The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide eBook

The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide eBook
The Ultimate Guide to Linux for every day people.
The Ultimate Linux
Newbie Guide
The official eBook from the website.
made with
The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide. Ebook Edition, July 2016.
(C) Copyright 2001-2016 Alistair Ross
(c) CopyLeft, CreativeCommons Attribution License on some items where stated.
Since 2001, The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide has been helping individuals switch
to the Linux Operating System. This guide can help both beginners and seasoned
computer users alike learn all the important parts of choosing, using and installing
Linux, a great free operating system for your computer and help you remove
dependency on non-free, closed source software that is commonplace in Microsoft
Windows or Mac OS.
In the main chapter by chapter guide, you'll find out why Linux
offers a real alternative to other operating systems, how you
can install Linux on to your computer for free, and how to get
to grips with using Linux on a daily basis without any techno
To get started, just click on one of the chapters in the above
Chapter Guide menu to begin. The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide also strives to
stay current with the latest in Linux news which is relevant to a Linux newcomer.
Furthermore, you'll also find some handy Quick Tips as well as more Advanced
I hope that the Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide helps you into a new world of
freedom when using your computer and hopefully makes you smile along the way!
Alistair Ross
-Author, The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide
Table of Contents
1. Preface
2. ULNG Guide
Chapter List
3. Chapter 1: What
is Linux
4. Chapter 2: Why
Linux - What's the
5. Chapter 3:
Choosing a Linux
6. Chapter 4:
Preparing to Install
7. Chapter 5:
Installing Linux
8. Chapter 6: How
do I get software for
9. Chapter 7: How
do I install software?
10. Chapter 8: Using
Linux Every Day
11. More Advanced
How to install
software in Linux
13. Dispelling
common Linux
14. What is X, X11,
XFree, XOrg or X
15. Files, Directories
and the Linux Filing
16. Command Line
17. I don't know any
18. Partitioning A
19. Adding users to
20. 80 Linux
Monitoring Tools for
21. Analysing
system performance
with 'Top'
22. Monitoring
network bandwidth,
CPU and memory
23. Quick Tip:
convert images at
the command line
with ImageMagick
24. How to tar
(compress) files up,
excluding certain
files or directories
25. How to read and
write to Windows
NTFS drives as any
26. How to
automatically make
your Windows drives
become available to
Linux on startup.
27. How to Mount
Windows or Samba
Shares Permanently
28. How to mount a
USB stick as a nonroot user with write
29. View your log
files in colour and in
an easy to read
30. Multi-Tasking at
the command line
with screenie
31. How to setup a
KVM server the fast
32. How to install
Linux on a
Macintosh computer
33. How to use a
Mac to create a
Linux Live USB Stick
and Boot it
34. Using Google
Drive from the Linux
Command Line
35. Commercial
Linux Support,
Training and
Consulting Services
ULNG Guide Chapter List
1. What is Linux
If you are completely new to Linux, or any Operating system for that fact, this
chapter covers all of the main primer aspects including:
What an Operating system is
What Unix is all about
How Linux differs from Unix
2. Why Linux - What are the benefits?
Chapter two answers the burning question that you really need to know before
going out and just installing a new operating system: Why? ....
So what does Linux actually offer me then?
3. Choosing a distribution
If you have not yet Installed Linux on your computer, you might want to have a
look at this chapter for information on choosing a distribution (a flavour of Linux)
that suits you. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of different flavours
out there, however a few stand out from the crowd. This chapter discusses those
distributions and gives you a few handy links to places where you can find out
information about other distributions.
4. Preparing to install Linux.
This chapter deals with ascertaining what you need to do to prepare for installation
of Linux, including ensuring all your hardware will work with Linux.
There is also information about how different versions of Linux work with regards
to software/package management.
5. Installing Linux (Ubuntu).
This chapter gives a full step-by-step guide to installing a popular Linux
It shows full details and of each stage and gives full details of all the choices along
the way, including information about partitioning your hard disk drive. There is also
a video of an Ubuntu installation which you can watch as you go along!
6. How do I get software for Linux?
Okay, you've installed Linux, you've chosen you're GUI, and you've picked up a
few basic commands. You're probably feasting for some software now. Linux has
an abundance of software out there, mainly available over the net, mainly for a
zero fee. This chapter covers how and where to get software.
7. How do I install software?
You've downloaded the software that you want, and you discovered that you don't
know how to install it. This chapter covers installing .RPM, .DEB packages and
tar.gz files.
8. Using Linux every day for work and play
Linux offers so many different uses, and finding out how to do it all can be a
difficult task. This chapter makes it easy to find out how to do all the things you
want to do with your computer in one easy page. From listening to music,
watching TV, using office software and even playing games, this chapter covers all
the standard desktop uses of a home or small office PC.
Additional Content & Tutorials:
Managing files and directories
Ever wondered what the /etc /home /usr /bin /dev /proc /mnt /tmp /var and /boot
directories in your root directory ( / ) are actually for, and what goes where? This
chapter covers that.
This chapter also covers how to keep your files in good order, moving files,
copying files, renaming files and very importantly, the security part of files (or
permissions). It is important that you don't give permission for everyone to run,
read or execute on certain files, be they private to you, or files that are sensitive to
the security of the system. This chapter covers the usage of the chmod, chgrp and
chown utilities to manipulate permission of files.
I don't know any commands
This chapter covers the one thing newbies love to hate: Linux (bash shell)
commands. Commands are not a necessary skill for all users, but many other
Linux people use them because of their versatility, so by the time you finish this
chapter, hopefully you won't mind doing basic commands as much.
>> Check out our tutorials list for more helpful guides to get the most out of linux!
>> Check out our Quick Tips section for a bunch of quick tips to get you straight to
the info you need!
Chapter 1: What is Linux
Topics covered in this chapter:
1.1 What's An Operating system?
1.2 What is UNIX (and a little bit of history)
1.3 How does Linux differ from UNIX?
Linux, By Definition:
Linux is an open source UNIX-like operating system which is popular
for it's robustness and availability.
The above definition is probably not going to help you much if you don't know what
an Operating system is, and what this UNIX thing is, so let's start at the first major
point: What is an Operating system? I promise I won't make it boring!
1.1 What's An Operating System?
Imagine you have a brand new computer. Imagine that nobody had put a disk of
any kind into it, ever. That would mean that there was no software installed on the
system. If you switched the computer on; It would beep a few times and then tell
you that it couldn't start an operating system. The most important software to a
computer is one thing: -- the Operating System.
Without an Operating system, you couldn't surf the web, you couldn't play music,
you couldn't write letters. You can't do anything.
Some of you will have heard of famous operating systems already but may not
fully appreciate it. For example, Microsoft make a well known operating system
called Windows, Apple make two that you may know: MAC OS X (on most
Macintosh computers) and iOS (on iPhones and iPads). An operating system is
the software that sits between you, the user, and the hardware inside the
computer. If you click the mouse on an icon on your screen, the operating system
interprets that you want to load the program that you are clicking on. For all of this
to happen, The Operating system (some times referred to as the OS or O/S) must
know how to use a screen (to show you what's going on), to use a mouse (so you
can move it around and click with it), to use your hard disk drive (to load up the
data from it). It must also need to know pretty much everything else about the
hardware installed inside your computer, ie: RAM, Floppy/CD drives, keyboards,
joysticks, sound controllers, graphics controllers, printers, scanners, etc.
So when you start typing a letter, for example, you have already loaded up a word
processing piece of software. This software is called application software and is
running 'on top' of the Operating System, but nonetheless, all of the time whilst the
word processor application is running, it talks constantly to the O/S for vital
Okay, we've established that an O/S is necessary, but what else does an O/S do:
Probably the most basic and yet essential tasks of an operating system is the job
of managing our files and data. A basic O/S should be able to do the following with
files and folders:
Create them
Move them to other directories
Rename them
Copy them
Delete/remove them
Send and receive files to/from other devices such as Printers/Scanners and
your Internet connection.
...and a bit more.
Now you have the idea of what an Operating system is, let's find out about a
specific type of operating system called UNIX...
1.2 What is UNIX? (And a little bit of history)
The operating system UNIX began life in 1969, in Bell Labs, a division of the
American telephone firm, AT&T. There are now many different types of UNIX,
making it one of the longest running commercial operating systems available, way
longer than Microsoft Windows or Apple MacOS.
UNIX History Timeline
Linux is just one type of UNIX which is most famously known for being a free (as
in free speech) derivative of UNIX. Most of UNIX's different flavours are still being
updated and are still in use all over the world today. Here are just some popular
manufacturers and brands of UNIX, that you may or may not have heard of before:
Sun Microsystems (now Oracle): Solaris. Developed from 1993,
Solaris was a leader in the commercial UNIX world until the prevalence of
open source software & Linux.
Hewlett Packard: HP/UX. HP's implementation of the UNIX
standard System V, released in 1984 and is still being used
today in some enterprise environments.
Berkley University: NetBSD and FreeBSD. Berkely Systems
Distribution (or BSD) is the closest match to Linux in terms of a direct
With the exception of FreeBSD, there was (and still is) a pretty grand fee to own
one of the above versions of UNIX. Mainly large commercial organisations and
universities have traditionally used these UNIX variants, however Linux appears to
be replacing traditional UNIX on a lot of corporate systems due to it's proven track
record, it's growing reputation as a contender to UNIX, and it's low price tag, which
can often be free.
UNIX is good because it is a true multi-tasking, multi-user operating system. This
means that it can do more than one thing at a time and it can provide all it's
services to lots of users at the same time. Modern day workplaces rely on servers
to provide a central resource of information and connectivity to users. UNIX was
also the platform that many firsts came on: The Internet, the C programming
language which is the basis for most modern computer programming languages.
These were all firsts that took the other operating systems like Windows and Mac
OS a long time to catch up to. In fact, today, Mac OS X is built on a version of
So, Unix is pretty clever, huh? Well, yes. It is, but Unix was also traditionally a
pretty boring system that involved learning lots of commands that were tedious to
Why don't we all use UNIX today if it's so good?
In 1981, a small company based in Seattle called Micro-softreleased an operating
system, which through chance (Digital Research were supposed to
get the contract), were taken on by IBM to go on their new
home/small office based computer: the IBM PC (or Personal Computer). This
system was also not graphical. It required commands, in a similar format to UNIX
or CP/M, but they were a little easier to use, at the cost of being simpler and less
powerful. The main pitfall of MS-DOS - (Microsoft's PC Operating System) was,
that it had no multi-user, multi-tasking or networking support as standard. By the
early 1990's, this was really starting to wear on PC users. UNIX still had far more
power than most operating systems of the time, it was just way too expensive, and
legal issues between UNIX vendors licensing UNIX was causing headaches and
therefore did not have much exposure outside of large organisations, educational
establishments and government offices.
During the 80's, Apple had released another computer, which was
separate from the PC, and did not run any PC software, because it
relied on it's own O/S, named MacOS. This time, Apple had decided
to make an operating system that was graphical, and later,
incorporated colour, pictures, icons and even sounds! Instead of
typing everything into the keyboard as commands, the same actions could be
made as clicks and movements with a mouse. As with all things Apple, this was
revolutionary at the time and changed the face of the world of computing.
The UNIX world, still very different to the market of the PC and the Mac, not long
after the mac got it's graphical operating system, begun to create a graphical frontend to it's command-line world, it was called X, or 'The X Window System'.
In 1990, Microsoft eventually released Windows 3.0 (versions 1 and 2 did not sell
well). Windows at the time was a 16-bit, single-tasking, single user, graphical
interface built on-top of MS-DOS. UNIX still prevailed: it was multi-user, multitasking and it worked on 32 or 64-bit platforms.
It took until 1995, with the advent of Microsoft Windows 95 for Windows to finally
go 32 bit, multi tasking, and capable of being multi-user (although not best suited:
Windows NT came along shortly after, to do that job).
1.3 How does Linux differ from UNIX?
During the time from 1991 to 1995, many computing or engineering students were
accustomed to the power of UNIX and X, at university. In Uni, most students had
wonderful new things like E-Mail, The Internet and more. At home, they would
have to make do with their 16 bit computers, waiting for all these powers to come
to their homes one day.
Enter: Linus Torvalds
Linus was, in 1991, a student in Finland studying Computer programming at The
University of Helsinki. Linus used UNIX at University on a daily basis. He got
bored of his 386 PC running MS-DOS, and decided to start his own kernel, which
is the name for the code at the heart of every operating system that talks to the
hardware directly. He wanted to distribute the software freely, because it was a
hobby, not a commercial product, and also to see what others thought of it. He
finished the first Linux kernel in late 1991. Not only had he made a 32 bit kernel, in
which programs could be run he made it do quite a lot to make it look and feel like
Unix, but he didn't have any software to run on it.
Here is Linus' very first post to the Internet in 1991, about the creation of what
would become Linux:
Hello everybody out there using minix I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and
professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing
since april, and is starting to get ready.
Luckily, an ex-student in the USA, by the name of Richard Stallman had created a
team of programmers devoted to free software, he called this the Free Software
Foundation, who believed in making software free to distribute, and free to obtain
the source code along with it so that others could make improvements to the
software through the Internet. The GNU GPL (General Public License) that the
Free Software Foundation made, also stated that the authors of the software could
charge for the software, as long as they are willing for it to be freely distributed. By
creating community-based software, that has open standards and is subject to
peer review, the quality of the software would be good. The opportunities for profit
would come from different avenues such as support and consultancies.
Stallman had been busy making a whole suite of software, for example: a text
editor called emacs, and bash (the Bourne Again Shell) which is a command line
interface based upon the original Bourne Shell that comes with the BSD variant of
UNIX. The FSF's software was entirely based upon the UNIX software suite, and
essentially improved on it. In 1991, the only thing that the FSF were missing to
make it a fully fledged operating system was The Kernel.
