[clug] [SLUG] 40 Years of Unix

Daniel Pittman daniel at rimspace.net
Sat Aug 22 03:06:06 MDT 2009

Adrian Chadd <adrian at creative.net.au> writes:
> On Sat, Aug 22, 2009, Daniel Pittman wrote:
>> > Demise?! :-)
>> I have to agree with Jeff: the only places I have really seen the shell
>> vanish it has been moving — albeit painfully slowly at times — to being
>> replaced by a more powerful programming model, universal scripting.
>> For example, much of the traditional Unix shell use on MacOS has vanished,
>> replaced by OSA and AppleScript, or by Automator.  In KDE they are
>> gradually crawling towards more ubiquitous "desktop wide" scripting.  I
>> presume that GNOME is doing more or less the same.
> So all of these are to do with scripting/automating GUI tasks rather than
> anything generic.

I don't quite understand what you mean by "anything generic", which is
probably a failure of imagination on my part.

These are Turing complete[1] languages capable of performing any action you
care to script in them.

They can take advantage of a range of services including non-GUI data-only
services such as Telepathy, the KDE RSS and weather data feeds, Akondai,
Spotlight, various COM components and other, similar, services.

This usually includes the ability to access resources via HTTP, and to manage
XML and other structured content[2], as well as having access to unstructured
and structured local disk or database storage.

They can also take advantage of programmable components provided by non-core
applications, which does include GUI applications of all stripes — from Emacs
through PhotoShop — to act on data.

Finally, they can generally also provide some level of gross control for GUI
applications; here Windows and MacOS have an edge on the Linux environments
I am familiar with, which don't provide nearly as much high level control over
these activities, only low level keystroke injection.

My guess is that you are familiar only with the last use case, and meant to
imply that the Unix command shell has significantly more capabilities to
string together GUI-free data processing activities.

However, I don't want to put words in your mouth, so if I have missed my guess
completely please don't hesitate to correct me.


[1]  ...and, generally, at least somewhat pleasant to use, or accessible from
     somewhat pleasant to use, languages like Ruby and JavaScript.[3]

[2]  ...Actually, I have no idea if AppleScript can.  I don't tend to use the
     proprietary systems that much, sorry.

[3]  Obviously tastes may vary on the individual languages.

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