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Posted 27 Jul 2014

The Art of UNIX Programming by S. Raymond, Addison-Wesley

, 27 Jul 2014
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Book review of The Art of Unix Programming by S. Raymond

Editorial Note

This article is in the Book Review chapter. Reviews are intended to provide you with information on books - both paid and free - that others consider useful and of value to developers. Read a good programming book? Write a review!

The Art of UNIX Programming is another one for the bookshelf. It is jam-packed with insights into the philosophy, mindset and approach a Unix developer has when tackling software design the Unix way. While I have been involved with software development for a number of years, nearly all the systems I have worked on have been focused towards the Microsoft stack. After finishing this book, I now appreciate how the “other” side thinks - and I wished I had known about their philosophies and mindset years ago. Many of the things I have only recently learned to embrace in Microsoft world have been common practice in the Unix world for decades.

The book is divided into 4 main sections: Context, Design, Implementation and Community. I really enjoyed the sections on Context and Community although there were nuggets of gold in all 4 sections.

As far as I am concerned, the whole of chapter 1 required reading. It covers a set of rules that one should apply to make effective design decisions. These rules include:

  • Rule of Modularity
  • Rule of Clarity
  • Rule of Composition
  • Rule of Separation
  • Rule of Simplicity
  • Rule of Optimization

Another section I really enjoyed was found in chapter 4 where it discussed Top Down vs. Bottom Up approach. I have been a strong advocate for the top down approach to design for a few years now, but the arguments they put forward in favor of bottom up really has made me question this stance.

The book ends off with what I would consider some of the most entertaining writing I have read in years regarding the software mindset with section ‘D’ - the “Rootless Root - The Unix Koans of Master Foo”. I found this section hilarious and enlightening.

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ISBN-13: 978-0131429017


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