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Programming Guide Gets Down to the Metal - page 4

Nothing gawk-y About It

  • July 31, 2005
  • By Martin C. Brown

LinuxPlanet: As a long time GNU volunteer, how much has your involvement with GNU helped or affected your career?

Arnold Robbins: Quite a lot, actually. It led to my writing career, which started by updating O'Reilly's sed & awk, as well as to a friendship with, and some consulting work for, Mike Brennan, the author of mawk. Another friend I made through my gawk work helped me get a job where I'm working now.

I haven't made any money doing direct work on gawk itself, though, although I wouldn't mind that either!

LP: You've been a strong proponent of open source for years. I can remember you chastising me for using Solaris and recommended Linux in its place many years ago. Why do you use open source software?

Robbins: It works. GNU/Linux has everything I need and then some. It doesn't crash. And all the "extra" programs are there on the system out of the box, instead of requiring me to go and download and build them. (wget, rsync, ssh, for example.)

Solaris, recently, has gotten smart and makes a lot of those same things available. But that's recent.

Also, the price is right. :-) Seriously. Who can afford to buy a SPARC or other high-end workstation out of their own pocket? That means an Intel PC, which means Linux, Solaris, or a BSD. Well, BSDs weren't a real option 8 years ago when I was first moving into the Intel world, Solaris at the time cost real dollars, *and* until recently, didn't perform as well on the same hardware as Linux did.

LP: Your chosen desktop platform?

Robbins: Hahahahahahahahaha. I'm a real luddite. I use a modified version of 9wm, about four simultaneously open xterms, mozilla, gv, xpdf, and gvim. Oh yeah, and 9menu, which I wrote starting with some code snarfed from 9wm. (I do use OpenOffice, but only for reading .doc and other files that people send me. It's improved a lot.)

I don't need all that eye candy, and what's really nice is that everything starts up really quickly. My RAM is there for me to use, instead of for the silly windowing system(s). Talk about Software Bloat... You really don't want to get me started on this one.

On the flip side, I have recently been spending some time with a Mac OS X laptop. I admit that if I were going to fall in love with a GUI, it'd be Aqua. Although the killer app for me is iTunes. The Mac is a pleasant second computer, and it can do a number of things easily that are still a little rough under Linux.

LP: You moved to Israel a few years ago. Could you tell us a bit about your reasons for that?

Robbins: I spent two years during college doing religious studies here. As Orthodox Jews, my wife and I felt that the future for our people and for our family was here. It's definitely a better place to raise a family, particularly when your values are different than those of the society around you.

It has been difficult in many ways, particularly since our families are almost all still in the US. But overall it's been worth it.

In many ways, Israel is very Western; it's not a third-world country. Israel has six-lane highways (and traffic!), shopping malls, cable TV, cell phones, high-speed Internet, Toys 'R US, Office Depot, etc., etc., ad nauseum. So, while it's a little disappointing to see just how much American culture there is here, it's also comforting to find familiar things. In other words, the transtition from a western country is not as jarring as it once was, say 30-35 years ago, or even 25 years ago. Then again, it's not like moving to Baltimore, either!

LP: Does working in Israel affect how you work on projects like GNU or the book?

Robbins: Today with the Internet, it's much easier than most people would think. Time zone differences can be a hassle, but they can also help; I have until late at night to make a mid-day deadline on the US East Coast. :-)

Having to worry about dual sets of tax laws is difficult, I'll admit.

LP: I know you like to keep yourself busy. What are you working on at the moment?

Robbins: I recently took a full time job developing software for a company here. Very high-end work, in a field I've not had anything to do with, so I'm learning a lot, which I'm enjoying. I'm also one of the few Unix/Linux gurus they have, and as the project will be deployed under Linux, I am able to contibute, which is nice also.

And with a wife and, thank Heaven, four children, I'm busy at home too.

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