Linus altered the code to work on his platform so that the FSF's code would work
with his new kernel, that he ended up calling Linux.
Linux is pronounced 'Lih-nucks' not 'Ly-nucks'
Here's Linus Torvals pronouncing Linux!
Now, over twenty years on from the original post on the Internet, Linus is still
working on Linux, but it's now an effort which is collaboratively worked upon by
millions of other individuals, corporations and organisations around the world. You
probably don't know it, but Linux is everywhere today. It's in your TV and mediacentres, it's the basis to that Android mobile phone you probably have, nine out of
ten websites run Linux on their servers (think Google, Amazon and Facebook to
name but a few), Linux might even be in a new dishwasher or fridge-freezer!
Now, visit Chapter Two to see why Linux may be the best thing you ever did with
your computer!
Chapter 2: Why Linux What's the Benefits?
2.1 So what does Linux actually offer me then?
So, you now know that Linux is a Unix-like operating system, and you know what
all that means now. However, that doesn't really tell you why you would prefer to
use Linux, instead of Windows or Mac OS on your computer.
Linux is far more than a Unix-like operating system and is pretty unique because
of it's unique Licensing system, enter 'Open Source':
Linux is truly an Open Source Operating System:
The open soure GNU General Public License, that Linux uses means that you
can obtain the software free of charge, and you can obtain the source code to
the software and make changes to it if you want. You can then re-distribute it if
you like, provided you supply the source code with your changes too.
Open standards provoke less buggy software because it is worked on by a
global team of developers from many far reaching backgrounds.
Open standards also mean that compatibility across any other open platform.
For example, you can be sure that an open source OGG audio file will play on
any OGG player in exactly the same way, because the open standard applies
Open Source software means no vendor lock-in.
Trustworthy computing, as the source code for all software is distributed for
free, often with the applications you obtain.
No chance of Linux as a whole going out of business, as it is not owned by any
one company.
Did we mention that Open Source software is generally (but not always) FREE
in cost?
This means that software can be of high quality for everyone, and money can be
made out of support, distribution, training or working with OSS.
It's a new and revolutionary way to do business, but already, huge names like
IBM, HP, Novell, Sun, Intel and even non IT firms such as Boeing, Glaxo
Smithkline and thousands more are all using it and putting work back into it.
It's a reliable platform for any sort of mission-critical work:
Compared to other platforms, Linux deals very well with rogue software and as
a result, you are very unlikely to have the whole system crash on you.
There at present no mainstream viruses for Linux. Viruses would need to
change in their nature drastically for them to be plausible in the Linux arena.
It's fast and works on computers that are pretty old, recycle that old PC today!
Say goodbye to Malware, Spyware, Adware etc.
Security is built-in by default, not an add on.
Linux is home to some of the best new software, and best of all, most of it is
free, have a look at just a few of these great titles:
A fully featured Office suite including a Word Processor, Spreadsheet,
Drawing Package, Database and Presentation suite. Compatible with
Microsoft Office.
Mozilla Firefox (and Google Chrome)
The browser that reloaded the web - all thanks to Open Source!
The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Project)
An excellent open source image editor, similar to Photoshop by
Adobe. Used to edit the images on this website!
VLC Media Player (VideoLAN)
A great media player, play your DVDs/VCDs/DiVX's on any computer,
even stream them to annother computer connected to a network! VLC
is one of the most popular media players available today, and it's also
available for Mac OS X and Windows users, too!
Evolution is a full-featured Groupware client which includes E-Mail,
Calendar, Tasks, Address Books and the ability to connect to a Microsoft
Exchange mail server.
...and thousands more titles... check out sites like for
How can this make any business sense, does anyone make any
You might think that as Linux and the associated open source titles that go with it
are free in cost and also free 'as in speech' that this means that there is no money
to be had from Linux. Indeed, many companies originally thought that Linux was
nothing more than a hobby or a geeks plaything, but this perception has
diminished over the years, and with Linux going strong since 1991, it's here to
stay. Here are a few reasons why Linux helps businesses and can generate profit
over the traditional software business model:
Linux is one of the most popular and reliable platforms on earth today, it is this
basis that has let many companies such as Google and Amazon build from that
foundation and leverage it to make solid profit. Every Android mobile phone or
tablet uses Linux, all of Amazon's websites use Linux, every Google search is
powered by Linux and every Tweet uses Linux at the operating system level.
Many businesses choose to purchase support contracts to obtain help with
their Linux systems, just as they would with a commercial based platform.
Companies like Intel, who invest heavily into Linux can see the return on their
investment rapidly because Linux has the flexibility to allow their newest
technologies such as new processors to work straight away via the Open
Code/Source model. Typically, Intel would have to wait many months or years
to see support fully phased into releases of Windows or MacOS for their latest
In countries like China, up to 70% of all the computers that ship now ship with
Linux on them. The vast majority of these computers retain their installtion of
Linux because the Linux installation allows the user to do what they want to do
with their computer, it means no levy for the manufacturers to pay to
companies like Microsoft for copies of Windows and therefore cost savings to
the customer. This in return has shown a rise in computer purchases and sales
at a better margin of profit.
Many companies are switching to Linux for server hosting because it will outperform it's Windows counterparts and will do it at a near zero-cost. This
provides a hefty return on investment to the company, and also in turn to their
customers. This can be stacked up with other cost-saving methods such as
virtualisation, which means that you can have multiple Linux servers all running
on one physical server. This reduces costs in the server room on cooling,
power and hardware. For many companies across the globe, Linux is therefore
a no-brainer.
Finally, Over time, many companies, universities and hobbyists find themselves
naturally giving back some things to the Linux community because it helped
them with a certain task. This continued cycle of improvement and
collaboration spurs this on. You only have to look at open source projects like
Wikipedia to see that this cycle works very well. Nobody gets paid to make
Wikipedia the best source of information anywhere in the world, but yet people
add to it none the less. Linux works in the same way.
Now, visit Chapter Three to decide on which flavour of Linux you want!
Or, if you need more convincing, why not take a sneaky peek at Chapter 8, where
we detail how Linux helps out with your life on the desktop every day.
Chapter 3: Choosing a Linux
With so many Linux distributions, it can be
hard to choose, so we help you select one
that's right for you.
As described in the first chapter, we
discovered that Linux was a flavour of the
UNIX family of operating systems. This
chapter talks about what types of Linux are
available in the market today. These
flavours are called distributions and all
have their own merits and disadvantages.
We will cover the most popular distributions
in this chapter.
3.1 What Exactly is a Linux Distribution?
If you ever watch the IT press, you will have probably heard of company names
such as Red Hat, Mandriva , Canonical (Ubuntu) and Novell (SuSE). There are
literally thousands of other smaller companies and organisations that also make
Linux distributions. Examples of which can be seen on websites like distrowatch.
These are all companies or organisations that have created their own
'distributions' or flavours of Linux.
In any distribution, the fundamentals stay the same:
There is always a Linux Kernel (the core component of the Linux operating
The default GNU software (tools like ls, rm, etc)
General software to be expected of a Linux distribution (text editors, etc)
What differs from distribution to distribution is usually:
Installation Software (for installing software, or the operating system)
General software: (Office Apps, Prog. Languages, Games, Web Software etc)
Documentation and Manuals (Quality of, Lack of, Quantity of)
Cost - whether you pay nothing, a little, or a lot for a distribution depends on
what you need from it and the business model the distributor works to.
Quality of software (buggy or not buggy software, latest versions of software)
Whether it is up to date or not
Whether the distributor offers a good channel of support or not
How easy it is to use overall.
As you can see, whatever distribution you choose. You get Linux, whatever
distribution you choose. You may get a better range of options with distribution X
over distribution Y, The choice is for you to decide, and because of Linux's
excellent Copying/Licensing properties, you can often download a distribution from
the net, or have a copy made for free by a friend without having to part with any
Bundled Software with your Linux distribution
When you buy a mac, or a Windows PC you will find you get a nominal amount of
software with it, made (usually) by either Microsoft or Apple. If you buy the PC
from a vendor such as HP, you might get some extra tools as well like Multimedia
software, but what you will undoubtedly notice is that you have to buy or download
most of the software you want to use on your system after you get it out of the
box. With a Linux distribution, you generally find that it comes with a plethora of
software already pre-installed, from many different companies or individuals.
Some large software like office suites ( to smaller but powerful
tools like DVD/movie software such as VLC. It is likely that for a good number of
people using Linux on the desktop, you already get all the software you want
without ever needing to install anything more! For more information on software
within Linux, see chapter 10 or view some of our video tutorials.
A little bit about 'Live' distributions
In more recent Linux history, so called 'Live' distributions have become very
popular, because it let's you try out a Linux distribution without even installing it
onto your hard disk. This is great because you don't have all the hassle with
repartitioning the disk (see chapters four and five) or installing over your
Windows/Mac OS software. You can simply drop the CD for a Live Distro' into
your CD Drive and start up your computer from that. You usually get most of the
main functionality of the distribution so you can really evaluate if the distribution is
for you before you choose to install it for real. In fact there are web sites out there
that allow you to boot Linux straight off a USB pen drive such as Canonical's Ubuntu Linux has a great installer that has an
option to install Ubuntu on the same disk partition as your Windows XP or Vista
setup using an installer called the 'wubi installer'. It runs a tiny bit slower than
normal Linux, but it's a very easy way to install Linux alongside Windows if you
want to test the waters first.
Linux may be free, but can't you also buy Linux? Why would I do that if
I can get it for free?
Buying Linux often provides benefits that downloaded versions do not provide,
such as:
Physical manuals (SuSE & Red Hat Enterprise Linux are particularly good) to
help you out when you need a 'covers-all' reference.
Vendor support for a particular period of time
Distributions like Red-Hat Enterprise give corporations a guaranteed Service
Level Response
Sometimes you may get more software than with other distributions (eg extra
DVDs instead of downloads).
Commercial software titles can be included (as it is non-free), these can include
copyrighted or patented technologies such as DVD and MP3 players, as well
as commercial software like Adobe Flash Player and so forth.
3.2 What Linux Distribution should I choose?
Choosing a Linux distribution is a personal thing. It greatly depends on what you
want to do with it.
If you like the look of a Linux Distribution and want more information, click on the
appropriate distribution logo below to visit the distributors web site. This is just a
very short collection of some of the more popular distributions out there. For more
in-depth information on the differences between each distro, we would
recommend visiting
Here is an example of just some of the more popular Linux vendors today:
Vendor Logo User Level Good Points Bad Points
Ubuntu and Linux Mint
Suitable for: Beginner to Advanced/Server
Ubuntu is currently the most popular of the Linux Distributions. It is built
on a Debian core, but has a more regular release cycle, is more
polished, is easy to use and has major financial backing. It is a
completely free distro, therefore copyrighted materials such as DVD playing
software do not come as standard with Ubuntu, you must download and install it
separately, but can be done easily. If you don't like the look and feel of the latest
Ubuntu desktop (called Unity), Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, is made for
beginners and still offers a GNOME or KDE version.
Red Hat/CentOS/Fedora
Suitable for: Beginner to Advanced/Server
Used to be very popular, easy to use, good installer. Has some annoying quirks,
RPM software packaging can suffer from dependency problems, even with YUM
system. RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) is the non-free Enterprise version
offering of this distribution, it comes with full telephone based support and is
backed by rigorous testing. CentOS is the free version which is derived from
RHEL but usually trails behind it and of course does not come with enterprise
support, then there is Fedora Core. Fedora is the bleeding-edge fork of Red Hat
which has all the latest bells and whistles but as it is bleeding-edge, it can also
suffer from less stability than their enterprise-grade counterparts.
SuSE Linux
Suitable for: Beginner to Advanced
SuSE was once an independent German Linux distribution, which later was
purchased by Novell, who later sold it to VMWare. It's now an excellent all-rounder
which is geared up for the Enterprise. good manuals & docs, masses of great
software, brilliant support. Enterprise version great for corporate use with business
support and has partnered with companies such as SAP (and of course VMWare).
Software Installer still relies on RPM system from RedHat which can suffer from
dependency problems however this is mainly a thing of the past.
Slackware and Arch Linux
Suitable for: Advanced to Server Users
Slackware was probably the first linux distribution. Targeted at geeks who like to
tweak or for the server market looking to get every little ounce of server
performance. Quite hard to install and use, Uses .tar.gz packages rather than
more popular .deb or .rpm systems. If you fall into the more advanced camp, but
don't like the sound of compiling everything, perhaps Arch is for you, as it still
offers similar levels of customisation as Slackware.
Suitable for: Intermediate to Advanced Users
Very established Linux distro. DEB packages combined with apt-get system
solve the tedium of the RPM software packaging in Redhat/Suse/Mandriva.
Traditionally known for being further behind than some other distros, but rock
solid. Is now the basis for many modern, easier to use distributions such as
Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
Note: If a distribution is at release 10 (ie: Slackware), but another distribution is
only at 4.1 (ie: Debian), this does not indicate that Debian is an old version of
Linux. The release numbers are only an indicator of how many releases that
particular vendor has made. For example it is quite likely that Debian 4.1 and
Slackware 10 share the same major kernel version and many similar software
Check out The DistroWatch Linux distribution popularity rank (Page Hit Ranking)
for a good idea on what's hot in the world of Linux Distributions right now, it's
updated daily!
If you are ready to start preparing to install Linux on your system, then move
forward to Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Preparing to
Install Linux
4.1 Different types of Distribution and installing software
with them.
As described in the previous chapter, there are lots of different types of Linux
distributions floating around, and yes, this generally means that they all have
different Installers to put them onto your PC, Mac or Alpha based computer.
