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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE chapter PUBLIC "-//OASIS//DTD DocBook XML V4.5//EN"
<title>Running Linux</title>
<para>In order to work with Linux you need access to a Linux environment.
The best environment is an installed Linux distribution on your system,
but you can use other environments such as Linux Live CDs (bootable CDs
with a ready-to-run operating system on it). Installing Linux is very
distribution-specific and Gentoo's installation procedure is well
documented on the <ulink
url="">Gentoo site</ulink>. I will
not discuss the installation procedure yet. Later in this book, I will
focus on the command-line Gentoo installation because then you'll have a
much better view on the various installation steps. Right now, I'm going
to talk about a few Linux-specific topics which are quite important to
understand, but without going in too much detail: almost every topic will
be discussed in great length later.</para>
<para>Users who are not used to working with Linux or Unix will find that
it is quite different from other operating systems (notably: Microsoft
Windows). In <link linkend="runninglinux_systemarchitecture">System
Architecture</link> I give a quick overview of the main differences.
Further down, I elaborate on using the command line interface of Linux
(which is definitely a must-know if you are going to work with Gentoo
Linux). Finally, I cover how to find help on the commands.</para>
<title id="runninglinux_systemarchitecture">System Architecture</title>
<para>Linux is a multi-user platform. The administrator user is called the
</indexterm> user and can do anything on the system. Although it is
perfectly possible to work on your system as this administrator, it is
advised to create individual accounts for everyone who needs access to the
system and only grant those users access to important resources or
administrative commands (there are tools that allow a user to switch from
one user to another or run certain commands as a different user).</para>
<para>For your personal PC, this probably means you're going to create a
single additional account for yourself. If the PC is shared with many
people (say household PC or a work station at your office) you most likely
want to create accounts for every possible person. Sharing an account
isn't good practice: if you need to share files and directories with other
people, there are better ways than sharing the same account.</para>
<para>The personal account you use is limited, yet definitely not
unusable. A few of the differences between a non-privileged account and
the root account are:</para>
<para>the personal account can only modify files it has created
itself, so there is no possibility of corrupting your system (as the
operating system files are immutable for the personal accounts). This
also means that the personal account cannot install any additional
software on the system (that's okay - I will tell you how to elevate
your privileges later on so that you can manage your system when you
need to).</para>
<para>the personal account cannot fill up a partition to the point
that the system is endangered: by default, 5% of each partition is
reserved for privileged users only</para>
<para>if malicious events happen using your personal account, traces
of what has happened might show up in log files that the personal
account cannot tamper with</para>
<para>Every task a user starts results in a process on the system. For
instance, a user that fires up a browser results in at least one process
representing the browser program. By default, this process runs with the
privileges of this user and has therefor only access to the files and
resources of this user. Another reason why not to use the root account:
you don't want a malicious script that gets executed in your browser, and
which triggers an exploitable bug (this isn't fantasy, it might happen)
cause your browser to start wiping out important system files...</para>
<para>Files and directories themselves are, permission-wise, represented
with three sets of permissions: one for the owner, one for the owning
group and one for everyone. More on the file privileges later.</para>
<title>User Accounts</title>
<para>As the root user is an administrator account with no privilege
limitations whatsoever, any action ran by the root user can potentially
hurt your system:</para>
<para>removing the wrong files or directories (there is no undelete
<para>removing or manipulating system files (possibly resulting in a
malfunctioning system - and a reboot won't solve this)</para>
<para>disabling networking or changing network behavior</para>
<para>placing files on wrong places (possibly losing files or
interfering with system operations)</para>
<para>killing or otherwise manipulating the wrong process(es)
(possibly resulting in service malfunction, shutdown or
<para>For this reason, user accounts should be created. A default user
<para>can only edit or remove files that belong to this user</para>
<para>can not interfere with system-wide settings (including
networking, device access, ...)</para>
<para>can only place files inside his own (dedicated) home
<para>can only kill / manipulate processes that he has launched
<para>It is still possible for non-root user accounts to do harm. For
instance, a malfunctioning program executed by a user might still
remove all user files from the file system. Although this is a major
disaster for end users (please, do not forget to take backups
regularly) the system itself can still run as the operating system
files are not touched.</para>
