How to use Linux? I have access to the program.

OK, I’ve asked a similar question here before. But this situation is different. I want to learn Linux OS. Before, I was pointed to SUSE. The main reason was the extensive documentation on the use of it.

A guy at work set me up with an account on his server with a partioned amount of space for unfettered access to the OS. Except that when I log in, I don’t have even the slightest inklin of what to type when I get the prompt. So close, yet so far from using the OS.

I plan on picking up a copy of Linux for Dummies and a few other similar resources. However, all the Bookstores are closed until at least Tuesday (including the library) and I’m a rather impatient man. So what I’d like to know is: Are there any free on-line resources that are written in laymen’s term on how to use the system? Just stuff that maybe will let me type a few basic commands to start getting the feel of the system.

Also, in addition to any online resources, what other books would you recommend for learning the language? I used to be well-versed in DOS, but Windows has me so spolied I remember maybe a dozen commands off the top of my head for it.

The OS my company uses that I troubleshoot is written Unix. So I’m familiar with that OS, but the program itself is proprietary, so the commands I use are more based on the program as opposed to Unix itself. (Did that make any sense?)

Any help would be appreciated. I just want to learn it! Also, it sounds like my space on the server won’t really give me a virtual system as much as it will give me a chance to just play with the OS. The reason I’m taking this route is to familiarize myself with the language before building a new box and running Linux on it solely.

As for books, avoid anything ‘For Dummies’. They’re a waste of your time and money. Look for an O’Reilly book about the OS, such as Running Linux by Matt Welsh, Lar Kaufman, Matthias Kalle Dalheimer, and Terry Dawson. Barnes & Noble has a large selection of O’Reilly books and so should any other large bookseller.

(The website I linked to, , is also a good place to start if you want information.)

If you have any knowledge at all of Unix, Linux will be a snap to pick up. It does things the same way with the same command set. If you get stuck, remember that ‘man’ brings up manual pages and ‘info’ brings up a more detailed help system. (man has been around in Unix since the beginning, but info is relatively recent and is actually an extension of the emacs editor.) Don’t worry about not knowing DOS anymore: Linux isn’t really like DOS anyway.

A series of tutorials on the Linux command line. If you know the Unix command line, these will be too easy and you might not need any of them.

This is more conversational, and it goes a lot more in-depth about relatively advanced features like job control.

This is another tutorial, one with explicit comparisons between the Linux command line and the DOS command line. There are some similarities, but not very many mainly because Linux itself can do a lot more than DOS.

I guess it really depends how you want to use the system. If you want to be ONLY a user, then you probably want to use X-Windows, that way your interface will look very much like MS Windows. If you want to be a “systems” guy, then you will have to learn all the nuts and bolts commands. The nuts and bolts commands of UNIX are very powerful, but often cryptic, and usually when they fail they just give you a blank stare instead of telling you what went wrong.

First, you will have to decide on a shell. The Unix command line interface has several shells to choose from. I think csh (C-Shell) and bash (Borne again Shell) are the most popular, so I would probably go with one of those. Once you decide on a shell, there will be hidden files in your login directory that let you customize your shell (like .bashrc for bash). I usually create shortcut commands (called an alias) in my .bashrc file, like gh=‘cd $HOME’, to navigate back to my home directory.

You seem to spend a lot of time with protection or security problems with Unix too. The chmod command changes the security on files. I would say “chmod 755 filename” is typed frequently on my keyboard.

If you are stuck with “vi” as your editor, I have pity on you, you’re not going to like it. I don’t have to edit files on Unix too often, when I do I use vi. If I have a ton of editing to do, I do it on Widows with a “real” text editor, then copy the files over to Unix. Here in lies another problem. Windows text files always contain a carriage-return followed by a line-feed at the end of each line, Unix text files only contain a carriage-return at the end (or is it only a line-feed?), in any event, there is some small, yet annoying, incompatibility between Windows text files and Unix text files. Most editors I use on Widows can handle both formats though.

The other two commands I use the most on Unix are find and grep.

Please be very careful, Unix doesn’t mind giving users a loaded gun. For example, rm -R will delete all the files in your directory and all the files in your subdirectories.

Have fun!!!


The default shell under Linux is always bash unless someone has explicitly changed it, and there is more documentation on the Web for using bash than tcsh (the TENEX C shell, which is the C shell flavor Linux ships with). I’d suggest bash unless you already know you want the C shell.

You aren’t limited to vi if you want to edit files. At the command line, type ‘emacs’ and then type ‘Ctrl-h t’. (That is, hold down the Ctrl key, tap ‘h’, release the Ctrl key, and tap ‘t’.) This will bring you into the emacs tutorial, and start you on the path of the One True Text Editor. :wink:

There are problems with end-of-line conventions between DOS/Windows and Unix/Linux. emacs isn’t bothered by this: The most it will do is show ‘DOS’ in the status bar to remind you that this file has DOS-style line endings. If you want to convert from DOS to Linux line-ending conventions, try the following at the command line:

tr -d '\r' < oldfile.txt > newfile

This will delete all carriage return characters in the file, transforming it from DOS-style to Linux-style (really, Unix-style) at a stroke. Reversing the process is as easy as this:

tr '
' '
' < newfile > oldfile.txt

If you want more information on the tr command, type ‘info tr’ or (if that doesn’t work) ‘man tr’. info is usually nicer, especially to a newbie.

Thanks for all the info everyone! CC, I do, in fact, use vi as the editor. But I’ve become used to it, so it doesn’t seem daunting to me. It’s the other stuff I don’t know that I’ll have to study. Thanks again.