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Re: [hackers-il] Two New Software-Related Ideas

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  • Beni Cherniavsky
    ... I think the common format fed to presentation engines should be HTML (perhaps adding some microformats to add semantics). It satisfies all your goals,
    Message 1 of 12 , Sep 21, 2006
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      On 19/09/06, Nadav Har'El <nyh@...> wrote:
      > On Tue, Sep 19, 2006, Shlomi Fish wrote about "[hackers-il] Two New Software-Related Ideas":
      > > You can find two new software-related ideas that I scribbled down here:
      > >
      > > * http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/ideas/unixdoc/
      >
      > Once upon a time (about a decade ago), I used "tkman" to read manual pages.
      > It was similar to what you were looking for - a graphical, hypertext manual
      > page (and now I see, also texinfo) browser. It added links between pages
      > (so you could click on those "see also" sections or mentions of cat(1)),
      > and was much more "cool" than using "man" in a text terminal.
      >
      I think the common format fed to presentation engines should be HTML
      (perhaps adding some microformats to add semantics). It satisfies all
      your goals, with more tools around it than any other format. links
      does a decent job of showing HTML at the terminal.

      Existing {texi,info,man}2html converters are a bit lame from the
      output aesthetics perspective. Nevertheless, 'dwww' (debian only I
      think) does a very nice job of integrating them into a uniform
      browsing experience.

      --
      Beni Cherniavsky <cben@...>, who can only read email on weekends.
    • Omer Zak
      One thing whose absence I sorely feel: An improved way to have apropos. I often need to accomplish a task, remember that there is some command which can be
      Message 2 of 12 , Oct 2, 2006
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        One thing whose absence I sorely feel:
        An improved way to have apropos.

        I often need to accomplish a task, remember that there is some command
        which can be used to accomplish this task. But do not remember which
        command - not because I was lazy, did not RTFM, or whatever - but
        because my need to perform this specific task is rare enough for me not
        to remember how to accomplish it.

        It would be nice to have some sort of database or a search engine, into
        which you can type keywords describing the task and it displays to you a
        list of potentially relevant software tools, command line options and
        commands which might be relevant to performance of that task.

        --- Omer


        On Tue, 2006-09-19 at 13:16 +0300, Nadav Har'El wrote:
        > On Tue, Sep 19, 2006, Shlomi Fish wrote about "[hackers-il] Two New Software-Related Ideas":
        > > You can find two new software-related ideas that I scribbled down here:
        > >
        > > * http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/ideas/unixdoc/
        >
        > Once upon a time (about a decade ago), I used "tkman" to read manual pages.
        > It was similar to what you were looking for - a graphical, hypertext manual
        > page (and now I see, also texinfo) browser. It added links between pages
        > (so you could click on those "see also" sections or mentions of cat(1)),
        > and was much more "cool" than using "man" in a text terminal.
        --
        You haven't made an impact on the world before you caused a Debian
        release to be named after Snufkin.
        My own blog is at http://tddpirate.livejournal.com/

        My opinions, as expressed in this E-mail message, are mine alone.
        They do not represent the official policy of any organization with which
        I may be affiliated in any way.
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      • Beni Cherniavsky
        ... [...] ... On debian, I frequently use apt-cache search . When I don t know how to formulate the search I launch synaptic and try all the searches I can
        Message 3 of 12 , Oct 2, 2006
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          On 02/10/06, Omer Zak <omerz@...> wrote:
          > One thing whose absence I sorely feel:
          > An improved way to have apropos.
          [...]
          > It would be nice to have some sort of database or a search engine, into
          > which you can type keywords describing the task and it displays to you a
          > list of potentially relevant software tools, command line options and
          > commands which might be relevant to performance of that task.
          >
          On debian, I frequently use "apt-cache search". When I don't know how to
          formulate the search I launch "synaptic" and try all the searches I
          can think of.
          Both search the full description texts of all packages, which gives better
          results than man -k. Also, if I'm looking for the right tool, I want
          to consider
          all availiable packages, not only those those that happen to be installed.

          On other distributions, I expect that searching the package database will
          also give good results.

          --
          Beni Cherniavsky <cben@...>
        • Amit Aronovitch
          This is a repost of my message from 21/9 (I was told it was rejected and I have to repost) comments relate to the unixdoc idea. rants--well, guess I was in a
          Message 4 of 12 , Oct 24, 2006
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            This is a repost of my message from 21/9
            (I was told it was rejected and I have to repost)

            comments relate to the "unixdoc" idea.

            rants--well, guess I was in a cynical mood that day.

            ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            From: Amit Aronovitch <aronovitch@...> Mailed-By: gmail.com
            To: hackers-il@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Sep 21, 2006 1:42 AM
            Subject: Re: [hackers-il] Two New Software-Related Ideas

            (a)

            http://www.gnu.org/software/texinfo/

            You all probably know that, but shame it is not mentioned - not even
            as an input format.

            Few facts (I know a few people which I was very surprised to find out
            they did not even know that info exists):

            1) All the detailed/updated documentation of all GNU components come
            as info. man pages are either a brief summary or inserted by the
            distros) - try "info bash", "info find", "info coreutils" on any GNU
            based system (in fact all propriatary unices I happened to work on in
            the last 5 years offer a provider-prepared compilation of standard gnu
            tools - info included)

            (Better to avoid using man on GNU tools - in many cases important
            information was dropped out. Plus - once you get used to the interface
            - navigation and searching is much more flexible - even for reading
            plain manpages)

            2) The texinfo system is menu driven and hyperlinked. It supports
            generating a pretty hardcopy (using tex) and html.

            3) The major problem is that the standard browser (info info -
            contains a tutorial), is very emacs-ish, which, while immediate and
            intuitive to some of us, is intimidating to others. Also it's not new
            - therefore not "cool" (people seem to think that anything that was
            invented earlier than last year is old-fashioned and can't be any
            good).
            However: nothing prevents you for writing graphical viewers. In fact,

            4) Modern desktop systems already provide interface to the info system
            (in Gnome yelp, you find the info directory under "command line help"
            next to the man pages).

            ---------------------------

            (b)

            Debian provides a nice set of tools, which should let you read all
            docs (man, info and html-docs) of installed packages using your web
            browser ( I think most packages do register themself using doc-base) .
            I believe the 3 alternatives are "dwww","doc-central" and "dhelp"
            (each having different set of capabilities and different requirements
            - e.g. dhelp does not require a webserver)
            This is all I can say right now - since I did not yet try any of the 3.

            ----------------------------

            (c)

            Some rants about "modern style" of documentation (Gnome/KDE docbooks) :
            The modern desktops seem to think that their form of docs is so much
            better than the "old fashioned" man/info, that they don't bother
            providing any other form, even for commandline tools. It seems that
            even Debian packagers (which are usually very strict about having
            manpages) fall to that dogma.

            However, the documentation that does exist in their fancy graphical
            system (which of course very *cool* and *modern*), is close to 100%
            what I call "useless menu listing"(*) - all the trivial parts that you
            can easily find out yourself are documented, but anything useful
            enough you'd bother opening the help for is considered "expert-level
            details" that would only confuse and bother the poor stupid^H Eh...
            sorry... *respected* user in Joelspeak (
            http://www.joelonsoftware.com/uibook/chapters/fog0000000062.html ).
            I say - if you really think "users" (FTR, I resent the term) don't
            read the manual (obviously false generalization), don't document at
            all (see if you can get you clients to accept "users don't read" as an
            excuse for that...). If you bother to document - document the
            *important* stuff. If I clicked "help" I probably *do* want to get
            some info - right?

            AA

            (*) Go to the nearest book-shop and pick some random computer book,
            say a (fictitional) 600 pages "F. Mbogo's Absolute Guide to Microsoft
            Word", open some random page.
            Most probably you'll see something like this:
            ...
            1.2.3 The File menu:
            1.2.3.1 The "New" command
            Use this to start working on a new document. A menu pops up asking
            you to choose the type of document - see figure 1.16.
            1.2.3.2 The "Open" command
            To open a new file select this option. A window will pop up,
            allowing you to pick the file you want to edit (see figure 1.17).
            Detailed description on using that window can be found in F. Mbogo's
            "Power User's Guide to Windows Explorer"
            ...

            On 9/19/06, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:
            > Hi all!
            >
            > You can find two new software-related ideas that I scribbled down here:
            >
            > * http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/ideas/#tucan
            >
            > * http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/ideas/unixdoc/
            >
            > Please let me know what you think.
            >
            > Regards,
            >
            > Shlomi Fish
            >
          • Shlomi Fish
            ... Yes, I m aware of GNU texinfo. I don t remember why I didn t include it. Perhaps it was out of due frustration from its limitations or the fact that I
            Message 5 of 12 , Oct 25, 2006
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              On Wednesday 25 October 2006 01:19, Amit Aronovitch wrote:
              > This is a repost of my message from 21/9
              > (I was told it was rejected and I have to repost)
              >
              > comments relate to the "unixdoc" idea.
              >
              > rants--well, guess I was in a cynical mood that day.
              >
              > ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >--------------- From: Amit Aronovitch <aronovitch@...> Mailed-By:
              > gmail.com
              > To: hackers-il@yahoogroups.com
              > Date: Sep 21, 2006 1:42 AM
              > Subject: Re: [hackers-il] Two New Software-Related Ideas
              >
              > (a)
              >
              > http://www.gnu.org/software/texinfo/
              >
              > You all probably know that, but shame it is not mentioned - not even
              > as an input format.

