CFT: new BSD-licensed sort available

Jonathan Anderson jonathan.anderson at
Thu Mar 15 01:04:03 UTC 2012

On 14 Mar 2012, at 21:10, Adrian Chadd wrote:
> Hi,
> This makes me think of the whole debian-y way of replacing the mailer
> programs using some magic alias program.
> So you could intall gnusort, bsdsort, and then some config file would
> determine which was used.
> 'sort' would then be a symlink to said magic program, that'd look at
> its argv[0], look at the contents of that file, and exec() the right
> one.

In fact, the runtime behaviour of the Debian "alternatives" system is simpler than that:

The custom Perl script with a config file is used to set up symlinks, which at runtime are... well, just symlinks. For instance, /usr/bin/vim is a symlink to /etc/alternatives/vim, which is itself a symlink to a binary like vim.gtk (example shamelessly stolen from the linked page, since I no longer have any Debian boxes to check for myself on :). No magic binaries or argv[0] fu.

In one way, it's an elegant solution. On the other, it's a classic example of Wheeler's Law in action. :)

Jonathan Anderson

Research Student, Security Group
Computer Laboratory
University of Cambridge

+44 (1223) 763747
jonathan.anderson at

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