose as an artifact of Unix's origins. When Dennis Ritchie and the rest of the historic team at Bell Labs began work on the earliest editions of Unix and C, they were operating on teletype terminals that ran at 110 baud (kinda humbling in this day and age, ain't it?). 110 baud translates to roughly 13 characters per second, so a program that was too chatty wasted precious bandwidth. If they had something like the cp(1) command operating the way the MS-DOS COPY command did, displaying messages like "14 file(s) copied.", which is 20 characters (plus the newline), it would take about a couple of seconds to display, while displaying nothing would be 20 times faster. It had nothing to do with making programs work better with each other and everything to do with conserving bandwidth. This is also the reason why ed(1) and vi(1) have such eccentric design, preserving a resource that was scarce in the day they were made.

    • by hburch (98908) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:19AM (#7734179)
      Silence remains golden. That more you say, the less attention what you say receives. Humans have limited bandwidth, and conserve it for interesting things. If you program continually spits out verbage, no one will notice the important line in the middle of the verbage. If you program throws up dialog boxes like there's no tomorrow (Are you certain you want to print this document?), then people will start answering "yes" to all of them without reading them (Are you certain you want to reformat your hard drive?).

      In the world of programming pipes, output must be dealt with, making this maxim even more true. If your program outputs "Foo" to standard error, than my program, which is looking at your standard error for items of concern, must know all the noise you output and ignore it properly. The less you make me do this, the better.

      Occasionally, the extra output is helpful. This is why the -v option exists (occasionally, annoyingly, -d).

      "If you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all" is actually totally backwards. "If you cannot say anything bad has happened, do not say anything at all".

      The rule of exceptions states "for every rule, there is an exception". This maxim is not an exception to the rule of exceptions. There are cases where you want to output noise. One such example is telnet, where you need to distinguish between "connected" and "trying to connect", and both situations are common.
      • Spolsky: "Aunt Madge might be justified in observing that a program that produces no output because it succeeded cannot be distinguished from a program that produced no output because it failed badly or a program that produced no output because it misinterpreted your request."

        Except on UNIX, even Aunt Madge will rapidly learn that programs just don't silently fail. If you can trust program failures to produce diagnostics, then you don't need diagnostics for program success.

        IMHO, the biggest divide bet

  • by musikit (716987) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:16AM (#7733679)
    some of what i believe is behind this Unix/Windows cultural divide is the elitist attitude. you have to be elite to use unix which just isn't true. as i've seen other people post and i agree with Apple put a pretty picture in front of unix and users aren't complaining why can't other people?

    i personnally don't care what OS i'm using. at home i'm using my computer for video games and sound engineering, so i have 1 up2date windows box for games, and a mac for sound engineering. Why'd i get a mac? because while i'm in the middle of recording a band session i can't turn to the band and say "sorry guys computer crashed i lost the last 3 hours of your work" if windows was stable enough i would be using that. At work is another story though. i write stupid docs and java code so they put me in front of a windows machine. i personnally don't care. although i worry less about my mac then my windows machine.

    My family recently decided to get DSL first thing i did was lock that computer down. i almost went so far as to remove IE with some ie removal tool (XPlite for example) but then i realize this would cause more calls to me then it would solve.

    i also find that people want a brand name. i was asked to "buy" my own machine for work and i went to one of the lesser known computer builders and the price difference was several hundred dollars compared to what they wanted me to buy from Dell. Take a guess what's on my desk.

    A lot of windows users don't care. if you gave them a mac as their first computer they wouldn't switch because they wouldn't know. the example i use alot is "how many people continue to buy automatic tranny cars over stick shift?" neither one is better or worse just a different interface but sticks are slowly getting phased out.

    a lot of people (myself included) need to stop saying "windows is for morons" or "windows is less secure use unix" and start to change our "marketing focus" to something more like "building a more structured and secure tomorrow" like it or not "Where do you want to go today" sold computers, it sold windows and increased his market share. unix needs a "where do you want to go today" why? because no normal computer gives a crap about where the source came from.

