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Old 21st December 2014
raindog308 raindog308 is offline
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Talking Documentation Quality Compared

Spent the weekend working on both Linux and OpenBSD. I made a picture that summarizes my feelings on the documentation quality of each.

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Old 21st December 2014
muflon muflon is offline
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I would say that in all BSD's documentation is done at high level.
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Old 21st December 2014
pawaan pawaan is offline
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Quote:
I would say that in all BSD's documentation is done at high level.
True but I find gentoo guite great in this area too.
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Old 21st December 2014
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Unfortunately the quality of documentation vary greatly among BSDs and it is a typical first indication of the health and strength of particular community (I am not thinking here just four core BSDs but also derived distros like flashrd for OpenBSD or pfSense, FreeNAS, PC-BSD/TrueOS for FreeBSD). I don't want to trash Linux too much as things vary wildly across districts and applications. One example that I am very familiar with of stellar documentation is OpenVPN project which is much more closely associated with Linux.
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Old 22nd December 2014
muflon muflon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko View Post
Unfortunately the quality of documentation vary greatly among BSDs and it is a typical first indication of the health and strength of particular community (I am not thinking here just four core BSDs but also derived distros like flashrd for OpenBSD or pfSense, FreeNAS, PC-BSD/TrueOS for FreeBSD).
Moin!

I have CSRG Archive that includes four CD-ROMs, created by Dr. Marshall Kirk McKusick. I use It as a main reference to almost all man pages I'm interested With.

All core distributions goes with their main list of software that is included in base installation. And If you look closer for e.g. at history part in some manuals You can find differences like in; man 1 finger;

a) NetBSD -
Quote:
The finger command appeared in 3.0BSD.
b) FreeBSD -
Quote:
The finger command appeared in 3.0BSD.
c) OpenBSD -
Quote:
The finger command appeared in 2BSD.
In these case OpenBSD simply win, because It's true that finger program first appeared in base of 2nd BSD; that was created in times when Unix Seventh Edition appeared .

On next example, let's see man 1 who;
a) NetBSD -
Quote:
A who utility appeared in Version 6 AT&T UNIX.
b) FreeBSD -
Quote:
A who command appeared in Version 1 AT&T UNIX.
c) OpenBSD -
Quote:
A who utility appeared in Version 1 AT&T UNIX.
According to the first edition of the Unix Programmer's Manual; FreeBSD and OpenBSD man pages are true, NetBSD is wrong.

OpenBSD man pages are one of the most accurate e.g. in history notation.

Ingo Schwarze [I posted few 'pdf's' written by Him on OpenBSD - papers... ] is very precise in doing those "small notes" with the right way.

But in therms of "flavours" or quality of manuals; NetBSD, FreeBSD and OpenBSD are unique in some parts.

For example NetBSD; man 9 intro, which presents list of 'tools' that are related to kernel internals.

Compare this with man 9 intro in OpenBSD and FreeBSD.

Salut,
Marcin

Last edited by muflon; 22nd December 2014 at 02:09 PM.
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Old 22nd December 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muflon View Post
In these case OpenBSD simply win, because It's true that finger program first appeared in base of 2nd BSD; that was created in times when Unix Seventh Edition appeared.
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Originally Posted by muflon View Post
According to the first edition of the Unix Programmer's Manual; FreeBSD and OpenBSD man pages are true, NetBSD is wrong.
I take it your diffs for those man pages are already on the way to both FreeBSD and NetBSD, and just got lost in the mail?
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Old 22nd December 2014
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Quote:
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I take it your diffs for those man pages are already on the way to both FreeBSD and NetBSD, and just got lost in the mail?
No. I never pointed that out on mailing list.
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Old 22nd December 2014
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Quote:
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No. I never pointed that out on mailing list.
I imagine both projects would like to have those fixed.
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Old 22nd December 2014
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The gap between the BSDs and Linux documentation, in my opinion, has narrowed. A lot of Linux man pages these days actually have examples. I think the gap was much wider in the mid 2000's.

