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Unix Operating Systems Programming

How Ya Gonna Get 'Em Down On the UNIX Farm? 606

theodp writes "In 1919, Nora Bayes sang, "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" In 2013, discussing User Culture Versus Programmer Culture, CS Prof Philip Guo poses a similar question: 'How ya gonna get 'em down on UNIX after they've seen Spotify?' Convincing students from user culture to toss aside decades of advances in graphical user interfaces for a UNIX command line is a tough sell, Guo notes, and one that's made even more difficult when the instructors feel the advantages are self-evident. 'Just waving their arms and shouting "because, because UNIX!!!" isn't going to cut it,' he advises. Guo's tips for success? 'You need to gently introduce students to why these tools will eventually make them more productive in the long run,' Guo suggests, 'even though there is a steep learning curve at the outset. Start slow, be supportive along the way, and don't disparage the GUI-based tools that they are accustomed to using, no matter how limited you think those tools are. Bridge the two cultures.'" Required reading.
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How Ya Gonna Get 'Em Down On the UNIX Farm?

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  • Stop trying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2013 @03:53PM (#45789653)

    Not everyone cares.

    Those who do, while learn the power of the command line, just like myself and many others. Those who don't, will be happy with the guy.


    Not EVERYONE needs to be a sysadmin or developer. Some people do stuff other than dick with computers 24/7 so knowing how to use awk is a waste of time, just like I doubt too many of you guys know how to milk a cow (even just hook one up to the milker which is pretty much automatic today).

    Different tools for different jobs. Not all of us need a freaking hammer.


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fisted ( 2295862 )
      Yes, but then again, there are people who /want/ to become developers, yet are hopelessly stuck in the proprietary shiny-UI apple-windows world, and often don't realize they /need/ to get out of there in order to become decent programmers.
      • I don't see why that would be necessary.
        • Re:Stop trying (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:05PM (#45789741)
          Because by coding against a black box, you can only become more and more proficient in knowing how the black box behaves for given inputs - the underlying concepts are pretty much invisible so the computer mostly remains 'magic'
          It's the price you pay for being "ready for granny" ;).

          Another reason would be the WINAPI. It's a horrible, horrible mess.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Because by coding against a black box, you can only become more and more proficient in knowing how the black box behaves for given inputs - the underlying concepts are pretty much invisible so the computer mostly remains 'magic'

            Only a slim minority of programmers code against the OS-specific or kernel-specific APIs. They all use abstraction layers like Qt, GTK+, .NET, etc. So for 95+% of programmers they won't learn anything else since they'll still be using the same abstraction layers. Using Qt on Linux is not teaching me anything more than using Qt on Windows or OS X does and that's the lowest level that pretty much all programmers would be going.

      • Re:Stop trying (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AJH16 ( 940784 ) <aj@gc[ ] ['caf' in gap]> on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:28PM (#45789939) Homepage

        Understanding what the tools do under the hood is important. Using command line tools is not. I could write in assembly if I really wanted to, but I use C# for most stuff. I understand what it does under the hood, but that doesn't mean I have to always work at that level. Using GUI tools is the same thing. I know my GUI tools for administering a Windows server and I can typically make complex adjustments just as fast on it as my UNIX buddy can do using command line tools on his Linux boxes. The difference is what we are comfortable with. Some things go faster with one command, but when you have more complex actions, sometimes the GUI is faster. Either way, you still have to know your system and know what all the buttons or commands actually do.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          GUI can sometimes be handy, but I much prefer that there be an underlying CLI available. CLI can fit through a degraded connection, a serial connection, etc. It's much easier to get someone to type the right thing than to click on the right picture of a squished bug. CLI scripts readily.

          The ideal GUI admin tool will generate the necessary CLI commands and either just run then of show them to you.

        • I know that an internal combustion engine works by exploding gas in the cylinders and pistoning the camshaft yadda yadda. This does not help at all, and is in fact a useless distraction, during the normal task of driving back and forth to work. It also does not help with the normal maintenance of checking the oil and topping off the windshield washer fluid. 90% of what 90% of programmers do similarly doesn't need the under-the-hood stuff. BTW I do embedded systems programming, where EVERYTHING matters
  • Huh, what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @03:54PM (#45789659) Homepage Journal

    People - the Unix-likes advanced far beyond command-line utilities ages ago.

    System administrators rely on command line utilities, on all platforms. That isn't a Unix-specific thing. Windows administrators do the same thing.