This chapter focuses on installing a Debian based distribution, but gives a short
insight to other distributions as well.
The Debian Logo
Debian is one of the oldest distributions out there. Slackware and Red Hat are
pretty much the only other two that come close in age, Debian has lasted the test
of time, and does not look like it's going anywhere soon. It's a free distribution
(which will not change, because of it's license) and it has thousands of developers
world wide.
A major difference between Debian-based distributions (such as Ubuntu and
Linspire) is the fact that they use the DEB package management system to install
Installing software via binary packages, or if you need the source code, via source
packages, is very convenient for most Linux users, because it means that you
don't have to compile the source code of an application to get it working. In most
cases, you can simply click on a package to install one via a tool in a GUI, and the
software will be installed. Here we will discuss two major package systems,
however, there are others, such as Slackware's .tar.gz based system, and BSD's
ports system.
When the .DEB package format is combined with software such as APT or
Synaptic, the .DEB system works very well at resolving things called
dependencies (software that needs other software, in other to work).
The Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) Logo
Red Hat based distributions such as Fedora, SuSE and others use the RPM
Package Manager, previously known as the Red Hat Package Manager.
Packages have a .RPM extension (for example gimp-2.05.i386.rpm) are packaged
binary applications (sometimes they package source code as well).
For software that is not bundled with your Distribution, you should read Chapter 9,
"How Do I Install Software?".
Distributions like Red Hat, Fedora and SuSE seem to provide less bundled
software packages for their distributions than the DEB based ones. This is mainly
due to something called the Debian Universe which is a large repository of
software which is available in internet repositories. The universe is not supported
and as-such should be treated as software in the 'wild', but it is freely obtainable
through the same software installation tool (such as Synaptic) as the Distributors
software. RPM based users often have to visit third party websites such as to download packages, as well as any dependent packages
(dependencies). Both the use of the Universe, and third-party websites can have
issues, because they contain software that is not guaranteed to work with your
distribution, and may cause unexpected results - so be careful if you download
software from other sources!
Both RPM and DEB packages are very widely used in the Linux arena, most of
which can be installed simply by using software, like the 'Add Applications' menu
in Ubuntu.
4.2 What sort of computer will I need for Linux?
This question has a lot of answers. The bottom line is:
Depending upon what you want to do with Linux, the system requirements can
range from an old Intel 386 to a state of the art PC. You can even run Linux on
some stranger hardware including Macintoshes, ARM based machines and more.
This section of the chapter will go through all the major parts of hardware attached
to a typical PC and detail what is expected to run a typical modern Linux desktop,
starting first, with the CPU.
CPU (Central Processor Unit)
Linux was originally devised on an Intel 386 back in the early 90's,
this however does not necessarily mean that Linux works better on
a PC than a Macintosh computer (PPC or Intel). Today's Linux
desktop is most popular on Intel, PPC (G3-G5) and AMD
processors, therefore, most of the common software is actively
developed for these platforms. If you have another platform such as a Sparc,
Amiga, Atari or ARM based processor, Linux will no doubt be different in that
many software titles may not exist for that given platform, or software is older than
that of the most popular platforms, but it is still possible to run Linux on them.
RAM (Memory)
Most Modern day Linux distributions will require a minimum of around 1GB to use
it to a reasonable degree, but if you wish to use Linux for non-graphical based
uses, such as web page hosting, or a firewall, you can run a basic installation of
Linux from almost nothing. Some of the most basic installations will run on 8 MB
(yes megabytes, not gigs!). If you're going to be serious about Linux, and want
optimal performance, then as with any software, the more RAM you have for it, the
better it runs. Ideally, if you reckon you're going to be a home user, at least 1GB
RAM is required. If you want to do demanding stuff like perform movie editing, edit
artwork or edit lots of audio, then we're probably talking about 2GB+. Server users
who want to serve up hundreds of websites may want 4GB, 8GB or even more,
but again, if you want to make a small server with only a website or two and a low
number of users, then you can get away with 1GB or less.
In summary, If you have the RAM, Linux will use it, and it will be used well, thanks
to the superb memory and process management within the Linux kernel a
modern-day 64-bit version of Linux will support up to 64 TB (terabytes) of RAM.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD) & Partitioning your disk for Linux
As with all things Linux, it's possible to do it in the smallest of
setups. Using distributions such as ZipSlack or Puppy Linux, you
can achieve a fully working Linux setup in a few hundred
megabytes. However, if you want to install a standard workstation
installation of any up-to date distribution, you will probably want at least 20GB
(gigabytes) free hard disk space. If you are going for the plunge and will convert
your entire system over to Linux, then the more the better - 100GB+ in order to
store all of your stuff: Apps, MP3s, Movies, Documents, emails etc and over time,
it uses up quite a lot of drive space.
Modern Linux distributions easily support new drive technologies such as software
RAID and SATA, so you will have no worries about your latest technology drives.
If you use more high end storage equipment such as iSCSI or fibre channel disk
arrays, distributions like Ubuntu Server edition support these technologies right out
of the box.
As you are just starting out, you may find it easiest to purchase a new hard drive
to install Linux on or why not recycle an old hard drive if you have one spare!
The reason for using a seperate drive is because you are likely to be using
another Operating System already such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. If you
wish to use both Linux and Windows/Mac OS (so you can see if Linux is for you),
then the easiest way to set it all up is if you have another drive to put Linux onto.
You won't have to mess around with resizing partitions and the like:
Typically, Windows/Mac OS will allocate 100% of a hard drive to it's own use,
meaning there is no space left for Linux. If you don't want to buy a new hard drive
for Linux, then you will somehow have to re-allocate some of the unused (free)
space on your Windows/Mac OS drive for Linux.
Thankfully, recent versions of Ubuntu and some other Linux distributions now
make it a snap to re-partition your disk. They work by utilising the free space that
you have in your Windows drive (say your C: Drive) and creating a partition out of
some or all of that free space for Linux. If you don't want to use Ubuntu or similar,
you can also use something like the freely available Parted Magic or commercially
available Acronis Disk Director (for Windows) which splits your disk into partitions
as well as resizes existing partitions can make it a snap to have Windows and
Linux exist side-by-side on the same disk. It is very easy to use for the beginner.
Although the process of re-partitioning and dual-booting your PC with Linux and
Windows is far easier than it used to be, to a computer novice it can still appear to
be a daunting task. Don't worry though, I've got a video demonstration on how to
do just that in Chapter 5.
Video Card (Graphics Adaptor)
Any bog standard graphics adaptor will do for linux.
Optimally you will want to have an SVGA adaptor in your
PC that has enough RAM to support resolutions of at least
1024x768. Graphics Accellerator cards of many types are
supported by today's modern distributions for even faster
graphics. If you're looking for really good graphics
performance under Linux, the NVidia range are an excellent choice, because they
are well supported under Linux by Nvidia. ATI cards are also popular, however
their driver support for Linux does not appear to be as good as NVidia's, which
seems to be an ongoing issue with ATI. If you don't know what card you have in
your machine, visit your device manager in Windows, or System Preferences in
Mac OS. Integrated graphics chipsets such as the Intel i Series or Cirrus Logic
chipsets generally work ok, however if you need 3D graphics performance, as with
Windows or Mac OS, you are best using a 3D Acellerated graphics card from the
likes of Nvidia or ATI.
Using Wireless & Wired Network Adapters and (Broadband) Modems
with Linux
Almost every wired network card available should be quite happy
with Linux. Modern PCI or integrated based options such as those
manufactured by 3com, Intel and Realtek range will automatically
plug and play.
Wireless card support in Linux is generally good. Standard desktop PCI based
WiFi cards will work out of the box without any need to install a driver. However,
some vendors have made cheaper soft-pci, mini-pci 'wintel' based cards (a lot of
which are found in laptops), these do not work as well as their larger counterparts
under Linux because the vendors do not wish to provide drivers or any information
for Linux developers to work with. This can usually be resolved by loading the
Windows driver inside Linux, using a tool called ndiswrapper (see this wikipedia
link for further information).
Cards known to work out of the box include the Orinoco chipset, Intersil
Prism/Prism II and Cisco Aironet based cards. For more information on Wireless
compatability under Linux, see the Linux Wireless LAN wiki.
ADSL & Cable modems are usually one of two breeds, either they either plug into
the USB port of your computer directly or they are fully blown Ethernet routers,
today these mostly contain WiFi radio as well. Thankfully, most ISPs are now
providing 'proper' Ethernet based routers which simply plug and play with Linux
either over WiFi or via an Ethernet cable. If you do have a USB modem from your
ISP, consider shelling out for a proper router as the USB modems support under
Linux is somewhat hit-or-miss and you will often find that performance from a USB
modem is less than you would get from a router (regardless of whether you are
using Windows, Linux or a Mac). Good examples of external routers are Belkin,
Netgear, Linksys and Draytek.
Now, armed with all the information you can get about the hardware in your
computer, it's time to get Linux installed! Click here to visit Chapter 5 to do just
Chapter 5: Installing Linux
5.1 Installing a Linux Distribution: Ubuntu
Although this example shows the installation of the Ubuntu Linux distribution,
installing most other Linux distributions is a similar process. I have chosen Ubuntu
as it is a friendly, free, highly compatible distribution of Linux and at the point of
writing, it has been the most popular Linux distribution for quite some time.
Please also note that this tutorial details the installation of Ubuntu Linux on a PC, if
you have a Mac, the instructions are similar, but not the same. In particular, the
tools you will use for partitioning your hard drive may be different.
5.2 Planning the Task ahead
If you remember back in Chapter 4 we discussed hard drives and partitioning. If
you didn't read that part, skip back and read it now.
At this early point in the process of installation, you must be aware that you will be
working with your hard drive in order to install Linux. If the hard drive contains any
important information at all, you MUST make a backup of that data before starting.
This website and any associated authors cannot be held responsible if you delete
your own data!
The main step with a Linux installation is to 'slice' up your hard drive into partitions
in order to put Linux onto it.
You will not have to perform this step if you have chosen to use an additional new
or recycled hard drive to install linux onto. Also, if you are brave and wish to simply
delete the operating system (Windows/Mac OS) clean off your computer, then this
step is also not necessary, otherwise, proceed forward!.
How to partition the disk
As mentioned in Chapter 4, You can use a tool like GParted, Ranish Parition
Manager or these others as a comprehensive way to partition your disk so that
you can create some free empty space to put Linux onto and this is still a good
way to do it. However, since Ubuntu 7.10, it has been possible to re-partition your
disk drive during the installation process, making it easy to do in one quick
process, so this guide has been updated to follow this process. Read on and
watch the below videos to learn how this is done.
The following video will demonstrate how to partition your disk step-by-step before
we go onto the video, here's some information about partitioning you will want to
If you are resizing your Windows partition to accommodate the installation of
Linux, try and devote as much space to Linux as you can manage, if for example
you have 40GB unused/free space on an 120GB drive, resize your windows
partition down from 120GB to 90GB, leaving 30GB for linux and 10GB room to
spare for windows. This way you probably won't have too much concern about
free disk space in the future.
You can split it any way you like, here is an example of how your hard drive, if
drawn as a sideways graph would look if you split it 50/50. The Unallocated space
would be later formatted under the 'ext4' file system by Linux during installation:
A graph demonstrating a 50/50 split of a hard drive. Windows uses the NTFS
partition type (on the left) and the Unallocated space will be utilised by the EXT4
(Linux) file system during the installation process.
5.3 Downloading and starting the Ubuntu installation
Okay, it's time to put the CD in the drive and reboot the PC. If you don't already
have an Ubuntu CD, visit Ubuntu's Download site and download the ISO image of
Ubuntu. It's around 800MB in size, so you will need a 800MB CD-R or DVD-R and
a suitable DVD-RW drive.
If you don't have a DVD/CD-R Burner or if you have a slow connection then you
can order a copy of Ubuntu from Canonical.
Burning the 'ISO' image to the DVD or CD.
Burning the ISO image to a CD is not the same thing as copying the 'ISO' file you
downloaded to a CD. If you have Windows 7 or 8, then simply right click on the
icon of the file you downloaded, which will be named something like ubuntu-1304-desktop-i386.iso. Once you right click the icon, you will see the option 'Burn
disk image'. Select that option and pop a blank DVD-RW or CD-RW into your PC
and click burn. If you would like further instructions on this process or are using
Windows XP, Me, 98 or other operating systems, check out this easy guide at the
Ubuntu web site.
Hopefully you are now armed with a Linux CD that's good to go. If the CD/DVD
was ejected from the CD player, pop it back in the drive and Restart your
computer. Most PCs will automatically try to start the computer from the CD drive,
so hopefully you will be presented with a welcome screen after a minute or so. If
you don't see this, or if your PC started up in Windows instead, make sure your
PC is set to boot from CD before any other disks. You can change this setting in
something called the BIOS setup. Often when you start a PC you will see a
message like 'Press F10 to Enter Setup'. Hit that key and enter the BIOS setup,
you should be able to change the boot order and save the settings from there.
5.4 The Install Process
I've devised the following video tutorial to walk you through the process of
installing Ubuntu Linux 13.04 on your home PC. It assumes that you already have
Microsoft Windows pre-installed, so it shows you how to re-partition your hard disk
to put Linux on it. Note that although the version is 14.04.01 LTS, the steps are
practically identical for any modern version of Ubuntu or Linux Mint.
You will need:
A PC with at least 2GB RAM, 40 GB free space on your C: drive or target
install drive.
A USB stick which is empty and is at least 2GB in size.