<para>Next to user accounts, any Linux installation has <emphasis>system
<primary>system account</primary>
</indexterm> as well. These are regular accounts just like the user
accounts (with the same limitations), but cannot be used to log on (they
do not have a valid password), often have no dedicated home directory
and are used by the operating system to run specific services with
limited rights (increasing security) rather than administrative
<para>To ease managing user accounts (and permissions / access to
resources), users are made part of groups. Access to files can be
managed through group ownership whereas every member of this group can
access (or even write to) the file. A user can be part of many
<para>A <emphasis>process</emphasis><indexterm>
</indexterm> is a running task on the system. Each process runs as a
particular user: this not only means that that process can only access
resources that are available for that user, but also that only this user
(and the root user) can manipulate the process (for instance, kill the
<para>Each process has one parent (except the top process, which is
always the <command>init</command><indexterm>
</indexterm> process) and can have one or more child processes. If a
process dies, all its children die as well (so never try to kill the
<command>init</command> process as it would result in a total
annihilation of all processes on the system).</para>
<para>Running processes do not necessarily consume CPU cycles. An idle
system can easily be running a few dozen (or even up to a hundred)
processes. This is because processes have various states: actively
running, sleeping, waiting, stopped, ... Luckily, the Linux Operating
System is very efficient in balancing the requirements of the
applications with the available resources so you, as an end user, do not
notice that this many processes are running.</para>
<para>One process can also have multiple threads. Threads are part of
an application (but managed by the operating system) and allow running
code within an application in parallel. A program with several threads
is still a single process.</para>
<title>Files and File Structure</title>
<para>On Linux (and all the Unix and Unix-like operating systems) the
file system is hierarchically structured. At the top, you have the
<emphasis>file system root</emphasis><indexterm>
<secondary>file system</secondary>
</indexterm>, which is named "<filename>/</filename>"<indexterm>
</indexterm>. Below you'll have files and directories, following the
standard described in a previous section, <xref linkend="fhs" />. Every
position within the structure has its meaning. An example is
<filename>/home/swift</filename>, which is the home directory of the
"swift" user account. Another example is
<filename>/usr/share/doc/googleearth-</filename>, the
location where a specific version of the GoogleEarth program stores its
package documentation.</para>
<para>Next to regular files (like text files or program-related files)
and directories, Linux also has the notion of:</para>
</indexterm>, which are other names for the same file (allowing
for one file to have multiple references),</para>
<para><emphasis>symbolic links</emphasis><indexterm>
</indexterm>, which are pointers to other files (differs from
links because it is merely a pointer, so it can point to something
that doesn't exist) and are somewhat (but not quite) comparable to
Microsoft Windows' shortcuts.</para>
<para><emphasis>named pipes</emphasis><indexterm>
<primary>named pipe</primary>
</indexterm> or <emphasis>FIFOs</emphasis><indexterm>
</indexterm>, which are temporary buffers where one process can
write to and another process can read from</para>
<para><emphasis>unix domain sockets</emphasis><indexterm>
<primary>unix domain socket</primary>
</indexterm>, which are created by one process and where several
other processes can write to or receive information from</para>
<primary>device file</primary>
</indexterm> and <emphasis>block device file</emphasis><indexterm>
<primary>device file</primary>
</indexterm>, which represents a hardware device on the system,
allowing to exchange data with the device through regular file
<para>All these special files are represented as files on the Linux file
system. Take <filename>/dev/sda1</filename> as an example. It represents
the first partition (<filename>1</filename>) on the first
(<filename>a</filename>) SCSI device (<filename>sd</filename>) known by
the system. <filename>/dev/sda1</filename> is a block device file
because read/write operations occur in blocks (certain amount of data)
whereas character device operations are on a character-by-character
<para>I will be discussing device files, and how Linux manages them, in
a later chapter.</para>
<para>Files (and directories and any of the special files talked about
previously - I am going to refer to those as "files" as well throughout
this book) are associated with three sets of permissions<indexterm>
</indexterm>: one for the owner, one for the group owner and one for
all the rest. Each set contains several flags:</para>
<para>read access to the file or directory</para>
<para>write access to the file or directory</para>
<para>execute rights on the file (probably because it is an
application binary or a script) or entering rights on the directory
(meaning you can jump inside the directory)</para>
<para>Next to these three sets, additional permissions can be set for
executable files and directories, but these are far less important to
understand at this moment:</para>
<para><emphasis>set user/group id</emphasis><indexterm>
<primary>set user id</primary>
<primary>set group id</primary>