    • Re:Huh, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rmstar ( 114746 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @03:59PM (#45789693)

      System administrators rely on command line utilities, on all platforms. That isn't a Unix-specific thing. Windows administrators do the same thing.

      Sure. The problem is teaching people to be admins. If they refuse to use the CLI, then it doesn't matter if they are smart or not - they will not learn. This was the focus of the original article: teaching students used to GUIs.

  • Each user is coming in with a set of experiences that has conditioned them to prefer one way over the other. Someone who has used a CLI a lot may simply prefer it because they are familiar with it and can do things quickly vs. learning a new way to do things with a GUI. They are predisposed to think their way is better; just as a GUI user is towards their preferred interface. to that end:

    1. Don't assume that the CLI is always better, even if you can do something faster or easier. If the GUI gets the job don

    • Re:Several thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pr0fessor ( 1940368 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:38PM (#45790029)

      We are talking about CS students the CLI is very important piece for them to learn as those basic commands stay the same {or mostly the same} where as there are many GUIs for the same thing. I can teach you about the CLI and it will be there but I can't guarantee that everywhere you work and every system you use will have that specific GUI installed.

      When you settle into a new job, understand all those basics learned from the CLI, and you open up a GUI you have never seen before {unless it is poorly designed} you will understand what those buttons are for.

  • Any dumbass can do stuff in a GUI, but real BAMFs rock a terminal.

    At least, that's how it was sold to me when I was a young'in. Worked pretty well, too.

    • by SgtKeeling ( 717065 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:14PM (#45789817) Journal
      Essentially this.

      I had a prof who would do all his lectures & demos from the command line.
      Need to write a short C program to demonstrate forking? Boom! Into vim and coding up a basic example in a minute or two.
      Typo in his LaTeX slides? Boom! Switch over to fix it, then recompile the slides, and on with the lecture.
      Student asks a question about a command line argument? Boom! Man pages up on the big screen.

      It was a little intimidating to see this CLI master hopping around typing crazy little combinations of letters and making magic appear on the screen, but at the same time it was inspiring. It was an example of what we could aspire towards.
    • by bonehead ( 6382 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:43PM (#45790069)

      Any dumbass can do stuff in a GUI, but real BAMFs rock a terminal.

      I think nearly all experienced professionals would simply say that both types of tools have their place.

      I spend 99% or more of my time on the job working in a bash shell. But if you're talking about a new piece of software that I've never configured before, and probably will never have to again, then pop up the GUI, set the options, and move on with my day.

      That said, while a CLI does have a much steeper learning curve, it is far more powerful in most cases. I don't avoid GUI tools out of some sort of "elitist" mentality, I avoid them simply because they're so limiting.

    • Any dumbass can do stuff in a GUI, but real BAMFs rock a terminal.

      I've always thought of it as the difference between watching TV and reading a book. Try doing this with a GUI:

      less `find . -type f -exec grep -il "useful information" {} \;`

  • I wonder . . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kimomaru ( 2579489 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:01PM (#45789707)
    I wonder how much of his advice actually works? People who like using CLI seem to be cut from a different cloth than people who fawn over glitsy GUI interfaces. That's been my observation, anyway. Some newbies just gravitate toward the alluring green-text-on-black-background cli that seems to hold the promise of a deeper computing experience. They tend to find it. :)
  • Read Neal Stephenson's In the beginning was the Command Line [], or, better yet, give it as a set book to the students. It's available for download from his website [] for free, or you can buy it as a paperback from all good booksellers (and some bad ones [])

    • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @05:09PM (#45790367) Homepage Journal

      In the Beginning was the Command Line

      by Neal Stephenson

      About twenty years ago Jobs and Wozniak, the founders of Apple, came up with the very strange idea of selling information processing machines for use in the home. The business took off, and its founders made a lot of money and received the credit they deserved for being daring visionaries. But around the same time, Bill Gates and Paul Allen came up with an idea even stranger and more fantastical: selling computer operating systems. This was much weirder than the idea of Jobs and Wozniak. A computer at least had some sort of physical reality to it. It came in a box, you could open it up and plug it in and watch lights blink. An operating system had no tangible incarnation at all. It arrived on a disk, of course, but the disk was, in effect, nothing more than the box that the OS came in. The product itself was a very long string of ones and zeroes that, when properly installed and coddled, gave you the ability to manipulate other very long strings of ones and zeroes. Even those few who actually understood what a computer operating system was were apt to think of it as a fantastically arcane engineering prodigy, like a breeder reactor or a U-2 spy plane, and not something that could ever be (in the parlance of high-tech) "productized."

