Here are the complete 1988-vintage Sun manuals “Using NROFF and TROFF” and “Formatting Documents” scanned just for you. I’d scanned these in 2000, and they’d sat on a forgotten archive volume since then.

Update: there are better versions on the Internet Archive: Using NROFF and TROFF and Formatting Documents, all as part of the Sun Microsystems, Inc. manual collection.

(if you need to get your troff on, go to Ralph’s troff.org.)

More Gnu Smugness: Give me help when I want it

Following on from the ‘head -n’ debacle, here’s another annoying gnuism:

$ egrep -h
Usage: egrep [OPTION]... PATTERN [FILE]...
Try `egrep --help' for more information.

So I’ve asked it for help, it knows I’ve asked it for help, but it insists that I do things its way. The utility has even sequestered the ‘-h’ option to give me this useless message. It would have been much better to call the usage option whether I gave it ‘-h’ or ‘–help’.

Computers should do what I want, when I want it. In fact, someday soon I want a computer with a DO MY STUFF NOW, LOWLY COMPUTER key, that issues an NMI to make the computer return to what I want it to do. I think that’s what the Esc key was originally for, but all too often, the operating system thinks it has more important things to do than I have.

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head: `-N‘ option is obsolete; use `-n N‘ since this will be removed in the future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