[TUHS] The nameless horror of dotfiles [was (no subject)]

Norman Wilson norman at nose.cs.utoronto.ca
Fri May 23 23:40:43 AEST 2003

Dennis Ritchie, on ls discarding all names beginning with .:

  UCB or USL did this (I'm sure which first).
  Both tended to use more . files.

Judging by the manuals, Research did it first.  In every manual from
1/e to 6/e, the entry for ls(I) has this description for the -a option:

	list all entries; usually those beginning with "." are suppressed

I always thought this was just a quick-and-dirty way to skip the . and ..
entries; the sort of shortcut that was common in the good old days when
everything was written in assembly language.

That the USL system kept the old convention probably reflects its PWB
heritage; both the latter system and that of Berkeley had already invented
lots of configuration files clumsily hidden by putting . at the beginning--
more than ls had options at the time--and I guess they felt it was better
to let sleeping dots lie.

Incidentally, in 1/e ls(I) had a whopping five options: l, t, a, s, and d,
each with the same meaning as now (except that -s is described simply as
`give size in blocks for each entry' with nothing about accounting for
indirect blocks or other overhead).  Who says we haven't made decadence,
er, progress over the years?

Norman Wilson
Toronto ON

PS: I've lost track.  Did the original Subject: line of this thread of
conversation get lost because it began with a dot?

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