      Yet now the company that Gates and Allen founded is selling operating systems like Gillette sells razor blades. New releases of operating systems are launched as if they were Hollywood blockbusters, with celebrity endorsements, talk show appearances, and world tours. The market for them is vast enough that people worry about whether it has been monopolized by one company. Even the least technically-minded people in our society now have at least a hazy idea of what operating systems do; what is more, they have strong opinions about their relative merits. It is commonly understood, even by technically unsophisticated computer users, that if you have a piece of software that works on your Macintosh, and you move it over onto a Windows machine, it will not run. That this would, in fact, be a laughable and idiotic mistake, like nailing horseshoes to the tires of a Buick.

      A person who went into a coma before Microsoft was founded, and woke up now, could pick up this morning's New York Times and understand everything in it--almost:

      Item: the richest man in the world made his fortune from-what? Railways? Shipping? Oil? No, operating systems. Item: the Department of Justice is tackling Microsoft's supposed OS monopoly with legal tools that were invented to restrain the power of Nineteenth-Century robber barons. Item: a woman friend of mine recently told me that she'd broken off a (hitherto) stimulating exchange of e-mail with a young man. At first he had seemed like such an intelligent and interesting guy, she said, but then "he started going all PC-versus-Mac on me."

      What the hell is going on here? And does the operating system business have a future, or only a past? Here is my view, which is entirely subjective; but since I have spent a fair amount of time not only using, but programming, Macintoshes, Windows machines, Linux boxes and the BeOS, perhaps it is not so ill-informed as to be completely worthless. This is a subjective essay, more review than research paper, and so it might seem unfair or biased compared to the technical reviews you can find in PC magazines. But ever since the Mac came out, our operating systems have been based on metaphors, and anything with metaphors in it is fair game as far as I'm concerned.


      Around the time that Jobs, Wozniak, Gates, and Allen were dreaming up these unlikely schemes, I was a teenager living in Ames, Iowa. One of my friends' dads had an old MGB sports car rusting away in his garage. Sometimes he would actually manage to get it running and then he would take us for a spin around the block, with a memorable look of wild youthful exhiliration on his face; to his worried passengers, he was a madman, stalling and backfiring

  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:06PM (#45789749)
    It's easier to shoot yourself in the foot with the command line. A wrong character at some position might cause a lot of unexpected behavior and leave a good mess to clean. Just offering a counter-argument for the sake of discussion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Xipher ( 868293 )

      User error can happen regardless of user interface really.

    • It's easier to shoot yourself in the foot with the command line

      Depends how you learn. If you sit down with a table saw, never having operated one, you're in for a hard learn. Same as any tool. I would say the same goes for a gui too....that damn Voiceover is error prone enough to qualify for the-icepick-of-death-in-the-speakerhole treatment.

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:10PM (#45789781)

    They can learn the command line the same way people 40 years ago learned command line.

    Put those students on a system that can only do command line, and require them to do things. Problem solved.

    Don't pander to lazy, unmotivated fucks. we don't need any more windoze weenors trying to develop systems that run on real computers. half the java developers at my employer are totally useless and cause downtime because of their ignorance of posix systems

    • by dskoll ( 99328 )

      Don't pander to lazy, unmotivated fucks.


      I work in (actually, I own) a small software company and everyone is on Linux, even the non-technical people. Most of the non-techies do not normally use the command-line. However, I have written small CLI utilities for various things and the non-techies were perfectly fine learning enough CLI to use my tools. It's not that difficult and if people are too lazy or stupid to learn something new, then they don't deserve to be employed.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. And fail those that cannot cope permanently. They have no business managing or creating IT systems. A professor I know requires everybody to learn C and use it competently in order to pass his OS course. Students complain of course, because all they learn is Java. But that attitude changes for most of them later, when they realize what things they would have real trouble with, without that experience. When this guy retires, the quality of the education there will drop markedly.

    • Don't pander to lazy, unmotivated fucks.

      Is that like those "lazy, unmotivated fucks" who use an electric drill instead of a bit and brace? Or those people who drive a car instead of walk everywhere? Technology changes and calling people names does not motivate them to stay stuck in the past.

      • by bonehead ( 6382 )

        Technology changes and calling people names does not motivate them to stay stuck in the past.

        If the students in question are going to spend their careers in Marketing or HR, you might have a point.

        If the students in questin are going to spend their careers in IT, the inability to use the CLI == incompetent.

        Sorry if you don't like it, but that's the way it is.

