[linux-elitists] Great recent Unix software

Shlomi Fish shlomif at iglu.org.il
Mon Feb 14 09:04:00 PST 2011

On Monday 14 Feb 2011 05:46:35 Seth David Schoen wrote:
> (Originally posted to the SVLUG list, but I'm going to post here
> too because I also suspect this thread might have been on
> linux-elitists.)
> Hi everybody,
> I'm writing a Unix guide for a friend.  My ongoing search for
> what to mention, together with Eric's reference to agrep here,
> reminded me of a mailing list thread from about a decade ago,
> perhaps here on the SVLUG list, where people mentioned the programs
> that they would want people to know about that had been developed
> recently and wouldn't have been a part of older Unix documentation
> (or some long-time Unix users' education).  Some examples mentioned
> at the time were ssh, screen, and rsync, all of which were invented
> or became popular in the mid-1990s.
> (It turns out screen is considerably older than the other two,
> but it didn't reach its wide popularity until later.)
> Can anyone suggest a new round of Unix software like this?  Things
> you use regularly that you wish you'd had when you started using
> Unix?  I'm particularly interested in text-mode software so I would
> exclude things like Audacity but include things like git.
> Or, what software do you install from optional packages that you're
> tempted to think should become a default part of all Unix systems?
> I think my newest example here is vipe, from GNU moreutils.

Stuff I can remember now:

1. valgrind - a life saver for finding bugs in C programs.

2. tmux - screen done right. It's BSDLed instead of GPLed in case it matters, 
which it does to some BSD distributions, for whom the GPL is not a liberal 
enough licence, but otherwise a more powerful and usable product, which I like 
better than screen and would have glady used it instead of screen even if tmux 
was GPLed.

3. htop - a nicer top.

4. iotop - a top monitor for disk access.

5. ack - I agree with whoever mentioned.

6. CMake - finally a decent configuration and build system after all the time 
of struggling with GNU Autotools (a.k.a GNU Autohell.). Like tmux, it's also 
BSDLed, but regardless of that, much better:

I list its advantages over GNU Autohell here: 
http://www.shlomifish.org/open-source/anti/autohell/ .

There are many other modern alternatives to GNU Autotools, including the Free 
Pascal fpmake, the Python-based SCons, waf which aimed to combine the 
advantages of everything, rake which is the Ruby default build-system, and 
lots of other ones written in Perl, Python, Ruby etc. but I could not find 
anything that I could not do with CMake with a relative ease.

7. Subversion, git, Mercurial and Bazaar are all fine version control systems 
with many advantages, disadvantages, trade-offs and differences. For me it 
goes something like Mercurial > Subversion > git > Bazaar where ">" is prefer 
or find more intuitive. (Please don't start a holy war or point me to the "Why 
git is better than X" site.).

I agree that most open-source projects should use git and/or Mercurial, but 
Subversion is useful for things like games which require a lot of media files 
(and have poor version control), and also see the persepctive given here:
http://blog.red-bean.com/sussman/?p=79 which I can attest to from my 

Perforce is another fine choice for a centralised version control system with 
some advantages and disadvantages over Subversion, but it's proprietary, comes 
without a source AFAIK, and somewhat pricey (though there are far costlier 
solutions out there such as IBM Rational ClearCase). I was told that Perforce 
excel at giving very good, polite and friendly tech support, and that they are 
still a small company (someone told me he once got a happy holiday postcard 
signed by all of their employees.), that made mad coin and probably still do, 
although their profits may have been diminished a bit.

If you even think of getting near BitKeeper, stop and walk the opposite way 
(i.e: Mercurial or git). See http://better-scm.berlios.de/bk/ .

Another version control system to avoid is SVK, which died in an explosion, 
leaving many people injured. See: 
http://community.livejournal.com/shlomif_tech/22272.html .


That's everything I can think about for now. For more inspiration see:



	Shlomi Fish

Shlomi Fish       http://www.shlomifish.org/
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