More Reasons to Love Unix/Linux

    November 27, 2006

I did a lot of clean-up work at this website over the long Thanksgiving weekend. This was all due to radically changing the layout. Some of that was quick and simple do do, but for older pages I needed to do some hand editing before switching to the new format.

As I was working on that, I remember wondering how on earth I would ever have been able to do it if I ran this site on a Microsoft server. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, of course, just that it would have taken longer and would have been more frustrating. It is true that I could use Perl or some other Windows available scripting language, or have installed Windows Services for Unix or MKS Toolkit, but sheesh: why pretend when you can have the real thing?

Of course I did use Perl for a lot of it. For example, this simple script did a lot of the necessary work:

$file=shift @ARGV;
print "$file\n";
open(F,"$file") or die "$!";

open(F,">$file") or die "$!";
   foreach (@lines) {
    s/div id="page"/div id="doc3"/;
    print F $_ ;

But that wasn’t enough to handle everything. Some of the rest I did with other Perl scripts, some with sed, grep and the other usual Unix tools. Here’s a little one liner I found very handy for showing me what I still needed to work on:

grep -L "$1" *.html

Basically that quickly shows you the files that do NOT contain whatever pattern you give it. If you are working on a very old system without -L, this script will do a similar job:

grep -l "$1" *.html >~/a
ls *.html > ~/b
diff ~/a ~/b | sort

Another helpful little bit is this:

grep -h "$1" *.html | sort -u

That helps for identifying what other editing scripts will have to be looking for.

Probably most missed would have been Vi and the ability to pass portions of a file for editing by external scripts. Something as simple as


(where “myedits” is a Perl, sed or whatever script containing multiple editing commands) can save hours, as can assigning repetitive tasks to macros.

I’m not 100% done with the cleanup. There are still parts of the site I haven’t gotten to, and other parts where I just did the bare minimum and need to return for more work. But it is largely complete, and I’m reasonably happy with the new look. I hope the readers agree.

*Originally published at

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A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services