Jargons of Info Tech industry

Xah Lee xah at xahlee.org
Mon Aug 22 14:43:09 EDT 2005

Unix, RFC, and Line Truncation

[Note: unix tradition requires that a return be inserted at every 70
characters in email messages or so so that each line are less than 80
characters. Unixers made this as a requirement into an RFC document.]

Xah Lee, 20020511

This truncation of lines business is a hatred of mine, from email
formatting to formatting of program codes. I have been fighting with
the unix slew of morons about the line cut for years. The unix morons
are the number one excuse expert, that whenever in an argument they'll
mention some RFC “specifications”. (RFC = Really Fucking Common,
invented by mostly unix folks in the 70s.)

the unix morons, think that the world should truncate lines just like
their incompetent operating system silently truncate lines (and it
still DOES, folks! e.g. ps, tar, tcsh.) Around 1998 when i was using
Outlook Express or Eudora before that, i remember i can set lines to
not hard-wrap, and i did. Boy that always pissed the unix blockheads.
In their diddly eyes and lousy email software, i'm breaking standards,
making things hard to read, and being a stupid ass. Their brain fail to
see what unix ways are not capable of. These guys are the same slew of
morons who cry in pain about how the web should not commercialize
(circa 1996), and email should be text only (anti-MIME, circa 1995),
and lynx is the best browser (circa 1995), and GUI is for sissys and
mouse is for pussies and Apple computer is for kids (circa 1987).

There is no reason for a paragraph encoding to be splattered with end
of line characters, nor the human labor expended. There is reason for
paragraphs to be displayed not too wide, and that is readability. What
the unixer could not get clear of is a distinction of concepts. Because
their fantastically hacked-up operating system operate by the principle
that lines should not be some 80 chars or else it will be truncated and
*silently* too, thus it became _necessarily_ their _habit_ and thought
that line truncation business is natural and a human duty. Unknown of
these setups, the unix geeks go by their presumption that all text
should be hard wrapped, as if parameters should be hard-coded.

I recall, two particular unix hotshots who bugged me about the line
truncations business is the Perl priest Tom Christiansen, who used to
reside over comp.lang.perl.*, and another unix jockey Chris Nandor, who
was a MacPerl proponent now the main maintainer. It is not a
coincidence that the people who go out of their way to complain about
any “format=flowed” or softwrapped or logically-formatted lines in
emails are always the unixers. The unix twits will start a flame war
over a petty formatting issue, because it's unix's training to bent
over pettiness, not to mention they are the ones who are retarded on
the issue of line truncation.

As i have alluded to above, there are serious problems with the
line-truncation ways of thinking. The gist is that it is a form of
physical formatting as opposed to logical. (think softwrap vs hardwrap,
parameter vs hard-code) Those who are familiar with the history or
reason for SGML and HTML should understand the problem. Many of you
familiar with drive of evolution of HTML from 1995 days to today's CSS
& XML should also understand the issue. We wish to encode information,
and be flexible about representation, not botching info into one
particular representation.

The harm done by the unixers to society is of a long lasting and
pervasive nature. First is the RFC, which serves as the mob's standard,
which requires that every emailer should be broken like unix, so that
unix can process them without problems. Fuck unix and fuck unix geeks.
Secondly, it drains human labor. Right this second there are hundreds
of people pressing returns or fixing jagged lines unnecessarily.
Thinking and computer could have done that for us, if not for fucking
stupid unix and its people. Thirdly, a generation of programs and
programer's times are wasted over tools that mutilate paragraphs into
pieces. (in emacs, there's fill-paragraph etc, and in BBEdit it's just
called “Hard Wrap”) Fourthly, physical formatting ultimately
multiply the process required on the data, as we can see in emails,
especially in combination with the stupid quote convention: “>”
(that's another unix invention.). But most importantly is that the
hard-liners instilled a bad notion, a confusion, that generated a
entire generation of utterly stupid programing languages and monkey
coders, starting with unix's C language.

As of 200506, the following two sites shows that
as late as 2001, unix tool tar (BSD) still truncate long file names.
• http://www.sourcekeg.co.uk/www.mysql.com/doc/mysql/en/mac-os-x.html
(local copy)
(local copy)

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 xah at xahlee.orghttp://xahlee.org/

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