Understanding a *nix Shell by Writing One


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A typical *nix shell has a lot of programming-like features, but works quite differently from languages like Python or C++. This can make a lot of shell features — like process management, argument quoting and the export keyword — seem like mysterious voodoo.

But a shell is just a program, so a good way to learn how a shell works is to write one. I’ve written a simple shell that fits in a few hundred lines of commented D source. Here’s a post that walks through how it works and how you could write one yourself.

Using the Bourne Shell as a Cheap and Nasty Templating Language


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Sometimes you need a really simple way to generate parameterised text without pulling in a full-blown templating language as a dependency — for example, when writing an install script that needs to generate a simple configuration file. Using the classic *nix Bourne shell that’s installed on practically every *nix system is one option. To be honest, it can be a terrible option, but it often gets simple jobs done, so I think it’s a trick worth remembering.

Code Jam 2016 Qualification Round


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This year’s qualification problems were all straightforward puzzles. None of them needed sophisticated implementation techniques, or advanced algorithms, or complex data structures. They just needed patient analysis and careful coding. That’s nice from one perspective, but unfortunately it’s hard to make a good comparison of programming languages when every problem can be solved with just loops and arrays. Still, I succeeded in my goal of producing every output with a different (sometimes terrible) language.

Here’s my code and commentary on the problems. Warning: spoilers ahead. If you haven’t looked at the problems yet, go do that first.