Fun_People Archive
28 Aug
It's easier to port a shell than a shell script. -- Larry Wall

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 98 12:44:16 -0700
To: Fun_People
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Subject: It's easier to port a shell than a shell script. -- Larry Wall
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X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649
Forwarded-by: "Kevin D. Clark" <>
Forwarded-by: "Jon 'maddog' Hall, USG Senior Leader" <>

I've been attending the USENIX NT and LISA NT (Large Installation Systems
Administration for NT) conference in downtown Seattle this week.

One of those magical Microsoft moments(tm) happened yesterday and I thought
that I'd share.  Non-geeks may not find this funny at all, but those in
geekdom (particularly UNIX geekdom) will appreciate it.

Greg Sullivan, a Microsoft product manager (henceforth MPM), was holding
forth on a forthcoming product that will provide Unix style scripting and
shell services on NT for compatibility and to leverage UNIX expertise that
moves to the NT platform.  The product suite includes the MKS (Mortise Kern
Systems) windowing Korn shell, a windowing PERL, and lots of goodies like
awk, sed and grep.  It actually fills a nice niche for which other products
(like the MKS suite) have either been too highly priced or not well enough

An older man, probably mid-50s, stands up in the back of the room and
asserts that Microsoft could have done better with their choice of Korn
shell.  He asks if they had considered others that are more compatible with
existing UNIX versions of KSH.

The MPM said that the MKS shell was pretty compatible and should be able to
run all UNIX scripts.

The questioner again asserted that the MKS shell was not very compatible
and didn't do a lot of things right that are defined in the KSH language

The MPM asserted again that the shell was pretty compatible and should work
quite well.

This assertion and counter assertion went back and forth for a bit, when
another fellow member of the audience announced to the MPM that the
questioner was, in fact David Korn of AT&T (now Lucent) Bell Labs. (David
Korn is the author of the Korn shell)

Uproarious laughter burst forth from the audience, and it was one of the
only times that I have seen a (by then pink-cheeked) MPM lost for words or
momentarily lacking the usual unflappable confidence. So, what's a body to
do when Microsoft reality collides with everyone else's?


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