Everyone loves Unix… or not

Every now and then when I’m looking for some obscure Linux command line syntax I run across forum posts of disgruntled users that complain of the complexity of the Unix command line. Contrary to this common perception the Linux (and in this sense all Unix flavours) commands are pretty simple. In fact the whole Linux/Unix philosophy is “Do one thing, do it well.” If more complex operations are required, then just use the same simple tools and chain them together to achieve the end result.

Following this mantra some experienced *nix (this is how all Linux, BSD and Unix flavours are denoted) users can do miracles with only a few lines of code. However despite this simplicity (or probably just because of it) it as equally easy to ruin a lot of months worth of work or even to get the the whole system down on its knees. Just a quick example – the dreaded “rm / -rf” command being performed as root.

Being involved in the IT for the last … many years (I don’t want to count them – it makes me feel older than I actually am) I still prefer the simple do-only-one-thing tools than the overly complex do-everything-under-the-sky programs (that breaks equally often). The simpler tools approach requires more technical knowledge than the simple “click here to start doing the stuff” theme often clamoured by the self-manifested “IT experts” or “Administrators”. The reason for my preference is not some kind of weird masochistic psychological disorder (Ok, this is not the ONLY reason), but the gratifying feeling I understand what is going on under the hood and the ability to troubleshoot the situation in the case things go wrong. Beside it is very satisfying to see the aforementioned “Administrators” scratching their head when their favourite “all-in-one” tool failed with some mystifying message. At the end most of them they end up being shown how to use alternative way of doing things… with alternative _simpler_ means.

Anyway, enough whinging about the admins and proclaiming how KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle will save the world and bring peace to all. The other reason I do enjoy Linux is the sheer fun when doing things even when doing them in the wrong way. A collection of true pearls of wisdom could be found in the so called “Unix Horror Stories” collection. For those looking for even more entertaining readings I would recommend the excellent “Unix Haters Handbook”. Beside the useful info there are few gems from “medieval” years of the Information Age history. Enjoy… and don’t forget to mount scratch monkey.