stupid question about etc/profile.d

Jeremy Henty jeremy at
Tue Dec 21 16:10:06 PST 2004

On Tue, Dec 21, 2004 at 12:17:39PM +0100, Matthias B. wrote:
> On Mon, 20 Dec 2004 18:11:02 +0000 Jeremy Henty <jeremy at>
> wrote:

> > The registry is a good idea.  The Windows version only sucks
> > because the implementation is flaky.
> The registry implementation itself is not flaky, at least I've never
> heard of registry corruption and no one I know has ever experienced
> it.

Really?  I have certainly heard the "I installed this software, it
broke the registry, my system wouldn't boot and I had to reinstall
Windows" story.  It certainly sounds like *something* is flaky, though
maybe it's not the registry file format itself.

> One problem is that packages can (and will) arbitrarily override
> common settings (such as extension/application assignments in
> Windows)

That certainly sucks, but I don't see that it's a problem with the
registry.  I see it as a symptom of a fundamental flaw in Windows
design: the "*only* one application for any one file type"
foolishness.  That principle makes it *inevitable* that installing any
new application will probably screw things up since it *has* to meddle
with the extension/application assignments in order to be useful, and
therefore *must* kick in the teeth of any existing application that
uses the old assignments.  In other words, if there's only room for
one King on the hill, expect perpetual civil war.  

Unix is robust because it's built on the principle that anyone can
have a go as long as they respect the interfaces, so applications can
do their job without tweaking global settings, so you can have two
text editors on the same system without one of them tearing the
other's throat out.  (Admitted if you install both emacs and vi your
*developers* will tear *your* throat out, but that's a social

None of this has anything to do with the virtures or otherwise of
registries, /etc/profile.d or whatever.

> ... uninstallers "forget" to clean up some stuff.

That just begs the question: *why* is that a problem?  I already
pointed out that /etc/ is the Unix registry, but Unix doesn't crash
and burn just because an uninstaller forgot to delete
/etc/flooble.conf .  There seems to be something about the design of
Unix that tolerates stale leftovers in a way that Windows can't.

> p.s.: Regarding the oft-repeated "The registry is bad, because it's
> binary and not based on text files and the usual filesystem."
> argument.  That's just nonsense.  

It's not nonsense, just a big oversimplification.  Of course there's
nothing intrinsically evil about binary.  But if you use text files
and the file system you are building on a powerful, robust, proven
foundation and toolset.  If you go binary you (usually) give that up
and therefore (frequently) end up with an inferior product because you
forced yourself to reinvent the wheel, badly.

> The LFS project itself switched from CVS (based on text files and
> the ordinary filesystem) to SVN (a big blob of binary, accessible
> only with specialized tools) just recently.

Sure, Berkeley db is a robust, proven, *binary* interface.  But I'm
not on an anti-binary crusade so that doesn't bother me.  However,
notice that the SVN developers have taken care to provide a repository
dump format that is text (or as text-like as it can be, given that you
data may be binary) *precisely* so that users may post-process it with
grep and friends.  So even though they are prepared to go binary when
appropriate, they still respect the power of text files.  Ie. they
have much the same attitude as I do.  (Not to mention that the latest
version of SVN also supports a file system backend.)


Jeremy Henty 

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