Operating under an alias

By Paul Murphy, author of The Unix Guide to Defenestration

There are a large number of Solaris compatible tools out there that most people simply don't know about. One of my favorites is a toolset called "Visual Thought", originally a commericial product from Confluent.

Visual Thought can be downloaded, along with a ten year license, through links from bombshellstudios.com. It runs extremely well on Solaris under CDE (and poorly under Windows) and implements a PostScript based diagramming technology only matched by some high end Mac tools.

One of the interesting things about running VT is that it illustrates a minor problem with some older packages running under later Solaris releases. Most of us have a tendency to put new things in new directories and just extend PATH to access them - but a lot of older packages have built-in assumptions about path lengths. In VT's cases, for example, you get the odd effect that some export file types silently fail to appear on the export type menu if your PATH length exceeds 255 characters.

If you don't know they should be there, you get no clues that something's missing.

In response I use an account with the minimal default pathing and permissions to test any new products I install. Adding the minimum needed in terms of path, ld_library, and lib.x.x.so linkages to this account's .cshrc lets me debug the install quickly and efficiently without invoking conflicts, length or otherwise, with other products I use. Once everything looks right, adding it to my normal .cshrc is easy and differences in application behavior, if any, show up immediately.