During the editing of my book, one of my reviewers suggested that it would be cool if there could be an on-line shell host that readers could use to play with command line stuff while reading the book. While this is an interesting idea, it's not really practical for me to do.
If you have ever received an email from me, you know that my email address contains the domain "panix.com." What is Panix? Therein lies a tale.
Panix (short for Public Access Network Corp.) is a small, regional ISP located in New York City. According to Wikipedia, it is also the third oldest ISP in the world. They do the usual ISP stuff plus something special. They provide shell accounts. In fact, one of their slogans is "Your $HOME Away From Home." Here is a quote from their web site:
Panix has been providing shell accounts and Internet connections since 1989 —nearly twenty years! During that time we've developed a reputation for technical know-how, reliability and customer service unmatched by today's Internet "superstores". If you're looking for access to a professionally-maintained UNIX host, with the latest versions of all your favorite newsreaders, mailers, compilers and internet clients —and if you want your home and email address to be good for the rest of your life, not just until some DotCom.CEO decides that shell services aren't profitable enough to keep running— you want a Panix account.
We are all shell users ourselves, and we are shell snobs. We know a well-maintained UNIX shell is indispensable for serious programmers, web developers and net fiends. Nothing else gives you as much control over your operating environment, nothing else is as flexible. You know that, we know that, and that is why Panix will always make shell access our first service.