- 1 Introduction
- 2 Command Line
- 3 Man pages
- 4 Working with directories
- 5 Working with files
- 6 Working with file contents
- 7 Basic Linux Tools
- 8 File Permissions
- 9 Further Information
- 10 Navigation
This represents a series of teaching pages to allow you to learn more about Viper's Linux command line interface
Like other operating systems Linux does have a window’s type environment too called X and hopefully in the future its successor Wayland. (Linux refers to X and Wayland with the term Display Server). However, with VIPER the vast majority of work will be carried out on the command line.
The command line in Linux is referred to as a shell. The shell is a program that allows the user to interact with Linux at the command line. In true Linux style there are a few different ones to choose from, however the one used predominantly is BASH. The name BASH is an acronym for “Bourne Again SHell”, a reference to BASH is an enhanced replacement for sh, the original Unix shell program written by Steve Bourne.
Below is an example of Viper's command line interface using the terminal program MobaXterm.
This will explain the use of man pages (also called manual pages) on Linux. Most Linux files and commands have pretty good man pages to explain their use. Type man followed by a command (for which you want help) and start reading. Press q to quit the man page. See below:
username@viper:~$ man whois (shows manual page for the command whois) username@viper:~$ man syslog.config (shows the manual page for a configuration file) username@viper:~$ man syslogd (show the manual for a daemon (background program)) username@viper:~$ man –k syslog (an apropos which shows a list of available man pages with this string contained within it)
Working with directories
As with other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows the filesystem is based around files and directories. Linux is no exception to this and uses a number of commands for the user to navigate around its own filesystem.
This module is a brief overview of the most common commands to work with directories: pwd, cd, ls, mkdir and rmdir. These commands are available on any Linux system.
This section will also discuss absolute and relative paths and path completion in the bash shell.
On the command line pwd (or print working directory) basically displays the current directory you are in. This would appear as:
username@viper:~$ pwd /home/dbird
On the command line cd (or change directory) changes your current directory to the one specified:
username@viper:~$ cd /var username@viper:~$ pwd /var username@viper:~$ cd /home/user username@viper:~$ pwd /home/user
There is also a shortcut back to your home directory by typing the character ~ (tilda) which has the same effect as typing (for example) /home/user.
username@viper:~$ cd ~ username@viper:~$ pwd /home/user
To go to the directory above (or parent directory), we use the characters ..
username@viper:~$ pwd /home/user username@viper:~$ cd .. username@viper:~$ pwd /home
There is also the character . which means the current directory. This is not useful for the cd command but is very useful for copying files to your current directory.
Absolute and relative paths
username@viper:~$ pwd /home/user user@viper:~$ cd /var user@viper:~$ pwd /var
And relative path
username@viper:~$ pwd /home/user username@viper:~$ cd myfiles username@viper:~$ pwd /home/user/myfiles
The command line will help you in typing a path without errors. If you type a partial command such as:
username@viper:~$ cd /home/user/my
Pressing the TAB key will fill in the rest of the directory name, if that directory exists and it is unique). So the following would appear
username@viper:~$ cd /home/user/myfiles
This command lists the contents of a directory:
username@viper:~$ ls myfile1.txt myfile2.txt mydirectory1
ls has a number of useful different options
username@viper:~$ ls –l (show a long listing with more information) username@viper:~$ ls –a (show all files including those that are hidden) username@viper:~$ ls –la (combines both of the options above)
This commands makes a directory from the specified directory:
username@viper:~$ mkdir mydirectory1 username@viper:~$ cd mydirectory1 username@viper:~$ pwd /home/user/mydirectory1
This command removes the specified directory, note the directory must be empty and must not be the directory you are currently in:
username@viper:~$ rmdir mydirectory1
Working with files
In this section we learn how to recognise, create, remove, copy and move files using commands like file, touch, rm, cp, mv and rename.
Just before we start looking at these commands we need to cover two important areas:
- Files on Linux are case sensitive. This means that FILE1 is different from file1, and /etc/hosts is different from /etc/Hosts (the latter one does not exist on a typical Linux computer).
- Everything on Linux is a file. A directory is a special kind of file, but it is still a (case sensitive!) file. Each terminal window (for example /dev/pts/4), any hard disk or partition (for example /dev/sdb1) and any process are all represented somewhere in the file system as a file.
