A long, long, time ago, in a vertical far, far away, I once used to spend a lot of my time doing various things with UNIX – as an administrator or a developer. Somewhere along the route I appear to have become waylaid – I now spend most of my time (literally, I feel) in front of a Windows machine, like one of those office workers I used to have to support. How the tables have turned.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite satisfied with what I have, though some things could of course be better. Much like, I suspect, the majority of office workers out there. However (and probably unlike the majority of office workers out there), there are some things I do miss about UNIX:
– text manipulation – the number of commands (sort, uniq, awk, etc) available to muck around with strings, extract them, compare them, munge them together and so on
– pipes – with the above, making it very simple and elegant to develop command lines that could do some very powerful things
– the command line (of course) – but not just for text stuff, also just to make it very easy to move around directories and move things around
– the knowledge (though this had to be learned) of where admin information was being stored, generally in text files which could be easily changed (though this was a two edged sword!)
– finally, the general feeling of control that comes from having an operating system in which everything was configurable, even to the extent of tuning the kernel…
… so I guess the question is, if it was so great, why don’t I still use it? Bluntly, the answer is that it wasn’t – so great, that is – at least, not for I have needed computers for, for the past 10 years. This is possibly more an indictment of me than of any specific technology, in that I don’t have the time or the inclination to spend my time tinkering with software, when I should be getting on with other stuff – writing, generally. Also, and again to be blunt, office apps have (until recently) been poor or stupenduously expensive for UNIX, as anyone who tried WordPerfect for UNIX will testify.
All the same, that doesn’t stop me missing such things as the above – particularly when desktop tools from Windows don’t cut the mustard. If I wanted to dedupe my email contacts in UNIX for example, I could do so with 2 or 3 commands piped together in a single line… whereas in Windows, I have the option to filch around the Internet for a piece of freeware (slow), or write a bit of code myself (unlikely – and option 3, to actually buy something, is beyond me completely). Of course, all is not lost as I could just install Cygnux for many of the above benefits, but somehow, I just don’t think it would feel the same.