Unix 101 – Basic Unix skills

I have a confession to make. I’m a Unix guy, have always been and will always be. I’ve been using Unix for the last 10 years or so and will continue using it for as long as I can. There is something about the simplicity of the unix command line that none of the flashier operating systems can match.

I’ve also been interviewing people with basic Unix skills for various positions over the last couple of years. For some reason, I’ve found that Indian college curriculum doesn’t put too much emphasis on Unix and so, most people who come out of these colleges don’t know much beyond the flashy GUIs that most Unix/Linux distros have. Infact, a lot of people who come for interviews tend to thing that Redhat/Fedora IS Linux. And when asked, tell me that the only Linux they have experience on is Linux version 9 !

Anyway, I’ve decided to start series on basic Unix skills on this blog in the hope that this’ll be a useful reference for someone starting to learn Unix/Linux. I’ll be mostly concentrating on Linux as that is what I’m most comfortable with and currently work with, but if I do get requests for similar posts on other Unix systems, I’ll be happy to oblige.

Since, this is the first post in this series, I’ll keep things simple.

The “#” or “$” is the prompt that I will be using to depict the command line and anything after that is the actual command that you should be running.

The superuser or the Administrator on a Linux system is called “root”. When you first install a Linux distribution, you would have been asked to fill in a password during the install. This would be the password of the root user. Use this to login to your box for the first time.

It is usually not a good idea to continue using the system as the root user. As the superuser, you can give a nasty command to delete all files on the system and the operating system will not even let out a muffled cry.

If the idea is to learn linux, it is always a good idea to first create a new user and use that login to practice. The following command will let you add a new non privileged user to the system:

# adduser <username>

The user that you’ve just added needs a password to be able to login. Give a password to this user like this:

# passwd
Enter new Unix password:
Retype new Unix password:

Now, logout of the current session using:

# logout

Now, you’re all set to login as the new user you just created and start learning the nuances of this wonderful operating system.

PS: Some distributions like Ubuntu will let you do the above steps in just one command. So, if you’re using Ubuntu, just give the adduser command and it will create the user as well as ask you for the password. You don’t need to give the passwd command seperately.

Hopefully, you’ve found this post useful. I’ll continue with this series over the next couple of days. Let me know if you guys want me to write on something specific instead.

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