“Scripting” is not sloppy “programming”


Every time I need to mention some automation development work while talking to a client, I find myself overly watchful not to say the words “scripting” or “script” excessively. That’s how much of “sloppiness” is felt to be connotative to those terms in the public opinion.

Ergo, you can see how glad I was to find in the Chapter 7 of the “UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook” this understanding that

There’s no real distinction between “scripting” and “programming.” Language developers sometimes take offense when their babies are lumped into the “scripting” category, not just because the label suggests a certain lack of completeness, but also because some scripting languages of the past have earned reputations for poor design.

Of course, the importance of scripting cannot be overestimated as it is the main mediator in performing administrative changes reliably, in a consistent and repeatable manner, which are so important in the system administrator’s job as in no other “soft” profession.

Speaking of the subtle differences between “scripting” and “programming”, one could point out the issue of computing system efficiency. Indeed, “scripted” procedures are often several times “slower” than “programmed” counterparts. Administrative work, however, is more about the effectiveness of the administrator, which is the efficiency of the binding administrator+computing_system. As the book authors put it,

Optimization can have an amazingly low return on investment, even for scripts that run regularly out of cron.

Which is more significant out of the two Linus Torvalds’ biggest invetions: Linux kernel of Git? – another great question from the book. On one hand, Linux (albeit not the kernel alone) in this very 5th edition of the book has ousted all the other Unix systems of other editions, including commercial ones – so, perhaps it is quite important. On the other hand,

Mistakes are a fact of life.

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