Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Linux Authors: Ian Khan, John Wetherill, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Jason Bloomberg

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Book Rookery: Wicked Cool Shell Scripts

101 different, fun, and useful shell scripts

In this installment of the Book Rookery, Martin C. Brown speaks with Dave Taylor, author of Wicked Cool Shell Scripts, about all the fun things you can do with shell scripts, whether you're running Linux, Mac OS X, or even a mainstream Unix system.

Can you tell us more about the book and what's inside?

For years I've picked up different programming books and lamented that they weren't fun or interesting. In the shell scripting world, it's even worse, with book after book talking about how to use an "if" statement, but none containing fun, hip, edgy, and even kind of wacky shell scripts that demonstrate all sorts of useful constructs and capabilities, but focus on being interesting. That's exactly what I've done with my book, though. I skip all the how-to and instructional material - after all, there's tons of stuff online nowadays anyway - and jump straight into the content, into listing and explaining 101 different, fun, and useful shell scripts.

What's your favorite script in the book?

Well, I had the most fun figuring out how to get the hangman game (#100) to work in as few lines as possible. A flashback to my early programming life when "toss in more RAM" wasn't the solution to a bloated app! In terms of scripts I use every day, the Mac OS X "titleterm" script (#96) is just part of my everyday activity, and I really like the concepts embodied in the bestcompress script (#38) too.

What's the biggest challenge about using shell scripts?

At the end of the day, shell scripts can only be so sophisticated. My rule of thumb is that if the script is growing to be more than 200 lines or so, it's probably time to migrate to a more sophisticated programming environment. For me, it's just about always a switch into C, but I'm an old-time Unix guy so C is second nature to me.

Shell scripts? Why wouldn't people use Perl?

Perl is a viable option, but what I think is really great about shell scripts is that everyone who uses Unix, Linux, or the terminal in Mac OS X already has 90% of the skills and expertise needed to begin creating their own shell scripts. Further, every line you type into a shell script can be easily tested at a command line, so I'll often start out a script by building a longer and longer pipe of commands, then eventually just copy and paste the entire command sequence into a file and poof a new script is born.

There are lots of different Unix-related books - including a number that you've written - and shell script books. Why another one?

Yes, I admit, I've written Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours, Teach Yourself Unix System Administration in 24 Hours, and Unix: Man or Beast?. No, wait. Only the first two titles. Sorry.

More seriously, there are lots of books on Unix and Unix-related topics, but they almost all focus on being either dry reference works (five lines and a table of flags for all 1,600 commands included with your OS, yawn) or on step-by-step tutorials (both of my books fall into this category, the "12,158 simple steps to becoming a Unix expert" style), but there are way too few books that are fun and entertaining, choosing to teach through example and through sheer enthusiasm for the environment. Wicked Cool Shell Scripts endeavors to fill this gap and so far, based on the tremendous response from the Unix and open source community, it's hitting its mark.

What's your take on the SCO lawsuit?

I've always wondered about people who put more energy into dragging innovators back to the status quo than in innovating themselves, and I think that's exactly what the SCO team is doing. Last I checked, they weren't doing anything interesting or innovative with Unix, so why would they want to slow the rest of us down? I won't go into conspiracy theories, but there sure are a lot of curious coincidences in this situation. Ultimately, though, I'd like to see the open source community cut SCO off at the knees: work with legal people to identify exactly what code SCO believes is questionable and then have swarms of programmers en masse toss that code out of the Linux code base and rewrite all of it "black box" so that SCO is left holding... nothing.

And in the meantime, innovative work with GNOME, the new kernel, autodiscovery of network resources, further levels of compatibility with samba, and other innovations are the lifeblood of our community, and they're what I'd like to see everyone continue to focus on developing.

Your book also covers Mac OS X: What OS do you run on your main computer, and how Unix-y do you think Mac OS X really is, when compared to a distro like Fedora?

I have always been a huge fan of Macs, I have to admit. I remember many, many years ago when I first used a 512K Mac (which was loaned to me by the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, of all groups) and realized that it was a whole new way of looking at usability. This was after years of HP's Windex and X (and I remember when Motif was state of the art, gawd!), but it was so clearly superior... I've been a die-hard Mac person ever since and now I have four Macs in my office, including a brand-new dual G5 system. They not only run Mac OS X but my Terminal window is always open too. It's a fabulous pairing of all the power and capabilities of Unix with the GUI and graphical good karma of Aqua, the Mac OS X graphical environment. It rocks!

And finally, what editor do you like, emacs or vi?

Oh boy. I'm a "vi" person and have been forever. Thank you Bill for your work in this area, even if it was oh, so many years ago. However, kudos to the vim team too: vim finally fixes all the annoying limitations of vi.

About the Author
Dave Taylor is author of 15 computer books, including Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther and Creating Cool Web Sites. You can learn more about Wicked Cool Shell Scripts - and read through the scripts - online at www.intuitive.com/wicked.

