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Re: [Nmh-workers] What are and what should be the qualifications for a c

From: Ken Hornstein
Subject: Re: [Nmh-workers] What are and what should be the qualifications for a current nmh user
Date: Sat, 08 Nov 2014 14:24:11 -0500

>Yes, many commands, such as ls, mv, rm, amd chmod will still work, BUT many,
>such as grep, sed and awk will not work. At least not until you supply some
>additional commands. You ask, 'what are those commands?'. I don't know; I
>don't know MIME well enough to answer that question. But, maybe, your Email,
>'vague, undefined thoughts on nmh MIME processing", of 'Wed, 16 Jul 2014
>00:30:13 -0400', has the clues.

When I was talking about "commands", I meant "MH/nmh commands", not
generic shell commands.  But here's another meta-question for you:
what's the real innovation of MH?

If the answer is, "Individual shell commands to operate on messages versus
a monolithic MUA", or even, "Users can create and edit message headers
directly for the utilities to operate on", then you don't really care if
Unix utilities don't work directly on the messages.

If you think the MH innovation is the message store, then you do care
that Unix utilities not working on the raw messages.

I went back to the original Rand Note, "The Design of the MH Mail System",
which Norm is listed as a co-author on.  The two main design decisions
enumerated are:

- MH commands -- the primitive operations on a message -- are UNIX shell
  commands; and
- Each MH message is a normal UNIX file.

Okay, that suggests all of those things are important.  But if you read the
rest of the note, in terms of Unix utilities all that is really mentioned
is using your favorite text editor ("e" and Word Perfect are mentioned!)
to compose messages.  Everywhere else the note talks about using MH utilities
on messages as opposed to generic UNIX text processing commands.  Maybe
this was so obvious the note didn't think think to mention this; Norm,
if you could give us some idea what you guys were thinking, it might be
helpful.  FWIW, I always thought the real innovation was the shell command
interface and the user-editable headers; to me, the message store is really
more of an artifact of the implementation.

But MIME has sort of changed the game; nowadays messages are a lot more
complicated than they were back then, so I'm unsure how to make traditional
UNIX text processing work in the general case.  We provide programs already
to search messages (like 'pick'); it seems to me that the only logical
direction to go is make the nmh commands smarter about MIME.

>I found that message quite exciting. I grant, that you were not thinking of
>external commands, but I think, maybe it contains the germ of an answer to the

Note that message was just talking about MH internals; the UI wouldn't
really change.  Nor would the message store.  So I'm not sure it would
help the external command case.


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