[OS X TeX] Recent allegations about tcsh

Gary L. Gray gray at psu.edu
Wed Sep 11 18:50:40 EDT 2002

Jordan K. Hubbard of Apple asked me to post this to the list for him.

I'm not sure why this discussion is occurring on a mailing list about 
*TeX*, but just to address some of the misconceptions recently 
expressed about the tcsh defaults, I thought I'd make a few points:

1. The default behavior of tcsh is now the *default* behavior, which is 
to say that tcsh behaves under Mac OS X 10.2 as it does on every other 
Unix system which ships tcsh.  Depending on customizations in any 
scripts you may write or even in documentation you may provide to 
end-users is a real mistake since it only results in confusion when 
those scripts or procedures are attempted on another Unix system.  This 
is one of the reasons that tcsh was "stripped down" to its defaults 
again in the standard configuration, it then being a deliberate act on 
the user's part if they want to change those defaults and hopefully 
something which will stick better in that user's memory.

It's sort of like remapping your keyboard to a dvorak layout.  Sure, 
there are a lot of people who say that's a superior layout and that 
there's a huge body of evidence to support the assertion that the 
qwerty layout is rather deliberately sub-optimal, but would you ship an 
OS with the default keyboard map set to dvorak?  No, you set the 
default behavior according to the most common denominator for what 
people assume it's going to be, and there are probably just as many 
"Linux switchers" using Mac OS X now as there are people who jumped 
aboard with 10.[01] and upgraded to 10.2, so it's even hard to argue 
that the "weight of assumption" falls clearly on the side of the 
previous default behavior.  In any case, it's easy to restore that 
default behavior for those people who liked it, and that brings us to 
our next point.

2. We ship /etc/csh.* essentially "empty" as it is, so whether you 
source the old defaults in from /etc/csh.login or $HOME/.login, you're 
going to get the same behavior.  If you've already added a bunch of 
customizations of your own to either /etc/csh.* or $HOME/.login then 
you're clearly a power user and you don't WANT to blindly suck in the 
old defaults anyway given that they'll potentially conflict with your 
own settings (no matter where you source them from).  You'll want to 
read through the examples (which is why we called them "examples") and 
pick and choose the bits you like best, just as you probably did back 
when you came up with your original .login contents by looking over 
your buddy's shoulder (so to speak) and stealing bits you liked best 
from his or her defaults.

It's widely held that the only .login file written completely from 
scratch was probably Ken Thomson's, everyone else having derived theirs 
from someone else's and then customized it to their own tastes.  This 
is only right, and where Fred Sanchez got it wrong was in making his 
*personal* defaults the system-wide defaults, which is a real no-no 
from a Unix perspective.  Some of us like Fred's choices and some of us 
don't, my group at Apple probably receiving an equal number of flames 
and praise for the previous set of "defaults", and since individual 
preferences are as varied as their individual genetic codes, the right 
thing to have done from the start would probably have been to canvas 
the Unix community for 5 or 6 different "interesting user profiles" and 
provided them as examples for reference, not exhibiting any preference 
for one over the other.

In any case, Gerben has made the situation sound far more apocalyptic 
and dire than it really is, and the fact of the matter is that if 
you're a naive user who will never customize your settings further but 
like being Fred Sanchez, you can simply follow the README letter for 
letter and nothing bad will happen to you beyond bearing a sudden 
uncomfortable resemblance to Fred.  If you're a power user, you don't 
NEED to blindly follow in Fred's footsteps since you'll undoubtedly 
derive a lot more value from simply reading through his examples and 
incorporating those bits you like by hand, undoubtedly laughing and 
shaking your head at the rest.  Which is as it should be.

Jordan K. Hubbard
Engineering Manager, BSD technology group
Apple Computer

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