</indexterm> on the file (when the file is executed, the process
is not ran as the user/group who executed it but as the owner) or
directory (only applies to the group set; in this case, files
created inside the directory automatically get the group ownership
of the directory, allowing to easily share files between
<para><emphasis>restriction deletion</emphasis><indexterm>
<primary>restriction deletion flag</primary>
</indexterm> flag (restricts deletion of files inside the affected
directory unless the user is the owner of the file or
<para>The restriction deletion flag needs some explanation. It is used
on world-writeable directories (a well-known example is
<filename>/tmp</filename>, where temporary files can be stored) and used
to prevent users to remove files they didn't create. A world-writable
directory would otherwise allow other users to remove files from that
directory (as they too have write access to the directory). The
restriction deletion flag is also known as the
<primary>sticky flag</primary>
</indexterm> flag.</para>
<title>Using the Command Line</title>
<para>Most Linux distributions, once booted up, provide you with a
graphical logon screen, or even log you on automatically. With Gentoo
Linux, this isn't the case. Rather, you'll be greeted with a command-line
prompt asking you to identify yourself:</para>
<programlisting>This is seaheaven.homeworld (Linux i686 2.6.23) 22:30:00
seaheaven login: </programlisting>
<para>At this prompt, you are asked to enter your username which you have
undoubtedly created during the Linux installation. Next, you are asked for
your account password. If the username exists and the password matches,
then you are greeted with a <emphasis>command line
</indexterm>. The next listing shows a typical prompt for the account
with user name "captain" on a system with hostname "seaheaven":</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $</programlisting>
<para>The prompt is structured as follows:</para>
<para>the username of the account logged on to the system</para>
<para>the hostname of the system where the user is logged on to</para>
<para>the current location where the user is on the file system (~
means the users' home directory)</para>
<para>a prompt sign telling the user if he is a regular user ($) or
root user (#).</para>
<para>In the following sections, I'll give you a quick introduction to the
world of the Linux command line.</para>
<para>The prompt is actually something rendered by a shell. A
</indexterm> is an interactive program which takes on commands from
the user input (keyboard) and executes those on the system. One prime
example of commands are those used for navigating through the file
</indexterm> shows the present working directory (where the user
is currently in)</para>
</indexterm> allows a user to change the directory he is in</para>
</indexterm> shows the contents of the current directory (listing)
or any other location if asked</para>
<para>An example session is shown below.</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>pwd</command>
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls</command>
Documents Movies Music Pictures
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>cd Documents</command>
captain@seaheaven Documents $ <command>pwd</command>
<para>To navigate from one directory to another, there are a couple of
ways to use the <command>cd</command> command. Note that the
<command>pwd</command> command is shown to show the current location. It
is not part of the process of navigating between directories!</para>
<para>You can use a relative path to go down a tree. In the example,
the "<command>cd Documents</command>" goes from
<filename>/home/captain</filename> to
<filename>/home/captain/Documents</filename> through the relative
path "<filename>Documents</filename>". </para>
<programlisting>$ <command>pwd</command>
$ <command>cd Documents</command>
$ <command>pwd</command>
<para>You can go up through the special name
'<filename>..</filename>' (dot dot), so "<command>cd ..</command>"
would go from <filename>/home/captain/Documents</filename> to
<programlisting>$ <command>pwd</command>
$ <command>cd ..</command>
$ <command>pwd</command>
<para>You can also use absolute paths. For instance, to go
immediately to <filename>/etc/init.d</filename> (a special directory
we'll talk about later) you would type "<command>cd
<programlisting>$ <command>pwd</command>
$ <command>cd /etc/init.d</command>
$ <command>pwd</command>
<para>A special character is the <filename>~</filename><indexterm>
</indexterm> (tilde) which means the home directory, so
"<command>cd ~</command>" would go to your home directory. Even
shorter, just entering "<command>cd</command>" would go to your home
directory. The <filename>~</filename> can be used in two ways:
either to denote your home directory (<command>cd
~/Documents</command> goes to
<filename>/home/captain/Documents</filename>) or someone elses home
directory. In the latter case, you append the user name to the
<filename>~</filename> sign, so: "<command>cd
~raghat/public_html/</command>" translates to
<programlisting>$ <command>pwd</command>
$ <command>cd ~/Documents</command>
$ <command>pwd</command>
<para>If for some reason the change directory command cannot succeed (no
permission to enter the directory, or the directory doesn't exist) you
will be notified of the failure.</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>pwd</command>
$ <command>cd /etc/cron.daily</command>
bash: cd: /etc/cron.daily: Permission denied
$ <command>pwd</command>
<title>Listing Content</title>
<para>To list the contents of a directory, you would use the
