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Scripting in shell and Perl

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This is the index of the subset of the Softpanorama site intended to simplify access to scripting related pages providing a "slice" of the whole site. The main purpose of the page to follow the "rise of scripting," as predicted in the famous John Ousterhout article Scripting: Higher Level Programming for the 21st Century in IEEE COMPUTER (1998):

...Scripting languages such as Perl and Tcl represent a very different style of programming than system programming languages such as C or Java. Scripting languages are designed for "gluing" applications; they use typeless approaches to achieve a higher level of programming and more rapid application development than system programming languages. Increases in computer speed and changes in the application mix are making scripting languages more and more important for applications of the future.

...Scripting languages and system programming languages are complementary, and most major computing platforms since the 1960's have provided both kinds of languages. The languages are typically used together in component frameworks, where components are created with system programming languages and glued together with scripting languages. However, several recent trends, such as faster machines, better scripting languages, the increasing importance of graphical user interfaces and component architectures, and the growth of the Internet, have greatly increased the applicability of scripting languages. These trends will continue over the next decade, with more and more new applications written entirely in scripting languages and system programming languages used primarily for creating components.

The site tries to give scripting languages proper emphasis and promotes scripting languages as an alternative to mainstream reliance on "Java as a new Cobol". Java is "one step forward, two steps back" type of language. Despite tremendous ecosystem it does not represent state of the art as the language for applications development.  Please read my introduction to the topic that was recently converted into the article: A Slightly Skeptical View on Scripting Languages.

My e-book Portraits of Open Source Pioneers contains several chapters on scripting that expand on this topic.

While most material is related to shell and Perl, it tries to be neutral toward different scripting languages. I consider none of them perfect and recommend to use several as the fate of any single scripting language can quickly change, if the leading developer abandons the project or became seriously ill. Perl 6 saga is a relevant warning.

Different scripting languages provide different level of integration with base OS API (for example, Unix or Windows). For example Iron Python compiles into .Net and provides pretty high level of integration with Windows. The same is true about Perl and Unix: almost all Unix system calls are available directly from Perl. Moreover Perl integrates most of Unix API in a very natural way, making it perfect replacement of shell for coding complex scripts. It also have a good debugger. The latter is weak point of shells like bash and ksh93.

Unix proved that treating everything like a file is a powerful software development  paradigm. See my review of the A Quarter Century of UNIX. In a similar way scripting languages proved that "everything is a string" is also an extremely powerful programming paradigm.

Unix proved that treating everything like a file is a powerful software development  paradigm. In a similar way scripting languages proved that "everything is a string" is also extremely powerful programming paradigm.

There are also several additional pages devoted to scripting in several applications.

My old Perl lecture were converted to a eBook Nikolai Bezroukov. Introduction to Perl for Unix System Administrators. some of them are already published:


  1. History and Programming Environment Overview

    1.1 Short history of Perl

    1.2. The Place of Perl among other scripting languages; good and bad things about Perl

    1.3. Notes on Perl hype

    1.4. Perl Programming Environment

    1.5 Recommended Reading

  2. Perl Overview

    2.1. Hello World in Perl

    2.2. Overview of Perl Lexical Structure, Syntax and Operators

    2.3. Perl Variables

    2.4. Basic Control Structures

    2.5. Typical errors and pitfalls

    2.6. Exercises

  3. Data Structures

    3.1. String operations

    3.2 Numeric values and arithmetic operators

    3.3. Operations on Arrays

    3.4. Operations on Hashes

    3.5. Typical errors

    3.6. Summary

    3.7. Exercises

  4. File handling
  5. Introduction to Regular Expressions
  6. Subroutines and Functions
  7. References

The reader must understand that the treatment of the scripting languages in press, and especially academic press is far from being fair: entrenched academic interests often promote old or commercially supported paradigms until they retire, so change of paradigm often is possible only with the change of generations.

And people tend to live longer those days... Please also be aware that even respectable academic magazines like Communications of ACM and IEEE Software often promote "Cargo cult software engineering" like Capability Maturity (CMM) model.


Unknown Heroes of Open Source: Scripting Giants

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Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Haterís Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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Last modified: June, 27, 2020