The Unix Pestilence

(A gander into unix info tech industry and a logo tour)

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

“I liken starting one's computing career with Unix, say as a undergraduate, to being born in East Africa. It is intolerably hot, your body is covered with lice and flies, you are malnourished and you suffer from numerous curable diseases. But, as far as young East Africans can tell, this is simply the natural condition and they live within it. By the time they find out differently, it is too late. They already think that the writing of shell scripts is a natural act.” — Ken Pier, Xerox PARC (~1980s?)

UNIX-Haters Handbook cover
The The Unix-Haters Handbook by Simson Garfinkel, Daniel Weise, Steven Strassmann, Don Hopkins . 1994 see The Unix-Haters Handbook One can learn a lot about unix and gain proper software engineering attitude from this book.
unix pestilence
XahTV 2021-02-20 Windows key setup, FSF vs OpenSource ideologies, Emacs vs VSCode

Info, info and info, wallow and swallow, is what i do daily. I have been a computing professional in the unix environment since 1998. Unlike most unix sys admin approaches of sloppiness and quickness, i'm of the systematic type who have read and researched massive amounts of info and docs related to unix and web technologies. The web is a information hotbed. Info run free-for-all, such that there's little need to buy tech books because they are all online in one form or another, provided you know how to find them. In these pages i present a annotated guide to unix related resources plus a logo tour. What you will glean from it is tidbits of unix history and culture, a douche of unix insights, and a taste of bitterness. If you are of the type “I don't care about learning but only that I get my job done quickly so that my boss is happy” then this page is not for you. (get out of my way) If you are inclined to think, to be systematic, produce quality and permanent work, then i dare say this page will be useful to you.

Unix advocating morons, computing professionals, and info suckers, get ready to be pissed off, but make yourself comfortable.

2007 Addendum: This page was mostly written in 2003, from experiences as a unix professional spanning about 1998 to 2002. At those time, free online unix resources on the web is still spotty, and it is worthwhile to have link collection of quality sites. However, today, web resources have multiplied some order of thousands fold, in online books and documentations, in number of unix-related online forums, mailing lists, instant messaging rooms (For example, irc), and there's the encompassing wikipedia. Today, it is very easy to locate even esoteric technical info thru web search sites. This page as a unix documentation meta-resource is no longer relevant. Also, computing industry esp unix have changed incredibly fast. For example, during dot-com days, Red Hat is one of the primary Linux distributor. Today, many new linux distributors (For example, Ubuntu, Linspire (was Lindows)) has risen and surpassed Red Hat. This site now serves only as a logo tour and unix commentary from the perspective of 2003. Unlinked URL means the URL is defunct.

Unix Operating System Administration

unix Sys Admin: noun. a person who is interested in computer science and literature but understands neither. —Xah Lee, ~2002

Unix system administrators are the most sophomoric group in the computing world. Sloppy tech creates fatuous folks. Whatever, but it pays. Wanna be a unix sys admin? No need to buy unix books. I've read tons of unix related books, but I find that the best resources are not in printed books made by third parties, but rather the online docs of the Unixes in question. When i started my unix career in 1997 i didn't know this nor is the online docs mature or comprehensive, and have read a bunch of unix books. Now i'm rather seasoned and i can give a guide to unix beginners and pro alike.


Sun Microsystems logo
Sun Microsystems's logo, made of many U's forming 4 S into a square. It reads S U N in four directions. Designed by Vaughan Pratt
Solaris OS logo 2
old Solaris OS logo
Solaris OS logo
Solaris OS logo

Sun's OS is officially called Solaris Operating Environment (it was called “SunOS”).

Sun was founded in 1982 by Andreas Bechtolsheim, Scott McNealy, Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy. Bill Joy is a student at University of California, Berkeley, while the rest are from Stanford University. SUN stood for Stanford University Network.

Complete Solaris docs: HUGE, containing supposedly all published Solaris docs. Particular good is the 2 or 3 volumes book called 〈System Administration Guide〉, available for Solaris 7, 8, and 9, all downloadable in PDF format. If you have a Solaris box, then read these volumes well. You'd gain solid unix skills. If your work is on Solaris, then these volumes beats any generic unix book however good, and they beat any 3rd party Solaris books too.

Solaris Freesoftware Repository: has tons of pre-compiled freesoftware for Solaris. Including: perl, bash, gzip, tar, gcc, make, top, sudo, traceroute, cvs, etc. Some of which are pre-installed in Solaris 8.

sunfreeware 2020-01-13 npvt7 2020-01-13

The following is a Solaris FAQ created by the members of the Solaris newsgroup community around early 1990s. For today's Open Source and Linux-chanting sophomorons, they are not at the level to read these “Frequently” Asked Questions.