    BTW side story i was on a project where the dev team used exclusively solaris boxes. i had to write a code review document. with no MS office on my computer i wrote it in the other thing available StarOffice. i got hounded for several months by a stupid Q&A team because they couldn't find evidence that this "StarOffice Product" even existed. like just goto google and type "Staroffice" in the freaking search box.

    Again just to reiterate my point. people don't care about which OS they run. they want their computer to be like their cars. "if i got someplace else and sit in a car i should be able to drive it". We need to change the marketing strategy of UNIX.

    mod me whatever you like but some of you will think i'm flaming which i'm not. some of you will agree with me. i've said all i wanted to say. thank you for reading
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:20AM (#7733715)
    he identified one severe problem but put the wrong spin on it!

    observing that a program that produces no output because it succeeded cannot be distinguished from a program that produced no output because it failed badly

    With Windows programs, you just never know. In general, I pick up a *nix program, test it a few times to verify that it does indeed do what it was supposed to do and then I use it. With Windows programs, I just never feel secure. I find myself saving more often, checking output at myultiple times through the process and wasting sooo much time verifying that everything did what it ought to have done because I am never quite sure.

    Now this is a profound cultural difference, but I think it has little to do with writing for Aunt Madge or writing for other programmers. I think it has more to do with the culture of quality and craft (*.nix) or the lack thereof (Windows).

    Many Windows programs "babble", not to reassure Aunt Martha, but to reassure Windows users who have grown up in a culture of "slap it together, get it out the door and let the user worry about any problems with the way it works". Without some confirmation the user just never knows whether a given program is actually working or has crashed. Many Windows widgets including moving progress bars, constantly moving icons and spinning logos are there just to reassure the user that something is indeed happening and that Windows has not crashed in the meantime.
  • by harmonica (29841) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:30AM (#7733772)
    Most of the article is dead-on when it comes to the different cultures of development. However, the following

    I've encountered too many Unix programmers who sneer at Windows programming, thinking that Windows is heathen and stupid.

    [...]

    It's rather rare to find such bigotry among Windows programmers, who are, on the whole, solution-oriented and non-ideological.

    does not quite relect my personal experience, and I am mostly working in the Windows world (at the moment). The bigotry can be found everywhere, and I've given up on trying to explain the advantages of one culture to people who are claiming the superiority of the other one.

    Let me emphasize what an interesting read the Raymond book [faqs.org] is. Very much recommended. Certain issues are too often considered 'common knowledge', although they're not, and the book explains the Unix culture well to those who are interested in technology, regardless of ideology. After all, a lot of things can be used on Windows, too, although they may not be the usual way to do it.
  • Crossing the Chasm (Score:5, Informative)

    by gargle (97883) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:31AM (#7733781) Homepage
    For anyone who has ever wondered why more people don't use linux, staroffice, etc, I recommend the classic on technology marketing "Crossing the Chasm" by Geoffrey Moore. It describes the "chasm" which technology companies face in crossing from the early adopter market to the pragmatic, mainstream market.

    The consumers on the left side of the chasm - what Moore terms the innovators and early adopters - enjoy using new technology, enjoy putting things together, have the vision to see the potential of new technology, and are willing to put up with inconveniences in the iterim.

    The mainstream market is pragmatic. It prefers to bet on clear market leaders (so as to minimise risk and benefit from the supporting ecosystem which inevitably grow around the market leader), is willing to wait and see, and needs complete, fully functional, headache-free solutions for their specific needs. Consumers in the mainstream market rely on references within the mainstream market to drive their buying decisions.

    A technology company which wants to transition from the early adopter market to the mainstream market therefore has to bridge this "chasm", and in the process, change the focus of its marketing efforts and adjust its product accordingly. As far as the desktop market is concerned, Unix (with the exception of Mac OS X) is a product which clearly has not bridged the chasm.

