[svlug] Re: Unix Configuration (was mindless flamewar)

John Conover conover at rahul.net
Fri Jan 17 17:48:28 PST 2003

You are absolutely right, David. In the history of Unix, (circa 1973,)
about every 4 years, we have been going to do just that. The trouble
is that everyone wants *_their_* formats to be the standard for
everyone else, and it fades away after all the shin kicking is over
for another 4 years, or so. (Bear in mind, that if one understands how
stack machines-or a state machine with a terminal case-are work in an
interpreted script, it doesn't make any difference-all the formats are
the same concept-the esoterics of the syntax is all that's different.)


BTW, just to show my age, the above concept was exploited by the
Internet's Mr. Nice Guy, Larry Wall, who invented Perl(1) in the mid
80's. Its first, and primary, use at the time was to automagically
configure computers across a network, (at JPL and the NLS-he was in
charge of 100's/1000's, including their printcap, DNS, rc startups, IP
address assignments, etc.,) all from a common database, written in a
common language, with common file formats, (thus the access to
Berkeley DBM as associative arrays.) Only one machine had to be
configured as a "standard" on the network, and its configuration was
"pushed" onto all the other production machines, with slightly
different printcaps, etc., all controlled from a central database
through text file processing, (which has largely been replaced by
SMNP, with rsync/ssh being used a lot these days to maintain a copy of
all network machine's config files in every machine, so that every
machine can be restored/re-configured from any other machine since the
Unix config files are small, and spinning real estate cheap; a scheme
which is required by many disaster recovery standards.) So, the high
priced talent does one machine, (maybe as consultants,) and the
network architecture; the day-to-day forgotten passwds, etc., are
handled by entry level folks.

David N. Welton writes:
> conover at rahul.net (John Conover) writes:
> > If you look at what it takes to configure a Unix system, one must
> > have some competency with the concepts of formal computer languages,
> > (knowing the syntax of bind/named, ipchains/iptables, ~/.fvwmrc2,
> > etc.) Its kind of a Unix'ism paradigm.
> I think the huge variety of config file formats on Unix is a
> tremendous waste of time and resources.
> It would be so much more efficient to have one, or even two or three
> flexible formats, and a few libraries to parse it.

John Conover, conover at rahul.net, http://www.rahul.net/~conover

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