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Phil's Rambling Rants
July 6th, 2006
09:27 pm


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A day
At work, I beat my head against the wall until it (my head) got pretty mushy, but eventually got through the wall.  At least that's how it felt, as I introduced a bug in a makefile and then struggled first to reproduce it on my own machine and then to fix it.  Why is make so crappy?  I mean, it was crappy 30 years ago, but why is it still basically the same today?

I escaped from work a little before 5, and went to Kennekuck to decompress.  Of course, when I got there I couldn't find my DEET.  I spent 5 minutes searching the car.  In the process I found my missing pill bottle.  But no DEET.  Amazingly enough, I made it back alive, since I walked out to Lookout Point and back.  And then I went over to Heron Park, where I got to watch a heron catch a fish and a mama swallow feeding her young.  (I have pictures.  But if I post any pictures, I want to continue working my way through the Minnesota trip, not post those.)

Yesterday, I mailed in my registration for the FCF convention.  This morning, I told the boss I'd be taking that Friday off.  And this evening I reserved my hotel room.  So I have something to look forward to to get me through the next 3 weeks.

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(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC)
Why is make so crappy? I mean, it was crappy 30 years ago, but why is it still basically the same today?

Preach it, Brother Phil.

I was listening to a couple of Linux weenies users having an argument about Emacs vs. Vi, and it struck me suddenly how bizarre it is that twenty years after I first heard one of those silly debates, people are still using the same editors. Every other operating system, from MS-DOS to VMS to PLATO to Macintosh, replaces its standard tools as the years roll on. Unix went from 'ed' to 'ex' to 'vi', but something metastasized in the mid-'80s and now generations of new users are carefully learning how to get work done using applications only slightly upgraded since Reagan's first term.

How do you create a compressed archive on a PC? Well, there was ARC and then LZH, then ZOO, then ZIP ... the user community moved from old to new, ruthlessly discarding the past. On Unix? You use a 1970s program called TAR for tape archiver, and remember to add the "don't actually write this archive to magnetic tape" flag. Not even the interface has changed.

(And don't get me started on X Windows.)
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
I only wish I had an editor on the PC today that was as good for editing as vi was 15+ years ago. Modern IDEs are great for debugging, and the mouse-based editor is handy for some things, but I still can't do things that were easy when I was proficient with vi.

There's some truth to what you say about Unix being too unwilling to change, but PC software (especially Microsoft's, but the PC in general tends to follow what Microsoft does) seems to find it necessary to rearrange the user interface every year for no discerable reason.
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
I think the "reason" is so that they can sell you something "new" that doesn't really do anything new or better (perhaps even does the same thing not so well) but that looks different and is not compatible with what you used before... that way you have to buy a whole bunch of "new" stuff on a regular basis.

But that's just my cynical opinion... I could be wrong I guess.
[User Picture]
Date:July 8th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, I definitely agree with you. I think Visual Studio is a great program, but when I actually need to edit code I run vim or gvim (the GUI vi) in parallel with VS. My brain is trained with all those keystrokes, and even if I retrained myself I don't think the VS editor really lets you copy and move chunks of code around as easily.

What makes me shake my head in wonder about Unix editor wars is not that they haven't upgraded to some super-graphical point-and-click word processors, but that no better text-and-keyboard programs have pushed out the dinosaurs. In the '70s I suppose people had ex vs. TECO debates, in the '80s that became vi vs Emacs, and twenty years later ... it's still vi vs. Emacs.

There was a period in the early '90s when newer, easier-to-use editors were being developed, but they were aimed at newbies. There's a sense in the Unix user community that when you really become an expert, you'll write your code in vi/Emacs, construct Makefiles, and debug with GDB. The ideal Unix wizard develops programs by working in the same style as his ancestors.
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