[nycbug-talk] Cool read about history of /bin /usr/bin/

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Tue Mar 27 13:50:17 EDT 2012

On Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 2:59 PM, Henry M <henry95 at gmail.com> wrote:
> I always like reading where certain Unix "formalities" came from.
> "Understanding the bin, sbin, usr/bin , usr/sbin split"
> http://lists.busybox.net/pipermail/busybox/2010-December/074114.html

Interesting, yes, but unfortunately also wrong.

He's got it sort of right that things were moved between different
directories in order to work around size limitations of old disks, but
he got most of it wrong: /sbin was't in early Unix, Berkeley didn't
invent shared libraries, his description of what people decided should
be on / and /usr is ridiculous (cf, "... / was for the stuff you got
from AT&T and /usr was for the stuff that your distro like IBM AIX or
Dec Ultrix or SGI Irix added to it ...": that's just made up).

He does have a point that most of the divide between different
directories is largely historical and often-unquestioned mostly
because the differences have become dogmatically entrenched as canon,
but his reasoning is way off.  For instance, that /lib and /usr/bin is
bad because shared libraries have to be updated in concert with the
utilities in /usr/bin seems like a false dichotomy; the names of the
directories (or even, really, what filesystems they are on) doesn't
change the maintenance burden, such as it is.

For an example of a system that largely did away with the "standard"
hierarchy, check out Plan 9 (http://plan9.bell-labs.com/plan9/);
incidentally, Plan 9 was created by the members of the Unix team at
Bell Labs.

        - Dan C.

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