              Yes, I'm aware of GNU texinfo. I don't remember why I didn't include it.
              Perhaps it was out of due frustration from its limitations or the fact that I
              found the "info" reader to be so counter-intuitive.

              I normally use the HTML documentation (as converted from the texinfo sources)
              at gnu.org.

              >
              > Few facts (I know a few people which I was very surprised to find out
              > they did not even know that info exists):
              >
              > 1) All the detailed/updated documentation of all GNU components come
              > as info. man pages are either a brief summary or inserted by the
              > distros) - try "info bash", "info find", "info coreutils" on any GNU
              > based system (in fact all propriatary unices I happened to work on in
              > the last 5 years offer a provider-prepared compilation of standard gnu
              > tools - info included)
              >
              > (Better to avoid using man on GNU tools - in many cases important
              > information was dropped out. Plus - once you get used to the interface
              > - navigation and searching is much more flexible - even for reading
              > plain manpages)

              One problem Nadav once mentioned with the info pages, is that they are split
              into several sections and sub-sections and so one cannot search them for a
              keyword as conveniently as one can using a man page.

              >
              > 2) The texinfo system is menu driven and hyperlinked. It supports
              > generating a pretty hardcopy (using tex) and html.

              Yes, albeit its support for hypertext is relatively limited in comparison to
              DocBook.

              >
              > 3) The major problem is that the standard browser (info info -
              > contains a tutorial), is very emacs-ish, which, while immediate and
              > intuitive to some of us, is intimidating to others.

              I could never get the hang of the "info" command line. :-)

              > Also it's not new
              > - therefore not "cool" (people seem to think that anything that was
              > invented earlier than last year is old-fashioned and can't be any
              > good).
              > However: nothing prevents you for writing graphical viewers. In fact,
              >
              > 4) Modern desktop systems already provide interface to the info system
              > (in Gnome yelp, you find the info directory under "command line help"
              > next to the man pages).
              >

              Yes.

              > ---------------------------
              >
              > (b)
              >
              > Debian provides a nice set of tools, which should let you read all
              > docs (man, info and html-docs) of installed packages using your web
              > browser ( I think most packages do register themself using doc-base) .
              > I believe the 3 alternatives are "dwww","doc-central" and "dhelp"
              > (each having different set of capabilities and different requirements
              > - e.g. dhelp does not require a webserver)
              > This is all I can say right now - since I did not yet try any of the 3.

              Interesting. I suppose it uses texinfo2html and man2html. Not precisely the
              level of integration that I'm looking for.

              >
              > ----------------------------
              >
              > (c)
              >
              > Some rants about "modern style" of documentation (Gnome/KDE docbooks) :
              > The modern desktops seem to think that their form of docs is so much
              > better than the "old fashioned" man/info, that they don't bother
              > providing any other form, even for commandline tools. It seems that
              > even Debian packagers (which are usually very strict about having
              > manpages) fall to that dogma.
              >
              > However, the documentation that does exist in their fancy graphical
              > system (which of course very *cool* and *modern*), is close to 100%
              > what I call "useless menu listing"(*) - all the trivial parts that you
              > can easily find out yourself are documented, but anything useful
              > enough you'd bother opening the help for is considered "expert-level
              > details" that would only confuse and bother the poor stupid^H Eh...
              > sorry... *respected* user in Joelspeak (
              > http://www.joelonsoftware.com/uibook/chapters/fog0000000062.html ).
              > I say - if you really think "users" (FTR, I resent the term) don't
              > read the manual (obviously false generalization), don't document at
              > all (see if you can get you clients to accept "users don't read" as an
              > excuse for that...). If you bother to document - document the
              > *important* stuff. If I clicked "help" I probably *do* want to get
              > some info - right?

              You're right about that. Of course, I often end up consulting the code for how
              to do something using a program.

