Windows and the Korn shell

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The Lounge What is on Your Mind? Windows and the Korn shell
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Old 12-23-2006
Windows and the Korn shell

I just found this story about how microsoft tried to integrate Unix like shell scripting in NT. It dates back 1997 but it is still funny:

I've been attending the USENIX NT and LISA NT (Large Installation
Systems Administration for NT) conference in downtown Seattle this

One of those magical Microsoft moments(tm) happened yesterday and
I thought that I'd share. Non-geeks may not find this funny at
all, but those in geekdom (particularly UNIX geekdom) will
appreciate it.

Greg Sullivan, a Microsoft product manager (henceforth MPM), was
holding forth on a forthcoming product that will provide Unix
style scripting and shell services on NT for compatibility and to
leverage UNIX expertise that moves to the NT platform. The
product suite includes the MKS (Mortise Kern Systems) windowing
Korn shell, a windowing PERL, and lots of goodies like awk, sed
and grep. It actually fills a nice niche for which other products
(like the MKS suite) have either been too highly priced or not
well enough integrated.

An older man, probably mid-50s, stands up in the back of the room
and asserts that Microsoft could have done better with their
choice of Korn shell. He asks if they had considered others that
are more compatible with existing UNIX versions of KSH.

The MPM said that the MKS shell was pretty compatible and should
be able to run all UNIX scripts.

The questioner again asserted that the MKS shell was not very
compatible and didn't do a lot of things right that are defined in
the KSH language spec.

The MPM asserted again that the shell was pretty compatible and
should work quite well.

This assertion and counter assertion went back and forth for a
bit, when another fellow member of the audience announced to the
MPM that the questioner was, in fact David Korn of AT&T (now
Lucent) Bell Labs. (David Korn is the author of the Korn shell)

Uproarious laughter burst forth from the audience, and it was one
of the only times that I have seen a (by then pink cheeked) MPM
lost for words or momentarily lacking the usual unflappable
confidence. So, what's a body to do when Microsoft reality
collides with everyone elses?
And David Korn version of it:

Question 5) True Story?
by travisd

Was the story about you embarrassing a Microsoftie at a conference true? Specifically, that he was insisting that their implementation of ksh in their unix compatibility kit was true to the "real" thing and trying to argue the point with you. The argument ended when someone else finally stood up and informed the speaker who he was arguing with.

Just curious ...

Korn: This story is true. It was at a USENIX Windows NT conference and Microsoft was presenting their future directions for NT. One of their speakers said that they would release a UNIX integration package for NT that would contain the Korn Shell.

I knew that Microsoft had licensed a number of tools from MKS so I came to the microphone to tell the speaker that this was not the "real" Korn Shell and that MKS was not even compatible with ksh88. I had no intention of embarrassing him and thought that he would explain the compromises that Microsoft had to make in choosing MKS Korn Shell. Instead, he insisted that I was wrong and that Microsoft had indeed chosen a "real" Korn Shell. After a couple of exchanges, I shut up and let him dig himself in deeper. Finally someone in the audience stood up and told him what almost everyone in the audience knew, that I had written the 'real' Korn Shell. I think that this is symbolic about the way the company works.

Last edited by ripat; 12-23-2006 at 02:57 AM..
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