Chapter 4. Basic Unix Commands and Concepts

If you've come to Linux from Windows or another non-Unix operating system, you have a steep learning curve ahead of you. We might as well be candid on this point. Unix is a world all its own, even though it has become a lot more user-friendly over the last few years.

In this chapter, we introduce the rudiments of Unix for those readers who have never had exposure to this operating system. If you are coming from Microsoft Windows or other environments, the information in this chapter will be absolutely vital to you. Unlike other operating systems, Unix is not at all intuitive. Many of the commands have seemingly odd names or syntax, the reasons for which usually date back many years to the early days of this system. And, although many of the commands may appear to be similar to their counterparts in the Windows command-line interpreter, there are important differences.

Instead of getting into the dark mesh of text processing, shell syntax, and other issues, in this chapter we strive to cover the basic commands needed to get you up to speed with the system if you're coming from a non-Unix environment. This chapter is far from complete; a real beginner's Unix tutorial would take an entire book. It's our hope that this chapter will give you enough to keep you going in your adventures with Linux, and that you'll invest in some more advanced books once you have a need to do so. We'll give you enough background to make your terminal usable, keep track of jobs, and enter essential commands.

Part 2 of this book contains material on system administration and maintenance. This is by far the most important part of the book for anyone running his own Linux system. If you are completely new to Unix, the material found in Part II should be easy to follow once you've completed the tutorial here.

One big job we merely touch on in this chapter is how to edit files. It's one of the first things you need to learn on any operating system. The two most popular editors for Linux, vi and Emacs, are discussed in Chapter 19.

Part I: Enjoying and Being Productive on Linux
Part II: System Administration