Solaris 2 FAQ

Sun Microsystems is the worst company with jargons.

[see Jargons of Software Industry]


old HP logo.
HP new logo
new HP logo

HP stands for Hewlett-Packard, from the names of its two founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. Both were Stanford University students. HP was founded in 1939. HP's unix offering is called HP-UX.

complete HP-UX docs are here: []. HUGE. Including PDF versions. Particular useful are:

HP-UX software archive heaven is called “Software Porting And Archive Centre for HP-UX”. It contains much source and pre-compiled software for HP-UX. They have many mirrors. Here are two:, 2020-01-10 pbgm6 2020-01-10


Last week i bought a chain saw with a twisted handle. Perhaps i wasn't careful, but by accident it chopped one of my arm off, then i thought to myself “gosh, this is POWERFUL!”. This seems to be the fashionable mode of thinking among the unixers or unixer-to-be, who would equate power and flexibility with rawness and complexity; disciplined by repeated accidents. Such a tool would first chop off the user's brain, molding a mass of brainless imbeciles and microcephalic charlatans the likes of Larry Wall and Linus Torvald jolly asses. —Xah Lee

Linux Logo in Linux Libertine Font Linux mascot Tux

The Linux mascot is a satiated penguin. Concept by Linus Torvalds, drawn by Larry Ewing in 1996. His name is Tux. Fat and glutted with food and sex, according to the desire of its founder Linus Torvalds.

Linus was a student from University of Helsinki, who around 1991 tried to improve a version of a homework OS called MINIX as a hobby. (MINIX is written by computer scientist Andrew S Tanenbaum) In the usual fashion of posting homework to the net, his “project” gradually caught on in the FreeSoftware community, and became Linux. The name is short for Linus's Unix. The major work on Linux is by Richard Stallman's FreeSoftware Foundation's project GNU. Thus sometimes Linux is called GNU/Linux.

Microsoft Linux ad-s289x217
Microsoft Linux Ad

Technically speaking, the Linux OS kernel may be inferior to other unixes, but one thing good about GNU/Linux is that its tools such as ps tar grep find ls xargs awk sh/bash are all GNU versions, which is a improvement over other unixes's. The other major things that brought Linux to the limelight while a bunch of existing free unixes (BSDs) remain in obscurity is because Linux's license scheme from the Free Software Foundation (FSF)'s unforgiving GPL. Unix geeks are very freedom sensitive, and tend to be also punitive. FSF's unforgiving, viral, licensing scheme the GPL (GNU General License) prevents free-rides from commercial entities, and unix geeks like that. It is because of this political adjunct, that made linux soaring in popularity and left other technically superior and free BSDs in dust.

Debian logo, a swirl of magic.
Debian logo
Debian logos. The one with the vase is used for official affiliation.
little debian girl
“でびあんでしょう” (i'm Debian)
suse linux logo chameleon OpenSUSE logo
SuSe Linux's logo.
Red Hat logo RedHat linux logo 59428
Red Hat Linux logo


FreeBSD mascot
BSD's mascot BSD Daemon, named Beastie. (some or all drawn by John Lasseter.)
bsd poke dos
Beastie poking DOS
bsd poke att
Beastie poking AT&T

The BSD mascot is inspired by a wonderful cartoon drawing by Phil Foglio.

Unix Humor: the Origin of BSD Daemon Beastie

The BSD unixes's mascot is a tykish red daemon, with a trident and a 1980s Converse All-Stars basketball sneaker. BSD stands for Berkeley Software Distribution, developed by studs from the hippy intelligentsia University of California, Berkeley. The second and third images are BSD shirts printed before 1990s. Notice the DOS balloon and the AT&T deathstar. From these, we know that once BSD were in competition with MS-DOS (MicroSoft Disk Operating System) and the trademarked Unix then owned by AT&T. These images are from the BSD daemon history page (link defunct as of 2007-09) .

