Sometimes I ask myself if UNIX is slipping away from us like COBOL. I don't wish to pass a judgement, only make observations. Obviously it's something Microsoft would welcome, if it were true. But on with the story.
An experienced GNOME developer wrote today in his diary at Advogato (no link to protect the guilty party; it's outside the point anyway):
My last two days were simply wasted by the setserial utility. I was using it to set the baud-rate of my serial port matching the baud-rate of the thermal printer attached to it.
The said developer obviously has no basic concept of the way things work and therefore knows no difference between stty and setserial. Quite probably, the whole distinction is artificial and meaningless to him. They both control the serial port, don't they? But at least he knows how a serial port functions.
It's not a big deal, really, but it reminded me of two other happenings. Once, someone popped on IRC with "<rollo> Ctrl-S locks xterm solid". Another time, a sharp network driver hacker asked if anyone knows where kernel redirects standard input, output, and error for a new process. The ">" and "<" always worked automagically for him. He could have lived his whole career without thinking once about it.
The whole pile of the software on top of which we sit with things like Mozilla, Python, Bonobo and Gobject is so huge now that it's utterly impossible to know every little detail. I understand that. But the very basics of the way the world operates, aren't they supposed to be naturally ingrained into hackers? What are these basics today? What is essential and what is superficial?