<command>ls</command> command. By default, it shows the files and
directories of the current directory, but ls is one of those commands
that takes a multitude of options. It is not my intention to describe
each and every single option, but there are a few which are quite
important to know right now.</para>
<para>First of all, the "<command>-l</command>" option shows not only
the files and directories of a certain directory (or the current
directory) but also information about each file / directory:</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls -l</command>
drwxr-xr-x 2 captain users 4096 2007-10-31 22:24 Documents
drwxr-xr-x 2 captain users 4096 2007-10-31 22:24 Movies
drwxr-xr-x 2 captain users 4096 2007-10-31 22:25 Music
drwxr-xr-x 2 captain users 4096 2007-10-31 22:24 Pictures
-rw-r--r-- 1 captain users 66 2007-10-31 22:30 opentasks.txt</programlisting>
<para>The information contains, amongst other things, the permission
sets (three times three characters: Read, Write and eXecute), the owning
user and group, the size (directories are in multiples of 4 kilobytes in
this case) and their creation date.</para>
<para>Another interesting option is "<command>-a</command>", which lets
the ls command show all files (including the hidden files). A
<emphasis>hidden file</emphasis><indexterm>
<primary>hidden file</primary>
</indexterm> on a Unix / Linux system starts with a dot. Inside your
home directory you'll find a variety of hidden files by default, the
example below shows just a subset of such files.</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls -a</command>
Documents Movies Music Pictures
.history .maildir .profile .vimrc</programlisting>
<para>Hidden files are not meant to really hide the files, but rather
not to show them using regular listings so they do not clutter the
listing output too much. Most hidden files are configuration files (like
the .vimrc file which is the configuration file for the vim editor for
the current user).</para>
<para>As with most command line utilities, you can combine arguments;
you are even able to put them together, so <command>ls -l -a</command>
is the same as <command>ls -la</command>. The order also doesn't matter,
so <command>ls -la</command> and <command>ls -al</command> are both the
<title>Analysing ls -l output</title>
<para>You will find that you often use "<command>ls -l</command>" to
get the necessary information about a file or directory. As such I
give you a quick overview of the meaning of the various fields in
<command>ls</command>' output:</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>ls -l 12-servicemanagement.xml</command>
-rw-r--r-- 1 swift users 26976 Apr 22 21:21 12-servicemanagement.xml
|&lt;+&gt;&lt;+&gt;&lt;+&gt; | &lt;-+-&gt; &lt;-+-&gt; &lt;-+-&gt; &lt;-----+----&gt; &lt;---------+-------------&gt;
| | | | | | | | | `- filename or directory name
| | | | | | | | `- last modification time
| | | | | | | `- size (in bytes)
| | | | | | `- group owning the file or directory
| | | | | `- user owning the file or directory
| | | | `- number of hard links to the file or directory
| | | `- privileges (in this case: read-only) for everybody
| | `- privileges (in this case: read-only) for owning group ("users")
| `- privileges (in this case: read-write) for owning user ("swift")
`- type of file (in this case: regular file)</programlisting>
<title>Basic File Manipulation</title>
<para>The most basic manipulations are copying, moving, renaming and
deleting files, which we explain below...</para>
<title>Copying Files &amp; Directories</title>
<para>To copy a file you would use the <command>cp</command><indexterm>
</indexterm> command. Its basic syntax is simple: <emphasis>cp
source destination</emphasis>. The destination can be a directory in
which case the file is copied to that directory. If the destination is
a file name, the file is copied to that file(name).</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls Documents</command>
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>cp opentasks.txt Documents/tasks.txt</command>
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls Documents</command>
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>cp opentasks.txt Documents</command>
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls Documents</command>
opentasks.txt tasks.txt</programlisting>
<para>By default, the <command>cp</command> command creates the
destination file with the privileges and ownership of the user that is
executing the command. In the next example, I copy the file
<filename>/etc/inittab</filename> to the current directory (.):</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>ls -l /etc/inittab</command>
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1890 Feb 15 20:39 /etc/inittab
$ <command>cp /etc/inittab .</command>
$ <command>ls -l inittab</command>
-rw-r--r-- 1 swift users 1890 Apr 22 22:49 inittab</programlisting>
<para>You can ask <command>cp</command> to preserve all information
(like access privileges, ownership and timestamps) although you might
need to be root to do so.</para>
<para>To recursively copy an entire directory and its content, use the
-r option. For instance, the following example would copy the folder
workdocuments and all files and directories inside it to the current
working directory.</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>cp -r /media/usb/workdocuments .</command></programlisting>
<title>Moving and Renaming Files &amp; Directories</title>
<para>To move a file, the <command>mv</command><indexterm>
</indexterm> command should be used. Its syntax is <emphasis>mv
source destination</emphasis>. If the destination is a file name
