This document is copyright 1995-2006 by Faisal N. Jawdat (faisal AT faisal DOT com).
Permission is hereby granted for non-commercial electronic distribution. If you would like to reprint this document, or make commercial use of it, please contact the author.
This document is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) from the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.computers. It also lists answers to questions that haven't been asked, but need to be answered anyway.
Additional help came from, and many thanks go to Chris Holly and Mark P. Nelson.
alt.religion.computers the alt group dedicated to people who think computers are religion. What this means is that a.r.c is dedicated to religious discussions of computers, and not the other way around. The readership is generally on the level of a theologian - experienced and studied enough in computing to be able to make appropriate moral judgements between the various hardware and software systems available.
In the words of one reader:
We... regard the choice of operating system for our computers (and, of course, the hardware) not as an occasion for calm dispassionate discourse but as of the kind of momentous and fatefull life choice that once was the sole provence of learned clergy debating the number of angels that dance on the head of a pin.
If there is a common theme, it is that salvation can only be had by using the RIGHT set of hardware and software.
Appropriate discussion for alt.religion.computers includes all theological issues related to appropriate computer platforms, including hardware, software, windowing systems, graphical user interfaces, command line interfaces, operating systems, text editors, corporate entities, and what the appropriate computer platform actually is.
Innapropriate discussion for alt.religion.computers includes, but is not limited to:
In general, innappropriate material should not be posted.
However, it is important to make the distinction between material that is innappropriate, and material that is not appropriate for alt.religion.computers. For material that is not related to alt.religion.computesr, please consult your local news spool listing for better ideas on where to post, or check news.answers for lists of other FAQs.
Comments regarding real religion are woefully out of place on alt.religion.computers. This is a newsgroup that floats somewhere between sarcasm and pitiful self-reflection. Please take these sorts of comments elsewhere, or expect to see answers along the lines of:
You have two choices: Emacs, or vi. You could also use ed, but that isn't a choice, it's a necessity. No one choses to use ed, except in a manner that only makes sense in a koan.
Emacs is a big bloated pig based on a bizarre intepretted version of lisp. It is so slow that the installation process now involves loading the app, core dumping it, and then running from the core file (which loads faster because there's no setup time). It supports every feature in the universe, and you will pay with your soul.
vi is small, fast, and has one of the worst interfaces in the history of computing, especially given the previous experience with TECO. It supports nothing, good and hard.
ed is the standard editor: small, fast, and no interface. Ed has also led the way to modern intelligent agent based systems: rather than error reporting, it features an agent that asks you what the hell you're doing using ed.
Other choices include:
TECO: Real Men™ are fond of TECO, the predecessor to Emacs, and one of the few programs to have a worse interface than TECO. TECO is amazingly amazingly powerful, a power it draws directly from your lifeforce. You can do anything with TECO, and you probably will, whether or not you want to.
Microsoft Word: Just kidding.
cat: Some people are fond of saying that cat is their editor, but they're deluded. cat is a stream redirector, and any editting done with it is really done using bizarre csh antics, but it's cooler to say that cat is your editor than to say that csh is your editor. Especially given the uselessness of csh scripting.
Rusty Spoon™: In the days when men were bold and fonts weren't, real men didn't use Emacs, or TECO, or cat, or even HAVE UNIX, real men didn't have punch cards, and NO STINKIN' FRONT PANEL! Real men were forced to edit their code by scraping a Rusty Spoon™ over their drive platters to magnetically reseat the atoms appropriately. So you know where you can shove your graphical user interface.
Microsoft says Windows is an operating system, but they also said that OS/2 was the most important operating system in the history of computing. It doesn't matter what they call it, since everyone buys it anyway.
Linux users say that Windows isn't an operating system, but they also tend to hold the position that UNIX based systems are a better substitute for more people, and that programmers should give up all monetary aspirations and live as hermits. It's easy to hold those views when mommy and daddy are paying for MIT. Note: As of 1999 it is now even easier to hold these views when the public capital markets are picking up the tab.
It is generally accepted that if God did use a computer, it would run the DUI (Divine User Interface) on some bizarre microkernelized version of VMS that we don't have the source code to (well it is VMS). Not only does no one understand how to use it but Himself, no one needs to. That aside, the question of whether God does use a computer is generally answered based on the questioner's religion and the degree of omnipotence ascribed to their particular diety of choice.
Computer Science involves elegant math, programming involves ugly computers.
Look at it this way:
C has no design and lets you do horrible things. If you want to have the system work intelligently, you have to do so much error checking and code factoring that your code becomes huge and you have big raging headaches. C++ compounds the problem by adding a badly designed object model. All other languages on the market today are either too slow or too proprietary to consider using. The sole exception is perl, gives you brutal amounts of functionality at the expense of traditional design goals (i.e. it's neither fast nor elegant).