This command determines the file type. Unlike Windows, Linux does not determine the file type from the extension but from examining the file header/contents itself.
username@viper:~$ file mypicture.png pic33.png: PNG image data, 3840 x 1200, 8-bit/color RGBA, non-interlaced username@viper:~$ file parallel.c parallel.c: ASCII C program text
This creates an empty file, which can be useful for various uses.
username@viper:~$ touch newfile.c username@viper:~$ ls newfile.c
Remove a file, as always be very careful with this command and without a backup this file will be lost forever.
username@viper:~$ ls newfile.c backup.c username@viper:~$ rm newfile.c username@viper:~$ ls backup.c
username@viper:~$ rm –i backup.c (this is interactive delete and will ask you to delete the file before it occurs) username@viper:~$ rm –r mydirectory (works recursively down the specified directory but not removing any non-empty directories) username@viper:~$ rm –rf mydirectory (works recursively down the specified directory however the –f option means force. This option is very powerful but also needs to be used with extreme care!)
As with many Linux commands there are a few options with can be used with rm (these can be view by typing man rm).
Copy files or directories from a source to a destination:
username@viper:~$ cp parallel.c mybackup.c (copies parallel.c to mybackup.c) username@viper:~$ cp parallel.c mydirectory1 (copies parallel.c to mydirectory1) username@viper:~$ cp *c backupdirectory/ (copies all *.c files to backupdirectory) username@viper:~$ cp –r mydirectory1 mydirectory2 (copies one directory to another, note the option –r for recursive copying)
As with many Linux commands there are a few options with can be used with cp (these can be view by typing man cp).
Move files from a source to a destination. A versatile command that can rename a file too:
username@viper:~$ mv file1.c testfile.c (rename file1.c to testfile.c) username@viper:~$ mv directory1 directory2 (rename directory) username@viper:~$ mv file1.c /home/user/myrepo (mv file1.c to /home/user/myrepo/file1.c)
Although preferably to use the mv command, this command does exist to rename files
username@viper:~$ touch file1.c file2.c file3.c username@viper:~$ ls file1.c file2.c file3.c username@viper:~$ rename .c .backup *.c username@viper:~$ ls file1.backup file2.backup file3.backup
Working with file contents
This section will look at working with file contents themselves, such commands are head, tail, cat, tac, more and less.
By default head will show the first ten lines of a file.
username@viper:~$ head /etc/passwd root:x:0:0:root:/root:/bin/bash daemon:x:1:1:daemon:/usr/sbin:/bin/sh bin:x:2:2:bin:/bin:/bin/sh sys:x:3:3:sys:/dev:/bin/sh sync:x:4:65534:sync:/bin:/bin/sync games:x:5:60:games:/usr/games:/bin/sh man:x:6:12:man:/var/cache/man:/bin/sh lp:x:7:7:lp:/var/spool/lpd:/bin/sh mail:x:8:8:mail:/var/mail:/bin/sh news:x:9:9:news:/var/spool/news:/bin/sh
Similar to head but this time it will show the last 10 lines of file by default.
username@viper:~$ tail /etc/services vboxd 20012/udp binkp 24554/tcp # binkp fidonet protocol asp 27374/tcp # Address Search Protocol asp 27374/udp csync2 30865/tcp # cluster synchronization tool dircproxy 57000/tcp # Detachable IRC Proxy tfido 60177/tcp # fidonet EMSI over telnet fido 60179/tcp # fidonet EMSI over TCP
The cat command (short for concatenate) one of the most universal tools, yet all it does is copy standard input to standard output. In combination with the shell this can be very powerful and diverse. Some examples will give a glimpse into the possibilities.
username@viper:~$ cat /etc/resolv.conf domain example.com search example.com nameserver 192.168.1.42 username@viper:~$ cat file1.c file2.c >file3.all (concatenate c files into file3.all)
Works the same as cat but will show you the file backwards:
username@viper:~$ cat numbers one two three username@viper:~$ tac numbers three two one
The more command is useful for displaying files that take up more than one screen. More will allow you to see the contents of the file page by page. Use the space bar to see the next page, or q to quit. Some people prefer the less command to more.
Very similar to more but with some additional features
Basic Linux Tools
This chapter introduces commands to find or locate files and to compress files, together with other common tools that were not discussed before.
This command is very useful to find files, more options are provided on the command line by typing man find. Here are some useful examples below:
username@viper:~$ find /etc (find all files in the /etc directory) username@viper:~$ find . –name “*.conf” (find all files that end in .conf from the current directory) username@viper:~$ find . –newer file1.c (find all files newer than file1.c) username@viper:~$ find /etc >etcfiles.txt (find all files but this time put them in (pipe) to the file etcfiles.txt)
The locate command is very different from find in that it uses an index to locate files. This is a lot faster than traversing all the directories, but it also means that it may be outdated too.
