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What is a Unix Wizard?

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John Gilmore

Oct 2, 1986, 7:59:24 PM10/2/86
[I ran across these on a Unix salesman's wall and haven't seen them posted
before. I modified them here and there. Followups are in net.jokes.]

People who come into contact with the Unix system are often told,
"If you have trouble, see so-and-so, he's a guru", or "Bob there is
a real Unix hacker."

What is a "Unix Wizard"? How does s/he differ from a "guru"?

To explore these and other questions, here is a draft of the "Unix Hierarchy":


beginner - insecure with the concept of a terminal
- has yet to learn the basics of vi
- has not figured out how to get a directory
- still has trouble with typing <RETURN>
after each line of input

novice - knows that "ls" will produce a directory
- uses the editor, but calls it "vye"
- has heard of "C" but never used it
- has had a bad experience with rm
- is wondering how to read mail
- is wondering why the person next door
seems to like Unix so very much

user - uses vi and nroff, but inexpertly
- has heard of regular expressions but never seen one.
- has figured out that '-' precedes options
- has attempted to write a C program but decided
to stick with Pascal
- is wondering how to move a directory
- thinks that dbx is a brand of stereo component
- knows how to read mail and is wondering how
to read the news

knowledgeable - uses nroff with no trouble, and is beginning
user to learn tbl and eqn
- uses grep to search for fixed strings
- has figured out that mv(1) will move directories
- has learned that "learn" doesn't help
- somebody has shown her how to write C programs
- once used sed but checked the file afterward
- watched somebody use dbx once
- tried "make" but used spaces instead of tabs

expert - uses sed when necessary
- uses macros in vi, uses ex when necessary
- posts news at every possible opportunity
- is still wondering how to successfully reply to mail
- writes csh scripts occasionally
- writes C programs using vi and compiles with make
- has figured out what && and || are for
- uses fgrep because somebody said it was faster

hacker - uses sed and awk with comfort
- uses undocumented features of vi
- writes C code with "cat >" and compiles with "!cc"
- uses adb because she doesn't trust source debuggers
- figured out how environment variables are propagated
- writes her own nroff macros to supplement the standard
- writes Bourne shell scripts
- installs bug fixes from the net
- uses egrep because she timed it

guru - uses m4 and lex with comfort
- writes assembler code with "cat >"
- uses adb on the kernel while the system is loaded
- customizes Unix utilities by patching the source
- reads device driver source with breakfast
- uses "ed" because "ex" is a Berkeleyism
- can answer any unix question after a little thought
- uses make for anything that requires two or more commands
- has learned how to breach security but no longer
needs to try
- is putting James Woods/Henry Spencer egrep into her
next Unix release

wizard - writes device drivers with "cat >"
- fixes bugs by patching the binaries
- posts her changes to Unix utilities to the net --
and they work
- can tell what question you are about to ask, and answer it
- writes her own troff macro packages
- is on a first-name basis with Dennis, Bill, and Ken

John Gilmore {sun,ptsfa,lll-crg,ihnp4}!hoptoad!gnu jgil...@lll-crg.arpa
May the Source be with you!

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