As a multiprocessing system, Linux gives you a number of interesting ways to do several things at once. You can start a long software installation and then switch to reading mail or compiling a program simultaneously.
Most Linux users, when they want this asynchronous access, will employ the X Window System (see Chapter 16). But before you get X running, you can do something similar through virtual
consoles. This feature appears on a few other versions of Unix, but is not universally available.
To try out virtual consoles
, hold down the left Alt key and press one of the function keys, F1 through F8. As you press each function key, you see a totally new screen complete with a login prompt. You can log in to different virtual consoles just as if you were two different people, and you can switch between them to carry out different activities. You can even run a complete X session in each console. The X Window System will use virtual console 7 by default. So if you start X and then switch to one of the text-based virtual consoles, you can go back again to X by typing Alt-F7. If you discover that the Alt-+ function key combination brings up an X menu or some other function instead of switching virtual consoles, use Ctrl + Alt + function key. You can even have two X servers running the X Window System; the second one would then be on virtual console 8.