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I often try to memorize command options by looking up for what they stand for.

This time I couldn't find any source on that: why is quota -s a --human-readable alternative, what does s stand for?

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Funny. On BSD the quota option for "human-readable" is -h (then you would not ask). – Ouki Mar 22 '14 at 19:59
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Using the light shed from the FreeBSD version of the quota command, I would go for suffixes (my first choice being string).

     -h      "Human-readable" output.  Use unit suffixes: Byte, Kilobyte,
             Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte and Petabyte.

Either way, all here are best guesses ...

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Slightly more informed guess. Looking into the -s options of various coreutils commands and their interpretation in those commands, it seems like -s is an option that can mean many different things in different commands. Following list shows meaning of the -s option for the commands in parenthesis:

  • seconds (sleep)
  • system (uname)
  • setid (chmod (+/-))
  • string (nl, date, seq )
  • suffix (cp, install, ln, mv, basename)
  • size (sort, shred, truncate, test)
  • silent (tty, readlink, csplit)
  • signal (kill, timeout)
  • separator (tac, pr)
  • summary (du)
  • sysv (sum)
  • skip-chars (unique)
  • serial (paste)
  • squeeze/suppress (tr, cat)
  • symbolic/soft (ln)
  • strip (realpath)
  • spaces (fold)
  • split (fmt)

From the list, it looks like suffix is frequently used in the context of filename suffixes, so I will go with size.

Interestingly, the description of -s in the man page of ls sounds close to what the author might have in mind while choosing the -s switch with quota:

-s Display the number of file system blocks actually used by each file, in units of 512 bytes, where partial units are rounded up to the next integer value. If the output is to a terminal, a total sum for all the file sizes is output on a line before the listing. The environment variable BLOCKSIZE overrides the unit size of 512 bytes.

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Based on the man page I would conclude that it stands for "size" or "space" or "showing" or perhaps "suffixes". From the quota man page:

   -s, --human-readable
        option will make quota(1) try to choose units for showing limits, 
        used space and used inodes.
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