[nSLUG] pet peeves

gnwiii at gmail.com gnwiii at gmail.com
Tue Jun 27 11:51:26 ADT 2006

On 6/27/06, D G Teed <donald.teed at gmail.com> wrote:
> Sometimes there is a movement towards something and there
> is no where to complain or file a bug report.  Then all you have
> left is letting others know your pet peeves and hope
> the news travels.
> Today I've been reminded of a pet peeve I have...
> man pages have become obsoleted by info in some cases,
> while man is better for quick option flag lookups.

If you want a man page, you can always write one.  Many apps have
become to complex for man pages, so there has to be a hypertext format
manual for the less common flags and to explain in detail.

> Starting many years ago I noticed a man on a command would
> exist but point me to use of info.  I've tried info but I don't like it.
> info forces me to hunt and peck by category of information,
> while in the man page all option flags were listed in
> alphabetical order.  Info is like the new Control Panel of
> Windows XP - I always switch that to classic view.
> Man uses a pager I already know. Info has its own bunch
> of commands to master, which I never have the time
> to do when I need a man page!
> In my opinion, info is not superior to man pages.  I challenge
> any supporter of info pages to find where -o and -h are
> documented for tar.  It takes 5 seconds to locate this from man.
> Google is quicker to use than info, unless one spends hours
> using info and knows it by heart, which is never going
> to happen for someone like me.

I suppose you don't like emacs either.

> It comes down to the old adage "if it ain't broken,
> don't fix it".  Man was great the way it was for documenting
> typical unix commands.  It probably can't document stuff
> like troff and gcc well enough, but that is where /usr/share/doc
> and HTML can come in.  We don't need a big solution for
> those 5% of man pages which makes use of the other 95%
> cumbersome.

Man is often broken.  SGI used to have real roff/troff, then tried to
use awf, which doesn't handle some 3rd party man pages.   Makewhatis
bombs, so you can't find things.  Admins are spending all their time
chasing Win32 VISTA (VIruses, Spam, Trojans, Ad-ware) and don't have
time to sort out SGI man pages.

> I might be ranting here, but I don't have a blog.
> Maybe others have peeves like this - changes of tides that
> come from a personless and originless mass of opinion
> and make no sense.

I tend to look for the man page first.  Every program should have a
man page, and I don't mind if it points to info or /usr/share/doc/...
The problem is you never know where to start looking.  For my own
programs I'm providing more complete documentation from '-h', partly
because some of our SGI systems have broken man pages, missing whatis
indexes, etc.

Documentation for many GPL apps is done in info.  Man pages are an
afterthought and require a maintainer.  I think many older apps once
had man pages but those have been dropped when nobody volunteered to
maintain them.  Debian people seem to be good about trying to get man

I'm happy if I can find any decent documentation.  Today I'm trying to
port a bibliographic database.  Ever tried to follow the bibtex
documenation?  How do I get JabRef to use the existing keys and not
make new ones?

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia


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