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True in a Nutshell

By Mike Taylor
1st Edition September 1999
1-23456-789-0, Order Number: 1234
2 pages, $1.95
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Reader Reviews

How to Order

Comments on this page
References to this page

The perfect companion for working programmers, True in a Nutshell is a comprehensive reference guide to the ubiquitous Unix utility program /bin/true. It contains everything you need to know for all but the most obscure /bin/true questions. This wealth of information is packed into an efficient, extraordinarily usable format.

Related O'Reilly Titles:

Programming True, 2nd Edition
Learning True, 2nd Edition
True Resource Kit -- Win32 Edition
True/Tk Pocket Reference

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1998-1999, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., and Mike Taylor

About the Author

Mike Taylor <> has been programming with /bin/true since the 1980s, deploying it in a variety of mission-critical applications. He has personally re-implemented /bin/true in numerous different programming languages and under several environments.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • PART 1: Getting Started
    • Chapter 1. Introduction to True
      • What's True Good For?
      • Which Platforms Support True?
      • True Resources
    • Chapter 2. Installing True
  • PART 2: The History of True
    • Chapter 3. IEFBR14
    • Chapter 4. true
  • PART 3: Using True
    • Chapter 5. Truth and Falsehood
      • Truth
      • A Digression on Wasp-Farming
      • Falsehood
    • Chapter 6. Using True in CGI Scripts
    • Chapter 7. Using True with Databases
  • PART 4: Implementing True
    • Chapter 8. True Development
    • Chapter 9. Debugging
  • Index


/bin/ 1
CGI 1 2 1
farming, wasp...see wasp farming
true: 1 1 1 1
wasp 1


``Good reference for the True-monger, a good way for the experienced programmer to start getting work done with /bin/true. Rating 10/10." -- Simeon Blatherwick,, November 1999.

``This is by far the finest book I've seen on True programming, for the beginner and advanced programmer alike. Loaded with references, helpful hints, and code tid-bits, entertaining yet informative, and never too verbose, this is certainly well worth the price.'' --, 18/3/1999, Amazon Books review; rating=10


Our look is the result of reader comments, our own experimentation, and feedback from distribution channels. Distinctive covers complement our distinctive approach to technical topics, breathing personality and life into potentially dry subjects.

The animal featured on the cover of True in a Nutshell is a slug (common or garden). Slugs are molluscs, members of the class Gastropoda (which has about 8000 species), subclass Pulmonata (in which the mantle cavity has become a lung). All gastropods show torsion: the body is twisted by 90-180 so the mantle ends up over the head, along with anus, kidney opening, etc. Slugs are secondarily detorted.

Slugs can stand six to seven feet tall at the shoulders. They are well known for their use as draft and saddle animals in the desert regions, especially of Africa and Asia, and the slug is sometimes known as ``the ship of the desert''. Slugs can go for days without water. If food is scarce, they will eat anything, even their owner's tent. Slugs live up to 50 years, unless I'm thinking of camels. (I often get those two confused.)


page 1   For ``True is one of the most important utilities in the entire Unix toolset'', read ``True is one of the least important utilities in the entire Unix toolset''.
page 1   For ``The concepts of truth and falsehood have fascinated mankind throughout history'', read ``The innovative concepts of truth(r) and falsehood(tm) were invented by the Microsoft Corporation(where do you want to go today?) in the early nineties, and are the exclusive property of Bill(``Billy the squid'') Gates(tm). All rights reserved. Void except where prohibited. Our lawyers will be in touch.''
Index   For ``page 2'', read ``page 1''.

Reader Reviews

``I've read the book and whilst it takes a little while to understand some of the more complicated chapters, it is thoroughly entertaining insight into the use of /bin/true.'' - Connor McDonald.

``Fantastic reference. I'll be using it every day. I only hope you consider writing a similarly in-depth reference on yes and its often esoteric syntax.'' - Eric Lorenz <>

More reader reviews would be welcome. Please email the author.

How to Order

There is no way to order this book, since it's an artifact of my imagination. As I write (23rd August 2002), readers' comments have led me to propose this book to O'Reilly as sort of lightweight joke present for hackers. A selection of readers' comments is below.

Comments on This Web Page

``I'd buy it of course [...] I wonder if you could get O'Reilly to publish this, it'd make a great gift for friends.'' - William Night <whitenight at>

Ever thought of starting a comp.unix.true newsgroup? I as an inductive logic programming researcher would truely like a newsgroup about true and false :-) - Nico Jacobs. <>

``Great Book - waiting for 4 years now to be delivered ... Do whatever you want, as long as True in an Nutshell will be available.'' - Florian Sachs <>

``True in a Nutshell is fantastic, I had to show it my wife, but she had a hard time to appriciate it as much as I did.'' - Clemens Lee <>

``Your web page on True was easily the funniest, most clever thing I've seen in a long time. I just had to write and tell you I was laughing uncontrollably. Thanks for brightening my day!'' - Asa Martin <>

``I found a link to True in a Nutshell off Slashdot, and thought it was brilliant.'' - Dan Milstein.

``I really think you should get O'Reilly to print it. I'd buy a copy.'' - Sean Gilley <>

``I've been a UNIX developer for 15 years, and a few minutes ago I found your True in a Nutshell page and it made me burst in laughter so hard I had tears in my eyes.'' - Pierre Rioux

``True in a Nutshell made me laugh my guts out!'' - Jani Nurminen.

``ROTFL. Bravo. Loved it. Wonderful job on the artwork too.'' - Matt Walsh (

``I love your True book. I love even more the idea that this book could actually be printed - immediately I would buy three or four copies.'' - Roman Putanowicz <>

``Good luck in your quest to be published. I'll buy a dozen if it works out.'' - Eric Lorenz <>

``Great stuff. I loved that book, and have had fantastic feedback from everyone I've sent it to!'' - Darren Collins (

``What, no pocket guide to go along with the book? Seriously, I laughed so hard I nearly puked. I wish ORA really would print this. It would make a great gag gift for my programmer buds.'' - Jim Turner <>

``I very much appreciate your excellent work on True In A Nutshell. It is a true ;-) standout in an over-crowded field. If I can make one suggestion, it is: more screenshots please.'' - Dave Edwards <>

References to This Web Page

True in a Nutshell was featured in the 2002-03 issue of CodeCraft, an email newsletter for programmers. An online version of that issue can be found at:

More feedback would be welcome. Please email the author.
Feedback to <> is welcome!