Subject: Re: README: nawk vs. gawk
To: NetBSD-current Discussion List <>
From: Todd Vierling <>
List: current-users
Date: 02/02/2001 10:07:11
On Fri, 2 Feb 2001, Greg A. Woods wrote:

: It might be nice to provide #2, but it is not necessary, and indeed
: IMNSHO it must not be done in any case where that would break
: compatability with "The One True Awk" (i.e. only change that bwk will
: accept back are acceptable in this case).

: The awk in the base system need only support the language used by tools
: and such that are included in base system (well, plus those included in
: the build systems and pkgsrc of course).

Greg, the world of NetBSD users does not consist of just you, so please stop
assuming it is.  I don't give a damn about your "One True Awk" nonsense;
what I do care is that we don't cause problems for NetBSD users -- the real
ones with real production systems who aren't ranting about the purity of a
tool relative to Unix's history.

The fact remains that we've had gawk in the NetBSD tree for most of NetBSD's
lifetime.  We haven't restricted the "/usr/bin/awk" version to POSIX-only,
so we've essentially provided sysadmins with gawk installed as /usr/bin/awk.

If we break compatibility in a way that causes misoperation, we are doing a
massive disservice to our commitment to backwards compatibility.  At the
very least, we must make a big and loud statement about the change on lists,
in release notes, as far and wide as it can go.  But it'd be far better if
we trap the GNU extension cases and cause human-readable errors indicating
the failure.

The only other alternative is to link /usr/bin/awk to /usr/bin/nawk ONLY IF
there is no /usr/bin/awk already installed on the machine (for upgrades, of
course).  This would leave gawk as /usr/bin/awk on upgraded machines, but
install nawk on freshly installed machines.

-- Todd Vierling <>  *  Wasabi NetBSD:  Run with it.
-- NetBSD 1.5 now available on CD-ROM  --