Kommandozeile

Es gibt Bücher, die liest man und denkt: "Ja, genau" ... "Stimmt" ... "Auf jeden Fall" ... "So habe ich das noch gar nicht gesehen, aber da ist was dran". Kurzum: Bücher, die einem aus der Seele sprechen und die eigene Position untermauern. "In The Beginning was The Command Line" von Neal Stephenson ist ein solches Buch - in der deutschen Version trägt es den reißerischen Titel Die Diktatur des schönen Scheins - Wie grafische Oberflächen die Computernutzer entmündigen. Bereits 1999 erschienen, beschreibt es mehr als nur die Historie der Betriebssysteme Windows, MacOS und Unix - nebenbei auch etwas BeOS. Es sind nicht nur technische Details, die Stephenson anspricht und anprangert. Es geht um Metaphern, die jedes OS für sich mitbringt. Das sind Metaphern der Bedienung (Kommandozeile vs. GUI), der Verbreitung (OpenSource vs. ClosedSource) oder der Zielgruppe (Anfänger vs. Profi). Auf vielen unterschiedlichen Ebenen lassen sich diese Metaphern finden und Stephenson findet sie alle. Geschickt zeichnet er zahlreiche kluge Analogien, um seine Thesen zu untermauern und erzeugt ein konsistentes Gesamtbild, in dem die kommerziellen Betriebssysteme nicht gut abschneiden.

Am Ende der Lektüre mache ich ein Konsolenfenster auf und blicke nostalgisch verklärt auf den Cursor. So habe ich es vor vielen Jahren getan und so werden es wohl auch noch Generationen nach mir tun - hoffentlich.

Ich lasse das Buch und den Autor für sich sprechen, indem ich die spannendsten Passagen  unten zusammenfasse. Natürlich ganz subjektiv.

Das Buch kannst du übrigens kostenlos von der Webseite heruntergeladen.


Bill Gates and Paul Allen came up with an idea even stranger and more fantastical: selling computer operating systems.

When we used actual telegraph equipment (teletypes) or their higher-tech substitutes ("glass teletypes," or the MS-DOS command line) to work with our computers, we were very close to the bottom of that stack. When we use most modern operating systems, though, our interaction with the machine is heavily mediated
(it is commonly the case with technologies that you can get the best insight about how they work by watching them fail).

But to the MacOS, the screen was not a teletype, but a place to put graphics; the image on the screen was a bitmap, a literal rendering of the contents of a particular portion of the computer's memory. When the computer crashed and wrote gibberish into the bitmap, the result was something that looked vaguely like static on a broken television set--a "snow crash."

Gnu is an acronym for Gnu's Not Unix, but this is a joke in more ways than one, because GNU most certainly IS Unix,. Because of trademark concerns ("Unix" is trademarked by AT&T) they simply could not claim that it was Unix, and so, just to be extra safe, they claimed that it wasn't.

But it is the fate of operating systems to become free.

Companies that sell OSes exist in a sort of technosphere. Underneath is technology that has already become free. Above is technology that has yet to be developed, or that is too crazy and speculative to be productized just yet. Like the Earth's biosphere, the technosphere is very thin compared to what is above and what is below.

I have learned much more about Microsoft by using the Linux operating system than I ever would have done by using Windows).

Microsoft is making money by taking advantage of differences in the price of technology in different times

Disney and Apple/Microsoft are in the same business: short-circuiting laborious, explicit verbal communication with expensively designed interfaces.

Back in the days of the command-line interface, users were all Morlocks who had to convert their thoughts into alphanumeric symbols and type them in, a grindingly tedious process that stripped away all ambiguity, laid bare all hidden assumptions, and cruelly punished laziness and imprecision.

There is massively promiscuous metaphor-mixing going on here, and I could deconstruct it 'til the cows come home, but I won't.

What we're really buying is a system of metaphors.

But because the VCR was invented when it was--during a sort of awkward transitional period between the era of mechanical interfaces and GUIs--it just had a bunch of pushbuttons on the front, and in order to set the time you had to push the buttons in just the right way. This must have seemed reasonable enough to the engineers responsible for it, but to many users it was simply impossible. Thus the famous blinking 12:00 that appears on so many VCRs. Computer people call this "the blinking twelve problem".

But the price that we Mac owners had to pay for superior aesthetics and engineering was not merely a financial one. There was a cultural price too, stemming from the fact that we couldn't open up the hood and mess around with it.

Note the obsessive use of abbreviations and avoidance of capital letters;

For reasons already explained, Apple had no desire to see the cost of hardware drop. The only reason Torvalds had cheap hardware was Microsoft.

In trying to understand the Linux phenomenon, then, we have to look not to a single innovator but to a sort of bizarre Trinity: Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, and Bill Gates. Take away any of these three and Linux would not exist.

For the same reasons, Linux is worth trying. It is a strange country indeed, but you don't have to live there; a brief sojourn suffices to give some flavor of the place and--more importantly--to lay bare everything that is taken for granted, and all that could have been done differently, under Windows or MacOS.

You can't try it unless you install

Microsoft and Apple do things the Manhattan way, with vast complexity hidden behind a wall of interface. Linux does things the Egypt way, with vast complexity strewn about all over the landscape.

Debian (the word is a contraction of "Deborah" and "Ian")

I have been running Linux every day since late 1995 and have seen many application programs go down in flames, but I have never seen the operating system crash. Never. Not once. There are quite a few Linux systems that have been running continuously and working hard for months or years without needing to be rebooted.

Commercial OS vendors, as a direct consequence of being commercial, are forced to adopt the grossly disingenuous position that bugs are rare aberrations, usually someone else's fault, and therefore not really worth talking about in any detail.

Because Linux is not commercial--because it is, in fact, free, as well as rather difficult to obtain, install, and operate--it does not have to maintain any pretensions as to its reliability. Consequently, it is much more reliable

BeOS missing megalomaniacal figurehead to harness and focus developer rage

GUIs tend to impose a large overhead on every single piece of software

Computers give us more choices than we really want. We prefer to make those choices once, or accept the defaults handed to us by software companies, and let sleeping dogs lie. But when an OS gets changed, all the dogs jump up and start barking.

The mass of the proton, the strength of gravity, the range of the weak nuclear force, and a few dozen other fundamental constants completely determine what sort of universe will emerge from a Big Bang. If these values had been even slightly different, the universe would have been a vast ocean of tepid gas or a hot knot of plasma or some other basically uninteresting thing--a dud, in other words.

Every time your right pinky slams that ENTER key, you are making another try. In some cases the operating system does nothing. In other cases it wipes out all of your files. In most cases it just gives you an error message. In other words, you get many duds. But sometimes, if you have it all just right, the computer grinds away for a while and then produces something like emacs.

universe -G 6.672e-11 -e 1.602e-19 -h 6.626e-34 -protonmass 1.673e-27....

if you don't like having choices made for you, you should start making your own.


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