In the Beginning... Was the Command Line

I just read this book recently and I highly recommend it to BeOS and Haiku users everywhere……_Was_the_Command_Line

…the author was an avid fan of BeOS and actually wrote the book using a BeBox with Pe, which I think was awesome. Of course I’m thinking to myself, why didn’t he opt for Gobe Productive?!


You don’t write books using word processors. When writing a book, the author provides a “manuscript” and it is up to the editor to paginate and typeset it.

It is a well known fact, for example, that the Games of Thrones books are written on an ancient word processor running under MS-DOS. This provides a reliable and distraction-free environment. Just a slightly enhanced typewriter with a backspace key and no paper needed.

There are also some dedicated tools but they do not look much like a word processor. I can think for example of , in which some Haiku dev are involved as part of they paying job.


Wow, this brings back memories. I remember reading the essay when Neal released it back in 99. I think I still have a copy I printed off - will have to check when I get home later today. Crazy to believe that it was almost 18 years ago already.

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You really had to go there? I was sort of being sarcastic as well as nostalgic in my comment.

That is the easy way to do it, if your stuff gets picked up by a real publisher. But, for the other 99% of us (all vanity authors) - there are the MS Word plugins and the LibreOffice built-ins.

Does PE do gutters? If it does, I may be a convert. A tool like LibreOffice lets you put the “gutter” into the book. The inside margin must be wider than the outside margin on every page in the PDF, to account for the binding taking away the margin “in the gutter”. So, on odd pages the wide margin will be on the left, and on even pages it’ll be on the right. Selecting “mirrored pagination” in LibreOffice does this real well. I haven’t looked at Scribus enough to see whether it can do likewise. Now, I’ll look at PE. Maybe it’ll be possible to do books on Haiku.

Some authors put a wide margin on both inside and outside of pages, but I personally think that is very close to a “page padding” practice.

why use word and not lyx if you’ve gotta add so many plugins

also isn’t manuscript standard unless you’ve got massive resources to self-publish? there needs to be typesetting for each format the book is published in, nobody wants you guessing at their house style for each of them

" ancient word processor running under MS-DOS "

hardly ancient ! since it was in my many peoples lifetime.
Guttenburg Press would be considered ancient.
Frankly would make BeOS medieval than.

you get tax rebates in the states for junking a car less old than beos r1

If you want your document to look nice just use latex directly. Its a pig, but not as much of a pig as the other options :slight_smile:

This book looks interesting, thanks for the share.

It doesn’t take massive resources to self-publish (there are all kinds of POD publishing options that costs nothing). It DOES take a massive fund to self-advertise though. Therein is the problem, and is why self publishers are really mostly just vanity authors.

But, POD (print on demand) authors generally use Word or LibreOffice. The vast majority of them use Apple or Windows, and don’t do Linux/Unix, let alone Latex. If I were doing a pro-journal paper with lots of mathematical symbols, then of course I’d be using Lyx/Latex. But, OpenOffice is real simple for the simple works like the vanity authors are usually doing). You can write “regular” books like novels and such without a plugin on LibreOffice.

Mainly, all you need are the settings for the page size, the “gutter” feature, and the ability to embed the fonts into the PDF. The POD publisher will use the embedded font if it’s legal, and substitute a close facsimile if it isn’t.

you can literally set a gutter in the print settings in any os regardless of what text editor or word processor you’re using, though. but also, juggling a bunch of plugins for typesetting sounds like a pain vs a software built specifically to handle typesetting.

i definitely count advertising as part of publishing costs, especially if you’re doing print on demand, considering in that situation you have to sell copies in order for any to see print in the first place. also, pod costs a lot more than printing in bulk. i won’t call any method of publishing “vanity” because that’s a quality judgment that doesn’t have any real basis and also isn’t grounded in any reality of who has access to what resources.

still in any instance, latex seems more flexible – publishers use it for typesetting, and so handing over a latex document means they’ll fit it to their styles for their formats easily if they pick it up, and if you’re self-publishing you can set it to whatever format you’d like, including gutters (seriously this is trivial, you can even do it on a typewriter), and have a lot less to keep track of.

also latex is not linux or unix, it’s a language and it’s been implemented in a lot of different operating systems including windows and mac os and it’s been used pretty heavily since before i was born.

lol no thanks, i just wanna worry after the text i’d like people to read.

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I have a physical copy of this book on my bookshelf. Paid a dollar for it from a used bookstore in NYC. :slight_smile:

It’s an excellent read for the time. I knew Neal Stephenson was always a tech buff, but it’s cool to know that he used several OSes over the years and did a nice compare and contrast amongst four of the players of the late 90s.

I also remember reading in later essays and interviews that he had ditched Mac OS Classic, went to Linux, and then to Mac OS X when that was relatively new. And since he mentioned BeOS, I wonder if he ran it in its x86 incarnation, or did he have a BeBox and ran it on there?

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I read this a few years back, and I’d recommend it for anyone interested in computers in any capacity.

I personally use LateX for document typesetting - I use it for any document I have to prepare. Though recently I’ve been starting to use emacs org-mode quite heavily for note-taking and that sort of thing.

LaTeX is the de-facto standard for writing academic papers with a lot of complicated maths equations (which is where I picked it up) which works great on Linux, Windows, FreeBSD and possibly others.

I wonder if a Haiku port is in order…

Well, we have TeX Live!/?bcguid=bc1-ACOM&repos=clasqm,haikuports&arch=x86_gcc2&viewcrttyp=FEATURED&srchexpr=texlive

I don’t know if the lIbpng error on texlive has been fixed yet, but I made the texlive_assist package as a workaround.

There’s LyX too:!/?bcguid=bc1-ACOM&repos=clasqm,haikuports&arch=x86_gcc2&viewcrttyp=FEATURED&srchexpr=lyx

And while it’s not packaged yet and probably needs work:

EDIT: I nearly forgot, I wrote a blog post on getting LyX to work on Haiku:

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See posts 6, 9 and 15!


How do I run it on an x86_64 system? I don’t think it’s in the HaikuPorts or the main repository.