An Internet connection to download the ISO image (approx 1GB in size)
Part 1 of 2 (Guides you how to download and install the Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS iso
image and make it bootable on a USB stick):
Part 2 of 2 (now you have set your PC up to boot from USB and set up the USB
stick, it's time to boot the Ubuntu Linux installer from that USB stick!):
5.5 Notes for Installation
Usernames and the Administrative (root) user
When you are installing Ubuntu you need to set up a user account (as
demonstrated in the above video tutorial). Something to note about this first user
on your machine: Ubuntu always sets the first user specified as an administrative
user. In this context, this means that you, the first account on the machine (you
can have as many as you like), will also get administrative privileges on the
machine to do things like install software and deal directly with hardware and all
things associated with it. Take this information with a little caution. If you are asked
again for your password when doing something in Ubuntu, it is asking you to
escalate your own privileges into what Linux calls the 'root' user. Root is simply the
username of the administrator in Linux, as administrator you have free reign over
the system at all times. Do not perform tasks as root unless you know what you
are about to do, or unless you have good confidence in the task ahead!
A little word on passwords
During the install process you'll be asked to select a password. It's important that
you select a strong password, because in time to come, you may wish to open up
services such as remote access onto your machine. It's a simple step but believe it
or not, still a reasonably effective method of security, do not choose a simple word
as a password. Choose random things, like for example, your favourite colour, and
your first car, with a few numbers (maybe your year of birth) sprinkled in the
middle for good measure. Here is a pretty strong password and could be pretty
memorable to the right person:
No, I wasn't born in 1977, my favourite colour isn't blue, and I've never had a Volvo
240GLS. However, you get the idea. The password is still important, especially if
you ever run any server or sharing software on your machine in the future.
5.6 Finishing Up
By now, most of the software you will need will have been copied to your new
partition on your hard drive, your user account will be set up and your regional
settings are all ready for you. It's time to restart the machine. Make sure the CD is
removed from the drive when prompted and continue onwards!
Welcome home!
When you start up your computer, you will likely see a boot-up screen asking you
if you wish to choose Windows or Ubuntu (that is, if you installed Ubuntu alongside
Windows). Choose Ubuntu from the list using the cursor keys (the up/down arrow
keys) and hit enter and it will start up Ubuntu.
The next screen you will see is the Ubuntu login screen. It's the screen you will
see every time you start up Ubuntu. If prompted, select the username that you
created earlier (or type it in if required), then enter your password. The system will
then log you on.
5.7 The Ubuntu Desktop
The Ubuntu desktop is a friendly place, which we will cover in later chapters. If you
are used to Windows, your 'Start' menu is the bar along the left hand side. The top
button which has the Ubuntu logo on it allows you to search your computer for
content (Apps, documents, audio etc) simply by typing it's name, but if you don't
know what App you are looking for, Click on the Ubuntu icon, note the litte 'A' icon
down at the bottom of the screen, click on that and it will show you 'Recently
Used', 'Installed' and 'More Suggestions' for Applications. Beside the 'Installed' line
you can see it reads 'See 76 more results'. Click on this and you can see all of the
apps installed on your Ubuntu desktop. This same action can be done for
documents, music, photos and movies with each of the respective icons.
Favourite Apps
You'll note that a few favourite Apps have already been 'pinned' to the bar on the
left, these include the Firefox web browser, the LibreOffice (free Microsoft Office
compatible word, excel, powerpoint suite). You can pin your own favourites to the
left-hand side bar if you desire simply by dragging an icon from the above
Applications search list into the bar.
Where are all my files?
On the left-hand side bar there's a filing cabinet icon. Clicking on this will show you
all the files on your computer. If your Ubuntu machine has been set up to see your
Windows file systems, you will also be able to see your the files you work with in
Windows from here, just look under 'Devices' on the left of the file browser.
A screenshot of the Ubuntu 14.04 desktop
with the file browser open. Note the 2.5GB
Volume on the left hand side. This is similar
to what you would see if you have a
Windows file system available to you.
Chapter 6: How do I get
software for Linux?
6.0 Software for everyone!
As discussed in later chapters, software in Linux
is often free of charge, some of the most famous
software titles around are available for Linux.
Most Linux distributions these days offer simple
ways to download and install software which are
bundled up and ready to use in 'packages'.
Sometimes, other software can be obtained in
other formats too, so this chapter talks about all of
the different ways you can use and obtain Linux
6.1 How software is 'packaged' in Linux
If you are a Windows or Mac user, you will be used to software being delivered to
you in binary format. In Windows, the most common binary format you will come
across is the exe file. A binary has already been compiled (a process done by the
programmers of the software, to make it ready for your Operating System).
Linux also uses binary format for most of the software you obtain, but because
Linux software is made up of so much Open Source software, it can also come in
source code format (programming language, plain text). If you wanted to, you
could go in and edit the code to make it do anything you wanted it to, however
most people are content with simply using the binaries that have been compiled
for them.
6.2 Why would you want to compile source code
Firstly, you can see what the software is doing: make sure there are no nasties in
the software (provided of course that you have the programming know-how to
understand the code).
Secondly, compiling the source code for an application will most likely optimise it
for your PC, so that the software will run at it's utmost performance - custom
optimised for your computer if you will.
Third, if the software you want has not been specifically released for your platform,
eg software was written for PC on an Intel CPU, but you have an IBM PowerPC
CPU in your computer, you can often compile source code (or port it) to your
Linux is all about choice, so more often than not, you will be able to choose
whether you want to install a source version of a given piece of software, or
whether you wish to install a binary version of software.
6.3 Why use binary at all if source code is so great?
Installing binary applications is usually done at the click of a mouse, no difficult
code anywhere in sight - no keyboard commands etc.
Some source may not work correctly without downloading many other pieces of
source code, called dependencies. For non programmers especially, this process
can be time consuming and daunting.
Most Linux distributions now provide most of the software you would ever need
within the distribution it's self, or on an Internet repository, so the need to go out
and download source or binaries is far lesser today than ever before.
6.4 The easy way: using (binary) packages
Software in Linux today is packaged up for easy installation in most cases. The
most common formats are as follows:
.rpm: Red Hat, Fedora Core, SuSE, Mandriva
.tar.gz / .tar.bz2: Gentoo, Slackware Linux
.deb Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint
So, for example, if you are using Ubuntu, you will be using .deb files. The
likelihood is that the software you will install will come in a .deb file. A deb file is
usually automatically downloaded by the Ubuntu/Debian package retrieval
software, APT. The tool apt-get will connect to one of Ubuntu's many online
software repositories and download the necessary .deb packages for the software
you want. It then conveniently installs it all for you, so you don't have to worry
about a thing.
6.5 Obtaining the software that came with your distribution
Linux has come a long way to make locating and installing software an easy
process. Historically, Linux suffered from two things:
A centralised approach to obtaining software was not in place
Dependency Hell: a term used mainly in RPM based distributions in where you
had to download a bunch of other software (often shared libraries - like DLLs in
Windows) in order to get the software you wanted in the first place, to run.
Each distribution has its own way of installing software, but thankfully they are
generally straightforward and are centralised either around the RPM or DEB
packaging system:
Fedora Package Management
Fedora (RPM): The Add or Remove Packages
dialogue. Select the software you want to install from
the category and it is all done for you. The only gotcha if the software you are looking for isn't supplied in this
limited list of applications, you may have to go further
afield to get it. This has been a lot better recently with the YUM package manager
and alternative software sources.
Ubuntu (DEB): The Synaptic Package Manager.
Ubuntu and Debian: These distributions provide The
Synaptic Package Manager and now the Ubuntu
Software Centre which lets you easily find and install
software for your system. Underneath the hood it uses
the apt-get tool mentioned earlier.
The great thing about Linux today, is the stark difference between the way users
obtain software between operating systems like Mac OS or Windows.
With Mac OS and Windows you traditionally have two choices when obtaining
1) Purchase it in a store, or,
2) Download it from the net
Either way, you will need to go through a seperate installation process for each
piece of software you purchase. This is not the case with most Linux distributions
today. With specific regards to distributions such as Ubuntu, you simply start up
the Package Manager (eg: Synaptic, as shown above). Click on the title you wish
to obtain, and it is downloaded from the net, installed and configured for you
automatically. Just think - No going to the store, no InstallShield Wizards, No crazy
config files, just click, and go! - note that this concept was available in Ubuntu as
far back as 2005, and is only just getting to Windows and Mac via the 'App Store'
concepts in recent history.
Ubuntu Software Centre shows how easy it
is to download and install software in Linux.
This almost sounds too good to be true, but
it is almost a perfect system in a modern
Linux distribution. Only a few exceptions
exist; mainly with RPM-based distributions:
For example, Fedora Core is a well
organised distribution, notorious for it's long history in the Linux arena, as well as
generally well-thought-out approach. However, Fedora and other similar RPM
distributions suffer from the fact that if the software title you require is not provided
on the media that came with the distribution or via their (YUM) repositories, then
you will have to obtain it from elsewhere. This can sometimes (but to a lesser
extent these days) lead to the nasty situation of "Dependency Hell".
Debian based distributions (Debian, Ubuntu, etc) generally have access to the
Debian Universe & Multiverse, which put simply is a vast Internet repository of
almost all of the Linux apps you could ever want. The best thing about this
repository is the fact that it plugs in directly to the APT package system (which
automatically downloads software and any other dependent software), and
ultimately to your Package Manager, eg: Synaptic.
It is for the reason that you may find yourself one day in a situation where you
need to find software from an alternative source than from your distribution, that
the rest of the chapter exists. The rest of this chapter discusses where you might
obtain software in the .tar.gz and .rpm format, that should (but with no guarantees)
work with your distribution.
One final note which is very worthy if you are using Fedora, or similar is YUM.
Yum is the Fedora equivalent of APT. Whilst it does not contain such a large
software library as the Debian Universe/Multiverse, it will resolve problems with
6.6 The (tar)ball game of getting software
Finally, for those of you that want to get software from other sources, or use
distributions such as Slackware, there is the traditional .tar.gz format. Most of the
time, you will find that the .tar or .tar.gz format is used to zip up source code
format software, a .tar.gz file is often referred to as a tarball.
Tarballs are double-archived files. This means, that they're first archived with a
tool called tar (the standard unix archiving tool), and then to zip or compress the
file, the tar file is then zipped up with gzip (the GNU Zip tool, which is akin to
Tux Tip
You can still unzip/zip WinZip/PKZIP compressed files with Linux, using the unzip
and zip tools, rather than gunzip and gzip.
Furthermore, the popular desktop systems, including KDE and GNOME all have a
GUI tool built in to handle .gz and .zip files effortlessly!
Still can't find the software you are looking for? Use Google!
It's happened to the best of us, and in time, it may happen to you. If you are
looking for an RPM package, but you can't find one on the authors web page, nor
on sites like You can only find the tarball and you just can't find it
Well, you would be surprised at who actually makes up these RPM packages from
tar files. Mainly you'll find that distribution vendors package them, but you'll find
other people out there doing it for the hell of it, to help you and the rest of us out.
This generally happens if the program is a dog to compile as a tarball.
A word to the wise though: If you are downloading an RPM or DEB package from
a third-party, it could have been tampered with, or worse, wreak havoc with your
Linux installation - use third party binaries as a last resort and with caution!
Okay, I got the software, Now how do I install it?!
A- ha! For that, you'll need to move on to the next chapter!
Chapter 7: How do I install
7.1 The easy way: Ubuntu Software Center etc
Ubuntu Software Centre shows how easy it is to download and install software in
There are many different distributions (flavours) of Linux, as demonstrated in
Chapter 3: Choosing a distribution. Each distribution of Linux handles the
installation of software slightly differently, however as we saw in Chapter 6, they
all use one of three main 'packaging' types, so they rarely vary in drastic ways.
When Ubuntu Linux first came out back in 2005, it used the 'Synaptic package
manager' as an easy-to-use tool to obtain software. You simply searched for the
software you wanted, clicked 'Select to install' beside the package you wanted,
then pressed Apply. It wasn't hard to do, but since then, Apple made the App
Store with the advent of the iPhone etc. Since then, the Mac, the PC (Windows)
and Android mobile also got an App Store, so it's only fair that some polish went
into Linux too. The old synaptic package manager can still be used if so desired,
however, if you use Ubuntu, you will likely prefer the Ubuntu Software Center. It
shows you which software you have installed on your Ubuntu PC, as well as all of
the software titles available from Ubuntu. It even recommends software that you
might like, based on the software you have previously downloaded.
Installing the software in the Ubuntu Software Center is as easy as clicking on the
title you are interested in and tapping 'Install'. The rest is done for you, and the
application is available from the Ubuntu Launcher (that brown circle icon up at the
top left-hand side of the screen).
The rest of this chapter talks about how to install software utilising traditional
software packaging methods, including apt-get, synaptic package manager and
7.2 Installing .deb (Debian packages) and the APT Tool
The Debian package management system is a very well made software
packaging model. It has similarities with the Red Hat system (RPM),
however, when DEB packages are combined with the APT tool, both the
act of obtaining software, and issues with dependent software are almost
completely removed.
The DEB/APT system is highly popular, and is found on many systems other than
Debian, including the Ubuntu, Linux Mint and more.
These are the main parts to the DEB system:
dpkg - A command line program with which you can install .DEB packages.
This is the most basic (and most difficult way to install debian .DEB packages)
apt-get - An easy-to-use command line tool that offers a simple way to install
packages, and unlike dpkg, does not work with the .deb package, but uses a
file found in /etc/apt/sources.list to obtain the relevant .deb file from the net.
dselect - A text-based menu driven interface that acts as more than just a
frontend to dpkg. Allows for installation and removal of packages
Aptitude - An ncurses terminal based front end to APT. It's popular for it's user
friendly interface and highly descriptive nature.
