Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Missing the comforts of $HOME

I'm currently involved in a project with another organization to replicate large parts of our computing infrastructure on their systems.

It's been a while since I've had to use a system that I haven't personally specified and installed. All my systems are set up the way I want, matching the requirements of the applications, and work extremely well.

So it's a bit of a shock to be given an existing system and have to use that. At least it's running Solaris, so I don't have to port my code. But it feels wierd to go back to something prehistoric like NIS - we've used NISplus for over a decade - and some of the other design decisions like not using the automounter aren't decisions I would make myself. So I'm working in slightly unfamiliar territory, and it makes me realize how spoilt I am on my own systems.

(Moving some of our own application code over revealed some rather - ahem - strange implementation decisions. For example, I was fixing up a whole bunch of scripts today that had to construct the name of a user's home directory. Now, most of our users get their home directories automounted under /people, so the scripts refer to the home directory as /people/$USER. Oh dear! Why not use $HOME?)

But back to the comforts of $HOME. We've installed a wide range of useful software over the years - most of it a very long time ago now. Some of these tools come in extremely handy for certain tasks, and I've become used to having everything available - to the point that I forget that it doesn't come on a system as standard. Some of these things aren't very big, and I'll give you one small example of the sort of thing I'm talking about: rgrep. Just a recursive grep, you say. That's true - I could use grep, maybe allied with find, but rgrep is one of those little finishing touches that turns a bland computer system into my $HOME.

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