BSD Beastie reading doc
BSD daemon devouring docs
BSD figurine and cat
BSD figurine and cat
BSD figurines
Beastie figurine. Notice the Apache feather. These are sold by
tux gletu cipni
Unix Humor: Beastie Banging Tux
               ,        ,
              /(        )`
              \ \___   / |
              /- _  `-/  '
             (/\/ \ \   /\
             / /   | `    \
             O O   ) /    |
             `-^--'`<     '
            (_.)  _  )   /
             `.___/`    /
               `-----' /
  <----.     __ / __   \
  <----|====O)))==) \) /====
  <----'    `--' `.__,' \
               |        |
           FL   \       /
           ______( (_  / \______
         ,'  ,-----'   |        \
         `--{__________)        \/

Art author's site:

bsd girl dscf0028
The most alluring daemon babe! LinuxWorld 2000 convention New York

[see UNIX Philosophy, Fast Food the UNIX way]

I have not admined BSDs. Reportedly, BSD is technically superior to Linuxes. Like most Open Source projects, there are 3 major factions of BSD:

FreeBSD is the most popular, and focus on common PC hardwares, i.e. Intel. NetBSD focuses on portability on all types of hardwares. OpenBSD is famous for its extra concern on “security”. (the entire “security” problems in today's computing industry is a egregious insult to how things should be. Security problems are in fact created and fermented by the unix community. If unix did not exist, the computing world would harbor a lot less of hackers.)

FreeBSD docs page is at:

freebsd doc site 2020-01-13 w8s2w
freebsd doc site, screenshot 2020-01-13

Apple Computer Incorporated's Mac OS X

Apple Computer Logo rainbow
Apple Computer Logo,
gki/Apple logo black
Apple logo
Mac OS original logo 71115
Mac OS logo.
mac os x logo
Mac OS X logo
Apple O S X
one of those U nix
beauty and beasts
new Eunuchs' Complex

i love Apple O S
i hate all Eunuchs
now with O S X
love hate amiss

the sea of fanatics
unices 'n' Open Source
Beavises 'n' Buttheads
making all the noises

Think Differenter's voices
clamoring all over places
beauty and Eunuchs
marries in peace

in my dream O S
there is no unix
beauty and elegance
without fanatics

 —Xah Lee, 2002-04

The official logos of Apple. Apple Computer Inc is founded in 1976 by Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs, buddies of college-drop-outs, in a garage. The Apple logo got chosen because Jobs loves apple. Around 1998 when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, the rainbow color is removed from the logo leaving just a outline. The smiling square represents Mac OS's Finder. Finder is the essential program user uses to operate Macintosh computers, doing things as viewing folders and launching other programs. The operating system used in Macintosh computers are essentially known as the Finder, until around maybe 1995 is the name “Mac OS” came about, and the smiling square was introduced. The stylized X represents Mac OS X — the new Mac OS based on unix and NeXT technologies, introduced around 2000.

Most unixers will have a hard time to articulate clearly what is unix. Sometimes you see email sign-offs that says “Linux is unix”, while other times “Linux is NOT unix”. They know little other than smugly aware that Unix is a trademark. The confusion lies in unix fanatics not understanding the logical analysis of naming and meanings.

The world unix should mean unixism, that is, the way things are done in unix platform, their culture, their hacking attitude, their social attitude, their preferences, their people, their tools, their languages, their ps grep config make shebang tartall gunzip README manifesto et cetera. Without special context, the world “unix” should not mean the Trademark, or a operating system core, or a particular version of Unix, because these interpretations are suitable in rather more specialized contexts.

[see Is Mac OS X Unix]

[see Mac OS X Resource Fork Tips]

apple unix ad-s321x195
Apple Mac OS X Unix Ad
Apple iMac G3 mouse

If you want to learn Mac OS X, the best resource is on Apple's site: [ ] (2012-01-12) . There are huge amounts of free introductions, tutorials, documentation for developers and sys admins alike. Beats vast majority of 3rd party commercial books.

The unix software archive heaven for Mac OS X is the Fink project, which contains pre-compiled binaries of unix programs.

fink site 2020-01-13 hznkb
[] screenshot 2020-01-13 (site exist since at least 2004)
fink logo 7zv23
fink logo
Hexley the Platypus
Hexley the platypus, mascot of Darwin (operating system) Logo design by Jon Hooper.
final xdarwin
Hexley variation used by the Xdarwin project.

Mac OS X's core operating system is named Darwin. Darwin is based on BSD 4.4 and Mach 3.0 Micro kernel. Apple tried to suck the FreeSoftware programer's blood by releasing and advertising Darwin as Open Source. The unix morons, having nothing to do, as always, thus have projects that builds a entire OS with Darwin as base and their X-Windows crap as framework and GUIs. (what's wrong with Linux and the various BSDs?) Here's some of their logo. Noteworthy is the once-classification-controversial platypus, with a BSD daemon attire.

I have a advice for freedom-loving unix morons: If you want the unix freedom to survive meaningfully, join the GNU project and stick to it.