rather than a directory, then the <command>mv</command> command also
performs the task of renaming files. In the next example, the
<filename>tasks.txt</filename> file is moved from the
<filename>Documents</filename> folder to the
<filename>/media/usb/workdocuments</filename> directory:</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>mv Documents/tasks.txt /media/usb/workdocuments</command>
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls</command>
opentasks.txt tasks.txt
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>ls /media/usb/workdocuments</command>
<title>Removing Files &amp; Directories</title>
<para>The final task is removing files. The
</indexterm> command uses the following syntax: <emphasis>rm
filename</emphasis>. To remove an entire directory, you could just
give the directory name, but that only works if the directory is
empty. Otherwise, you need to add the "-r" option (which stands for
recursive: the directory and every file and directory inside
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>rm Documents/opentasks.txt</command>
captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>rm tasks.txt</command></programlisting>
<para>A popular set of options to <command>rm</command> is
"<command>-rf</command>": it tells rm to remove all files and
directories recursively, and also tells it not to ask the user for
validation (force). Make sure you know what you are doing, Linux does
not have an undo feature!</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>rm -rf Documents</command></programlisting>
<para>Luckily, <command>rm</command> only works with the privileges of
the user that is executing it, so you cannot accidentally remove
system files if you aren't running as the privileged root user:</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>rm -f /etc/passwd</command>
rm: cannot remove '/etc/passwd': Permission denied</programlisting>
<title>Editing Text Files</title>
<para>An important task for any Linux user is knowing how to edit text
files. There are many text editors around, such as the popular vim and
emacs. Gentoo recommends nano as your first editor because it is easy to
work with and understand. My preference is for vim but as the Latin
saying goes: <quote>de gustibus et coloribus non est
<title>Using Nano</title>
<para>As such, a quick primer in the use of nano. If you launch nano
it shows you the main editor screen for a new file. If you launch nano
with a filename as its argument, it opens up the text file, ready for
editing. As an example, I open up the
<filename>opentasks.txt</filename> file using nano:</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>nano opentasks.txt</command></programlisting>
<figure float="">
<title>nano editor opened with the opentasks.txt file as its working
<imagedata align="left" fileref="images/nano.png" width="10cm" />
<para>The first line shows the name of the file opened while the last
two lines show you a summary of the keyboard commands to manipulate
the file. The ^ character means that you have to press the Control
character (Ctrl), so to save the file you would press Ctrl+O. To exit
the editor, press Ctrl+X.</para>
<para>Some text files are very sensitive to newlines - configuration
files are the most important ones. By default, nano automatically
wraps lines when you hit the sidebar. To inform nano that you want to
keep lines as they are, add the "<command>-w</command>" argument:
"<command>nano -w opentasks.txt</command>". This is the recommended
approach when editing configuration files.</para>
<title>Viewing Text Files</title>
<para>If you want to view the content of a text file but don't want to
launch the text editor, you can use <command>cat</command> or
<command>less</command>. This also allows you to view the content of
files without accidentally modifying them.</para>
<para>With <command>cat</command><indexterm>
</indexterm>, you "dump" the content of a file to the terminal.
If the file is large, all text will scroll by very quickly. You
can try to scroll up using Shift+PgUp but this buffer is limited
in length.</para>
<para>With <command>less</command><indexterm>
</indexterm>, you view the content of a file page by page. The
less command is called a pager and supports scrolling up / down
(with the arrow keys or using the PgUp/PgDown keys), searching for
specific text, ...</para>
<para>The <command>less</command> pager is not only used for viewing
content of text files, but also for manual pages (which are discussed
further down this chapter).</para>
<title>Short summary of frequently used actions for the less
<tgroup cols="2">
<entry>scroll down one line</entry>
<entry>e, j, &lt;return&gt; or arrow key down</entry>
<entry>scroll up one line</entry>
<entry>y, k or arrow key up</entry>
<entry>scroll down one page</entry>
<entry>f, &lt;space&gt; or PgDown</entry>
<entry>scroll up one page</entry>
<entry>b or PgUp</entry>
<entry>search forward for &lt;searchtext&gt;, use
"<command>n</command>" for every next hit</entry>
<entry>search backward for &lt;searchtext&gt;, use
"<command>?</command>" for every previous hit</entry>
<entry>display the help screen</entry>
<para>In case you were wondering, the name <command>less</command> is
a hint to an older, still supported pager called
</indexterm>. With <command>more</command>, you can also view the
content of a file page by page, but <command>more</command> only
supports scrolling down one line (&lt;return&gt;) or page
(&lt;space&gt;). So <command>less</command> is more... than
<title>Linking Files and Directories</title>
<para>Linux supports two types of links: symbolic links and hard links.