Synaptic or Adept - The graphical frontend tools for GNOME and KDE
respectively that provide an easy to use interface to apt-get. They make
installing software easier as you don't have to remember any commands, which
most new users will feel more comfortable with.
Now that you know what the main Debian DEB tools are, we'll step through
installing a Debian package first using the Synaptic package manager, which is
the default tool for Debian Linux, and then we will briefly cover installation at the
command-line shell:
Installing software with the Synaptic Package Manager:
Synaptic Package Manager. Click thumbnail to expand
To start up Synaptic, click on the System menu at the top left
of the desktop menu.
Then Click on Administration.
Finally, Click 'Synaptic Package Manager'
Once you type your administrator password (which is the same password as the
main user of the machine), you will shortly be presented with a screen similar to
the one on the left.
Amongst the many options you see, there is a large list on the left hand side of the
This list contains all sorts of different categories of software. If you don't know
what you are looking for, start here!
Searching for packages in synaptic
By clicking on the Search button at the right
hand side of the toolbar, it is possible to type in
the name of a program you know the name of.
Note I am typing 'kdegames' here, because I
know that I want the software package entitled kdegames.
By pressing the search button in the last step, I have now been shown the
package 'kdegames' as well as a description, and version information.
If you are sure you want to install this title, then right click on
it. The menu on the right will appear. By choosing 'Mark for
Installation', the software 'kdegames' will be chosen for
installation, when you apply these changes.
The example of 'kdegames' was specifically chosen because
it is an example of software that has dependencies on other
software (it needs other software titles to be installed for it to work). Synaptic/APT
is showing you this
fact and is conveniently telling you that it will also
download the extra software shown in the menu to
the left to 'satisfy' these dependencies.
You should click 'Mark', in order to continue.
One you click 'Mark', Synaptic will take you back
to the main screen so that you may choose more
software to install, if you wish.
If you are ready to install the software you chose earlier, click the 'Apply' button.
Synaptic gives you a warning message, telling you that new packages are going to
be installed. By clicking on the Arrow beside 'To be Installed', you can see which
If you are happy with this, click Apply.
Finally, the Synaptic Package Manager goes out to the Net, or perhaps requests a
CD (if the data is to be found on the installation CD of your
The final step in downloading and installing software using the Synaptic Package
Linux distro), and then installs the software onto your system.
Once the software is installed, you can generally use it directly from the
'Applications' menu. If you want to find out where the software was installed to,
using Synaptic again, locate the software you just installed and right click it, view
the Properties, and click on 'Installed Files'.
If you would like to see a video guide on how to install software in Linux, using
various methods, see our video tutorial here.
Installing software using APT-GET at the command line
Installing a deb package through apt-get is quick and is as simple as running the
following command at the root Linux prompt (for example):
$ sudo apt-get install firefox
(you will need to input your password)
That example would install the most recent version of the program 'firefox'. Apt
would also tell you that it needs to download some other software (dependencies)
in order for 'firefox' to run. A few other commands for Apt you'll need are:
apt-get update
Updates the APT source information, to tell it about any new software in the APT
apt-get upgrade
Upgrades any old software on your machine to the latest versions automatically.
apt-get dist-upgrade
Upgrades the distribution to the latest available version of the distribution.
apt-get remove
Removes from your system, and any non-required dependencies.
Installing .DEB packages at the command-line shell:
Firstly, download the .deb package and pop it into any folder on your system, then
simply install it by running the following command using the terminal:
$sudo dpkg --install package-name.deb
That should be the package installed, although again, there are dependencies to
think about, and as with RPMs, make a note of any dependency errors, download
the appropriate DEB package(s) to meet the dependenc(ies) and try again.
7.3 Installing RPM files (red hat packages)
Red Hat, one of Linux's first distributors came up with a neat
solution to the problems .tar.gz files and compiling has for the
normal user. They pre-package the thar file, zip it up and
make it do all the hard installation work for you. This system is
called RPM and it's the standard software installation method for a lot of Linux
distributions today, such as Red Hat, Fedora, SuSE and Mandriva.
If you are unsure if you have an RPM system or you just want to check what
version of RPM you are using, then try typing the following at the Linux terminal:
$ rpm -q rpm
You should get a similar answer to this:
If you get something like 'command not found', then it sounds like you don't have
RPM installed, you may be using a Linux distribution that does not use RPM
natively, for example, Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, Slackware, Mepis or Xandros have
a look at the DEB or TGZ sections of this page.
It's important that if you go to download an RPM from the net, always try to get
one that was packaged by the vendor of your distribution.
For example, if you go to the web and search for an RPM package called 'firefox',
and you get 3 RPMs back: One from Red Hat, one from Mandriva and one from
SuSE. If you have a Mandriva Linux distribution on your PC, make sure you use
the Mandriva one.
The reason for this is all down to fitting into your system configuration structure
and things called libraries, which vary from distro to distro.
How to install the package
Okay, let's presume that you have an RPM file ready to install called netscape4.76-3.i386.rpm
You can install it in the following ways:
At the terminal/console:
sudo rpm -Uvh netscape-4.76-3.i386.rpm
Preparing 100%
Installing 100%
The options -Uvh stand for the following:
U - Upgrade package if already installed, or install if not installed
v - Be verbose about the installation
h - show hash symbols to indicate progress of installation
Don't use RPM - YUM is easier and better:
YUM (mentioned in the previous chapter) is a system much like Debian's APT, but
for Fedora and other RPM based distributions. It makes dependency problems far
less likely for Fedora users.
Installing an RPM package through YUM can be done by the following steps using
the Terminal application:
$sudo yum install netscape
Note that you do not need to specify the version of software you are installing.
YUM goes out to the Internet and automatically pulls down the latest version it can
find of 'netscape', and installs it for you, along with any other software you may
need, in order to run 'netscape'.
What if I don't want to type commands in to install software via YUM?
Then use the graphical program, Yum Extender (or similar)!
How do you install it, I hear you ask?
$sudo yum install yumex
Now you can access Yum Extender in the "red hat" menu, under "System Tools."
For further information on YUM, see This page
7.4 Installing .tar.gz. files (tarballs)
.Tar.gz files, or, Tarballs stand for tape archive and are the
Unix equivalent of zip files for the Windows world. They can
contain any files, but are often used to package up source
code for programs.
Tarballs come packaged in five main flavours:
.tar (standard tar archive with no compression.)
.tar.gz, .tgz (standard gzip compressed tar archive. same as .tar.gz.)
.tar.bz2 (tar archive compressed with extra compression tool, bzip2)
.bin.tar, .bin.tar.gz or .bin.tgz (less common tar archive that contains binary files
rather than source).
Most of the time, you will be dealing with .tar.gz files.
Here's how to extract (unzip) a .tar.gz file in two different ways:
At the Console:
$ cd /directory_that_the_tar_file_is_in<br />
$ tar zxvf tarfile.tar.gz
To explain the latter command, tar decompresses the gzipped file (with the z flag,
which is short for gz, or gzip), x means to extract, v is for verbose (so you can see
what's happening as it extracts) and f means extract the following file (in this case
tarfile.tar.gz). Remember that tar was originally used for extracting archives from
tapes, back in the old days, so by default it expects the standard input to be a
streaming tape archive.
To extract a tar archive In Gnome or KDE (Graphical Desktop):
Right click on the icon for the appropriate tar file in your file manager.
Choose Extract (or in KDE, choose Open with Archiver).
Extract with the tar file with the relevant archiver program.
Okay, now you've extracted it you have to either:
a) Compile the source code you just extracted
b) Run the installer script which is part of the files you extracted
So, how do you distinguish whether you have just extracted a tar file with source
code in it, or whether it's a binary, with an installer in it?
Usually, the contents of the .tar.gz file will help you out here - A file containing
source code, will often contain a file called 'Makefile' somewhere in the first folder
within the extracted volume. This file is used to compile, or, make, the software.
A tar file which does not contain source code mainly holds a binary installer file in
it, the filename of the installer usually ends in .sh or .pl.
For example, the program VMWare, contains a program called
in the extracted root folder.
To run the file, you usually need to give yourself 'permission' to run it:
sudo chmod 755 (changes permissions on the file
so that it can be read, write and run- executed)
sudo ./ (runs the installer)
If you found a 'Makefile', then you need to compile the source code. Here's how to
do it:
Most of the time, you will need to use the terminal to compile source, so use an
xterm/console/terminal and go into the directory that has been made by the
package, eg:
$ cd /directory_that_the_tar_file_is_in
$ ls -l
Total 302
-rwxr--r-- 1 user group 2907 May 21 17:15 mytarfile.tar
-rwxr--r-- 1 user group 0015 May 21 17:15 newdir/
$ cd newdir/
at this point, make sure you read the INSTALL file. You'll find that almost every
tarball that you download (especially GNU software) has at least a file called
Most of the time the INSTALL file says the same thing, it's a generic process for
installing tarballs, but if a program requires to be compiled in a special way, you'll
find out in either INSTALL or README. If it's helpful, it will tell you the names and
websites of any other software you will require to download in order to install this
software. These other pieces of software required are called 'dependencies'.
If you were installing a generic program, extracted from a tarball and presuming
that we just changed into our directory, as above, we could do the following to
compile the program:
$ ./configure
(Take good notes here for any configure errors)
$ make
(Take good notes here for any compile errors)
$ make install
(Take good notes here for any compile errors)
$ make clean
(this cleans up after a sucessfull compile)
Why compiling is a pain in the ass (for most people), and the problems you might
The above procedure doesn't sound too difficult, and in theory, it shouldln't be. But
it dosen't always work.
Most of the time this is because of dependencies on other programs, you need
other software (usually programming libraries) to be installed first, in order to
compile this software.
Picture this scenario: You attempt to install tar.gzipped game called xtux.
The ./configure bombs, and you noticed on the web site of xtux, and also from the
output of the ./configure something about SDL. You're not quite sure what it is, but
you go onto a site like google anyways and type in SDL.
You find out that SDL is infact a popular graphics library for X and that it's
necessary for xtux.
You download SDL-1.2.3.tar.gz from the SDL website and install that tarball. It
installs fine, so you try installing xtux once more. It still bombs out, but this time it
gives you a different message: could not find Qt equal or greater than 1.3 on a
You check your system for QT version 1.3 or greater. You have 1.3.4 so you
should be fine. Why is this error coming up? Well, it's probably because Qt (which
is another graphics / programming toolkit) is installed, but is not in the folder that
./configure is looking in. You can edit ./configure yourself to see if there is anything
you can do to amend the situation yourself, or try removing Qt, and installing
another instance of it from another source.
I find that RPM based distros often put stuff like Qt in places that a normal tarball
dosen't, so that's often the reason for these compile problems, make sure that if
you have installed the normal version of an RPM (binary version), that you also
install it's accompanying -dev RPM if you wish to compile .tgz based source
against it. By this I mean:
Make sure you have installed qt.i386.rpm and qt-dev.i386.rpm if you are compiling
something that relies on QT, as the -dev package will provide the qt source code
to the source program you are installing.
If you've installed your tarball, RPM or DEB package and you want to run it, or
perhaps you are interested in knowing more about the Linux file system including
dealing with permissions, have a look at the tutorial on 'managing my files'.
Alternatively, If you want to know more about using your desktop every day, for
office use, for multimedia and more, continue on to Chapter 8.
Chapter 8: Using Linux Every
What would be the use in Linux if it didn't have some great software? I'd rather put
up with a poorer Operating System than have no software, wouldn't you?
Fortunately, Linux is teeming with great software for all sorts of purposes, and
most of it is free of charge. This chapter discusses the most popular uses of a
modern-day PC, and where Linux fits in with all of this.
Using Linux for all your office needs
When Linux first came out back in the early 1990s one of the downfalls of Linux
was that good office software was lacking, making it an impractical system for
business users. From the late nineties onwards, this is no longer the case.
Software like OpenOffice and KOffice are excellent, complete packages, and
standalone software like AbiWord and MrProject add further to the great selection
of tools.
With respect to Groupware tools, either Novell Evolution or Kontact provide all the
features of popular groupware offerings from Lotus, Microsoft or Novell.
Office Package Software
LibreOffice is an ideal replacement for
Microsoft Office
LibreOffice: Microsoft Office users will be
pleased to know that the most popular
Office suite in Linux, LibreOffice, supports
Microsoft Word Documents, Excel
Spreadsheets and PowerPoint
The latest incarnation of LibreOffice includes a Word Processor (with export to
PDF feature), Spreadsheet, Presentation creator and more.
LibreOffice was built on software made by Sun (now owned by Oracle) called
OpenOffice and before it, StarOffice.
Although is the most popular office suite for Linux today, it should
be noted that KDE sports KOffice, which is similar to OpenOffice in many ways,
and features much of it's functionality. GNOME also has various office
components such as AbiWord and Gnumeric. If you have an older computer with
lower memory or storage, you may want to try one of these alternatives.
What if I don't want to use another office or other Windows
app? - I like most of my Windows software just fine!
It is understandable that some users may not wish to move from what they know
best. Even although OpenOffice is very similar in looks and features to Microsoft
You may find solace in knowing that it is possible to run Microsoft Office as well as
a great many other Windows apps on Linux! - Although it is not software written for
Linux, it is possible to run it using software from a firm called CodeWeavers. The
software, called Crossover supports Microsoft Office 95-2003, as well as many
other popular Windows titles such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Visio, Lotus
Notes, Apple iTunes and Macromedia Dreamweaver.
Groupware Suites (e-Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Tasks)
Evolution Groupware in use
Evolution is a groupware suite for
performing all of your day to day E-Mail,
Scheduling, Contact Management, Address
Books and more.
Users can retrieve their E-Mail from a vast
array of sources including IMAP, POP3,
Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise
It's overall look and feel is similar to that of Microsoft Outlook, but enhances on a
number of features, especially where security is important. It also supports PDA
devices and LDAP servers for great connectivity, wherever you are.