        • the inability to use the CLI == incompetent.

          So is the over reliance on a CLI. There are many things a GUI can to faster than a CLI.

          Learn CLI's and use it for what it is good for but also learn GUI and use them for what they are good for.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Very stupid analogies. The GUI tools and CLI tools don't completely overlap. A better analogy would be like learning to drive without being aware of gears - fine going forward in an automatic but eventually there will be a situation where changing into reverse will be useful.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:15PM (#45789825) Journal
    For casual users, anything with a steep learning curve (no matter how powerful) is a tough sell because they'll probably spend more time learning than they would save. Trying to evangelize them may be morally satisfying; but is largely pointless.

    For people who actually want to do something computer related, at scale, surely anybody sharp enough to be left unsupervised near a computer will learn (the hard way, if necessary) why we use tools with steep learning curves and great power: because the alternative is an essentially unbounded amount of error-prone manual labor.

    If that doesn't become clear to them fairly quickly, either the GUI tools are working just fine for them, or they aren't in an area where the CLI really shines, or they should really consider doing something else. You shouldn't need to turn on the hard sell.

    Choices of specific tools, with their quirks dating back to design constraints or decisions made, in some cases, before today's students were born are largely a matter of taste; but the use of tricky but high-powered tools swiftly shows itself to be necessary. You just can't click fast enough, even if you wanted to.
  • by spasm ( 79260 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:16PM (#45789831) Homepage

    It took me a minute to realize the author thinks gui interfaces are Gay Paree and the command line is back on the farm. In my experience it's the other way around - once the kids have discovered the flexibility and utility of the command line it's a bit hard to keep them in the walled garden of gui interfaces.

    Any gui is absolutely great as long as a) the task you're trying to do with it is one the programmer/designer has anticipated; and b) the programmer has done a decent job. As soon as you're trying to do something that a gui designer hasn't though of, it suddenly becomes difficult or impossible to get anything done, whereas you can usually work out a way to do it using the multiple small pipeable tools available in your average shell.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. But that is only true if you have bright people with potential. The others will stick to the GUIs, as they are completely lost without them. Hell, many "programmers" or "system administrators" are mostly lost _with_ a GUI. The state of IT competence that you can routinely find in the OT field is a disgrace. I think you could kick out something like 50-80% of these people and productivity and quality would improve.

  • I shit you not: this morning, one of my neck beard coworkers did a command-line sql query ('select * from table') piped through cut, sort, and uniq. Because, hey, 'distinct columns, i, actually, want' and 'order by column' is too much work.

    The point is, the best tool for the best job. Sometimes that's the command line, sometimes it's a text editor with regular expressions, and sometimes it's spotify.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:38PM (#45790017) Homepage Journal

      The point is, the best tool for the best job. Sometimes that's the command line, sometimes it's a text editor with regular expressions, and sometimes it's spotify.

      Yep. Depends what you want, too. I screwed around with a few different mp3 players, besides xbmc on my DVR trying to get a repeating elimination shuffle for the house holiday music, and wound up with this instead:

      while :; do find /storage/music/holiday_mp3 -type f -print0 | shuf | xargs -0 -n 1 mplayer ; done

      running on a screen(1) on the dvr. The only downside is that the folder is hand-curated because I couldn't get id3fs to do what I wanted because only the very latest Clementine can store ratings in id3 tags. Next year that'll be different (not that I need to buy any more holiday music...).

      Anyway, the command line does exactly what I want and I don't have to go submit an RFE to the various mp3 players or write such a patch myself. Obligate-GUI users might just have to accept "I can't do that". Unix lets you combine tools in new ways - GUI's let you easily do things that the GUI developers have already thought of (and to be fair, worked out all the steps involved for you).

  • >> Convincing students from user culture to toss aside decades of advances in graphical user interfaces for a UNIX command line is a tough sell

    BS. Simply point out that GUI-only IT grunts are being replaced by the truckload by cheap Indian and Chinese labor (and why not) while those who have specialized in security, automation, programming and other areas that require you to use a keyboard continue to make top dollar and find interesting work even in this crappy economy...and I think you'll make your

  • by troll -1 ( 956834 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:21PM (#45789881)
    In many ways the GUI system of icons is similar to the pictograph system of ancient Mesopotamia. You have one symbol for everything you want to express. The Phoenicians had a much better idea, an alphabet. You have a finite number of letters and an infinite number of words and sentences (I believe I'm quoting Noam Chomsky on the infinite part).

