bzip2 and KornShell fun


I tweeted something to this effect a couple of days ago:

$ bzip something.tar  
==> ksh93: bzip: not found [No such file or directory]
$ echo "GAH! One of these days...!"

I had a couple of people asking for clarification, and one particular eagle-eye cherry tweeter had a question about my choice of shell. So I’m going to tackle both in one post!

The error

The problem was I mistyped bzip2, the ludicrously common *nix compressor. It’s seeing less use now that xz doesn’t take too long on modern hardware, but you’ll likely still encounter it. I have two theories for why I routinely mistype it:

  • I almost always do tar -cjvf to archive and compress in one command, so I’m rarely invoking bzip2 directly.

  • It’s close enough to gzip that I type it as such.

I’m avoiding just aliasing the problem away, because I’m concerned it’d just cement this incorrect neural pathway. I think I just need to make this mistake enough times to get it through this veritable skull of thickness.

The shell

Which leads me to the ksh93 in the error that I completely missed. Yes, that’s the latest iteration of the original KornShell by David Korn and contributors. I sort of let slip that I was using it as my daily driver back in February, while blogging about NetBSD HAXM:

Anyone who rocks the KornShell is awesome in my book, too.

I used and loved tcsh for most of my *nix career. It was the default shell back when Mac OS X was awesome, and it’s still the most capable shell in FreeBSD base. As I wrote a decade ago:

If I need to do some shell scripting I use basic sh, but I always try to use tcsh as my interactive shell whenever possible.

This worked well, but I was also learning more Bourne shell script tricks, and wanted to use them in my interactive shell as well. tcsh would, understandably, bork at my Bourne syntax.

I had experience with the KornShell from NetBSD, so I started using it everywhere. It has Bourne compatibility, with a few interactive niceties. I installed ksh93 and left it at that, but have since learned there are a few offshoots, including the Public Domain pdksh and MirOS mksh variants.

This week is looking pretty slammed, but I’m going to install a few from ports and do some tinkering. I’d be keen to hear on Twitter if you have a preference and why.

Author bio and support


Ruben Schade is a technical writer and IaaS engineer in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Wait, not BIOS… my brain should be EFI by now.

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