Amongst Evolution's competitors are:
KDE's personal information manager
management software is a fantastic groupware
suite for Linux.
Kontact features a summary overview, a very
capable E-Mail client, contact manager, to do
list, journal, news reader, note taker,
RSS/Syndication client and a mobile device
synchronisation tool.
Support for Novell GroupWare and Microsoft Exchange are not as mature as
Evolution, but are pretty much there in terms of usability.
Mozilla Thunderbird
Thunderbird is part of the FireFox family and is as sharp as it's browser
counterpart. It offers E-Mail with built in Junkmail filters, IMAP and POP mail
server support, contact manager and address book. It is lightweight and easy to
use, but not nearly as full featured as Kontact or Evolution.
Using Linux for Artwork
Artwork has often been the lair of Mac users. This is mainly for historic reasons
these days - (Apple used to have an exclusive contract with Adobe). However,
times have changed, and Windows users enjoy many of the same fruits as the
Mac users do. It's also fair to say that this software is often expensive, however
some excellent software exists for Linux for vector and bitmap artists alike and
most of it is free.
Gnu Image Manipulation Project (GIMP) is
great for editing images
The GIMP is the classic Photoshop-like
image editor for Linux. It's now ten years
old, and can do most of the features of all
the popular off-the-shelf competitors. In
case you were wondering, GIMP stands for
GNU Image Manipulation Project.
GIMP was made with tasks like photo retouching, image composition and
authoring in mind, and it should be fairly easy for an accomplished Photoshop
user to convert to the GIMP. If you can't live without Photoshop, it is possible to
use Photoshop in Linux, using Crossover.
Inkscape Vector Image Editing
Inkscape is a vector graphics editor, similar to Adobe
Illustrator, Freehand, CorelDraw, or Xara X using the
Scalable Vector Graphics format.
Features include shapes, paths, text, markers, clones,
alpha blending, transforms, gradients, patterns, and
grouping. Inkscape also supports Creative Commons
meta-data, node editing, layers, complex path operations,
bitmap tracing, text-on-path, flowed text, direct XML
editing, and more.
It imports formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and others and exports PNG as well
as multiple vector-based formats.
Don't forget that also has a component called Draw, which has a
reasonably good vector graphics editor. Also Kivio (part of KOffice), and Dia are
great alternatives to Microsoft Visio.
Playing and editing Music or Audio
Linux has many applications for playing music and it's also really taken off as a
platform for audiophiles. If you are a budding DJ, or play with MIDI instruments,
Linux is a great operating system to use. There is a wealth of software available
today which exceeds the requirements of many a Cubase user, and all for free!
Audio Players
The first audio player for Linux was XMMS. It is similar to the venerable Winamp
product for Windows. XMMS suits as a straightforward no-nonsense audio player,
which accepts many plugins and Winamp 2.0 skins, however it's getting a tad
dated, especially when it comes to competing with the likes of iTunes and similar
As usual, both KDE and GNOME desktops have excellent offerings, and whilst
there is a wealth of audio player software available for both platforms, I will limit
the following reviews to just two players, one from each desktop platform:
Rhythmbox (GNOME), and AmaroK (KDE).
Rhythmbox is one of the many audio apps available for
Linux, similar in interface to iTunes, it allows you to
download/upload music to your ipod or other music
device, as well as listen and organise all your music on
your PC. It also connects you to Internet radio stations,
Podcasts and allows you to transfer music to and from your iPod. It now has inbuilt support for playing, ripping and burning audio CDs.
Amarok in action
amaroK, apart from having a stupid name
is a great music player for KDE users. Fans
of iTunes will be immediately relieved to
hear that it looks very like iTunes and
syncs with your iPod flawlessly.
It creates dynamic playlists too, like the
party shuffle feature in iTunes, but better! amaroK features automatic CD cover
finders for each album on your PC, so you know what the CD looks like when you
play it. It also grabs the lyrics for every song you play on demand, as well as
telling you pretty much all the info you would ever want to know about the band
you are listening to, from Wikipedia. It also features a built in ID3 tag editor to sort
out those rogue MP3s with invalid entries, and features MusicBrainz to take some
of the guesswork out of it.
Banshee is part of the GNOME project and used to be a default player for some
Linux distributions. It's still very popular and works very like iTunes. It plays
movies, syncs to your iPod or Android device as well as playing music.
Why can't I play MP3s, Xvids or DivX files etc?
If you have just started using Ubuntu, you may notice that the default music player
is called Rhythmbox. Furthermore, if you try to play an MP3 file, you will find that
can't do it! This may be the same with the movie player when you try to play
certain types of encoded movies.
There is a good reason for this - Ubuntu, as with Fedora, Suse Open Edition and
any other free Linux distribution cannot ship with software that is either not free, or
contains a license which is considered commercial. It may not be illegal to
distribute such software, but you may be required to accept a seperate license, or
use the software on different terms than the rest of the system. In order to keep
the licensing system sane, this software is distributed separately from Ubuntu (as
with other distributions).
You may have noticed when installing Ubuntu there was a tick-box which asked if
you wanted to install "Proprietary codecs", if you ticked the box then, the software
you require to play most movie and music formats should already be installed,
otherwise, Here is how to add support for these 'codecs' after installation of
If you are using the Ubuntu Software Centre, simply search for ubuntu-restrictedextras and click 'Install'. Otherwise, if you wish to use the Synaptic Package
Manager, follow these steps:
Firstly, open the Synaptic Package Manager.
Next, add the Universe and Multiverse Repositories, by
clicking on the Settings Menu and then clicking
Select the 'Multiverse' and 'Universe' Repositories so you
can download commercially licensed materials. Click OK.
Tick both of the bottom boxes, to add the Multiverse and
Universe repositories.
You will be asked if you wish to reload the package list
from servers, Click Yes.
Once the update has been completed, you will be returned to the main
Synaptic screen, where you will be able to use the 'Search' button.
Click Search and type ubuntu-restricted-extras in the text box. Right click on
ubuntu-restricted-extras and select 'Mark for Installation'.
You may be asked to 'Mark Additional Changes', which is fine. Click on Mark.
Click on the Apply button (the green tick). You will be asked to confirm the
changes, press the small apply button to continue and the packages will be
downloaded and installed for you.
If you need a refresher on installing software, refer to Chapter 7 for detailed
instructions on installing software for your particular distribution
See the official Ubuntu documentation for more info on restricted formats.
Sound Editing
Again, there are so many good tools out there for sound editing, it is hard to name
but a few here, but we will try to keep it to a good few!
Ardour - a digital audio workstation for
audio professionals
Ardour is a digital audio workstation which
can be used to record, edit and mix multitrack audio. It even goes as far as mixing video soundtracks. Ardour is similar to
ProTools in it's ultimate quest, and uses the much acclaimed JACK audio system.
Ardour has an excellent manual, and a quick and easy to use GUI. Ardour
appears to be quick, snappy and doesn't use up too much CPU time, making it an
excellent choice for a sound buff!
Audacity is a fantastic, simple multi-track
audio editor
Audacity is well worth a mention because
whilst it does not have all of the features
and power of Ardour, it does fill all of the
needs of a sound-editing novice, whilst still
beating any entry level sound editing software on the shelves.
Audacity's standard features can be picked up in a matter of minutes and allows
for some really professional results. It offers unlimited tracks and many different
effects in-built, so if all you need is straightforward multitrack or single-track
editing, Audacity is a great tool.
Rosegarden is a professional audio and MIDI sequencer, score editor, and
general-purpose music composition and editing environment.
Rosegarden is an easy-to-learn, attractive application and ideal for composers,
musicians, music students, small studio or home recording environments.
Sound on Sound magazine called Rosegarden the closest native equivalent to
Cubase for Linux, which is no mean feat, and Rosegarden has come to the
acclaim of many other publications such as Linux Format's Top Stuff awards.
Click here for a list of some more audio file editors, DJ Software,
Effects Processors and control applications for Linux
Watching or Editing Video
most popular titles today are:
VLC - Multiplatform media player (Works on Linux, Windows and Mac).
VideoLAN/VLC is a great app, if a little difficult to navigate, however it
offers a wonderful array of playback possibilties - handling almost
every format out there, it's very versatile, but it's real power comes
from the fact that you can serve up media from any pc and get it to
appear anywhere else - beam videos over the net, or just to another
monitor in another room in your house. Support for resampling makes bandwidth
problems with Internet broadcasting less of a problem.
Banshee Media Player for GNOME
Miro (It's also an online video content player, a Hulu or Netflix
of Linux, if you will).
Banshee (an all-round media player for GNOME, similar to
Kaffeine (KDE's answer to Banshee).
Some others to mention: NoAtun, SMPlayer, Totem.
Miro is a jack of all trades for Music,
Movies, Online video, conversion and more
Miro allows you to convert any video
formats you like as well as download and
play almost any video. It will work with your
current music library and will synchronise
content to android and kindle formats. You can also buy music and apps inside
Watching DVDs and other Rights Managed Media Types
Just as with playing MP3s, DVDs and other formats such as DivX/Xvid, wmv and
Quicktime all have their own propriatery plugins or codecs. See the above section
about installing 'ubuntu-restricted-extras' if you need extra software to play these
formats in Ubuntu.
Video Editing
Supporting HD video, Blu-Ray and 3D, it's got a lot of features you might not
expect from a simple to use video editor. If you are a fan of software like iMovie for
the Mac, you'll feel at home with OpenShot.
If you need more than OpenShot or Kino,
then Cinerella is for you. Hue, Saturation,
Denoising, Compression, Time Stretching,
Text-to-movie, batch rendering and much
more are all staples of this sophisticated
video editing suite.
Kino Video Editor
Kino is part of the KDE desktop apps, but
will run with only the QT libraries. Kino
features excellent integration with IEEE1394 for capture, VTR control, and
recording back to the camera. It captures
video to disk in Raw DV and AVI format, in
both type-1 DV and type-2 DV (separate
audio stream) encodings.
You can load multiple video clips, cut and paste portions of video/audio, and save
it to an edit decision list (SMIL XML format). Kino can export the composite movie
in a number of formats: DV over IEEE 1394, Raw DV, DV AVI, still frames, WAV,
MP3, Ogg Vorbis, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4.
Although Blender is not technically a movie editor it's worthy of a quick mention. A
number of movies have been created with this sophisticated 3D graphics and
animation creator, it's been around a long time and is still in active development.
Watching and Recording TV in Linux
Recently, Linux has come to great acclaim in the TV space, due to the excellent
range of software available at no cost. You can literally turn an old PC into a Linux
style Sky Plus/Tivo box, all you need is a TV card and a big hard drive!
MythTV allows you to turn your PC into a
Media Centre complete with PVR and TV
MythTV is open source software that turns
your PC into a PVR (Personal Video
Recorder). It enables the user to pause live
TV, Skip ads, use an electronic program
guide, set recordings to record whole
series of a particular program, edit recording schedules, organise and view your
home photo and videocamera collections as well as listening to music and record
content from the Internet, it excels at many points, making it a cut above the
current offerings from Microsoft (Media Centre) and PowerCinema.
Also check out MythBuntu,which is a pre-packaged distribution of MythTV, making
it easy to install on a PC.
If you only want to do the basics, you can record and watch live TV then you don't
need to use something as feature-laden as MythTV. Popular titles for viewing and
recording TV are tvtime and xawtv.
The Hauppage series of TV cards seems to work best with the Linux TV software
as it is the most popular range, and best supported through the video4linux driver.
Playing games in Linux
Games a have been a mixed bag with Linux, and still needs perfecting, however
companies like id software and others are releasing their top titles for Linux as well
as Windows these days, and is helping the overall popularity of Linux as a gaming
platform no end.
Steam is a popular Windows (and laterally Macintosh) games platform. Made
famous by games like Half-Life, Steam now hosts hundreds of blockbuster titles,
and is now available for Linux. Not all of the titles are available for Linux yet, but
this seems to be a work in progress.
Native Linux Games
Games such as the Team Fortress 2, Quake, Doom and Wolfenstein series are
available 'natively' for Linux (that is, the software is written to work in Linux). Other
games which will also work with Linux such as the Soldier of Fortune series have
been ported from their Windows base. For more titles which work in Linux check
out the Games On Linux website.
The number of natively available Linux games is still low, however there is a
solution, however - Crossover is a program which allows the user to play most of
the Windows games titles within Linux. This software is not free, but is fairly
priced, and offers a good degree of ease of use.
There are a great number of games which are also freely available Linux software
which you can see at places such as or Tux
Games have done a great job of porting commercial games to Linux which you
can buy for great prices.
A video demonstrating how to get to grips with the GNOME
Now that you've read all about the various different applications you can use every
day on your Linux desktop, why not see it in action! The following videos taken
from our Articles & Further reading section show you each element of the Ubuntu
Desktop so you can completely familiarise yourself with all that it has to offer.
Part 1 of 3: The basics of the basics of the GNOME Linux Desktop, Essential
applications such as text editors, photo editing, instant messaging, e-mail and web
browsing with Firefox.
Part 2 of 3: Using the standard Office suite (OpenOffice/LibreOffice), how to
navigate your files and folders on your computer and other computers as well as
using the settings menu:
Part 3 of 3: Using Virtual Desktops and Installing Software as well as software
repositories (sources) explained:
More Advanced Guides
The guides in this section of the ULNG get straight to the point regarding
fundamentals such as the Command Line, Files and directories and more
essentials for working at the roots of a Linux system. These guides are more
suited to those who will be using Linux from a System Administrator perspective,
or are learning to use Linux for a career.
