Why I Love Unix

I love Unix because of all the wonderful things that I can do on the command line. When I first used Unix in 1983, it was love on first sight. With a list of the most basic commands by my side, I quickly discovered how much I could accomplish with several command strings strung together. Unix was nothing like what I'd been using up to that point in my brief data processing career. It was clever, modular and logical. With tools like grep and languages like awk, it was quite a bit of fun to discover how easily I could make the system do my bid. My ability to capture sequences of commands easily into scripts made it possible for me to encapsulate my clever commands, even share them with coworkers. The Unix culture seemed innovative, inviting my participation in creating an environment that really worked for me.

Soon after discovering Unix, I went from being a programmer in the federal court system to being a Unix systems administration for a federal agency. I encountered my first systems built by Sun Microsystems -- Sun 2 and Sun 3 systems (these predated Sparc and Solaris).

I loved how easily I could make changes to multiple accounts or systems using simple for looping. Unix helped to make being a support person in the federal government an enjoyable and interesting job. On top of feeling that I was helping support projects that mattered out there in the "real world", having clever systems to work on was quite motivating.

I had one evening out with Bill Joy and some coworkers and one chance to talk to Steve Jobs (who suggested I'd be able to buy a lot of Apple systems for what I was spending on Sun workstations) and said "Don't use color unless you mean it". That was so Jobsian; it will always stick in my head!

I became active in the Sun User Group a few years later, eventually serving on the Sun User Group for two terms and watching support from Sun waning. During these years, I helped to organize some regional conferences -- Unix and the Law, security -- very cool small conferences. Great speakers like Eugene Spafford. I chaired one SUG annual conference -- one of the last to rent a huge conference facility in San Jose. Those were the days.

I haven't made up my mind yet what to think about Sun now that it's part of Oracle. I am hoping for the best. Hoping that wondrous technology like zones and zfs will become the big winners they deserve to be.

I started writing columns in 1991, writing a Unix column for SunExpert, and eventually became webmaster for one of the IDG subsidiaries (Web Publishing) -- the first company to publish online-only magazines like SunWorld and JavaWorld.

Later, I worked providing support for a global VPN and a couple years later than that provided user, network and system support for some E*Trade subsidiaries. I miss my commute by ferry across the San Francisco Bay.

I will never forget E*Trade's millenium party and the Harleys that were given away as door prizes! Those really were the days. I came back East when the "dot com" boom was well into its descent and joined a company that does some wondrous things in the communications arena. From text messaging to satellite communications, TCS is putting a lot of genuinely exciting technology out there. You might even be using some of it without knowing it.

I'm still writing and teaching on the side. While my Unix blog (Unix as a Second Language) goes off the air with this entry, I expect I will continue to write. Maybe some security topics to follow my move into Information Security, maybe another book or two.

But after all these years, I'm still fascinated with Unix! I still love grep and awk. I'm still fascinated by the amount of work that I can get done with a single line of text. And I'm still stopping every now and then to remember "Wow, and I get PAID for this!".

And, yes, I'm still trying to pass on the excitement to those who just don't "get" why Unix is so very cool.

I'd like to thank all of you who have been reading this blog. I hope I've been able to pass on some useful ideas from time to time and I hope you have come to love Unix even a fraction as much as I do.

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