    If you are limited to commands that contain only five lower case letters, then the number of possible commands is something like 26 to the power 5 which is over 10 million. It would be difficult to navigate through that many icons. The point-and-click method of using icons is just not as efficient as an alphabet with letters that make up words that make up a language.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:22PM (#45789883)

    Expose them all in a mandatory fashion. Those that have real potential will see the superiority of the command line. Many will not, but are no big loss. (If you can, fail them permanently later.) Incidentally, the same works with C programming.

    No, the problem is not the there are not enough programmers or software engineers. The problem is that there are far too many bad ones. Get rid of those and the good ones could not only implement everything that needs implementing, they could also do it a lot better.

  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:22PM (#45789885) Homepage

    Don't just explain it, give them jobs where the command line works. For instance, automating builds. All developers will need to build the software they write. Give the students the task of automating their builds. Note that this means truly automated: it has to happen with no human interaction, not even to start the build. If it can't be set to automatically check out the latest code and run the build at 2AM without a user being up to trigger it, they haven't completed the assignment. Include jobs like generating necessary Web service support code from service definitions (which will run them up against the problem that there are no GUI tools to do this in the Windows/VisualStudio environment, it's all command-line tools and they aren't integrated into VS). Once they've gotten their heads around that, hand them complex automated maintenance jobs like "Find or create a program to identify images with a specific bit of metadata in them. Now, create a process to automatically scan all newly-uploaded files and move any that contain that metadata to a location under a "bad file" location matching their location under the "new uploads" location.".

    Long and short, don't explain to students why the Unix command-line environment's better than a GUI. Give them real-world jobs that're necessary for what they're doing that demonstrate how it's easier to do all this from the command line than via a GUI.

    If you truly want to be nasty, give them an assignment to get in and repair and restart a Web server that's broken because of a damaged config file. They must do this from their smartphone or laptop, from a remote connection (hotel WiFi or somesuch, they're out of the office and this is an emergency), with no remote-desktop access directly available (you can have a VPN available which would let them RDC in if it were working, but if their device isn't already set up for it there's nobody in the office who can help them get it set up and turned on so they're on their own). All they have is SSH access if it's Unix servers.

  • by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:23PM (#45789889) Homepage

    I wish I could comment directly on the original article. Here's what I'd say:

    If computer science students are unwilling to learn something, then fail them. End of story.

    Not everything is exciting and flashy. Should we refrain from teaching the multiplication table because we have calculators now to do it for us? Any CS graduate who hasn't worked with the CLI during his/her studies is simply not worth hiring and indeed should not be permitted to graduate.

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <onyxruby@[ ] ['com' in gap]> on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:24PM (#45789899)

    The problem isn't the capabilities of Unix, it's never been about that. The problem has always been about the usability of Unix from the average Joe's perspective. The fact that new users are typically told to RTFM and met with hostility certainly hurts the cause. It wasn't any different with DOS, it was a command line OS that was so counter-intuitive to learn that it spawned the entire 'For Dummies" series of books. By the time Windows 95 came out and put a useful GUI on DOS it was such a big deal that people lined up outside the stores at midnight just to buy it.

    Steve Jobs understood this and worked ruthlessly to make Mac OS easy to use regardless of the back end. Nowadays you have the argument that Android and Mac OS/iOS are out there an extremely popular, but again they are simply GUI shells to the back-end that hide everything. Cisco routers and switches also have GUI's that will happily hide everything that was previously done by a command line. Really, the bottom line is that unless your in certain fields in IT or a programmer you don't have anything to gain by playing with command line. I grew up on the command line, I have spent decades with it, but I can't justify it to anyone just because I went through it.

    Time's change, I remember supporting Novell Netware 2.x and 3.x and Token Ring, but I'm not about to suggest anyone spend time learning Netware or Token Ring either. I've had these conversations with people new to the field, they don't see the point, they just see a GUI to learn and buttons to click. The OS itself doesn't make a damn bit of difference, they don't want anything to do with a command line.

  • Another issue with Linux adoption is packaging and backward compatibility. I tried to install an older version of Capistrano (the current version is not backward compatible and I didn't want to re-write the scripts) under CYGWIN. It would not work with the newest version of Ruby because Ruby is not backward compatible (the compatibility issue) and I couldn't find a older ruby binary for CYGWIN. Sure I could have compiled it but I just want to use it not be a Ruby developer. If you are not using the latest v

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:29PM (#45789945)

    In Unixland the answer is pipes. You can quickly teach them to do things that typical stand alone programs won't do, or won't do easily using simple programs linked together by pipes. It is a form of linking the two paradigms while moving them closer to actual programming, especially since some of the tools you can link with pipes are programmable (awk, sed, perl, etc.). Once they know how to perform actions from the command line it is a trivial step to put them into a shell script - real programming with a scripting language.

