Towards a unification of strengths

Yesterday's item about FreeBSD drew a number of responses pointing out that the FreeBSD ports collection, and associated package tools, are comprehensive and convenient. To clarify: I was unable to use these because I'm operating in user space on this particular box, not as root. In that case, as pkg_add says, "You're on your own!"

catdog As sometimes happens in these rambling blog entries, I found my real point at the end. That Linux makes user-space installation of software easier for people on hosted boxes, as compared to FreeBSD or alternatives, is interesting if you're using a hosted box. What really intrigues me, though, is the odd Windows/Unix culture clash we have here, and it runs in both directions.

It becomes clearer to me every day that running XML transformations in series is the modern incarnation of the venerable Unix pipeline, a philosophy that's baked into the platform. But although you're never in doubt of finding ls or awk on a box, xslt isn't there by default, and getting hold of it is a crapshoot.

Meanwhile, over on Windows, the xslt component is standard, but the pipeline philosophy is not well supported. For example, you have to hunt around to find msxsl.exe, the command-line wrapper for the XSLT engine. I get tremendous mileage out of it, but I'll bet I'm part of a small minority who do.

Allie Rogers is CTO of Triple Point Technology; I interviewed him for a recent J2EE story. He writes:

Hear hear! I go through this all the time and loath it.

However, while I agree with your "it's already in the box" plea for Windows, that platform has its own share of similar frustrations, including the lack of a proper shell in which to script, hack, run daemons, etc. Everytime I'm forced to do something like your project, Windows is convenient, but also unsatisfying for a different set of reasons. My dream is that Mac OS X eventually gets it all just right.

That'd be sweet. After all these years, the Unix and Windows cultures are still profoundly unaware of one another's strengths. Maybe an outside perspective can finally unify those strengths.

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