Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th May 2012 14:55 UTC
General Unix James Hague: "But all the little bits of complexity, all those cases where indecision caused one option that probably wasn't even needed in the first place to be replaced by two options, all those bad choices that were never remedied for fear of someone somewhere having to change a line of code... They slowly accreted until it all got out of control, and we got comfortable with systems that were impossible to understand." Counterpoint by John Cook: "Some of the growth in complexity is understandable. It's a lot easier to maintain an orthogonal design when your software isn't being used. Software that gets used becomes less orthogonal and develops diagonal shortcuts." If there's ever been a system in dire need of a complete redesign, it's UNIX and its derivatives. A mess doesn't even begin to describe it (for those already frantically reaching for the comment button, note that this applies to other systems as well).
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Flatland_Spider
Member since:
2006-09-01

Command lines are just cryptic. If you sat down at a computer running DOS, without knowing any commands, you would have had to get a book as well. Using Powershell for the first time is another example, it at least has a bunch of aliased commands to ease the transition.

Reply Parent Score: 2

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Command lines are just cryptic. If you sat down at a computer running DOS, without knowing any commands, you would have had to get a book as well.


Well, when I sit down in front of a Unix terminal now days and type 'help', I at least get a list of commands to try. That wasn't the case when I first started ;)

Reply Parent Score: 3

daddio Member since:
2007-07-14

LOL!

I had to switch to a terminal and type help to verify this works.

$ help

In bash, it apparently does, although I'm not sure how helpful it would to a complete neophyte.

Reply Parent Score: 1

moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Well, when I sit down in front of a Unix terminal now days and type 'help', I at least get a list of commands to try. That wasn't the case when I first started ;)


I'll bet if you do this in Aix, HP-UX or Solaris, it won't work.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

Command lines are just cryptic.


Command line interfaces are more like a language than selecting from pictures. As every language, you have to learn it to make use of all its features. That's nothing bad per se; in fact, it's the required "pre-knowledge" that enables you to utilize its immense power of expression.

But allo me to illustrate this by quoting Master Foo Discourses on the Graphical User Interface.

One evening, Master Foo and Nubi attended a gathering of programmers who had met to learn from each other. One of the programmers asked Nubi to what school he and his master belonged. Upon being told they were followers of the Great Way of Unix, the programmer grew scornful.

"The command-line tools of Unix are crude and backward," he scoffed. "Modern, properly designed operating systems do everything through a graphical user interface."

Master Foo said nothing, but pointed at the moon. A nearby dog began to bark at the master's hand.

"I don't understand you!" said the programmer.

Master Foo remained silent, and pointed at an image of the Buddha. Then he pointed at a window.

"What are you trying to tell me?" asked the programmer.

Master Foo pointed at the programmer's head. Then he pointed at a rock.

"Why can't you make yourself clear?" demanded the programmer.

Master Foo frowned thoughtfully, tapped the programmer twice on the nose, and dropped him in a nearby trashcan.

As the programmer was attempting to extricate himself from the garbage, the dog wandered over and piddled on him.

At that moment, the programmer achieved enlightenment.

Source: http://catb.org/~esr/writings/unix-koans/gui-programmer.html

Also note that (like human languages) pictural elements can change their meaning. The most prominent example is the 3.5" floppy disk which means "save" even to those who do not know this media anymore.

For details, read the article "The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other old people Icons that don't make sense anymore".

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheFloppyDiskMeansSaveAnd14OtherOldPe...

I don't even try to claim that command lines (in general) aren't cryptic. Some of them are, some are not. I could try to argue that one human language is less cryptic than the other. It always depends what language you already know. This kind of knowledge can be adopted to command lines: If you know the language, ythere's nothing cryptic in it. If you don't know it, it's mostly unreadable.

Again, try to also see this argumentation for pictures and how we "read" them. Well... the quotes aren't neccessary I'd say. Pictures are also a form of language, with all implications. However, expressing in that language is much harder (in terms of usage related to a computer). You can select from a predefined set of symbols, but you cannot express directly in those symbols (unlike typing letters which form the language of a command line). This means what you can do with pictures is limited. You are limited in creativity on the basis of their language.

As always: Depending on specific settings, this can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Reply Parent Score: 9