The UNIX-HATERS Handbook

Rating: 0

Simson Garfinkel, Daniel Weise & Steven Strassmann (ed.)

UNIX, much like any other operating system, has inspired rabid hatred among some of its users. The original UNIX-HATERS mailing list was a "meeting place" for those who were forced to use Unix against their will - a support group of sorts, with all of the requisite venting. From that mailing list, this book was born as a sort of "Best Of UNIX-HATERS". This handbook describes why, in the members of the lists' opinions, UNIX is a dreadful operating system.

If you've never heard of UNIX, there's no reason to pick up this book. It won't tell you much about the operating system and the criticism will probably be lost on you. On the other hand, if you are familiar with UNIX, you might find this book amusing. If you hate UNIX as much as the editors, you'll feel vindicated in that hatred and maybe get some insight into what exactly it is about the operating system that makes it so difficult to use.

If you are like me, and don't mind using UNIX (or even like it!), there's a lot about this book that will irritate you - not the least being the insults thrown at UNIX users and lovers. However, the book does do a decent job of describing why many people find UNIX difficult and unintuitive. Some of the criticisms are apt and point out user considerations that operating systems should accommodate.

The book also manages to give a little historical insight into why UNIX was designed the way it was. If you're fond of the operating system, you may find this interesting, and if you dislike it, this insight might help ameliorate the feeling that UNIX is built with no rhyme or reason.

However, overall the book is somewhat weak. Each chapter is basically a collection of posts to UNIX-HATERS criticizing some aspect of UNIX, with a little bit of editorial narrative wrapped around it, mostly to explain the particular problem or why it exists. At times it is a little too much like reading one side of a Usenet flame war. And, really, you won't learn much more reading this book than you would from taking your local UNIX dweeb and UNIX hater out to coffee together and listening to them for an hour. It rates a 0 from me.


Review written July 2001.


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