Linux Help

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New to Linux? Feeling a little intimidated? Starting to miss that cute little start button in the bottom left hand corner of your screen? Well..... don't be intimidated and definetly don't miss that button! Below you'll find answers to the most basic questions/commands that you might be asking yourself right about now.

If you still have unanswered questions after reading this page feel free to post your questions in our Help Forums and someone will be glad to assist you. If you have a questions/answers that you would like to see added to this page, by all means contact us

FYI: Text that is in RED are commands you can execute on your system in a terminal.

    General
  1. What is Linux?
  2. What is the linux kernel?
  3. Which distribution of Linux should I install?
  4. Who is the root user?
  5. How do I reboot my machine?
  6. How do I shutdown my machine?
  7. How do I remove/uninstall Lilo/Grub?


  8. User Accounts
  9. How do I add a user?
  10. How do I delete a user?
  11. How do I change my login password?


  12. Filesystem Navigation
  13. How do I change directories?
  14. How do I copy files?
  15. How do I rename files?
  16. How do I move files?
  17. How do I edit files?
  18. How do I list directory contents?
  19. How do I delete files?
  20. How do I delete directories?
  21. How do I access my cdrom drive?
  22. How do I access my floppy drive?
  23. How do I view/change ownership on files/directories?
  24. How do I view/change permissions on files/directories?
  25. How do I find files on my system?
  26. How do I unzip a .tar.gz/.tgz file?
  27. How do I unzip a .bz2 file?
  28. How do I install a program?
  29. How do I run a program?



  1. What is Linux?

  2. Linux is an Open Source, free Operating System created by Linus Torvalds. For more information, please see our General Information page.


  3. What is the linux kernel?

  4. The Linux kernel is the core of the Linux operating system. To find out which version of the Linux kernel you are running, simply type uname -r in a terminal. For more information on the Linux kernel, please visit http://www.kernel.org. For information on how to install or compile the Linux Kernel, please see our Kernel Compile/Upgrade Guide.


  5. What distribution of Linux should I install?

  6. One of the pleasures of running linux is choice. The choice of which Linux Distribution you wish to run is 100% up to you. You can browse our Distributions Page for comparisons of the various distributions out there. If you are totally new to linux we suggest you start off with either Red Hat Linux or Mandrake Linux as they are easier to install, configure and maintain.


  7. Who is the root user?

  8. The root user is the master user or systems adminstrator of the machine. The root user has full access to all files and directories, which is why you will only want to use the root account to perform system maintainance or to install applications.


  9. How do I reboot my machine?

  10. In order to reboot your machine, you must instruct the Linux kernel to stop all the processes (programs) it's currently running. Do not simply press the reboot button on the front of your computer case, as Linux must be properly shut down/restarted. To restart your machine, as root, run either of the following commands in a terminal:
    reboot
    shutdown -r now
    On most systems you can also press (all at once) the control, alt and delete keys.


  11. How do I shut down my machine?

  12. In order to shut down your machine, you must instruct the Linux kernel to stop all the processes (programs) it's currently running. Do not simply press the power off button on the front of your computer case, as Linux must be properly shut down/restarted. To shut down your machine, as root, run either of the following commands in a terminal:
    halt
    shutdown -h now


  13. How do I remove/uninstall Lilo/Grub?

  14. If you want to remove the Lilo or Grub boot loader from your system (if you are uninstalling linux etc) follow the procedures below:

    For Windows 95/98 etc:
    Use a dos boot disk and at the command prompt type:
    fdisk /mbr

    For Windows XP:
    Boot off the XP Installation CD and go into rescue mode. From there run the command:
    fixmbr


  15. How do I add a user?

  16. While logged in as root, type adduser username at the shell prompt, replacing username with the name you want to use to log in. You can create as many users as you wish, one for each member of your family, for example.


  17. How do I delete a user?

  18. While logged in as root, type userdel username at the shell prompt, replacing username with the user name you wish to delete.