More Stories By Martin C. Brown

Martin C. Brown is a former IT director with experience in cross-platform integration. A keen developer, he has produced dynamic sites for blue-chip customers, including HP and Oracle, and is the technical director of Foodware.net. Now a freelance writer and consultant, MC, as he is better known, works closely with Microsoft as an SME; has a regular column on both ServerWatch.com and IBM's DeveloperWorks Grid Computing site; is a core member of the AnswerSquad.com team; and has written books such as XML Processing with Perl, Python and PHP, and the Microsoft IIS 6 Delta Guide.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that robomq.io will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. robomq.io is an interoperable and composable platform that connects any device to any application. It helps systems integrators and the solution providers build new and innovative products and service for industries requiring monitoring or intelligence from devices and sensors.
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, will discuss how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust I...
After making a doctor’s appointment via your mobile device, you receive a calendar invite. The day of your appointment, you get a reminder with the doctor’s location and contact information. As you enter the doctor’s exam room, the medical team is equipped with the latest tablet containing your medical history – he or she makes real time updates to your medical file. At the end of your visit, you receive an electronic prescription to your preferred pharmacy and can schedule your next appointment.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgenia will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgenia is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional Social, Mobile and Cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dr...
While not quite mainstream yet, WebRTC is starting to gain ground with Carriers, Enterprises and Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) alike. WebRTC makes it easy for developers to add audio and video communications into their applications by using Web browsers as their platform. But like any market, every customer engagement has unique requirements, as well as constraints. And of course, one size does not fit all. In her session at WebRTC Summit, Dr. Natasha Tamaskar, Vice President, Head of Cloud and Mobile Strategy at GENBAND, will explore what is needed to take a real time communications ...
The world's leading Cloud event, Cloud Expo has launched Microservices Journal on the SYS-CON.com portal, featuring over 19,000 original articles, news stories, features, and blog entries. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. Microservices Journal offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. Follow new article posts on Twitter at @MicroservicesE
SYS-CON Events announced today that Litmus Automation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Litmus Automation’s vision is to provide a solution for companies that are in a rush to embrace the disruptive Internet of Things technology and leverage it for real business challenges. Litmus Automation simplifies the complexity of connected devices applications with Loop, a secure and scalable cloud platform.
SYS-CON Events announced today the IoT Bootcamp – Jumpstart Your IoT Strategy, being held June 9–10, 2015, in conjunction with 16th Cloud Expo and Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Javits Center in New York City. This is your chance to jumpstart your IoT strategy. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but includes hands-on demos and walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of Do-It-Yourself IoT platforms including Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Spark and Intel Edison. You will also get an overview of cloud technologies s...
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
The WebRTC Summit 2015 New York, to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 16th International Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit.
SOA Software has changed its name to Akana. With roots in Web Services and SOA Governance, Akana has established itself as a leader in API Management and is expanding into cloud integration as an alternative to the traditional heavyweight enterprise service bus (ESB). The company recently announced that it achieved more than 90% year-over-year growth. As Akana, the company now addresses the evolution and diversification of SOA, unifying security, management, and DevOps across SOA, APIs, microservices, and more.
Wearable technology was dominant at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) , and MWC was no exception to this trend. New versions of favorites, such as the Samsung Gear (three new products were released: the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo and the Gear Fit), shared the limelight with new wearables like Pebble Time Steel (the new premium version of the company’s previously released smartwatch) and the LG Watch Urbane. The most dramatic difference at MWC was an emphasis on presenting wearables as fashion accessories and moving away from the original clunky technology associated with t...
The list of ‘new paradigm’ technologies that now surrounds us appears to be at an all time high. From cloud computing and Big Data analytics to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT), today we have to deal with what the industry likes to call ‘paradigm shifts’ at every level of IT. This is disruption; of course, we understand that – change is almost always disruptive.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SafeLogic has been named “Bag Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. SafeLogic provides security products for applications in mobile and server/appliance environments. SafeLogic’s flagship product CryptoComply is a FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic engine designed to secure data on servers, workstations, appliances, mobile devices, and in the Cloud.
GENBAND has announced that SageNet is leveraging the Nuvia platform to deliver Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to its large base of retail and enterprise customers. Nuvia’s cloud-based solution provides SageNet’s customers with a full suite of business communications and collaboration tools. Two large national SageNet retail customers have recently signed up to deploy the Nuvia platform and the company will continue to sell the service to new and existing customers. Nuvia’s capabilities include HD voice, video, multimedia messaging, mobility, conferencing, Web collaboration, deskt...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cisco, the worldwide leader in IT that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cisco makes amazing things happen by connecting the unconnected. Cisco has shaped the future of the Internet by becoming the worldwide leader in transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Cisco and our partners are building the platform for the Internet of Everything by connecting the...
Temasys has announced senior management additions to its team. Joining are David Holloway as Vice President of Commercial and Nadine Yap as Vice President of Product. Over the past 12 months Temasys has doubled in size as it adds new customers and expands the development of its Skylink platform. Skylink leads the charge to move WebRTC, traditionally seen as a desktop, browser based technology, to become a ubiquitous web communications technology on web and mobile, as well as Internet of Things compatible devices.
Docker is an excellent platform for organizations interested in running microservices. It offers portability and consistency between development and production environments, quick provisioning times, and a simple way to isolate services. In his session at DevOps Summit at 16th Cloud Expo, Shannon Williams, co-founder of Rancher Labs, will walk through these and other benefits of using Docker to run microservices, and provide an overview of RancherOS, a minimalist distribution of Linux designed expressly to run Docker. He will also discuss Rancher, an orchestration and service discovery platf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.