You might wonder why I'm already telling you here in the introductionary
chapter on running Linux. Well, that's because symbolic links are often
used in Linux, whereas you'll find output related to hard links all over
the place. In fact, we already had some output related to hard links
earlier: in the output of the "<command>ls -l</command>" command.</para>
<para><emphasis>Symbolic links</emphasis><indexterm>
</indexterm>, also known as <emphasis>symlinks</emphasis><indexterm>
</indexterm>, are the easiest to understand. They're not real files,
but rather references to files somewhere on the file system. Their
reference is a location string, which allows the link to be used across
media and even to files that don't exist (anymore). As an example, you
could have a symbolic link that points to
<filename>/home/swift/opentasks.txt</filename>, even when this file
doesn't exist (anymore).</para>
<para><emphasis>Hard links</emphasis><indexterm>
</indexterm>, on the contrary, are immediate links. They actually
refer to the same location on the disk as their target file (through
inode's) and the file system will not release this location as free
space until there are no references to this location. In fact, every
file you see in the file system is a link to a location. With hard
links, you just create additional links.</para>
<para>Due to their technology, hard links can only point to file
locations on the same medium and they cannot handle directories.</para>
<para>To create links, use <command>ln</command><indexterm>
</indexterm> (hard links) or <command>ln -s</command>
<programlisting>$ <command>ln targetfilename newfilename</command>
$ <command>ln -s targetfilename newfilename</command></programlisting>
<para>Thanks to links, you can manage your files more easily. For
instance, you can have an important text file located inside
<filename>~/Documents/Work/Thesis/myThesis.txt</filename> but link to it
from your home directory (<filename>~/myThesis.txt</filename> points to
<filename>~/Documents/Work/Thesis/MyThesis.txt</filename>) so that you
don't have to traverse all these directories every time you want to
open/edit the file.</para>
<title>File / Command Completion</title>
<para>A powerful feature of most Linux shells is file and command
<para>When you want to edit a file called, for instance, opentasks.txt,
you can start with typing "<command>nano o</command>" followed by the
&lt;tab&gt; key. If <filename>opentasks.txt</filename> is the only file
or directory that starts with an o, the shell will automatically expand
the command to "<filename>nano opentasks.txt</filename>". If there are
more files or directories that start with o, typing &lt;tab&gt; twice
will show you a list of candidates.</para>
<para>The same is true for commands. If nano is the only command
starting with na (it isn't, but suppose it is) then typing "na" followed
by a &lt;tab&gt; expands the command to nano. Pressing &lt;tab&gt; twice
if it isn't the only command displays all matches:</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>na</command><emphasis>&lt;tab&gt;&lt;tab&gt;</emphasis>
namei nautilus
nano nasl
nasm native2ascii
$ <command>na</command></programlisting>
<title>Switching Terminals</title>
<para>One of Unix / Linux' advantages is the support for multiple
<primary>virtual terminal</primary>
</indexterm>. When you are logged on to your system, you are actually
watching one of the (virtual) terminals, most likely the first one. You
can switch from one terminal to another using Alt+F# where F# is F1, F2,
... If you are on a graphical session, you'll need to use Ctrl+Alt+F#
first. The graphical screen is positioned at the first terminal that can
not be used to log on to (most likely Alt+F7).</para>
<para>The support for multiple terminals allows you to log on to your
system several times and spread the tasks you want to execute in
parallel across the various terminals. For instance, if you are
configuring a program, you might want to have the configuration file
itself open in one terminal and the program in another.</para>
<para>Hint: if you are working on the command line, you can also use the
</indexterm> command to switch between terminals: <command>chvt
2</command> switches to the second terminal (similar to Alt+F2).</para>
<title>Logging Out</title>
<para>To log out from an existing session, enter <command>exit</command>
or press Ctrl+d:</para>
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>exit</command>
This is seaheaven.homeworld (Linux i686 2.6.23) 22:30:00
seaheaven login: </programlisting>
<title>Shutting Down</title>
<para>Finally, if you want to shut down<indexterm>
</indexterm> your system, you will first need to become root. You can
do this by switching to another terminal and log on as root, but you can
also use the su command. This command will ask you to enter the root
password after which you are known to the system as the root
