Why Learn UNIX?
Because it's fun, obviously.
Actually, people come to UNIX with a variety of wants and needs. Here are some typical reasons:
- Web Pages - Many websites are run under UNIX. Thus, many people are learning UNIX to become better webmasters.
- Programming - UNIX is a very attractive platform for software development, and is often used as such for introductory programming courses.
- Research - Most "supercomputers" run UNIX. UNIX can handle large proccessing tasks with relative ease.
- Open Source Software - Some people believe that software should be free, convenient, and open to the public. These people usually use Linux, a type of UNIX. Most free software is written first for UNIX.
This tutorial is not going to help you with any of these tasks directly, but it will get you started in the right direction.
Dealing with Culture Shock
This tutorial assumes you are familiar with either the Windows or Macintosh operating systems. Five years ago, we could have assumed you knew at least some DOS, but those days are past. This may be the first time you deal with things like command lines, processes, and files.
Above all, you should approach this learning task with an open mind, a full pot of coffee, and plenty of time. UNIX is very difficult to learn, at first. If you use it daily (and have enough patience to overcome the inevitable frustration) you will probably master it within a couple of weeks.
Here are some of the cultural hurdles you may have to overcome:
Using the Wrong Brain
UNIX was developed by computer programmers, for computer programmers. This means that everything in UNIX will make sense, if you are a computer programmer. The rest of us are not so lucky. If your analytic abilities are strong, you should be able to understand how (and eventually why) things work the way they do.
The Horrors of the Command Line
You'll be using what's known as a command line interface. This means that your computing session will consist entirely of typing into a monochrome box on the screen, and reading the text that appears. There are no icons, noises (except for beeps), windows, menus, or taskbars. You won't be using your mouse. In time, you may actually grow to like it (sort of like broccoli).
cd, pwd, lpr, chmod, ls, pico.... Their meaning is obvious, right? Since all commands in UNIX are typed from the keyboard, and "shorter is faster is better", many commands have short, obscure names. Most of them meant something at some time. As we show you new commands, we'll try to come up with a mnemonic device to help you remember what each command does.
The Many Wonders of Diversity
Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, fudge-almond-bubblegum.... all flavors of ice cream. AIX, IRIX, HP-UX, linux, Solaris... all flavors of UNIX. There is no one standard UNIX operating system. Instead, each computer manufacturer (and some other groups, acting out of either goodwill or maliciousness, depending on your point of view) has their own unique brand of UNIX. This means there are differences between them, especially when it comes to things like printing. We'll concentrate on the similarities, and celebrate the differences.
Conventions Used in this Document
Since everything you do in UNIX is typed from a keyboard, you must be sure to type exactly what is intended. We'll use different fonts and styles to let you know what we want you to do.
Text that should appear on the screen (from the computer to you) will look like this:
Text that you should type into the computer will look like this:
You should always press Enter or Return (they're the same thing, for our purposes) after typing in text like that.
Sometimes we'll need you to substitute specific information into a command (such as the year, or your username). It will look like this:
This means you should type cal 6 1977, for example, not cal month year.
Sometimes we'll need you to type in a single key. For example,
This means to press the a key (don't hit Enter, unless we say to). If we want you to hold down any other keys, we'll say so like this: Press Ctrl-a. This means to hold down the Control (or Ctrl, or Ctl -it's near the Shift key) and press the a key.
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