VIDEO LINK: How to install
software in Linux
Here is an ULNG video tutorial specifically covering how to install software in
Linux. It talks about the differences between installing software on Windows and
Mac OS X to Linux making a point of showing that there is no more laborious
trawling the web to find that essential download, or hunting your ever growing
CDROM library to get that software installed. On a slightly more advanced topic,
part two of the video discusses briefly what software repositories are, and touches
on the subtle differences between Debian based Linux Distributions versus Red
Hat Linux based distributions.
Video 1/2:
Video 2/2:
Dispelling common Linux
A lot of people who are either trying out Linux for the first time, or are thinking
about using Linux but haven't yet taken the leap often hear some pretty crazy
misconceptions about Linux. Some of these myths are old truths of years gone by
(in most cases, more than 10 years) or are completely made up. Whatever the
reason for the distortion, I think it's time we dispelled with some of the hearsay and
shoot some hard facts so you can make up your own mind on whether you want to
choose Linux or not. Here goes!
1. My hardware (eg Wireless card) doesn't work with
In most cases, most Linux distributions support the vast majority of hardware
without requiring any type of setup at all. You just plug it in and it works - In
windows you have to download the drivers and install them first before the
hardware works. A quick google search will generally confirm or deny whether a
hardware device works with Linux.
Sometimes, it is true however that some hardware just doesn't work in Linux. Why
is this? The answer is simple - the manufacturers have not made a Linux driver,
and they are unwilling to provide any guidance to the Linux community on how to
make a driver. You can say the same for a Mac, for example if you took a card
which was made for Windows and plugged it into a Mac. If the drivers hadn't been
made by the manufacturer for the Mac, it wouldn't work. Indeed, Apple make some
hardware that isn't compatible with Windows in the same way, so Linux is truly no
different to Windows, Mac or any other operating system.
2. Linux is difficult to install on to your computer.
Perhaps 10, maybe even 5 years ago in some cases, Linux was a little harder to
install than Windows. Have a look at our video tutorial demonstrating how to install
Linux, you'll see that you can install Linux in around 20 minutes, it's all graphically
driven and most of the parts of the installation can be answered by a five year old
(Eg: What's your name, what country do you live in, what does your keyboard look
like?). The hardest part of installing Linux is if you want to share your hard disk
with Windows or Mac OS, and even that's a breeze these days because most
installers guide you through the process for you and resize your disk automatically
so you can have both Windows/Mac OS and Linux on your computers' disk
3. Linux is difficult to use. You have to type commands and
If you are a person that falls into the vast majority of home desktop computer
users that use their computer to do a few main things like surf the web, do emails
and touch up the occasional photo then there is nothing difficult about Linux
whatsoever. I know that statement is subjective, but if you feel competent enough
to do these tasks within a Windows or Mac environment, then you can definitely
do it in Linux.
Linux, just like Windows and Mac OS has a command line interpreter hidden away
somewhere. If you are an advanced computer user such as a programmer or
system administrator, you may find that typing commands is quicker and easier for
you than pointing and clicking, but in the more polished desktop distributions of
Linux available today such as Ubuntu, there is no requirement to use the
command line/shell/terminal to do normal desktop style tasks. If you don't want to
use the command line, you don't have to!
4. Linux doesn't have all the software that Windows/Mac
does. I can't do what I need to do.
Whilst Linux may not have the same software as your Windows or Mac computer
has in some cases (although more and more these days the three platforms do
have the same software becoming available), you will find that Linux has some
very worthy alternatives. Take for example, the lack of Adobe Photoshop from
Windows or Mac OS on the Linux platform (without running a Windows
compatability program). Almost every Linux distribution ships with the GIMP Image
Manipulation software which although free of charge, gives Adobe Photoshop a
real run for the money you pay for Photoshop! Another example would be the lack
of Microsoft Office (Word/Excel/Powerpoint etc) in Linux. is a fully
featured office suite which is compatible with Microsoft Office. Almost forgot; that's
free too!
You'll find that most Linux alternative software out there is compatible with the
Windows / Mac equivalent, especially if the software you use is a major title.
Moreso, you will find that there are many titles out there that you just can't find for
Windows or Mac that get to Linux first because many programmers prefer to write
software for Linux.
5. You can't play movies, listen to mp3s or play other
'copyrighted' media with Linux.
This is a common myth which is completely untrue. Linux is generally free, right?
Because Linux is free, it would mean that it would infringe certain copyright, patent
or other licensing matter to just bundle the software with the distribution. This is
why the distributions you don't pay for such as Ubuntu, Fedora Core and Debian
don't come with MP3 support out of the box. Simply by installing MP3 'codecs'
(similar to when you need to download codecs/updates in Windows Media player),
you can get the MP3 support you want. I'm using MP3 as an example - DVDs and
other media formats such as MP4, Microsoft Windows Video format (WMV) or
Apple Audio Codec (AAC) all need similar codec support 'packages' installed.
These are all free and can be installed trivially although you should check if it is
legal to install those codecs in your country first.
6. You have to tweak loads of things to make it work right.
Linux breaks easily.
Unless you have a computer with loads of odd or unsupported hardware in it, you
should find that Linux 'just works'. You don't have to tweak anything during the
installation process, and perhaps you might want to change your desktop
background image, but you really shouldn't need to set up much or tweak things,
just like you don't have much to tweak with Mac OS or Windows.
7. It's not secure and you can get lots of viruses because
there aren't any proper anti-virus programs for Linux.
Linux is still one of the most secure Operating Systems available. Have a look at
the amount of viruses and malware that most Windows users get plagued with.
Compare that to Linux and you'll find that (apart from a few notable exceptions)
there aren't any viruses for Linux. The system it's self was always built in with
security at the heart of it's design. There are however, free anti virus programs
available for Linux such as ClamAV, although their main purpose is to scan for
Windows viruses so that you aren't passing any on to your Windows using friends!
No computer system is infallible to security threats however, so you should follow
the standard advice - make sure you have a good firewall and you keep your PC
up to date with all the available security updates.
8. When you ask a question about Linux you don't get any
help / There isn't good information about Linux available.
A quick scan of google to find the answer you are looking for, or a short chat in a
chat room or forum will dispel that myth very quickly! For example, head over to
the Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide Forums and ask your question there - you'll find
that there is usually someone on hand and happy to help you. Remember that
Linux started on the Internet (a newsgroup forum to be precise) and the Linux
community is very deep-rooted in the Internet. If you look hard enough, the
information you need is always avalable on the net.
If you prefer to read books, online stores such as Amazon offer hundreds of Linux
titles at preferable prices.
9. Linux users are all geeks and weirdos with beards and
I'm a Linux user. I don't wear sandals and I even have a social life! I'm sure that
Linux has it's fair share of geeks. Windows & Apple users do too. A lot of
programmers got into Linux because of it's open source and code-sharing perks. It
was also very popular initially in educational establishments which may have given
it a slightly nerdy user base when Linux started out back in 1991. A lot has
10. Linux won't work alongside my existing Windows or
Mac system.
As covered in the above point 2, you can easily install Linux alongside Windows
and dual boot it with GRUB or BootCamp. Historically, this was a little bit tricky,
but the Linux community have made a concerted effort to make this very simple in
the last five or so years. It's still a bit tough though with EFI based laptops,
especially Macintosh computers.
What is X, X11, XFree, XOrg
or X Windows?
What X is Not:
The names X Windows, the X Windowing System, X11,
XFree86, or simply 'X' is not a product by Microsoft with the letter
X before it.
X does not affect the way graphical windows on your screen look
X won't let you browse through files in a graphical manager
X is NOT a GUI (Graphical User Interface)
X doesen't sound like it does a lot, does it?
Well read on to find out why it's an essential part of Linux!
What X does:
X11 (and it's variants, XOrg, XFree86 etc) is the layer
between the hardware on your system (your graphics card,
and so on) and the GUI that sits on top of X. Have a look at
the following diagram to get the general idea.
When a program is started up, it goes through the process of
first talking to the GUI, about what to do with it's windows, ie:
placement, focus and so on. The GUI applies it's thoughts to
the process, applies the look, menubars (File, Help, Close,
Minimise, etc), and all decorations to the window, then
passes it to X. X has the final decision on where it places it on
a screen. It then talks to the hardware, making it issue the
Tux tip: GUI stands for Graphical User Interface, and
comprises of things like icons, menus, pointers and windows.
It is usually pronounced 'Gooey.
Without X in the equation, the GUI that you use, or properly termed: the Window
Manager couldn't do anything.
X Is also a server. We usually refer to it as XOrg or just as X, but indeed it's proper
title is an X Window Server. When you run X on your own linux box, X has to
determine whether you want to display it on a local machine and on a local
monitor, or on a remote monitor. You can also have more than one X session
running on your linux box at the same time. If you have 2 monitors, and a dual
headed graphics card (ie: Matrox G400 DH), you can get X to display Jane's X
session on monitor 1 and Bob's X Session on monitor 2, all running on one
computer, at the same time. Show me Windows Vista do that, please :)
Some X Heritage
If you're interested in knowing how X came to be, this chapter is for you.
X was an idea conceived by many: In 1984, Apple had released it's first graphical
user interface for it's new computer, the Macintosh.
Even prior to this, a group of real boffins with some way far-out ideas (circa 1978)
had been stroking their beards, drinking lots of hi-caffeine coffee and creating the
very first GUI. It was made by the researchers in Xerox's PARC (Paulo Alto
Research Center), where they designed a GUI called Exlir, and terminal systems
to go with it (called the Star). Unfortunately, it was not a commercial sucess,
mainly due to high pricing.
Anyways... After Elixir, a few GUIs appeared (amongst others): Digital's GEM,
Atari's TOS and the most famous of all, The Mac System OS, in 1984. Less than
two years later in 1986, a consortium of UNIX developers including Sun
Microsystems , Silcon Graphics and AT&T created X. Originally it shipped with the
window manager called TWM. The source of this product and who created it, are
still unknown.
TWM (perhaps, Tom's Window Manager, or, as most know it today; "THE Window
Manager"), was the interface that sat ontop of X, and allowed you to open up
Xterms, resize windows and do basic window manipulation. It was pretty darn
basic to say the least. Then came FVWM, which was a major improvement.
FVWM2 came out years later, along with other window managers such as
AfterStep, IceWM, QvWM (which was supposed to look identical to Windows 98
btw), KDE, Gnome and many others. In 1990, Microsoft Windows 3.0 was
Files, Directories and the
Linux Filing System
Tell me about /usr, /dev, /etc, /home and friends
You may have wondered what goes where on your Linux system, and what all of
the directories or folders in the / (root) folder on your system are doing. This table
lists a typical root partition on a standard Linux system. Yours may differ slightly,
but the main ones (/bin, /usr, /lib, /var and /etc will always exist).
The rudimentary minimum set of Linux programs are held here. These
programs are essential to the operation of your Linux system. It's like a
system folder, except it only holds binary programs (as the name /bin
suggests). Don't delete anything in here or your system will most likely
become broken!
/usr is a place where binary programs are installed into. It is also where
your kernel source is held. There are various folders within /usr, such
as bin (where installed software goes), src (your Linux Kernel source is
here), X11R6 or X11, (The X Window system is here), share (things like
icons and pictures, wallpapers and fonts are held here -- so that they are
shared between your systems users), doc (where the programs on your
system hold their documentation or manuals), lib (where all the libraries,
such as Qt or an OpenGL driver would be held) , etc (global configurations
for installed software) and finally local (local binaries and programs to
your system are located here, just another place for bin really).
Large directory which holds files that link to real hardware devices
attached to your system, ie: /dev/fd0 is the file for the first floppy disk drive
(fd) on your PC. /dev/scd1 is the second SCSI cdrom drive attached to
your PC and /dev/ttyS0 is the equivalent of COM1 in DOS. Due to this
handy architecture, you can point the output of textfiles or running
programs straight to a hardware device, without actually knowing how the
hardware works. The kernel knows that. Ie, doing a cat
/home/my_modem_at_instructions.txt > /dev/ttyS0 would send the
contents of the file my_modem_at_instructions.txt to the modem on COM1
(or ttyS0).
An important directory that you should try not too much to fool with
(although some times, you've gotta go there to change things). This
directory can be basically described as a configuration directory for
system-wide applications and resources. For example, the file /etc/lilo.conf
holds the configuration for the LInuxLOader program -- it boots Linux from
your hard drive for you. If you edit this file, this will allow you to change the
way that your system boots. The file /etc/X11/XF86Config holds the basic
configuration for the X server. Don't delete this folder. Your system will
Note: individual users program profiles are stored in their home
directories, ie: a single users profile for the bash shell is stored in
~/.bashrc (a file with a dot infront of it is a hidden file btw).
This is where all users home directories should be. For example, if your
username is jdoe then you will probably have a home directory called
/home/jdoe or /home/users/jdoe. All of jdoe's personal files (excluding
applications generally), profiles and directories will be stored in here.
The root user's (system administrator) home directory. Root and ONLY
root should be able to access this folder.
Where standard system libraries are stored, such as the pam (Pluggable
Authentication Module) library.
On a UNIX system, all drives are mounted before and after use, instead of
just being A:, C: and D:. This means that a drive can just be part of your
filesystem (as a directory). Most of the time, people like to put their
mounted drives (such as a CDROM or Floppy) in the /mnt (short for
mount) folder. Typically, you might have the following folders within a /mnt
directory: cdrom, floppy, cdrw and possibly a windows drive: win_c.
Whatever you have in the /mnt directory, you will find that the file /etc/fstab
(file system table) has an entry relating the /mnt directory to the physical
drive. Ie: /mnt/cdrom usually points to /dev/cdrom in the fstab, and
/mnt/floppy usually points to /dev/fd0.
