RE: Synonym for binary file?

Subject: RE: Synonym for binary file?
From: Decker Wong-Godfrey <dfgodfrey -at- milmanco -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2003 10:08:44 -0800

Sorry for the delay.

I think the most insightful thing said on this thread was that all files are
binary. It's just the colloquial definitions of "binary" and "executable"
aren't universally agreed upon. The colloquial definition of a binary is
derived from a file not being human readable. An executable file, by
definition, is a file that invokes the computer to perform some set of
predefined actions. So if we can find files which are human readable (i.e.
not binary) and are executable, then it would seem that a binary and an
executable are--colloquially speaking--two different things.

Exhibit A: A shell script can be "executable." A shell script, since
it is human readable, by definition is not a binary file.

So we've established that not all executables are binaries. This doesn't
mean that we've established a distinct division between the two types of
files though.

Are all binaries executable?

Exhibit B: Hashes, archives, libraries, databases and proprietary
file formats (.doc or .fm, for example) are all binary files, but none are

Finally, although the /bin directory does, in fact stand for "binary," it is
not necessarily an accurate reflection of colloquial understanding. Because
/usr stands for UNIX System Resources, it doesn't necessarily mean that the
directory's name necessarily has anything to do with what people commonly
regard as system resources for the UNIX operating system (ask, and the
majority of people will say that it stands for "user").

So even though the colloquial definition of a binary file is itself
inaccurate, it is definitely different than an executable file. Using
executable and binary interchangeably works under a certain set of
circumstances, but it is requiring a greater level of sophistication from
your reader than utilizing the colloquial understanding of binary (any
non-human readable file), and an executable, as two different things.

-----Original Message-----

Bill Swallow wrote:

>How so?
>::: -----Original Message-----
>::: Technically, you're correct. However, in common usage,
>::: "binary" and "executable" are used more or less interchangeably.
Look at the directory structure of any UNIX or UNIX-like system. You'll find
a /bin directory for executables for the operating system, and an /sbin
directory for commands that only the root user can run. Large programs will
have their own /bin directory. Small programs may share a common /bin
directory, such as /usr/bin.

In all these cases, "bin" stands for "binary, of course.

This usage goes way back - so far as I know, to the earliest days of UNIX.
That's why I suggested that the fact that "binary" and "executable" are
imperfectly synonymous is only a technicality. The usage is extremely



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