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New Shells: Zoibderg

bash, tcsh, zsh, and their kin are all subspecies of the same beast. In search of something novel, let’s look at the first of a number of different breeds: Zoidberg.

If you’re like most intermediate-to–advanced Linux users, you’ve no doubt run into limitations of your shell and, to work around those limits, you’ve resorted to writing a script in an interpreted language like Python or Perl. Or perhaps you just “think Perl” — your fingers type Perl code without a second of thought. Either way, knowing about alternatives to traditional shells can save you work. After all, to start a new shell, all you have to do is type its name at any command-line.

This month, let’s look at the first of several nontraditional shells: Zoidberg, or zoid, a shell written in Perl. (There are several Perl shells, by the way, including Psh from Gregor Purdy and others.) This article is based on the Debian zoidberg package, version 0.93, which is slightly behind the current zoid version (at this writing) of 0.95. Jaap Karssenberg is Zoidberg’s founder and main developer. (The Zoidberg shell is still in beta, so you may not want to use it as your login shell.)

To get the most from zoid and this article you need to know a little Perl. And there isn’t room in three pages for more than a brief introduction to zoid. To find out more, see http://zoidberg.student.utwente.nl/. A detailed look at extending Zoidberg can be found in “Zoidberg: A Shell that Speaks Perl” in the April 2005 issue of The Perl Journal.