Archive for the ‘unix’ Category

The Glob Wars

August 5, 2008
From Tue Jan 22 01:54:05 1991
From: (Dick Dunn)
Newsgroups: comp.arch,comp.unix.wizards
Subject: future globs (was "UNIX mindset...")
Date: 22 Jan 91 00:33:50 GMT
Followup-To: comp.unix.wizards
Organization: Interactive Systems Corporation, Boulder, CO (Roy Smith) writes, in response to the glob wars:

> 	Given the move towards kernel bloat, I fear that one alternative we
> might see some day is moving file name globbing into the kernel.  "Let's
> let namei do it; namei does everything!"  Blech.

Plus, namei is undoubtedly the single most hacked-over piece of code in the
entire kernel!  It was already battered ten years ago.

Nowadays, it's more complicated than that.  First, we'll need a System V
kernel globbing interface and a BSD globbing interface.  There will be new
system calls for this--setglbent() and getglbent() for Sys V, setfilename-
globbing() and getfilenameglobbing() for BSD.  Of course, they'll have
different arguments, and BSD will modify namei-globbing only for the
current process, while SysV will modify it for an entire glob-group (a
new conceptual grouping of processes).

Then, V.4 will have to provide for both mechanisms.  The selection of
globbing will be based on the file system types, a kernel examination of
the process's PATH variable, and the endian-ness of the processor in use.
Next, we'll need POSIX globbing, which will be almost like both but not
entirely compatible with either, with switches to enable more-nearly-BSD-
like and more-nearly-SysV-like behavior.

AIX will provide its own extended globbing mechanism, promising support for
BSD and POSIX globbing in a future release, anticipating OSF/3 globbing,
and also providing for eventual user-specified globbing via callback from
namei() to user code.  The first release will fail to glob a single '*'
correctly, although it will be 26% faster than any other globbing as
measured on DhryGlob 0.0.3.

A little-known patent on file name wild card expansion will be discovered
to have been granted to a now-bankrupt Oregon software company, in an
obscure paragraph of a patent originally intended for selecting add-ons to
hamburgers in a fast-food point-of-sale terminal.  The patent will have
been sold to a California paper company which consists only of lawyers,
and which will immediately start filing look-and-feel lawsuits to any
vendor which won't pay a royalty of $0.005 per globbed name.

In response, FSF will issue a dire warning about the consequences of
proprietary globbing.  Buttons saying "Keep Your Lawyers off My Globs"
will appear at the June 1991 USENIX.  An extended globbing mechanism will
be built into the next release of emacs.

OSF will announce that it has studied existing globbing mechanisms and
found them to be inadequate.  Thus, it will issue an RFT for distributed,
open, architecture-neutral globbing mechanisms which also protect vendors'
proprietary investments in unexpanded file names.  The globbing technology
will be selected by an entirely open and fair evaluation process from all
submissions received, provided only that the submitter is a large multi-
national OSF corporate member with annual revenues exceeding $10^9.
Dick Dunn -or- ico!rcd       Boulder, CO   (303)449-2870
   ...Mr. Natural says, "Use the right tool for the job."

Origin of POSIX

August 5, 2008
From Thu May  3 19:16:29 1990
From: (John S. Quarterman)
Newsgroups: comp.std.unix
Subject: Re: Answer to "what does POSIX stand for?"
Date: 2 May 90 18:17:10 GMT

From: John S. Quarterman 

In article  From:
>From the Rationale and Note section of IEEE Std 1003.1-1988 section B.1:
>"Since the interface enables application writers to write portable
>applications -- it was developed with that goal in mind -- it has been
>dubbed POSIX, an acronym for Portable Operations System Interface.  The
>name POSIX, suggested by Richard Stallman, was adopted during the printing
>of the Trial Use Standard."

At the time, the official name of the proposed standard was IEEE
Standard Portable Operating System Environment, or POSE.  Thus POSIX
was a fairly obvious pun to produce something that sounded and looked
similar to UNIX.  The official name of the standard has changed several
times since then (it was at one point Standard Portable Operating
System for Computer Environments, or SPOSCE, and the name on the cover
of the Full Use Standard is IEEE Standard Portable Operating System
Interface for Computer Environments, or SPOSICE), but the name POSIX
has stuck.  Could have been worse:  there exist bound draft copies of
the Trial Use Standard that say IEEEIX on the cover....

>"... The term POSIX is expected to be pronounced pahz-icks, as in positive,
>not poh-six, or other variations."

Note that this assertion appears only in the rationale and the foreword,
not in the body of the standard.  This is because the committee could not
standardize a pronunciation, and in fact had no consensus on what it might be.
Nonetheless, there is a small clique that considers it their duty to enforce
what they regard as the correct pronunciation, even though they don't all
pronounce it the same way themselves.

Volume-Number: Volume 19, Number 98

Origin of finger

August 5, 2008
From Tue Feb 20 00:47:47 1990
From: (Sean Colbath)
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers
Subject: Origins of the finger command
Date: 20 Feb 90 02:39:31 GMT
Reply-To: (Sean Colbath)
Distribution: alt
Organization: U of Rochester, CS Dept, Rochester, NY

In response to a number of users who read my article re:  the etymology of
the "finger" command, I send mail to Les Earnest, who, according to ARPA
RFC742, wrote the original finger command.  Here is the reply I got,
reproduced with his permission.  I think you may find it quite amusing and

From LES@SAIL.Stanford.EDU Mon Feb 19 21:32:35 1990
Date: 19 Feb 90  1831 PST
From: Les Earnest 
Subject: re: Greetings...    

