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Re: (emacs+unix): How to have a file-name containing slashes, angle-bra

From: Xah
Subject: Re: (emacs+unix): How to have a file-name containing slashes, angle-brackets, etc?
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2008 14:54:44 -0700 (PDT)
User-agent: G2/1.0

On Aug 26, 1:40 pm, Nikolaj Schumacher <address@hidden> wrote:
> Xah<address@hidden> wrote:
> >> The question is whether unix is, by design, capable of handling
> >> characters outside the alphanumerical range.
> > a piss pot can technically hold any liquid other than piss, but it
> > does not mean it is suitable as a, say, coffee mug.
> > one way to see this is to check exactly how many people uses piss bots
> > for coffee mug.
> You keep answering with metaphors.
> What is broken or unpractical about "special" characters in unix file
> names that works in other operating systems?

The issue in this thread we are currently debating is whether unix
support file names with non-alphanumeric chars and non-ascii chars.

I hope you agree the above is a good description of what we may be
debating. The issue is not, for example: “whether you can use char x
in a file name under a unix file system y”.

So, what does “support” mean here? Support doesn't mean whether a file
system allow certain chars in question. Support means users of that
system can use these chars in file name easily, as easy as any
alphanumeric chars. (Any brainless file system will support every
sequence of binary code as file name. Only if thought are put into it,
then it will actually reject certain chars as disallowed. The more
brainless, the less chars it'll reject, as in most unix's file

My argument is that, unix for much of its history up to perhaps mid
2000s when linux desktop becomes popular, does not support it. One
practical way to see why it doesn't support it is because people
simply don't use it. In fact, if i recall correctly, it is pretty
common, to see advices and FAQs in unix forums or books, that
recommend users to stick with alphanumerics plus “_” and “.” for file
names and almost nothing else. (i'll have to spend a few hours to dig
up the actual unix book titles, or find many posts, decades old unix
FAQs, that give these recommendations.)

Why unix doesn't support these chars? There are many factors. For one
thing, unix shell tools is one bag of inconsistency that their quoting
mechanism differs. In practicace, people use these mismash of tools to
work in unix, and if your file name contain odd chars, these tools
will break and break in bad ways. Basically, if your file names
contain odd chars, it make your life hell.

Also, unix is typically used over telnet/ssh. Telnet doesn't not
support non-ascii chars thru much of its history... and
implementations vary wildly in quality... the bottom line is that if
your file names contain odd chars, you'll have problem using telnet to
work with them.

It will take days to quote you the exact man page, or old man page
used in 1990s, on all these issues, on what tool support what escape
mechanism... or what tools will simply chock regardless what you
escape or quote the file name etc. If you have experience in unix in
say 1990s, you know as a fact that unix just don't support “odd”
chars. (odd here means basically anyting other than [A-z0-9], “.”,
“_”, “-”, “ ”)

then, as someone else mention, there's non-printable ascii issues.
Unix allows a bell ring in file names! so thoughtful. Doing a file
listing wing “bing” and “bong”! and if you inadventaly have ohter
control chars in file name, expect your screen to be filled with

this is quickly written... i hope it convinces you.

btw, who are you? what's your background anyway?


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