SGI produces a unix called Irix. The Irix community is much less susceptible to the unix inanity because their OS focuses on graphical applications, and is “unix” only as a stable OS kernel, much like NeXTStep or Apple with Mac OS X.

sgi logo 2683m-s289x217
SGI Logo Visual Illusion

Dead OSes

gki/NeXT logo
NeXT's logo by Paul Rand.

Steve Jobs started Apple Computer Incorporated in 1976, got ousted in 1985, swore back with NeXT Computer Incorporated the next year, struggled to become a dud, dropped its hardware business (1993) and still a dud, then sold it to Apple with a Trojan horse with himself in it (1996), and took over Apple around 1998. Sweet sweet revenge. The “next” in NeXT signify the future, as in “what's next?”. Note the modern geometrical design of the logo. Jobs did some major house-cleaning and project cuts amid literal “faak-you”s from Apple developers and fans, but came out with iMac and a succession of revolutionary computer case designs, besides which made Apple profitable for the first time in years. Jobs now is again the admirable subject of Mac fanatics. (2003-05)

When Steve Jobs started NeXT, it was hyped to be the next big thing; another revolution in computer history. Technically, it was truely a superior machine. Commercially, it was a bomb, being extraordinarily expensive. NeXT nevertheless developed a following among tech-geeking community. Today, much of NeXT technologies went into Mac OS X.

Be Incorporated Logo
Be Incorporated Logo. (the right is converted to SVG version. May genuine.)
BeBox 07688
BeBox, ~1996. [ image source 2015-05-15 ]

BeOS is founded in 1990 by ex-Apple employee Jean-Louis Gassee, to create a brand new OS with hardware dedicated from the ground up, devoid of legacy baggage. In the 1996 to 1997 Apple exodus, it received great attention from Apple fans, where Apple is bleeding to death and Apple's developers massively flocked into Microsoft Windows or pressingly eyeing for a new love.

The logo with a ambiguous eye/ear is new for Be, when it saw around 2000 that a new operating system has no home in the establishment, and refocused on being a media company selling multi-media appliances. In 2000 March the end of dot-com era, they released their OS “free for personal use” like so many other software houses who saw the threat of GNU/Linux. This is the brink-of-death-struggle. (Like the Open Sourced Netscape) In 2001 Be went belly-up. For technology geeking morons, that's the ultimate token for “To Be or not to Be”.

BeOS is the paradigm of quality. Ultimately it is killed by the supeficiality-mentality of the IT industry fermented from the unix community. The unix virus kills lots of quality things, indirectly and massively, in the past, today, and it will in the future too if we don't realize it.

• Here are two essays that compares the technical merits of Mac OS X of 2001 to the wildly acclaimed but ultimately kaput BeOS.

• Scot Hacker is the author of BeOS Bible (1999), and MP3: The Definitive Guide Buy at amazon. He has also written two excellent social commentary on Napster.

Note that the Napster is the first major case of the controversy on digital copyright.

In the computing industry, especially unix community, protocols becoming a standard is not usually caused by technical excellency, but being commonly in use. Those in common use are usually result of being free or non-proprietary, which more often than not are technically poor.

Unix Tools and Software

On Apache, samba, sudo, sendmail, vi, cvs, lynx, MySQL… the unix standard baggage of incompetence, and more (gcc, qMail, postgreSQL, emacs…).

Unix History 2000, Software

Unix Shells and shell commands

sh, csh, tcsh, ksh and still SHit. Please proceed to this fascinating subject, with its own genealogy and fine pedigree. The Unix Pestilence: Shells

Computer Languages

Haskell, Scheme, Python, Java++, and others. Computer Languages

Perl Books Survey 2002

Perl's gluing ability goes beyond computation, to people. To the poor and have-nots. It unites people in the computing field who are not endowed with engaging brains. It is the sanctuary of dunces. The expressions of those thoughtless. The godsend for brainless coders. The means and banner of sys admins. The lingua franca of trial-and-error hackers. The song and dance of stultified engineers. —Xah Lee, 2000-12

Perl Books Survey 2002

Software Engineering Paradigms and Practice

The software industry predicament:

Object Oriented Programing fad, Design Patterns voodoo, eXtreme Programing flam, sloppy and irresponsible mentality with licensing disclaimer scam. And, under-educated programers, uninformed consumers, tech-un-savvy menagerie, with computer scientists sitting-pretty in their ivory-tower cloisters.

Voodoos of Software Engineering

Gnu is Not Unix

Free Software, Communism, Ideologies

The X-Windows Disaster

The X-Windows Disaster