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Re: That screwdriver looks like a hammer...

by BrowserUk (Pope)
on Aug 23, 2004 at 07:35 UTC ( #385018=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to That screwdriver looks like a hammer...

Six or so years ago, I started out using tail -f log to help debug an hp/ux-based system that used a central log of communications with many remote systems. I had to re-write the system tail utility so that it followed the logfile by name rather than file handle, as the logs cycled whenever they reached a particular size. That quickly progressed to being filtered using grep to just certain key events.

With a scrolling log of many, concurrent communications, it was difficult to keep track of the one or two of interest. So that got fed into awk, which filtered only the latest event for each machine, sorted them by machine id, discarded those that had completed, and displayed the most recent 60 (the biggest screen size available).

Slowly, with the addition of a few ansi escape sequences to clear the screen and highlight the latest changes, the one-time debugging aid became more useful (current and immediate) than the system reporting tool and rapidly became the tool of choice for many of us on the project.

There was talk of re-writing it into something easier to maintain that Awk(ward), but an experiment with REXX showed that it was just too slow for the purpose. Someone did suggest Perl (version 4 was on the systems). I took one look at the couple of example scripts that were available and rejected the idea out of hand as "write-only line noise".

In my defense, I'd never seen Perl before and none of the unix people put up much of an argument. I'd also put a considerable amount of effort into learning awk etc. in order to get the (working) tool to where it was, I was kind of proud of it.

When I left the project, it was still tool of choice. The last view I have of the lab is a photograh one of the guys emailed me. Taken at a milestone celebration some months later, there are at least a couple of copyings running on the screens in the background.

Examine what is said, not who speaks.
"Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
"Think for yourself!" - Abigail
"Memory, processor, disk in that order on the hardware side. Algorithm, algorithm, algorithm on the code side." - tachyon

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