Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Importance of Semantics...


The use of language in meaningful referents, both in word and sentence structures.

Semantics can be very important when attempting to interpret what someone else is trying to say. Taking the wrong meaning of a string of words can lead to a drastically different meaning.

Now... for those of you who are not in the computer world (let alone Unix/Linux/etc... camp), a 'man' page is a reference page (kinda like an extensive 'help') used to get more detailed information on a particular command. By running 'man ' in a terminal window you get a summary, synopsis, description, usage, SEE ALSO, Options, and a bunch of other information about that command.


# man man

User Commands man(1)

man - find and display reference manual pages

man [-] [-adFlrt] [-M path] [-T macro-package] [-s section]

man [-M path] -k keyword...

man [-M path] -f file...

The man command displays information from the reference
manuals. It displays complete manual pages that you select


So why is this important to semantics? Well, for example if someone is asking for assistance with a particular command, one might suggest they 'man' the command. They may suggest a specific command to 'man' (if the person was unable to find the correct command and/or usage to do what they wanted). Or more specifically, they may say "do a man on cfgadm" or "do a man on metastat" or "do a man on profile" or any command it doesn't matter..... or does it. This is where semantics plays a big role.

A co-worker of mine on another coast was leaving on holiday for an extended period of time. He was looking for a way to set up an away message in Mozilla. To familiarize yourself with an away message if you don't already know: is an automatic response to any incomming e-mail (normally used to inform people that you will not be able to respond to their message until a specific time). Now I don't use away messages when I am off for (a bad habit, but something I don't normally do), so I was unaware of how to do this in Mozilla (or even if his version has that capability). But, I did remember there was a command in Solaris that would set this up.... now if I could just remember the command....

# man away
No manual entry for away.

nope that wasn't it

# man profile
Reformatting page. Please Wait...

Ok so we have a man page for profile, but what use is this? We need to look at the SEE ALSO section at the bottom. This is where we'll have other commands related to this command (which is what we are looking for since we don't know the exact command we need).

env(1), login(1), mail(1), sh(1), stty(1), tput(1), su(1M),
terminfo(4), environ(5), term(5)

nope... nothing there of any help

# man forward
Reformatting page. Please Wait...

Back down to the SEE ALSO section:

passwd(1), uucp(1C), vacation(1), newaliases(1M),
sendmail(1M), ndbm(3C), getusershell(3C), passwd(4),
shells(4), attributes(5)

Whippe...this is the one I was looking for.

I think you can figure this out and how it was construed.... Needless to say, semantics is something to be aware of.


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