  • Provide an outstanding GUI with an outstanding migration to the command line.

    Stop being arrogant.

  • The smart ones who have a propensity for it will "get it" and gravitate towards it, just like the always have. Many, or maybe even most, programmers (at least back end) are going to interact with a UNIX like environment at some point.
  • A step backward (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @04:47PM (#45790145) Homepage

    The original MacOS had it right - there was no command line at all, at any level. The mechanism for manipulating the system at a low level was ResEdit, a tool for editing the resource fork of files. It was a GUI tool, not a command line. If you wanted to set the color of something, you used a color picker; you didn't write RGB in hex. This was an effective way to do the job.

    Unfortunately, the original MacOS sucked as an OS - no processes, no threads, no memory protection. The designers had to do that to cram it into 128K of RAM, but it didn't scale. On top of that, the Mac's "Resource Manager", which was really a little database system, was an unstable database. A crash while the resource fork was open for writing usually resulted in a corrupted resource fork. This gave the resource fork approach a bad reputation. In reality, the problem was that it was designed for floppies, where writes were so slow that keeping the resource fork in sync was too expensive.

    Then, when Apple needed Steve Jobs back, they had to buy his NeXt failure for $400M, so they ended up using NeXt's warmed-over BSD/Mach kludge. So they got all the obsolete UNIX command line crap back. They also lost the Mac file system with its resource forks.

    In the Linux world, the legacy command line crap is stacked so deep that nothing can be fixed. Many things that should be databases are text files. So there are stil lock files, sending signals to processes to tell them to reread their text file, and similar legacies of the bell-bottom-trousers 1970s.

    There's also a pernicious tradition in Linux that GUI tools need not be comprehensive. It's OK to have a GUI tool that doesn't let you do everything you can from the command line. Linux GUI tools tend to be dumbed down, and often don't know what they did - they just display text messages from a lower level in a text box. On the original Mac, that was an absolute no-no. Programs couldn't even use print statements.

    • Re:A step backward (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bonehead ( 6382 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @06:24PM (#45791017)

      Wow... Just wow...

      Expanding on your example, what was the MacOS way to set the color on 7,000 items, out of 10,000 that were in that location? Did the GUI tool that you are so certain is the "One True Way" provide an easy way to do that?

      GUIs may be great for the type of work you do, but I assure you, there is a LOT of work to be done for which GUI tools are absolutely horrible.

  • by LordMyren ( 15499 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @05:34PM (#45790563) Homepage

    HTML presents a graphical first environment that humans can come in to an enrich with code: declare your content, then orchestrate and manipulate that media via an API for the media.

    HTML+DOM is awesome in that it's media-first, API second. The DOM is verbose, certainly, but it gives a much richer, more tangible surface than a standard library that is strings, vectors, ints, floats: so, we can get good at this platform without programming (HTML) and the DOM standard library, for when we do want to start programming/manipulating things, is a rich-media standard library as opposed to a primitive one.

  • by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @06:17PM (#45790965)
    You can get your students to the Unix farm by challenging them to do simple tasks in a GUI while you perform those tasks on the command line. After you perform those tasks way faster than they ever could, reveal the command(s) you used to perform the task. Keep the tasks and commands relatively simple so as not to overwhelm them. Then towards the end of the demonstration (after you have their attention), give them one task that will blow their minds when they see how quickly it can be done on the command line. In order for the students to presume that your competition is fair, avoid using scripts and type all of the commands manually. Once they see how much faster you can perform these tasks, tell them about Linux or Cygwin and let them take it from there. Some students will stubbornly continue to use the GUI, but the motivated ones will learn it on their own.
  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @06:39PM (#45791163) Homepage
    You start them with the pure point-and-clicky GUI they already know, then show them scripting tools like in Adobe's apps and and Apple's OS that allow them to automate those points and clicks, then show them how those actions can be customized after the fact, then get down into how those actions are coded, and how code can be combined and reassembled to do other things, and with enough iterations of this process, you've got them writing bash scripts.
  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @10:19PM (#45792683)
    When someone wants to do something on thousands of files or even something repetitive within just one file (replacing all numerical dates with European numerical dates or written dates), then showing them some command line basics can light a fire under them. Until they have a need though, they usually won't care enough to learn further themselves.

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