Starting out with Unix and Linux


The Command Shell

In the 1970's, the text based command shell was probably the standard interface for unix systems. The X windows graphical was a nice addition that became common in the 1980s and 90s. Today in the 21st century, there are a large variety of graphical user interfaces to choose from, such as Cinnamon, Enlightenment, and KDE, amongst many others. In any of these, it is not difficult to open up a command shell, which still today, usually is the most efficient and easy way handle many tasks. In Cinnamon you can simply press CTRL-ALT-T to open up a command shell.

This allows you to quickly have access to not only file and directory navigation, but some very handy applications, such as cal (calendar, to plan out your week or month), bc -l (calculator), pico (text editor), top (system processes viewer), iwconfig (network hardware status), df (disk space status), free (RAM status), man (man page for all these commands I'm mentioning), or process control functions such as 'bg', 'fg', and CTRL-Z.

It also allows you to launch your favorite graphical applications by just typing in their names; eg. typing in 'firefox', or 'vlc' (and pressing enter).

The Shell also allows you to enter useful custom commands; for example to put the computer to sleep after one hour (3600 seconds) while you yourself might be falling asleep (eg., to internet radio), the command line command is simply: "sleep 3600; pm-suspend "

For more background on getting acquainted with the unix command line, see a page like:
http://mally.stanford.edu/~sr/computing/basic-unix.html

Or, a similar page from your favorite institution or higher education:
http://www.bing.com/search?q=site%3Areed.edu+unix+basics&qs=n

N.B.

The command line accepts standard unix GUI copy and paste mouse gestures; to copy, simply highlight any text---either in the terminal, or in a graphical application (eg., like firefox), by holding the left button while dragging across a section of text. To paste, press the middle button; if no middle button or scroll button is available, adeptly pressing both left and right buttons simultaneously is a substitute.


If you're not running unix already, you can get acquainted by setting up an email and shell account at freeshell.org: http://sdf.org/?signup

or, simply by installing a distribution of Linux onto your PC. My personal favorites that I can recommend are Mint Cinnamon and Bodhi (the latter for systems with lower RAM and CPU power).

Have fun


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