<programlisting>captain@seaheaven ~ $ <command>su -</command>
Password: <emphasis>(Enter root password)</emphasis>
root@seaheaven ~ # </programlisting>
<para>Now, you can issue the shutdown command to shut down (-h) or
</indexterm> (-r) the system immediately:</para>
<programlisting>root@seaheaven ~ # <command>shutdown -h now</command></programlisting>
<title>Getting Help</title>
<para>Linux might seem a bit complex at first, especially because the
tools novice users use are the same tools that experts use, making the
tools accept expert options starters wouldn't understand. Handbooks such
as this one can only help users find their way, but once in a while any
user, beginner or advanced, will need something to fall back to. Luckily,
there are several resources you can address...</para>
<title>Man Pages</title>
<para>The <emphasis>manual page</emphasis><indexterm>
<primary>manual page</primary>
</indexterm> is available on the Linux system itself and can be
accessed through the <command>man</command><indexterm>
</indexterm> command. By entering <command>man</command> followed by
the command you want information about you receive the manual page of
that command, explaining what the command does, what syntax you should
use, what options it supports and what commands or files are related to
this command.</para>
<para>The manual page is usually structured as follows:</para>
<para>name of the command with a one-line description</para>
<para>synopsis of the command, showing the syntax the command
<para>options of the command with an explanation of each
<para>further information on the command, like usage restrictions,
default behavior, ...</para>
<para>copyright and authorship information</para>
<para>related manual pages</para>
<para>Manual pages not only exist for commands, but for files
(configuration files or device files), system calls and library
functions (programming related information) and even standards and
conventions. These topics are categorized in the following sections with
the accompanying numbers:</para>
<para>user commands</para>
<para>system calls</para>
<para>library functions</para>
<para>special files (device files)</para>
<para>file formats and protocols</para>
<para>games and funny programs</para>
<para>overview, conventions and miscellaneous topics</para>
<para>administrative and privileged commands</para>
<para>For information about these sections, open up the introduction
page for each section. For instance, the introduction page for the games
section can be accessed through <command>man 6 intro</command>. Knowing
what sections are available can be important, especially when there are
topics in different sections which have the same name. An example is
passwd: there is a manual page for the <command>passwd</command> command
(<command>man 1 passwd</command>) and one for the
<filename>passwd</filename> file (<command>man 5 passwd</command>). If
one would enter <command>man passwd</command>, the first section that
has a manual page for the topic is displayed (in this case, the first
<para>Once you are inside a manual page, you can navigate through it
using the up/down arrow keys and the PgUp/PgDn keys. You can also search
for some terms (press / followed by the term) and more. A full
explanation of all the commands of the manual viewer (which, on most
systems, is the <command>less</command><indexterm>
</indexterm> tool) can be obtained by pressing 'h'.</para>
<para>To quit viewing the manual page, press 'q'.</para>
<title>Info Pages</title>
<para>Another reference tool on your system is the
</indexterm> page help system. The <command>info</command> tool allows
you to browse through info pages using a hierarchical approach
(next/previous section, go upwards, ...) as well as using hyperlinks
(select a topic in the info page to go to the section on that
<para>Let's take a look at the GCC info pages:</para>
<programlisting>~$ <command>info gcc</command>
File:, Node: Top, Next: G++ and GCC, Up: (DIR)
This manual documents how to use the GNU compilers, as well as their
features and incompatibilities, and how to report bugs. It corresponds
to GCC version 4.1.2. The internals of the GNU compilers, including
how to port them to new targets and some information about how to write
<para>At the top of the info page you find where you are in the sequence
of documents (as this is the first page, there is no real previous
section nor upwards section). The next topic (which you can go to by
pressing <command>n</command>) is "G++ and GCC".</para>
<para>Inside the text you will find text snippets following by two
<programlisting>* G++ and GCC:: You can compile C or C++ programs.
* Standards:: Language standards supported by GCC.
* Invoking GCC:: Command options supported by `gcc'.
* C Implementation:: How GCC implements the ISO C specification.
* C Extensions:: GNU extensions to the C language family.
* C++ Extensions:: GNU extensions to the C++ language.