    • needs complete, fully functional, headache-free solutions for their specific needs

      So they use Windows?????

  • by Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:33AM (#7733799) Homepage
    This story will be duped at some distant point in the future.
  • Haughtyness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xdroop (4039) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:43AM (#7733859) Homepage Journal
    This haughtiness-from-a-position-of-weakness is the biggest flaw of The Art of UNIX Programming (...)

    You know, I had a similar thought when reading this review. Mr. Spolski brings up many of the compare-and-contrast points of unix vs windows programming, and while (in my unix-centric view) most unix points stand on their own, the windows points are rather fluffed up with artificial and (in my unix-centric view) rather unconvincing hand waving. Most of his points seem to boil down to

    • windows does it this way because it is better for users; and
    • problems in windows are due to bad windows programmers mis-using the api
    ...without really being able to explain or justify either statement. So we use the Evil Registry instead of Elegant .rc Files because we want to sell millions of copies of our word processor? Why?

    In the end, Mr, Spolski's review falls into the same category that he would like to pigeon-hole Mr. Raymond's book -- an attempt to be balanced and fair defeated by the author's self-inflicted blinders.

  • by Ilan Volow (539597) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:46AM (#7733887) Homepage
    About 9 months ago, Eric Raymond came to speak at my LUG. No matter what else I think of him, he's really intersting and a really good speaker. I wouldn't for a moment knock his entertainment value, no matter what else I might have to say about the guy.

    However, there was this one point during this discussing at the dinner before his speech where me and several of the LUG members were talking with him about linux GUI's and the future of the Linux Desktop. Eric Raymond said something about the whole unix system of creating back ends first and then grafting GUI's on to those later.

    My response: "But Eric, most usability experts recommend you design the interface first and then write the code".

    His response: "then they're wrong."

    My response: "But what if there's something that the backend folks didn't think of when they wrote there code that the GUI really needs? Or what if there's something in the back-end that just doesn't work once you add a GUI?"

    His response: "then it needs to be fixed."

    My response: "But what if so much code has already been written that no programmer wants to go back and make all the changes necessary to make it really work?"

    His response: "then we've got a problem."

    It was at this moment I realized two things:
    1. The Open Source leadership is just stuck in command-line land as your typical rabid, BOFH linux zealot, and is just as clueless about designing desktop software and user interfaces. They leaders of Open Source are as desktopically bankrupt as their followers, and it is unbelievably disturbing that people like this are placed in charge of leading efforts to make alternatives to windows for non-technical users.

    2. For Free Software/Open Source to succeed in being a viable alternative for non-programmers, it must be once and for all divorced from the Unix Culture. The concept of freely distributable and modifiable code must be seperated from the concept of The Unix Way.
    • "Or what if there's something in the back-end that just doesn't work once you add a GUI?"

      His response: "then it needs to be fixed."

      I think the point of his response here is that it can be fixed by refactoring the back end and that he finds the effort to refactor the back end not nearly as great as you imagine.

    • This comment is just silly... point #2 is totaly unrelated to his prior comments as many open source projects are *not* command line oriented. If you think FOSS somehow equals command line, you have not explored very far.

      Point #1 may be valid for your speaker, but most of the open source tools I work with are web based PHP projects. Surely you are not claiming that Open Office is "desktopically (making up words is fun!) bankrupt", and the result of "BOFH" mindsets. Or Gnome and KDE exist because all FOSS c
  • by dacap (177314) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:49AM (#7733906) Homepage
    The cultural values approach produces some interesting insights.

    The obvious stuff:

    1) Coding for other programmers promotes code reuse. Code reuse promotes productivity.

    2) Security is affected by code reuse. It propagates bugs resident in the reused code but avoids bugs that would be introduced should the user have to recode that functionality. The net gain is that, so long as the reused code is in a common library, fixing it once fixes multiple applications. Available source means that more (and fresh) eyes review the common code, improving the possibility of finding the bugs in the first place.