[In reply to message sent Mon, 19 Feb 90 16:02:17 EST.]

I'm glad that you are enjoying the C3 articles.  I need to write another
one soon.

Here is a response to your conjectures, mostly regurgitated from an
article that I posted on Human-nets in 1985.  Feel free to forward it to
alt.forklore.computers, or I can post it there if you prefer.  I haven't
been reading that newsgroup, but a quick look indicates that maybe I

Finger was named for the act of pointing.  I recall that sometime after it
became popular I received a message from a system administrator who
thought that it should be renamed so that users would not have to use a
"dirty" word.  I gave his request all the consideration that it deserved.

I created Finger around 1971 to meet a local need at the Stanford
Artifical Intelligence Lab.  People generally worked long hours there,
often with unpredictable schedules.  When you wanted to meet with some
group, it was important to know who was there and when the others would
likely reappear.  It also was important to be able to locate potential
volleyball players when you wanted to play, Chinese food freaks when you
wanted to eat, and antisocial computer users when it appeared that
something strange was happening on the system.

The only tool then available for seeing who was running on our DEC-10
computer was a WHO program that showed IDs and terminal line numbers for
people who were logged in.  There was no information available on people
who were not logged in.  I frequently saw people running their fingers
down the WHO display saying things like "There's Don and that's Pattie but
I don't know when Tom was last seen." or "Who in hell is VVK and where
does line 63 go?"

I wrote Finger and developed the supporting database to provide this
information in traditional human terms -- real names and places.  Because
I preferred to talk face to face rather than through the computer or
telephone, I put in the feature that tells how long the terminal had been
idle, so that I could assess the likelihood that I would find them there
if I walked down the hall.

The program was an instant hit.  Some people asked for the Plan file
feature so that they could explain their absence or how they could be
reached at odd times, so I added it.  I found it interesting that this
feature evolved into a forum for social commentary and amusing

Finger was picked up by a number of other groups with DEC-10 computers
that were connected to Arpanet -- software flowed in all directions around
the net in those days.  It later migrated to Un*x, probably via U.C.
Berkeley.  Somewhere along the line the idea arose to provide a network
Finger service.  I don't remember who suggested that but it seemed like a
good idea at the time so I stuck it in.  Some other anxious people wanted
to be able to verify that their mail was delivered to specific addressees,
so the Mail feature was also added.

While I was somewhat surprised by the popularity of Finger, it has not
been as successful as an earlier program that I invented -- the spelling
checker.  It too was created to fill a personal need that many others
apparently share.  We didn't think about commercial development and
software protection in those days, but if we had we probably could have
made something out of it.  On the other hand, I enjoyed the comradery
of those gentler times and have no regrets.

	-Les Earnest (

Sean Colbath			...uunet!rochester!colbath
"And now for something completely different..."

From mrc@Tomobiki-Cho.CAC.Washington.EDU Thu Feb 22 13:21:20 1990
From: mrc@Tomobiki-Cho.CAC.Washington.EDU (Mark Crispin)
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers
Subject: Re: Etymology time again...
Date: 20 Feb 90 23:55:37 GMT
Distribution: alt
Organization: Mendou Zaibatsu, Tomobiki-Cho, Butsumetsu-Shi

In article (Barry Shein) writes:
>Someone probably has the truth but finger certainly goes back at least
>as far as the mid-late 70's on ITS systems.

FINGER originated on the DECsystem-10 at the Stanford Artificial
Intelligence Laboratory (SU-AI, now SAIL.Stanford.EDU).  It was
written by Les Earnest in the SAIL (a cousin of ALGOL) programming
language.  This was in the late 1960's or early 1970's.

Ken Harrenstein implemented FINGER at the MIT Artificial Intelligence
Laboratory (MIT-AI) as NAME.  A FINGER protocol was implemented soon
afterwards.  This was in the mid 1970's.

The next version of FINGER was for Tenex and TOPS-20, writen by Mike
McMahon and Stuart Cracraft.  A later TOPS-20 FINGER was written (in
order of who worked on it) in the early 1980's by myself, Mike Peeler,
and David Eppstein.

By 1979, the number of FINGER servers had proliferated to the point
that everyone had given up on having "FINGER @*" (!!!) work.

I think the first Unix finger programs appeared by 1979 or so; I have
a bit set that UCLA-SECURITY had a finger program written by Lauren
 _____     ____ ---+---   /-\   Mark Crispin           Atheist & Proud
 _|_|_  _|_ ||  ___|__   /  /   6158 Lariat Loop NE    R90/6 pilot
|_|_|_| /|\-++- |=====| /  /    Bainbridge Island, WA  "Gaijin! Gaijin!"
 --|--   | |||| |_____|   / \   USA  98110-2098        "Gaijin ha doko ka?"
  /|\    | |/\| _______  /   \  +1 (206) 842-2385      "Niichan ha gaijin."
 / | \   | |__| /     \ /     \ mrc@CAC.Washington.EDU "Chigau. Gaijin ja nai.
kisha no kisha ga kisha de kisha-shita                  Omae ha gaijin darou."
sumomo mo momo, momo mo momo, momo ni mo iroiro aru    "Iie, boku ha nihonjin."
uraniwa ni wa niwa, niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga iru    "Souka. Yappari gaijin!"