documentation

Oct 222012
 
I only just discovered the ssh-copy-id command a few weeks ago after a tab-completion revealed it. I’d never considered that the command existed, the function of which I’ll shortly explain.

But I have an even more embarrassing admission to make. It was only about a year ago that I discovered that grep had a recursive switch, “-r”. I’d just never checked. I’d worked with Solaris almost exclusively for several years and the native Solaris grep didn’t have a recursive mode, so I always assumed that this was how it always was.

That is, I didn’t know I could type this:

   # grep -r PATTERN .

And instead, to search in subdirectories, I’d type this:

  # find . -type f -exec grep PATTERN {} /dev/null ;

The lesson I’ve learnt from both of these? It just reconfirmed for me the old adage – “Read the Man Page”. I’ll spare our gentler readers the usual angry adjective that frequently appears in said adage.

In this sysadmin life it’s so easy to get set in your ways, conservative, and assume that the way you’ve always done things is the best, easiest or only way. It’s easy to forget that the great thing about open source is that improvements are rapid (unlike commercial distros; I’m looking at you Sun/Oracle, or whatever you call yourself these days). Last month’s annoyance may have been fixed by some generous boffin who took it upon himself to put the work in and share it with the rest of us. The point is, these Linux tools we use evolve all the time, and we sysadmins need to evolve our practices as well by keeping ourselves informed.
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Matt Parsons is a freelance Linux specialist who has designed, built and supported Unix and Linux systems in the finance, telecommunications and media industries.

He lives and works in London.