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Less is More: The Orthodox File Manager (OFM) Paradigm

by Dr Nikolai Bezroukov

Content : Foreword : Ch01 : Ch02 : Ch03 : Ch04 : Ch05 : Ch06 : Ch07 : OFM1999 : OFM2004 : OFM2012


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Ch 4: History of UNIX Orthodox File managers

Content

Introduction

Although originated in DOS, in my view OFMs can and should be considered to be a new generation of Unix shells command line interface, the interface that greatly simplifies working with the command line shell environment. I would even say that OFMs represent a breakthrough in the creation of the Unix shell command line interface, the first important innovation in this area since the creation of ksh93. Thus, for any particular user, the importance of Unix OFMs is closely related to the importance for him of the shell environment. That means that the person needs to understand Unix philosophy to fully benefit from the OFMs capabilities. As David Korn aptly said (bold italic is mine - BNN):

There are many people who use UNIX or Linux who IMHO do not understand UNIX. UNIX is not just an operating system, it is a way of doing things, and the shell plays a key role by providing the glue that makes it work. The UNIX methodology relies heavily on reuse of a set of tools rather than on building monolithic applications. Even Perl programmers often miss the point, writing the heart and soul of the application as Perl script without making use of the UNIX toolkit.

There are two major usages of OFMs in Unix environment

That means that you might actually benefit from using two implementations of OFM.

Paradoxically for OFMs Unix proved to be as good or even better environment then Windows. OFMs on UNIX can utilize most of the advantages of the base operating system. Among them:

I believe the latter made possible to implement "external panelize" command in MC, the command that I suspect have rather slim chances to appear in Dos/Windows implementations. Of course UNIX has several disadvantages. Among them:

I would like to say it again: any hard core Unix administrator will benefit greatly learning deco, Midnight Commander or any other OFM. When I saw that some poor guy all day is typing endless sequences of cd..., ls | more I looks like many Unix users and administrators suffers from the syndrome that I would like to call "an addiction to the pure command line" -- unnecessary and inefficient navigating the directory tree and performing file operations using plain vanilla cd, ls, cp troika. Sometimes that creates health problems like repetitive stress syndrome. OFM can reduce this typing orgy at least by half and at the same time provides much better view of the file system then any sequence of cd and ls commands...

Moreover the vast majority of users and even system administrators are, by definition, not experts. Few people are able to master the complexity of the current Unix distributions like Solaris 9 or Red Hat 9 (BTW a Red Hat 9 installation of medium complexity with webserver contains more then 100K files). All people want is "something that works". Science fiction editor John W. Campbell used to say that what most people want is magic, which he defined as "product without process." Campbell was right. Most people aren't interested in mucking with the process, all they want are the results. And the trade-off for becoming a major force in software is that you must give those people what they want. For that reason Unix-based OFMs are very important in simplifying life of the "mixed environment", when user are stuck with using two OSes on daily basis with Windows as a corporate desktop and Unix as a server or application running host.  For many power Windows users OFM represents probably 50% of the value of a Windows command line environment (applications are probably another 50%) and with OFM available in all major Unix distributions it created the possibility to use the same tool in both environments. That's a huge plus.

Paradoxically the ability to work with mouse is more important for Unix console OFMs then for Windows console OFMs as multitude of terminal types in Unix create a mess where not all keyboard combinations can be used and keyboard combinations that can be used in one terminal can't be used in another.

Paradoxically the ability to work with mouse is more important for Unix console OFMs then for Windows console OFMs

In other words without deep understanding of terminfo yours are stuck. Fortunatly such terminal emulators as Teraterm work with mouse OK.

 

Please note that some significant X-based Unix OFMs written in scripting languages are covered in Ch. 6

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