The Art of UNIX Programming
I recently finished reading a book called The Art of UNIX Programming (here for purchase, here for online reading) by Eric Raymond. The book was provided to me by my employer so I thought I would be a good trainee and read it. I had seen references to it before in places like JoelOnSoftware.com so it also had some good endorsements. More motivation for reading the book came in the form of my own personal curiousity about the entire Linux revolution and what the big deal was.
My personal assessment of the book was it was pretty good, not great. I think there was much to learn from the book for any programmer because the book speaks about thing like writing orthogonal methods, why text files are a good way to store things, what format to store text files in, how to implement your own mini-language, etc. In those respects, I was pleased with the book. I gave me insight into things that I've never thought about and things about which I've always wonder why.
So the question is why don't I completely say the book is better than just pretty good? Well several reasons and here goes my list:
- His writing style is terrible therefore it's annoying to read
- Too much of his own belief system floating around in the book
- He's a hypocrite
Let's start by addressing the first point. The author's writing style is all over the place. He changes his mannerism so often that it forces you to reread sentence all the time. I find that very annoying when I'm reading books. I don't mind it in articles and blogs but in books I believe it's necessary to find a writing style and stick with it for your readers' sake. I've found another person who completely agrees with me about the style in the book. Personally, I feel like the author is trying to prove himself to be a great writer and therefore attempts to demonstrate the different styles he's mastered. Please don't do this!!
Second problem is here I am trying to keep an open mind being primarily Windows developer by reading book called "The Art of UNIX Programming" meanwhile I have to endure the author's comments about how terrible Windows is here and there and so on. To be expected to some degree but come on this was extreme. Plus, on top of that, he's got his “Zen of programming” ideas spread throughout the book. Now granted he warns you about this but quite honestly it's still annoying. When I read a technical book I really want the point with the information I need to understand it and no fluff. I have tons and tons to read so don't clutter the pages with noise.
Both points one and two bring me to point number three. At the end of the book the author goes off about what problem exist in the Unix community and how to overcome them. One of the things he points out is the Unix developers see themselves as elite and that puts them at a disadvantage when trying to preach the benefits of the Unix platform. However, throughout the book the author himself is constantly saying how much better Unix programmers are etc etc. My feeling about his writing style exhibit, in my eyes, his elitist ways in that he's trying to prove he's smart but in turn he's frustrating his readers.
In any case, I don't regret reading the book and I did take away quite a bit so I'd recommend reading it if you have the time but I wouldn't call it a must read.
I'm now about half way done with The Practice of Programming so far the sentiment is I don't like it. Feels way to out of date so far...
I also ordered the GoF book and The Mythical Man Month yesterday.