    3) Writing for end users, when done well, produces applications with better usability. Naturally it tends to sell better.

    4) Writing only for end users tends to produce inflexible applications. The user must use the program exactly as the author intended and no other way, unless the programmer takes the higher road. In the first-to-market commercial business environment, taking the higher road is as hard as pushing a rope.

    5) Literate end users is not only a contradiction in terms, it is an unreasonable expectation. Programmers cannot expect end users to learn more than the minimum needed to operate the computer because (1) they see it as a tool to to accomplish their real goal, and (2) The inner workings of the hardware and software do not interest them. Is it reasonable to expect all drivers to understand the inner workings of an automobile, or kitchen users to understand the inner workings of their dishwashers?

    6) If Unix is to succeed on the desktop, it must cater to end users.

    My conclusions:

    1) If we really want Unix to succeed on the desktop, it seems to me like we need cultural fusion. We must pay more attention to end users but without losing the values in the Unix community that produce modular, reusable, secure, reliable code.

    2) This fusion alone is necessary but not sufficient, else Apple would have more market share than it does.

    3) The cultural fusion discussed so far is in the technical world. But IT vendors' companies rest on three pillars: the technical pillar, the business pillar, and the merchandising/marketing pillar. Every company that hopes to put Unix on the desktop would be well-advised to rethink their business processes, standard contracts, and advertising so as to cater to home end users and to give business end users more visibility and consideration. First on my list of business processes to review would be the help desk metaphor. What a universally negative experience!

    What say you, technical literati?
  • Where's the sequel? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by biljir (264321) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @09:56AM (#7733961)
    Excellent article. Now will someone do the sequel, explaining to both sides the much greater rift between the UNIX culture and the (IBM) mainframe culture?

    The world will be a better place when the UNIX partisans understand exactly why the "Those who do not understand UNIX are doomed to revinvent it, badly" quote makes IBM mainframe guys go ballistic. Compare mainframe security to UNIX security sometime for just a hint of what I'm going on about.
  • by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <gorkon&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:03AM (#7734035)
    I just had a Windows programmer/sysadmin type tell me that all he does is play with the program in question until he figures out how it works. He told me that help files are useless. I on the other hand live by the documentation and everything better damn well be documented or I ain't trying it.....not on my production system. I don't mean the easy stuff either. the more touchy something is, the more I want to read befor I attempt it. Man pages can and do suck, but everyone I have come across pointed me in the right direction. Windows likes to hide things even from the programmer. I don't think thats a correct way even if your writing a program focusing on the end user. If something goes wrong, how do you track it down?

    The registry would not be as bad as it is if it was better documented. I know I know....if you subscribe to MSDN or some other microsoft money scheme, you can read the documentation. Well, users should have access to that if they so want.

    Things like this is why OS/X does well on both fronts. You don't HAVE to look at the commandline ever if your just using it. If you want to write a little script or automate something, the command line is there if you need it. Microsoft on the other hand went so far as to say that Windows ME had no access to the DOS prompt, yet with in a minute of installing it, I had a DOS prompt.

    I happen also to disagree with this guy that UNIX programmers typically write a command line program first. Some do, but I have seen others which are useless without a GUI program.

    Commandline is valued because you can take different command line programs and pipe it here, append to a file there and have a script or program that does what the original writers of each module never dreamed. There's something to be said for that!

    Just one tiny example where the UNIX way ends up being better for users:

    The gpsd project is a project that takes the gps data collected by a serial port and makes it availble not just to apps running on the local machine, but also across a network. The advantage is that if you have programs wrote to work with gpsd, you can use MULTIPLE map programs at the same time each showing your current position. You don't have to juggle the serial port between 2-3 programs if you use one map program because of one reason and another map program for another reason. This has not even been dreamt of yet on Windows and the only way to accomplish it on Windows is using 2 GPS's each on their own serial port. To make the data available to any application that want/needs it, you just configure the daemon to look at the serial port your GPS is connected to and then other programs can get the data from the daemon instead of the serial port.

