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The Art of Unix Programming
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Unix Programming - The Elements of Operating-System Style

Before we can start discussing specific operating systems, we'll need an organizing framework for the ways that operating-system design can affect programming style for good or ill.

Overall, the design and programming styles associated with different operating systems seem to derive from three different sources: (a) the intentions of the operating-system designers, (b) uniformities forced on designs by costs and limitations in the programming environment, and (c) random cultural drift, early practices becoming traditional simply because they were there first.

Even if we take it as given that there is some random cultural drift in every operating-system community, considering the intentions of the designers and the costs and limitations of the results does reveal some interesting patterns that can help us understand the Unix style better by contrast. We can make the patterns explicit by analyzing some of the most important ways that operating systems differ.

Unix has a couple of unifying ideas or metaphors that shape its APIs and the development style that proceeds from them. The most important of these are probably the “everything is a file” model and the pipe metaphor [20] built on top of it. In general, development style under any given operating system is strongly conditioned by the unifying ideas baked into the system by its designers — they percolate upwards into applications programming from the models provided by system tools and APIs.

Accordingly, the most basic question to ask in contrasting Unix with another operating system is: Does it have unifying ideas that shape its development, and if so how do they differ from Unix's?

To design the perfect anti-Unix, have no unifying idea at all, just an incoherent pile of ad-hoc features.


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The Art of Unix Programming
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