The ‘head -n’ debacle

Unix/Linux has a handy little tool called head that will print the first few lines of a file. Run without options, it’ll give you the first few lines, but called f’rintsance head -20, will give you the first 20. It’s worked this way since basically ever.

Now whenever I run it, I get the following smug little message:

head: `-N‘ option is obsolete; use `-n N‘ since this will be removed in the future

I don’t consider myself an old Unix programmer, but I know that there are probably 12 year old scripts of mine working in former employers’ offices far, far away that will need fixing if they ever get rid of the sane old `-N‘ option. For any sakes, why, man, why …?

The message is also rather ambiguous. Why would I want to use `-n N‘ if it will be removed in the future? I knew all along that I should stick with `-N‘. The right of the people to keep and bear heads, shall not be infringed, anyone?

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