  19. How do I change my login password?

  20. To set the password for a specific user, type (while logged in as root) passwd username at the shell prompt, replacing username with the name of the person who's password you wish to change. By typing just passwd you'll be able to change the password of the user under who's name you're currently logged in as. Do not use passwords which are easy to guess, like your middle name or your pets name.


  21. How do I change directories?

  22. cd - Used to change directories
    Usage: cd [directory]
    Example: cd /home/joey/html
    Example: cd ../ (to move back one directory)
    Example: cd (to return to your home directory)
    For more information, in a terminal, type man cd


  23. How do I copy files?

  24. cp - Used to copy files/directories from one location to another
    Usage: cp file newlocation
    Example: cp /home/joey/index.html /var/www/index.html
    Example: cp /home/joey/* /var/www/ (this will copy everything in /home/joey to /var/www/)
    For more information, in a terminal, type man cp


  25. How do I rename files?

  26. mv - Used to move or rename files
    Usage: mv file location (to move)
    Usage: mv filename newfilename (to rename)
    Example: mv index.html /var/www/index.html (to move)
    Example: mv index.html index2.html (rename)
    For more information, in a terminal, type man mv


  27. How do I move files?

  28. mv - Used to move or rename files
    Usage: mv file location (to move)
    Usage: mv filename newfilename (to rename)
    Example: mv index.html /var/www/index.html (to move)
    Example: mv index.html index2.html (rename)
    For more information, in a terminal, type man mv


  29. How do I edit files

  30. The default editor that ships with almost every distribution of Linux is Vi. This editor is slightly advanced and confuses most newbies. We suggest starting off with Pico, a more simple editor. Pico is part of the Pine software package which can be downloaded at http://www.washington.edu/pine (It might already be installed on your system). To edit a file with pico, simply run:
    pico filename

    This will open up the file and allow to you edit it. At the bottom of the screen you will notice the various commands that you have access to with Pico. If you wish to save the file and exit, simply hold down the control key and hit the x key on your keyboard.


  31. How do I list directory contents?

  32. ls - To list the contents of a directory
    Usage: ls [flags] directory
    Example: ls (To list the current directory)
    Example: ls /home/joey (To list the contents of /home/joey)
    Example: ls -a (To list hidden files)
    Example: ls -l (To list file/directory permissions and file sizes)
    Example: ls -al /home/joey (To list all files and permissions in /home/joey)
    For more information, in a terminal, type man ls


  33. How do I delete files?

  34. To delete a file you must first have write permission to it. For information about permissions, click here. Once you have write permission, in a terminal run:
    rm filename
    There is no "Recycle Bin" in Linux so once you delete a file, it's gone for good.
    When removing files, you may use an astrix (*) as a wildcard flag to remove certain files, for example if I wanted to remove all files that began with the letter j, I would run rm j*
    If anyone tells you to run rm -rf / as root, DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. Running this command will delete all the files/directories on your Linux system.


  35. How do I delete directories?

  36. If you have ownership to the directory and the directory is empty, you can simply type rmdir directoryname to remove the directory. If the directory is not empty and you wish to simply delete it and all its contents, run rm -rf directoryname
    Please be careful with the -rf flag, as it will remove everything in the specified directory including sub directories. With root access and the rm -rf command you can wipe out your entire system if you make an error.


  37. How do I access my cdrom drive?

  38. Linux requires you to mount your cdrom/floppy drives when you wish to use them. On most Linux distributions, the mount command will require root access. Depending on which Linux distribution you run, one of the following commands should mount your cdrom drive. As root, run:
    mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
    mount /dev/cdrom /cdrom


  39. How do I access my floppy drive?

  40. Linux requires you to mount your cdrom/floppy drives when you wish to use them. On most Linux distributions, the mount command will require root access. Depending on which Linux distribution you run, one of the following commands should mount your floppy drive. As root, run:
    mount /dev/fd0 /mnt/floppy
    mount /dev/fd0 /floppy


  41. How do I view/change ownership on files/directories?

  42. One of the great features of Linux is that it is a multi-user system. With multi-users, it allows certain users to own files and directories so nobody else can access/modify them, for example your /home directory. To change the ownership of a file/directory, as root execute the following command in a terminal:
    chown username. filename/directory
    This will change the ownership and group ownership of the specified file or directory to the specified user. For more information, in a terminal, type man chown


  43. How do I view/change permissions on files/directories?

  44. There are 3 different attributes a file can have that make up the permissions for the file.
    There is read access that allows users to read the file.
    There is write access that allows users to modify the file.
    There is executable access that allows users to execute the file.

