Inside and outside ballparks and arenas, there are always people vending programs. Most of the computing we do is the result of other folks' programs and of programs we tweak or rewrite. That's fairly obvious.
However, as I've written before, writing good, useful programs that aren't excessively verbose and flabby isn't easy. Despite a number of really splendid books (Fred Brooks', Knuth's three volumes, Kernighan and Plauger, Kernighan and Pike, Bentley), looking at code shows a lot of untidy, repetitious slovenly work.
I admit to taking old code, snipping a few lines, typing something in, and voil<\#224>--a new driver. Fast and sloppy.
Looking at the 40 million lines of Office 2000, I realize just where the difference between open source and Windows lies—perhaps where the chasm is.
I've pointed out that if you go to the BSD manuals, you can count the number of contributors to the CSRG's (Computer Systems Research Group) efforts over 15 years. It comes to about 600 individuals. In 1998, I heard Bill Gates refer to 2000 programmers in Redmond, WA. There are most likely far more now.
Good programs are written by individuals or small groups. Brian Kernighan told me that AWK was the most difficult thing he'd ever worked on, “because there were three of us.”
Take a bunch of bright programmers, assign them to teams, assign a product to each team, and put them to work. The results will be slightly inferior to what the most feeble-minded member of each team would have produced.
I was surprised when I read The Pragmatic Programmer by Hunt and Thomas (Addison-Wesley, 2000). It's a nicely done volume which is intended to take the programmer from a “requirement” to a real “product”. I must admit I'd always thought of this kind of thing as somewhat comic, but it may be that Hunt and Thomas have good ideas. The book is certainly worth reading.
With all this in mind, I started thinking about the tools I use every day: shells, sed, awk, grep, sort, pipe, etc.
There are several decent books on shell programming, but none covers even most of the available shells (sh, bash, csh, ksh, tcsh and zsh come to mind, and I know there are many more). Robbins' AWK volume is excellent and there was a book on sed a few years ago, but I know of none on grep (nor egrep, which searches using regular expressions). In fact, I know of nothing on zsh. In these cases, we are actually driven to read the on-line man pages.
Just how we get to tools in everyday use is, I think, instructive. I still use troff, for example.
In 1967, L.P. Deutsch and B.W. Lampson took the TECO (an editor) that was running on the PDP-1 at MIT and implemented it on the SDS 940 as QED (= Quick Editor). Ken Thompson took QED and rewrote it for CTSS (compatible time sharing system) on the IBM 7094. He and Dennis Ritchie wrote a version of it for the GE 635 at Bell Labs. Thompson then took that version to create ed in August 1969.
That allowed for editing, but what about printing? J.E. Saltzer had written runoff for CTSS. Bob Morris moved it to the 635, and called it roff. Ritchie rewrote that as rf for the PDP-7, before there was UNIX (it was an evolutionary dead end). At the same time, the summer of 1969, Doug McIlroy rewrote roff in BCPL (Basic Combined Programming Language by Martin Richards, 1966), extending and simplifying it at the same time. It was McIlroy's version that first Joe Ossanna and, after his death, Brian Kernighan turned into the troff we still use.
(By the way, TECO is also the ancestor of Emacs.)
Nearly a decade later, Ted Dolotta created the memorandum (-mm) macros, with a lot of input from John Mashey. Thereafter, Eric Allman wrote the BSD -me macros. I still use them.
No teams. No large groups. Just a lot of good programmers trying to make code into something truly useful. And the open way does that.
Peter H. Salus , the author of A Quarter Century of UNIX and Casting the Net, is an LJ contributing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development||May 20, 2013|
|Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)||May 16, 2013|
|Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This||May 15, 2013|
|Home, My Backup Data Center||May 13, 2013|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Seashore||May 10, 2013|
|Trying to Tame the Tablet||May 08, 2013|
- RSS Feeds
- Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)
- Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development
- New Products
- Validate an E-Mail Address with PHP, the Right Way
- Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This
- A Topic for Discussion - Open Source Feature-Richness?
- Download the Free Red Hat White Paper "Using an Open Source Framework to Catch the Bad Guy"
- Tech Tip: Really Simple HTTP Server with Python
- Home, My Backup Data Center
- Android is Linux -- why no better inter-operation
1 hour 45 min ago
- Connecting Android device to desktop Linux via USB
2 hours 13 min ago
- Find new cell phone and tablet pc
3 hours 11 min ago
4 hours 40 min ago
- Automatically updating Guest Additions
5 hours 49 min ago
- I like your topic on android
6 hours 35 min ago
- Reply to comment | Linux Journal
6 hours 56 min ago
- This is the easiest tutorial
13 hours 11 min ago
- Ahh, the Koolaid.
18 hours 49 min ago
- git-annex assistant
1 day 49 min ago
Enter to Win an Adafruit Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi
It's Raspberry Pi month at Linux Journal. Each week in May, Adafruit will be giving away a Pi-related prize to a lucky, randomly drawn LJ reader. Winners will be announced weekly.
Fill out the fields below to enter to win this week's prize-- a Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi.
Congratulations to our winners so far:
- 5-8-13, Pi Starter Pack: Jack Davis
- 5-15-13, Pi Model B 512MB RAM: Patrick Dunn
- 5-21-13, Prototyping Pi Plate Kit: Philip Kirby
- Next winner announced on 5-27-13!
Free Webinar: Hadoop
How to Build an Optimal Hadoop Cluster to Store and Maintain Unlimited Amounts of Data Using Microservers
Realizing the promise of Apache® Hadoop® requires the effective deployment of compute, memory, storage and networking to achieve optimal results. With its flexibility and multitude of options, it is easy to over or under provision the server infrastructure, resulting in poor performance and high TCO. Join us for an in depth, technical discussion with industry experts from leading Hadoop and server companies who will provide insights into the key considerations for designing and deploying an optimal Hadoop cluster.
Some of key questions to be discussed are:
- What is the “typical” Hadoop cluster and what should be installed on the different machine types?
- Why should you consider the typical workload patterns when making your hardware decisions?
- Are all microservers created equal for Hadoop deployments?
- How do I plan for expansion if I require more compute, memory, storage or networking?