It's possible I just know more now than I did then, so that they seem less incomprehensible, and maybe it's just a matter of the wider availability of tutorials written by relatively inexperienced people, aimed at those without great understanding. I think all documentation has improved, actually--I remember people laughing at how bad MS help pages were, and then around Win2k, they actually began to get pretty useful.
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Old 22nd December 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ibara View Post
I imagine both projects would like to have those fixed.
I would not bet on it If people cared so much about man pages and their Handbook/Guide they would update those for every major release. In my experience OpenBSD is the only project which consider lack of documentation a bug. There are many cool pkgsrc features for example that are not documented even though pkgsrc has pretty extensive documentation. Another thing is who is actually allowed to update documentation.
You can be sending patches all they long if the developer with commit access doesn't react or she/he thinks that there is nothing wrong with the documentation.
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Old 23rd December 2014
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I would not bet on it If people cared so much about man pages and their Handbook/Guide they would update those for every major release. In my experience OpenBSD is the only project which consider lack of documentation a bug.
I wouldn't be so sure about this. FreeBSD at least pays lip service to the necessity of correct documentation through the division of labor of their developer team: one has a src, ports, or doc commit bit (of course, one can have multiple).

Quote:
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There are many cool pkgsrc features for example that are not documented even though pkgsrc has pretty extensive documentation. Another thing is who is actually allowed to update documentation.
(Perhaps you should send something then.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko View Post
You can be sending patches all they long if the developer with commit access doesn't react or she/he thinks that there is nothing wrong with the documentation.
This is not an excuse for not sending patches.
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IIRC Oko had a very traumatic experience with the FreeBSD porter responsible for the FreeBSD port of Donald Knuth's TeX. That developer refused any help like looking at the OpenBSD TeX port and as a result FreeBSD did not have any TeX for many years.
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Quote:
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I remember people laughing at how bad MS help pages were, and then around Win2k, they actually began to get pretty useful.
I lot of the .NET documentation is still hilarious, IMO.
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I've heard that from other programmers too--that their programming documentation is still pretty atrocious. Not being a programmer, I wouldn't know--their sysadmin stuff is often pretty useful though. At my old job, I remember one day, the Windows admin was out and we needed to do something, just typed a few words into help and it gave a nice page with examples, making it easy to do. Though I've not had to do any Windows administration in a year and a half, so I don't know the current state.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ibara View Post
I imagine both projects would like to have those fixed.
Moin Ibara;

Yes I will inform about My findings FreeBSD and NetBSD projects. But first of all, I need to finish my research related to "man heritage" - and at the end I would like to publish paper related to this.

Greetings To You,
Marcin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottro View Post
I've heard that from other programmers too--that their programming documentation is still pretty atrocious. Not being a programmer, I wouldn't know--their sysadmin stuff is often pretty useful though. At my old job, I remember one day, the Windows admin was out and we needed to do something, just typed a few words into help and it gave a nice page with examples, making it easy to do. Though I've not had to do any Windows administration in a year and a half, so I don't know the current state.
I wouldn't say atrocious but it's not good. Some disagree on this argument, but I attribute it partly to these javadoc-like embedded documentation extractors. They change the problem from thinking about what needs to be communicated, confronting an empty page, to plugging in smidgens of text in each of the required places, i.e. before each class and method. If someone's very diligent and weighs the result that may not be so bad. But normally what you have is a skeleton of documentation with important issues not addressed. And at the lowest points you have the same information that's in the class and method names, and no more, repeated with articles and prepositions added.

Then again Perl's documentation is often embedded (however, the flexibility is much greater so it doesn't all have to be) and I think it's fantastic (though how much does that have to do with a certain individual by the name of Tom Christiansen?). Maybe it's more only about how much the people writing it -- or the people paying the people writing it -- care. Obviously, when things are done only for commercial reasons you're back to a cost benefit analysis. Microsoft's documentation is probably now at the level of quality where putting more effort into it can't be justified in terms of increased profits.
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Quote:
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Microsoft's documentation is probably now at the level of quality where putting more effort into it can't be justified in terms of increased profits.
That's an excellent point...never really thought about that in terms of documentation.
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Quote:
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Yes I will inform about My findings FreeBSD and NetBSD projects. But first of all, I need to finish my research related to "man heritage" - and at the end I would like to publish paper related to this.
Sending diffs should come first; it won't interfere with any research you're trying to do and will get documentation fixed.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ibara View Post
Sending diffs should come first; it won't interfere with any research you're trying to do and will get documentation fixed.
Christos Zoulas from NetBSD project reported to me that he include changes in man pages that I mention above; e.g. man 1 who

I will inform also FreeBSD project with the finger manual.

Salut,
Marcin
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