              Regards,

              Shlomi Fish

              >
              > AA
              >
              > (*) Go to the nearest book-shop and pick some random computer book,
              > say a (fictitional) 600 pages "F. Mbogo's Absolute Guide to Microsoft
              > Word", open some random page.
              > Most probably you'll see something like this:
              > ...
              > 1.2.3 The File menu:
              > 1.2.3.1 The "New" command
              > Use this to start working on a new document. A menu pops up asking
              > you to choose the type of document - see figure 1.16.
              > 1.2.3.2 The "Open" command
              > To open a new file select this option. A window will pop up,
              > allowing you to pick the file you want to edit (see figure 1.17).
              > Detailed description on using that window can be found in F. Mbogo's
              > "Power User's Guide to Windows Explorer"
              > ...
              >
              > On 9/19/06, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:
              > > Hi all!
              > >
              > > You can find two new software-related ideas that I scribbled down here:
              > >
              > > * http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/ideas/#tucan
              > >
              > > * http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/ideas/unixdoc/
              > >
              > > Please let me know what you think.
              > >
              > > Regards,
              > >
              > > Shlomi Fish

              --

              ---------------------------------------------------------------------
              Shlomi Fish shlomif@...
              Homepage: http://www.shlomifish.org/

              Chuck Norris wrote a complete Perl 6 implementation in a day but then
              destroyed all evidence with his bare hands, so no one will know his secrets.
            • Amit Aronovitch
              ... Driven away because of the frontend... exactly as I said in (3). info is only intuitive to Emacsers, and most of them read the info with the emacs frontend
              Message 6 of 12 , Oct 26, 2006
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                On 10/25/06, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:

                > Yes, I'm aware of GNU texinfo. I don't remember why I didn't include it.
                > Perhaps it was out of due frustration from its limitations or the fact that I
                > found the "info" reader to be so counter-intuitive.
                >

                Driven away because of the frontend... exactly as I said in (3).
                info is only intuitive to Emacsers, and most of them read the info
                with the emacs frontend anyway.
                I wonder if there's a "viper"-like keyboard scheme for info, or a
                standalone vi-like reader. These might do wonders to the popularity of
                the system.

                Anyways, if you consider writing a new doc framework - supporting
                info as input source would greatly increase the amount of docs
                available to your system (the useful ones, at least ;-)).

                > I normally use the HTML documentation (as converted from the texinfo sources)
                > at gnu.org.
                >

                That's remote documentation - not available when your'e offline, and
                may not match the versions you have installed on your machine (that
                is, unless your distro takes care of installing these htmls locally in
                a centralized way - e.g. dhelp and friends)

                Maybe it would be better to use your desktop's help system - I think
                both KDE and Gnome help are aware of the installed info docs and allow
                you to browse and read them.

                >
                > One problem Nadav once mentioned with the info pages, is that they are split
                > into several sections and sub-sections and so one cannot search them for a
                > keyword as conveniently as one can using a man page.

                I was told that too.
                But this is FALSE (maybe it was true in old versions - I don't know).

                Both normal search (s, prompts for input, like '/' in man) and the
                electric-search (^s, search-as-you-type, like '/' in firefox) work
                across sections (they view the whole topic as if it was one big
                document).
                btw, in the Emacs frontend, electric search is page-local, which is,
                in fact, one of the reasons I prefer the standalone info reader.
              • Beni Cherniavsky
                ... ``info foo | less`` gives you the whole manual in one document. But this loses hyperlinks and gains nothing. As amit says, `Ctrl-S` and `/` work accross
                Message 7 of 12 , Oct 27, 2006
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                  On 25/10/06, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:
                  > One problem Nadav once mentioned with the info pages, is that they are split
                  > into several sections and sub-sections and so one cannot search them for a
                  > keyword as conveniently as one can using a man page.
                  >
                  ``info foo | less`` gives you the whole manual in one document. But
                  this loses hyperlinks and gains nothing.

                  As amit says, `Ctrl-S` and `/` work accross sections in the standalone
                  `info` reader. `i` searches the index which is usually high-quality.

                  > >
                  > > 3) The major problem is that the standard browser (info info -
                  > > contains a tutorial), is very emacs-ish, which, while immediate and
                  > > intuitive to some of us, is intimidating to others.
                  >
                  > I could never get the hang of the "info" command line. :-)
                  >
                  `pinfo` is friendlier but less powerful. Browser access (e.g. dwww)
                  is probably your best option today.

                  > >
                  > > Debian provides a nice set of tools, which should let you read all
                  > > docs (man, info and html-docs) of installed packages using your web
                  > > browser ( I think most packages do register themself using doc-base) .
                  > > I believe the 3 alternatives are "dwww","doc-central" and "dhelp"
                  > > (each having different set of capabilities and different requirements
                  > > - e.g. dhelp does not require a webserver)
                  > > This is all I can say right now - since I did not yet try any of the 3.
                  >
                  > Interesting. I suppose it uses texinfo2html and man2html. Not precisely the
                  > level of integration that I'm looking for.
                  >
                  What's missing?

                  --
                  Beni Cherniavsky <cben@...> (I read email only on weekends)
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