    UNIX programmers program to work around limitations in the platform and are able to make the platform do what they want to do. Windows programmers will just say that it's not possible or Microsoft does not support it. UNIX programmers say: Nonsense! You are a programmer right? Then write a program or API that does what you want. Some say that this is a weakness, but I say it's a strength that makes UNIX a tool that actually makes it easy to make it do what you want. Some users don't want or need this kind of power, so they are happy with Windows. The ones that need it turn to Linux or UNIX.
  • by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:15AM (#7734136) Homepage Journal

    that Windows programmers hurt their arms and wrists after clawing their way through one too many pull-down menus while Unix programmers hurt their pinky fingers after a heavy emacs session in the world of Control Meta.

    As a result, Windows programmers have spastic arms from all this GUI action, looking like zombies from Night of the Living Dead, while UNIX programmers have hands curled up like Igor from Frankenstein's Lab.

  • by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @10:37AM (#7734336)

    Read the article [joelonsoftware.com] (I know, it will be hard to force yourself to do so if you are a slashdot regular :)) and then read this chapter from TAoUP [faqs.org].

    I don't know if Spolsky didn't read this far, or if he's just a weak plagarist, or maybe this is the only part that made a big enough impression on him to merit rephrasing for his own column.

    The only difference I see is POV, and substitute "mac" for "windows".
  • Joel is off base. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @11:38AM (#7735005) Journal
    The very fact that the Unix world is so full of self-righteous cultural superiority, "advocacy," and slashdot-karma-whoring sectarianism while the Windows world is more practical ("yeah, whatever, I just need to make a living here")... - Joel Spolsky

    I have subscribed to Joel's mailing list for several years, and have programmed on both sides of the fence. Joel paints a black and white picture of the differences between Unix and Windows - which I must say, is not true. I have to disagree with Joel's oversimplification because he has made the same mistake that he accuses ESR of making: namely that his own monoculturalism has clouded his view of Unix programming. Anytime someone makes a statement that starts with 'the very fact', you can be sure there is less fact and more conjecture than the writer is willing to admit.

    The key error in his analysis is narrowly defining the Unix program as being a command-line 'mostly' affair that doesn't tell 'Aunt Madge' when it succeeds. This is not exactly true; while it is true of strict command line applicatioins (which Aunt Madge will not use anyway) - the GUI interfaces do not follow that formula - and programmers are free (not constrained as he would suggest) to build interfaces that meet whatever needs an end user may have - whatever their skill level.

    Just because 99% of the end users are familiar with and resist change from the Microsoft GUI does not mean that it is the best UI - it just means that people did not have much of a choice from the beginning (there were only one GUI for PCs back in the late 80s - Windows; the other major GUI was tied to the Apple Macintosh). While the Windows GUI stagnated over the 1990s, the Linux world exploded and a plethora of user interface ideas have surfaced that are effecting the new Windows interface. Same story (DOS - a rip of CP/M), different day ("yeah, whatever, I just need to make a living here").

    He also touches on, but does not explore with a self critical eye, the limitations imposed by not having source code. The dependence of Windows programmers on Microsoft APIs provides too many limitations, and increases the likelyhood of unforseen interactions that cause bugs. He whitewashes these issues by simply focusing on the size of the Windows desktop deployments vs. *nix.

    The reality is a *nix developer has all of the options available to him; he is not constricted by artificial barriers; a Windows programmer is at the mercy of Microsoft - who can change APIs at the drop of a hat.

