[amsat-bb] Re: gpredict
nate at natetech.com
Tue Jan 29 02:08:24 PST 2008
On Jan 28, 2008, at 11:32 PM, don wrote:
> The PDP series ran unix, and I still have the original Bell System
> Journals here at home describing the philosophy and design behind the
> unix system. I tried over the last few days of re reading these
> to find any reference to the denigrating of any other systems or their
> users... Are linux users and prophets now straying far from the
> tracks for unix?
No, not really... but times change, and continue to do so. I think
you're mistaking his "ho-hum" response to your problems with learning
the command line on what he perceives as mediocre operating system, to
zealotry. The honest truth is, only a few Linux users and enthusiasts
are zealots, the rest are often misunderstood, because they're
offering you an M1 Tank, gassed up and ready to go, and you're
wondering where the service station and the usual gas pedal and
automatic transmission are.
(This analogy is stolen from the essay described below. I can't take
credit for it. Read on.)
If you've been around computers since the PDP, and haven't had an
opportunity to do so, DEFINITELY read Neal Stephenson's "In the
Beginning was the Command Line", an essay he penned in 1999 regarding
operating systems that has a style and flair similar to "Zen and the
Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". On it's own, it's a GREAT read.
(Warning: It's long, but entertaining enough that if you're a
reader... you'll sit and enjoy. Grab your favorite beverage and a
comfy chair. It's that good.)
I recently discovered through the Wikipedia entry for "In the
Beginning..." that while I knew the original essay was falling a bit
behind the times, and that the fun commentary and metaphors were still
very relevant, factual things were getting pretty dated in it.
Another writer, Garrett Birkel has written an annotated/updated
version of "In the Beginning..." that he sought permission from Neal
to do. It keeps the original up-to-date, but just by notating it...
not be rewriting it.
Reading it, anyone can gain huge insights into the "OS Business" as
well as some very personal insights about why people like/dislike, or
use particular OS's -- and perhaps even how silly that all is, when
it's all said and done.
Check it out. I don't think any thinking person will be disappointed
in it. It's "good stuff" and it won't rot your brain quite as much as
the "8 hour Law and Order Marathon on Bravo" or something equally
useless on TV. Stephenson even talks quite a bit about why we
Americans like watching that versus reading essays like this one,
actually... it's pretty insightful.
If you don't have a laptop, buy a ream of paper so you can take it to
the easy chair, or buy the book version -- it's been published and
Amazon and others carry it.
I got about 1/3 of the way in re-reading it and realized he also made
(completely by accident, or maybe better described as "by thinking")
some really eerie predictions back before some world events happened
that are surprising and amazing. (The essay was written in 1999, two
years before 9/11/2001 or more, and he predicts what the Muslim world
was already freaking out about against American culture, way back
It also laid out some very obvious reasons that Apple was dying back
then (this came out when Mac OS 9 was still the OS on that hardware
platform, and the first colored iMac were just released)... and why in
retrospect, Apple had to change course in a big hurry... (In fact,
they already were changing course internally around the time Neal
penned this essay, but it wouldn't show externally for a little while
It's a great story about culture, technology, and people... and even
if you don't agree with ALL of it, there are some observations in it
that are just true about how and why OS's came to be the way they were
in 1999, and today.
The stories about the giant drill and its use as a metaphor for
powerful computing tools, are quite entertaining... the automotive
analogies are old and well-worn by other authors, but Stephenson is a
professional writer and does them justice, making them more
entertaining than usual.
Anyone who claims to be an up-to-date computer whiz who hasn't read
this one, probably isn't... they're not keeping up with the big
picture or the cultures that created the current (and ultimately the
future) software products. You can even see today where both Apple
and Microsoft have changed their tunes and neither is completely an
OS, or hardware, or application company. Some of his predictions of
the Microsoft Research department didn't completely pan out... there
have been good and bad things from there since 1999, but there was
also massive economic upheaval right after he wrote this (remember he
wrote it during the "Dot Com" boom, and funding for a lot of frivolous
stuff and good stuff alike disappered virtually overnight about two
years later, and in some cases, never to see the lights in the labs on
ever again... a lot of damage there on the timeline of computing
Very entertaining stuff... I'll stop describing it and just say, go
read it! You can probably also find some reasons in here why the
"true hackers" of things like many of our beloved AMSAT engineers and
designers don't really give a rat's... about what OS they use.
They're building things a completely different way from a completely
different level of competence, and it comes out as, "Who needs an
OS?", which floors a lot of people.
Windows, Linux, MacOSX: They're all just tools... you can know 'em
all and have a big toolbox, or beat on things with a pipe wrench
(Windows), a nice pretty claw hammer with a nice stainless steel sheen
(OSX), or just drive a tank over them (Linux). That one's MY
analogy... you'll get it if you read the essay!
Nate Duehr, WY0X
nate at natetech.com
More information about the AMSAT-BB