Newbie Navigator

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Everyone needs a starting point. After all, we were all beginners at some point in time. In this section you will find information directed towards the new user (newbie). This was not created to belittle you as a new user, but as a means of getting you off on the right foot. This section will update as Linux progresses as a mainstream operating system so be sure to check back often. If you would like to see something posted here, contact us.

What is Linux?

Linux is a free Unix-like operating system that was originally created by Linus Torvalds in August of 1991 with the help of many developers around the globe. Linux has all of the features of a modern, fully-fledged operating system: true multitasking, virtual memory, shared libraries, demand loading, proper memory management, and TCP/IP networking. The Linux kernel was developed under the GNU General Public License, and the source code is freely available to everyone. Linux originally ran on 386+, x86-based PC's, and now has been ported to various other platforms including: Alpha, Sparc, PowerPC, ARM, mips, and m68k. Linux is rock-solid stable, and has been known to run for months, even years, without a reboot.

Where can I get Linux?

You can buy a retail boxed version of Linux or download a freely distributed version from many online sources. Since there are literally hundreds of Linux O/S projects out there, we have compiled a small listing of the most popular mainstream Linux distributions to help you get started.

Beginner Basics (commands)

We have color coded this table to make things even easier. The command is in blue and a description of the outcome is on the right. Some commands have orange text after them, this indicates a user defined variable. Example: man ls man is the command and ls is your option. All userdefined options will be in orange, include your own variable there.

 General Commands
What It Does
man command man stands for "manual". This is typically used to list information on the command and available options. Please keep in mind that almost every command has options and the following suggestion are simple examples.
Navigation Commands What It Does
ls Lists the contents of the directory.
cd  .. Changes your directory down one level.
cd ~- Changes to the last directory you were in.
cd  /home/username Changes your directory to /home/username.
pwd Shows what directory you are in. (Print Working Directory)
File Commands What It Does
cp file1 file2 Copies the file named file1 to another file called file2. Leaving the original file1 intact.
mv file1 file2 Moves, or renames, file1 to file2. This removes the original file1.
mkdir something Creates a directory called 'something'.
rmdir something Removes the directory 'something'. This only works if the directory is empty.
rm file1 Removes the file 'file1'
rm -r somedir Removes the directory 'somedir' and anything in it.
cat somefile Scroll the contents of the file 'somefile' on your terminal all at once.
less somefile Displays the contents of somefile on your screen, and lets you scroll through it slowly.
tail somefile Displays the last 10 lines of somefile.
Program Commands What It Does
ps aux Shows every process that is running on your system, and their process ID.
kill  1234 Stops the program process id 1234 (from ps aux).
kill -9  1234 When a regular kill doesn't work, this forces a kill on process id 1234.
Search Commands What It Does
whereis something Searches common locations for the program 'something'.
whatis something Use this command if you are unsure what a program does, it should spit out a short synopsis.
grep -r something . Searches for the word 'something' in your current directory.
find / -name something Searches the / dir for 'something'.
 System Commands What It Does
uptime Gives  a one line display of time, how long the system has been running, users logged in and load averages.
date Display the current time. To set the system date use:  date -s "Thurs Aug 27 14:38:00 EST 2004"
top Provides an ongoing look at processor activity in real time.
shutdown -h now Halts (-h) the system, shutting it down soon as you press enter. You can also specify a time, i.e shutdown -h +15, this means the system will halt in 15 mins.
shutdown -r now Reboots (-r) the system, rebooting it soon as you press enter. You can also specify a time, i.e shutdown -r +15, this means the system will reboot in 15 mins.
 User Commands What It Does
who Displays who is currently logged in.
whoami Displays who you are logged in as.
last -10 Displays a list of the last 10 users logged in, alternatively you can specify a username.
su The superuser command is an easy way to "switch" to root. If you're already logged in as root, you may also su username to switch users.
useradd username To add a new user on your system.
passwd username Allows you to change an already existing user account password.
userdel -r username To remove a user from your system, along with all files owed by the user.

Additional assistance is available in the linuxlookup forum.