    His quote above really hits the nail on the head: the Microsoft monoculture is about money above and beyond any moral considerations. I would much rather be a "slashdot-karma-whore" than a Microsoft-whore. From his writings over the years it is plain that he absorbed the 'money is good no matter how you get it' mentality during his stint at the company.
  • by 1eyedhive (664431) * on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @12:28PM (#7735592) Homepage Journal
    I used to be a 100% windows user, ntil i put together, with the help of the local linux guru/LAN party hosting guy, a linux based file server, i needed RAID, didnt have a controller card and had no use for a gui on a headless box.
    the box was red hat 8.
    in the past 9 months i've become much more intimatly familiar with *nix. My router is linux, and i just deployed two new boxes, one of them a dual boot with Win2k (for gaming). Only one of the three nix boxes has a GUI, and that right now is KDE. Granted it's a bit klunky compared to Win2k's, in fact ir reminds me more of Windows 95's desktop. Win2k's file manager/web browser/ftp client combo is nice, just type in a different address, but it has many, many, many bugs and holes.

    I toyed with the idea of setting up a nix box for my parents, just mozilla, evo and OO.o. until i found out that they needed Quicken 2003 (Crossover didnt deliver).

    In any case, I like nix better for some things, windows for others. Is nix suitable for use by the general population? no. it took me 6 months to shake windows logic, the gneral populus would keel over and die, at the least they'd be screaming mad.
  • by luwain (66565) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @12:49PM (#7735830)
    I have extensive experience "programming Windows" and programming "UNIX" [ I live and work "without prejudice"], so I've moved between and am comfortable in both "cultures". Interestingly enough, I find that the cultural divide is much more pronounced now than 20 years ago (20 years ago, did anyone program exclusively for Windows? -- the platform was a joke...). I think that because the Windows SDK is controlled by Microsoft, it's more difficult to do really insightful programming for that platform. So much Unix and Linux stuff is "open", that programmers involved in that culture are exposed to more "inner workings", etc... Where programmers have ONLY used Microsoft's Visual Studio and have ONLY produced end-user, non-programmer apps, their skills I feel are limited. UNIX programmers can certainly produce apps for non-programmers (Open Office, Gimp, KDE etc...), but I think that "Windows Cultured" programmers cannot as easily develop "programmer's tools". I don't think it has as much to do with "culture" as much as "depth and varity of knowledge."
  • by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @02:57PM (#7737303) Homepage Journal
    Okay, a lot of people here seem to be pointing out that Sposky is being too easy on the Windows culture (which he certainly is... the problem isn't just bugs in the APIs, the problem is also intentionally deceptive APIs so that you can pretend you're supporting third party developers and retain the ability to undercut them at will).

    But I haven't seen a lot of people pointing out that esr is also taking it too easy on the Unix culture.

    I started reading the draft of esr's "Art" a while back, and was immediately struck that he was repeating the "do one thing and do it well" slogan as if anyone ever really worked that way. Has he ever seen the man page for "tar"? How about "find"? The Unix Way is more like "do one thing sort-of-okay, and then trick it out with options and modifiers and run command files and embedded scripting languages until you can't tell when it's going to fry eggs or flush the toliet."

    You might want to balance out esr's idealized view with the half-serious ranting of The Unix-Hater's Handbook (pdf) [simson.net].

    I think the chapter on X is one of the better X-windows tutorials around (though unreasonable people may disagree).

  • by jbaltz (219494) on Tuesday December 16, 2003 @06:28PM (#7739831) Homepage Journal
    It's all been said before [microsoft.com] by more famous Unix haters (links to Microsoft, 'natch).

    I'm surprised Joel didn't take on some other major differences:
    • Monolithic versus small parts
    • Just works versus elegant (but might not work)
    • GUI-oriented versus service-oriented
    • et cetera
    Joel is right on the money here, though: there is a major "cultural" difference between Windows and Unix programmers -- my workplace hires both types and they're quite a different group of folks.
    I'd like to lock the Joel and Eric in a room and see what becomes of it...

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