    From these three attributes, you now have three different levels of permissions, the first being for the owner of the file, the second being for the group the file belongs to and the third being all other users on the system.

    To view the current permissions on files and directories run the following command:
    ls -l and you should see something that looks like:

    drwxrwxr-x    3 joey     html         4096 Sep 12  2000 images/
    -rw-rw-r--    1 joey     html          267 Aug  8 12:55 index.shtml
    

    The above shows you that images is a directory (d) and that the owner and group (joey html) have read (r), write (w) and execute (x) permissions while other users on the system only have read (r) and execute (x) permissions.
    For the index.shtml file, it shows joey and html as the owner and group and they both have read and write access to the file. It also shows that other users on the system only have read access. Note there is no executable permission since the file is not an executable.

    To modify the permissions on a file, you either have to own it or be logged in as root. To modify the permissions, in a terminal type:
    chmod xxx filename/directory
    You will have to replace the xxx flags with the permissions you wish to change. You can either go by the numerical value or by the actuals.

    Some common numerical values are:
    755 - Read, Write, Execute for owner, read, execute for group and other.
    644 - Read, Write for owner, read for group and other.
    666 - Read, Write for all.
    700 - Read, Write, Execute for owner, nothing for group, other.

    So if you wanted to make a file an executable for your user and other users on the system, you would run the following:

    chmod 755 somefile

    For more information, in a terminal, type man chmod


  45. How do I find files on my system?

  46. There are two methods to search for files on your Linux machine, one method being the locate command and the other being the find command. If you wish to use the locate command, you must first update the locate database by running the following command in a terminal as root:
    /usr/bin/updatedb
    This will create an index of all the files and their locations on your hard drive. Once updatedb has completed running, you may now search your drive for a specific file by running the following command in a terminal:
    /usr/bin/locate filename

    Another way to search your linux system is with the find command. To find a file on your sytem with the find command, in a terminal run the follwoing:
    /usr/bin/find / -name filename Be sure to replace "filename" with the actual name of the file.


  47. How do I unzip a .tar.gz/.tgz file?

  48. To extract .tar.gz or .tgz files, run the following command in a terminal:
    tar -zxvf file.tar.gz (or file.tgz)
    This will normally create a new directory based on the filename. If you want to extract a filename called file.tar (without the .gz) simply run:
    tar -xvf file.tar
    For more information, in a terminal, type man tar


  49. How do I unzip a .bz2 file?

  50. To extract .bz2 files, run the following command in a terminal:
    bunzip2 -dv file.bz2
    This will normally create a new directory based on the filename. For more information, in a terminal, type man buznip2


  51. How do I install a program?

  52. There are many ways to install applications in Linux. If the file you wish to install is in .rpm format and you are running an RPM based distribution such as Red Hat, Mandrake or SuSE, run the following command as root in a shell prompt/terminal:
    rpm -Uvh filename.rpm

    If you are running Debian GNU/Linux and you wish to install a .deb file, you can do so by running the following command in a terminal as root:
    dpkg -i filename.deb or apt-get install package (if you have APT already installed/configured).

    If the file you with to install is in a .tar.gz, .tgz or .bz2 format, you will first have to decompress (unzip) the file. Once the file has been unziped, it should create a directory based on the filename. Simply change into that directory and open up the README or INSTALL file in a text editor and follow the installation instructions.


  53. How do I run a program?

  54. To run a program, you must first make sure it has executable permissions set. For more information on permissions, see How do I view/change permissions on files/directories? above. Once the file has executable permissions, simply run the filename from a terminal. I will use the filename "irc" as an example
    Example: /usr/bin/irc (from anywhere on the system)
    Example: ./irc (from the /usr/bin directory)


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