The date command can display the date, time, time zone and more.
username@viper:~$ date Sat Feb 23 12:44:30 BST 2017
The cal command displays the current month, with the current day highlighted.
username@viper:~$ cal April 2016 Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
The sleep command is sometimes used in scripts to wait a number of seconds. This example shows a five second sleep.
username@viper:~$ sleep 5 (five seconds later) username@viper:~$
The command sort will sort lines of text files. By default the output is to the screen but this can be piped to a file or another program.
username@viper:~$ sort myfile.txt apple banana cherry
The time command can display how long it takes to execute a command. The date command takes only a little time.
username@viper:~$ time date Sat Feb 23 13:08:27 BST 2016 real 0m0.014s user 0m0.008s sys 0m0.006s
gzip – gunzip
This is a useful compression program (like zip which also exists in Linux). The gzip command can make files take up less space.
username@viper:~$ gzip myfile.c (will create myfile.c.gz) username@viper:~$ gunzip myfile.c.gz (will create myfile.c again)
bzip2 – bunzip2
Files can also be compressed with bzip2 which takes a little more time than gzip, but compresses better.
username@viper:~$ bzip2 myfile.c (will create myfile.c.bz2) username@viper:~$ bunzip2 myfile.c.bz2 (will create myfile.c again)
zip – unzip
A compression program which is compatible with other zip programs found in MS Windows and other OSes.
username@viper:~$ zip myfile.c (will create myfile.c.zip) username@viper:~$ unzip myfile.c.zip (will create myfile.c again)
The grep filter is famous among Linux (and UNIX) users. The most common use of grep is to filter lines of text containing (or not containing) a certain string.
username@viper:~$ grep “Darren” /etc/passwd user:x:1000:1000:Darren Bird,,,:/home/user:/bin/bash
As with most Linux commands there are also a large amount of useful options that will go with each command and grep is certainly no exception here
username@viper:~$ grep –i “Darren” /etc/passwd (search in a case insensitive way) username@viper:~$ grep –r “Darren” /etc/passwd (search recursively down any directories too) username@viper:~$ grep –v “Darren” /etc/passwd (search for everything not containing “Darren”)
Counting words, lines and characters is easy with wc.
username@viper:~$ wc myfile.c (show number of words, lines and characters) 5 10 100 tennis.txt
Similar to many other operating systems Linux uses a method of access rights on files and directories. These can be view by using the ls command
username@viper:~$ ls –l (option l is for long listing) -rw-r--r-- 1 dbird admin 12211 May 11 2016 template.countries -rw-r--r-- 1 dbird admin 3097 May 11 2016 template.languages (1) drwxr-x--- 2 dbird admin 4096 Dec 1 10:54 Templates (2) -rw-r--r-- 1 dbird admin 8087 Feb 12 14:05 temp.txt -rwx------ 1 dbird admin 1110 Mar 8 10:53 test4pisignage.pl (3)
Each file and directory has access rights that are associated with each one. When we look at the 10 symbol string above on the left hand side (e.g. drwxr-xr-x).
- The first letter present whether the file is a directory or not.
- The next three represents the file permission for the user that owns that file (i.e. dbird in this example).
- The next three represent the file permission of the group to whom that user belongs to (i.e. group admin).
- The last three represent the file permissions for everyone else (i.e. all users).
For each of the permission parts the letters mean the following in their groups:
- r indicates read permission to read and copy the file, its absence indicates this is not available.
- w indicates write permission to write the file, its absence indicates this is not available.
- x indicates execution permission to allow the file to be executed, its absence indicates this is not available.
Using the example above would mean:
- Example (1) has read/write access for user dbird and read access only for everyone else.
- Example (2) is a directory with full access for user dbird and read access for only users in the admin group.
- Example (3) is an application which is only accessible by the user dbird, note not only is it read and write but it also has its ‘execution’ permission set for that user also.
Changing access rights
This command allows the user to change file (and directory) permissions.
- u User
- g Group
- o Other
- a All
- r Read
- w Write (and erase)
- x Execution (and access directory
- + Add permission
- - Remove permission
username@viper:~$ chmod go-rwx myfile.c (remove read, write and execute permissions removed for group and other) username@viper:~$ chmod u+x myapp.pl (make the program myapp.pl executable to user (i.e. the owner of the file))