* Objective-C:: GNU Objective-C runtime features.</programlisting>
<para>These texts are links which allow you to jump to that topic. Go
with the cursor to "Invoking GCC" and press return:</para>
<programlisting>File:, Node: Invoking GCC, Next: C Implementation, Prev: Standards, Up: Top
3 GCC Command Options
When you invoke GCC, it normally does preprocessing, compilation,
assembly and linking. The "overall options" allow you to stop this
process at an intermediate stage. For example, the `-c' option says
not to run the linker. Then the output consists of object files output
by the assembler.</programlisting>
<para>You are now in the node called "Invoking GCC". The next
(<command>n</command>) section is "C Implementation", the previous
(<command>p</command>) is "Standards" and if you go up
(<command>u</command>), you get to the top of the info document
<para>Info pages are well used by various GNU projects (such as GCC).
However, manual pages are more popular - perhaps because most developers
find them easier to write.</para>
<title>Immediate Syntax Help</title>
<para>If you are not looking for an explanation on the command but want
to know its syntax, most commands provide immediate help through the
<command>-h</command> or <command>--help</command> arguments:</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>man -h</command>
man, version 1.6e
usage: man [-adfhktwW] [section] [-M path] [-P pager] [-S list]
[-m system] [-p string] name ...
a : find all matching entries
c : do not use cat file
d : print gobs of debugging information
D : as for -d, but also display the pages
f : same as whatis(1)
h : print this help message
k : same as apropos(1)
K : search for a string in all pages
t : use troff to format pages for printing
w : print location of man page(s) that would be displayed
(if no name given: print directories that would be searched)
W : as for -w, but display filenames only
C file : use `file' as configuration file
M path : set search path for manual pages to `path'
P pager : use program `pager' to display pages
S list : colon separated section list
m system : search for alternate system's man pages
p string : string tells which preprocessors to run
e - [n]eqn(1) p - pic(1) t - tbl(1)
g - grap(1) r - refer(1) v - vgrind(1)</programlisting>
<title>Package-provided Documentation</title>
<para>Some packages provide more documentation in the form of guides (in
HTML, PDF or other formats), README files and more. You will find most
of this documentation at <filename>/usr/share/doc</filename>. Gentoo
Linux compresses the documents using <command>bzip2</command> or
<command>gzip</command> (both well known compression tools in the Unix
world). To view the documents, you will first need to decompress those
into a location you have write privileges to.</para>
<para>For instance, the zip package contains a document explaining what
algorithm the tool uses to (de)compress data:</para>
<programlisting>$ <command>cd /usr/share/doc/zip-*</command>
$ <command>ls</command>
algorith.txt.bz2 BUGS.bz2 CHANGES.bz2 MANUAL.bz2
README.bz2 timezone.txt.bz2 txtvsbin.txt.bz2 WHATSNEW.bz2
WHERE.bz2 ziplimit.txt.bz2
$ <command>bunzip2 -c algoritm.txt.bz2 &gt; ~/algorithm.txt</command></programlisting>
<para>The resulting file, <filename>algorithm.txt</filename>, can be
found in the home directory (<filename>~</filename><indexterm>
</indexterm> is an abbreviation for the home directory of the current
user). In this case, the file is a regular text file which can be viewed
through the <command>less</command> command, which is the same command
used for manual pages.</para>
<para>In the above example, a redirection is used: the output of one
command (<command>bunzip2 -c algorithm.txt.bz2</command>) is not shown
on the screen, but rather redirected into a file
(<filename>algorithm.txt</filename>). Redirection is discussed later
<title>Online Documentation</title>
<para>Most projects have extensive documentation available. You are
certainly advised to take a look at the projects' web sites or search
through the internet for available guides and books. Sometimes, the best
documentation is not written by the project itself but by satisfied
<para>Try to organize your home directory in logical sections. For
instance, create directories where you put your personal documents,
pictures, work-related documents and temporary documents.</para>
<para>Unix/Linux systems generally offer four compression methods.
Whereas Zip is well known on the Microsoft Windows operating system,
Unix/Linux uses GZip or BZip2 together with tar. How is "tar" used
with gzip/bzip2? What is the fourth compression method?</para>
<para>As stated, Unix/Linux systems have no undo functionality: when
you remove a file, it is removed. However, due to the technicalities
of removing files (in essence only the reference to the file is
removed, but its content remains on disk until it is overwritten)
there are tools available that help you recover files. Try finding a
few examples of such file recovery utilities for Linux.</para>
<title>Further Resources</title>
to Linux, A Hands-On Guide</ulink> by Machtelt Garrels (also available
as <ulink