On the stability of Linux (and other UNIX-type OSes)

You may have noticed that there is a gap since my last post; sorry about that.

What you may not have noticed is that I’m migrating all my blogs into WordPress. It’s really quite great, and I like having much more control over how things are working here.

I was surprised at just how easy it was to install WordPress, as well as how straightforward it was to migrate my content: I just needed to export my content into a text file formatted for WordPress, then import that file into WordPress. A little fiddling with user names (so you know it was me that wrote all the articles here), and I was done. Quite literally, a matter of a few minutes, all together.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to migrate my content, since some of those articles date back several years (in their original forms)–but I’m not too worried about it. Most of the time, when I’m looking for help with doing something technical and/or command line-y with Linux, Google will point often point me to articles written five or even ten (or more) years ago.

Compare that with (for example) Apple software. I went to the bookstore the other day, seeking help with iMovie 09. I bought David Pogue’s handy book, iMovie ’09 & iDVD: The Missing Manual. Except instead, I picked up the one last copy of the iMovie 08 edition of the same book (iMovie ’08 & iDVD: The Missing Manual).

As soon as I realized my mistake, I rushed back to exchange the book–there is almost always a big difference in the way commercial, proprietary software works from one version to the next.

Compare that to open source software like Emacs or vi. I needed some help with both of those recently, and among the best resources (OK, the best resources in the first page of results from Google) was A Quick Guide to Emacs from Columbia University’s IT group. It was helpful, even though it referenced release 20.7, which dates back to about 2001.

Likewise for vi: the tutorial from University of Hawaii, Mastering the VI Editor, was last updated in 2002–and yet it still works more or less as it did then.

That’s the whole point: stable software that works the same way, so that all the scripts and tools and files and everything else that you’ve been building over your career will continue to work as well as they did when you made them.

So, if you’re new here, and find something that seems outdated or obsolete, let me know! And if you’ve found the answer to a pressing question, even if that answer is a few years old, let me know that, too!

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