If you have a good look at the proc folder, you will find that it's not actually
a real folder at all, it's a virtual folder - it's 0 bytes big. Inside /proc, you will
find handles for various devices and also, some informative files such as
meminfo (if you type cat /proc/meminfo it will tell you how much memory
you have and are using). /proc/pci holds all the information about your PCI
bus and cards attached to it. Have a look, you can't edit any of these files.
Temporary files usually created by running software are held here,
sometimes these are called sockets.
Where system programs are placed. Much like /usr/local/bin and /usr/bin,
however, these binaries are usually ran as root,
for system maintenance reasons. For example, RedHat/Fedora systems
store the ifconfig tool here (which will allow you to alter network settings)
Holds files that are generally server oriented, such as mail spools (where
mail is held for a user until they pick it up). Lock files are held in /var/run.
These files stop multiple instances of one program running by one user if
necessary. Red Hat 7 and above also puts the web server in this directory,
although Apache's default directory is /usr/local/apache.
Damaged data that has been found on a drive when e2fsck (equivalent of
a Scandisk in Windows) runs is put in this folder for personal examination
by root.
Placed on your system generally when KDE is installed. Some KDE and
Qt Based programs like to install themselves in the folder /opt/kde/bin for
some reason.
Keeping your files nice and tidy
It's important that you keep your files tidy on your Linux system, mainly because
you'll find them easier, but also because you want to keep your system secure.
Place all of your own personal files in your own folder, and make sure that the
permissions are set that only you can access them. For example, if you have lots
of documents, consider making a folder in your home directory called docs. In
docs you can put all of your documents.
Making folders
To make a folder, you can usually enter your file manager in Gnome or KDE
and right click on a white space in the folder that you want to create the folder,
then select Create Directory or New Folder.
However, to do it at the terminal, change to the directory that you want to make
the folder in (cd /name_of_folder_you_want_to/go_to). Then type:
mkdir new_folder
Operating on files: Executing (running), copying, moving, renaming and
deleting files
Binary Execution
To execute a binary program, at the terminal, you can do the following:
So, if I wanted to execute the file in the current directory, I could issue:
Some programs such as LokiGames software (,
Sun's StarOffice and Corel's WordPerfect Office have their own dedicated binary
installers. Most of the time, these sort of binary installers are initially executed from
the terminal, by using the example above.
Note that sometimes installer packages come without permission to execute (run), so
you will need to provide it permission, try chmod 755 before you run the program.
Copying files
To copy a file at the terminal, the cp command is used, with the following syntax:
cp source_dir/source.file destination_dir/destination.file
For example, I want to copy from the current directory to /home/bob/perl:
cp /home/bob/perl
Moving files
To move files at the terminal, the format is very similar to the cp command. The
move command is mv.
Here is the standard syntax:
mv /source_dir/source.file dest_dir/source.file
So, as a typical example:
mv /home/bob
The mv command has many other arguments (options you can pass to it at run
time), such as -R, lets investigate the -R switch:
mv /home/jane/docs/* /home/bob/docs -R
This would copy the entire contents of the folder /home/jane/docs (because we
gave it the wildcard *), to the folder /home/bob/docs. Additionaly, as we passed
the -R argument, if there were any further directories inside /home/jane/docs (ie:
folders called CV, letters and notes could exist inside the docs folder), the -R
argument moves the CV, letters and notes folders as well as the docs folder.
Renaming files
Unlike DOS, which had a seperate command to rename files with (ren), Unix
simply uses the move (mv) command to do it. Take this example:
mv oldname newname
That would rename the file the file in the current directory called oldname to
Deleting files
Deleting files can be done simply with the rm command. Deletion of emtpy
directories can be done with rmdir command. Here are some examples:
Deletion of a single file:
rm myfile.txt
Deletion of every file in current directory:
rm *
Deletion of every file in current directory and all directories within it (recursive
rm * -Rvf
Note: if you want to delete a directory and all of it's contents in one swoop, instead
of using rm *, then cd .., then rmdir dirname, you can simply do a rm dirname Rvf.
Removal of an empty directory:
rmdir mydir
Security and files: Permissions and Ownership
In Unix, all files have permissions. Enabling files to have permissions allows
security over and above simple password protection to a system. Imagine the
situation: You have a Linux server which is used for 5 people from your companies
Research and Development department. The five people are:
Consider for a moment that Bob wanted to keep his data (which is stored on the
linux server over the network) private from jane, mary, mark and simon. Without
the use of permissions, it would be impossible to do this. So for this reason we
have the following permission system in Unix:
What you see above is an edited example of a directory listing on a unix system.
You can achieve the same result as what you see above by using the ls command
with the long listing function (ls -l). Consider that the above result was an abstract
of the output of ls -l /home on the linux server.
The part that reads rwxr-xr-x is the permissions bit for the file (or directory).
The bit that says d, can also read -, s, l or c. - means normal file, s means sticky, l
means symbolic link (like a shortcut, but but better) or c is a block device (you'll
find these in the /dev folder). The d bit that is on the listing that we have is
because the listing is of a directory.
So, from the above listing already we know that it is a directory, it has some
permissions set, and that the directory is called bob and it is in the /home folder.
The Permissions for /home/bob
But what do the permissions rwxr-xr-x actually mean, I hear you cry?! Have a look
at this:
Figure 1: Explanation of permissions on a Linux system: UGO = Users, Groups,
As you can see from the diagram, the first rwx is mapped to the owner of the file.
This means that the owner (which is presumably bob), has read (r), write (w) and
execution (x) access for that folder.
The second permission, r-x is mapped to the group of the directory. Not only can
an induvidual user own a file, but a whole group (if desired) can access a file. This
example illustrates that everyone in the group users can read the files in the
directory, and that they can execute programs within it, or change into that
The third permission, r-x, is for others (commonly referred to as world), which
means everyone else. This is the most dangerous permission bit. Our example
allows anyone on the server to be able (like the users group) to read anything
within the bob directory, and execute files in the directory.
Ideally, what bob should really do, is set the following permissions, for total
Using the chmod command to set permissions
When you want to change the permissions of a file, you can use the ch
commands: chmod (which changes the rwx bits of a file), chown (which changes
the owner of a file or directory) and chgrp (which changes the group which
accesses a file or directory).
This part deals with chmod.
Imagine a file called cv.doc with the following permissions User: read, write,
execute. Group: read. Others: none, ie:
cv.doc rwx/r--/--Let's imagine that we wanted to change the permissions to: rwxrwx---, so user and
group can read, write and execute the file cv.doc.
This command would let us change the desired permissions:
chmod ug=rwx,o= cv.doc
So, what we did there, is we ran the chmod command and told it to set
the 'user' and 'group' permissions to read, write and execute. We set
the 'other' (everyone else) permissions to nothing. Finally, we specified the file
that we wanted to change the permissions for, cv.doc. Take this other example, as
with Unix, there is always more than one way to do something:
chmod 0770 cv.doc
You will notice the only difference to the above command is the 0770 against the
ugo bit. The 0770 (or just 770 would do) means exactly the same thing as
ug=rwx,o= . 0770 is the numerical representation for the permissions, octal is a
base 8 number system, and the permissions of files are based on this. Ie:
execute only
write only
read only
You will notice, there are 8 (as in octet) combinations of numbers (0 through 7).
If you add 1, 2 and 4 together, you get 7, which is read, write and execute. By
taking any combination of all of the numbers 1, 2 or 4, you get your desired
permission that you require. For example, 1+2 = 3, and chmod 300 would give you
write and execute permissions.
It really dosen't matter which way you choose to use chmod (either ie:
u=rwx,g=rwx,o=rx) or (775), just use what you feel most comfortable with,
although it is handy to know how each way works.
Using the chown command to set the owner of files
The syntax of the chown command is relatively simple:
chown bob mydoc.txt
changes the owner from whomever the current owner of mydoc.txt to bob. Note
that only the person(s) with write permissions to this file can perform this action.
Quick Tip: chown will change the owner and group of the file
Using the chgrp command to set the group owner of files
As you saw in the previous hint, will quickly change the group of a file
or directory, and I personally prefer using chown, but the original and
proper way to change the group ownership of a file or a directory, can be done
with the chgrp command, as follows:
chgrp users mydoc.txt
...which changes the group ownership of mydoc.txt to users.
Even further in the depths of network file management: NFS
Some of you will have a brief idea of what NFS is, and some of you will have
never before heard of NFS, and because of this, I will describe NFS from the top.
If you know completely what it is, and just want to know how to set it up, feel free
to scroll down a bit until we get to the section 'Using NFS'.
What Exactly is NFS?
NFS is a method that you can easily and very efficiently share files accross a
network in a Unix environment. Almost all types of Unix support NFS, and
although not natively, Windows NT can be told to read NFS volumes.
A distinct advantage that NFS takes over the 'Windows Shares' mechanism (the
system used to share files in Windows), is that NFS does not require to assign a
seperate drive on your computer for the use of shared files. Imagine the following
NFS file sharing, side by side Windows File Sharing (CIFS / SMB).
The image shows that directories of files or drives themselves, under Windows,
must be exported to a drive letter (of which only a possible 24 are available). With
Linux and Unix, you can export any directory or drive, and it can be viewed under
any name on the client.
Imagine the scenario: You have the directory /shared/home on your server (let's
call it alpha). You want your other client (desktop) machines, bravo and charlie to
be able to see this folder, and everything inside it. Your two client systems are to
have their home directories inside this share. You use NFS for this purpose.
Percieve the users mary (In this example, Mary will use the Linux PC called
bravo), and bob (uses the desktop charlie). Mary's current login directory on bravo
is /home/mary, and bob's login directory on charlie is /home/bob. Both of these
directories are local to bravo or charlie and cannot be seen on other machines.
You make two folders inside /shared/home on Alpha, one called mary and one
called bob.
You move everything inside mary on her computer (bravo) into her folder on
alpha, and you do the same for bob.
You remove the /home directory and all it's contents on bravo and charlie -- as it's
now redundant.
You then export the directory /shared/home to bravo and charlie (and call it /home)
The net result of all of this is that mary and bob (to them anyway, nothing has
changed), but to the administrator of the network on alpha, all of the files are
stored on the alpha server, and any files they now request from their home
directories is now taken from the folder /shared/home on alpha.
Using NFS
Taking the three servers, alpha, beta and charlie a little further, this is a
demonstration of how you can actually set it up:
NFS works on the basis of one of the rpc (Remote Procedure Call) tools
called nfsd. All good Linux distributions should have rpc tools already with them
(although they may be disabled in the sysv init startup), make sure this is installed
and ready to go, and make sure that you have installed nfsd on the system that
you wish to export your directories or drives (in our case, this is alpha).
Edit the file /etc/exports which is where all your exported volumes are listed. On
alpha the format of the file would look like this:
bravo (rw,no_root_squash)
charlie (rw,no_root_squash)
This is what the above line means to you and I:
1) Take the directory /shared/home 2) Allow the computer bravo to read and write
(rw) to it, and allow root to be treated as root over exported filesystems
3) Allow the computer charlie to read and write (rw) to it, and allow root to be
treated as root over exported filesystems (no_root_squash)
Obviously, alpha must know, either by the file /etc/hosts or by using DNS / NIS
how to resolve the hostnames bravo or charlie. If you don't think you can manage
this at your current stage of Linux networking skills, then I recommend simply
replacing the hostname (ie: bravo) with the IP address of that particular host (ie:
You may or may not know about the infamous /etc/fstab, but this file holds the key
for configuring bravo and charlie with the information they need to see the 'share'
that alpha has now been set up to provide.
If you investigate /etc/fstab, you will notice that it has all the points of where all
your drives are mounted, and this file is read by Linux when it starts up, to mount
each drive. NFS Volumes are no different from physical disks, they too get added
to this list, assuming that you want the volume to be mounted every time you use
the computer.
Adding this line the the /etc/fstab on bravo and charlie would then kick in the
mounting of the nfs volume on boot each time:
And in english:
1) Take the export or 'share' on the system alpha (/shared/home)
2) Mount it on this computer (either bravo or charlie) as /home (ps: an empty
directory with the name /home must exist to put this in). (/home)
3) Make the amount of retrieved bytes per block 8K / 8192 bytes (rsize=8192)
4) Make the amount of sent bytes ber block 8K / 8192 (wsize=8192)
Parts 3 and 4 of the statement are not necessary, but they help to improve
efficiency over the network.
Also note that again, if you haven't set up an /etc/hosts.txt or DNS to resolve the
name alpha, use it's IP address in the place of the 'alpha:', to read something like
Once you are sure that nfsd is running correctly, you can do this by typing ps ax |
grep "nfsd" at the shell If you get a process called nfsd appearing (don't confuse
this with grep nfsd, which is what you just typed), then you know that nfsd is
running, and it sounds like it's configured correctly.
Now all you need to do is either start nfs manually on alpha, or reboot it, so that
the startup script brings it up. You could reboot bravo and charlie, but preferrably,
just typing 'mount -a' at the root prompt on both of the systems is enough for Linux
to re-read it's /etc/fstab file and cotton on to the fact that it has a new entry. If you
get any errors when it re-reads this configuration, make sure to double check all of
your settings.
Further Reading
The Linux Documentation Project should have the definitive guide to using NFS,
although it's possibly not too newbie-friendly.
Typing man nfsd, man exports and man fstab will all help you, and mainly man
Command Line Interface
What's a Terminal/Console/Command Line/CLI?
In some parts of this site, you may see references to using the Console, Terminal
or CLI. What this means is that you are required to use a text-mode command
system, rather than a graphical command system to perform actions. In most
Linux systems, the command line interface can be accessed by looking in your
Applications menu and searching for 'Terminal'. Other apps such as Xterm, Rxvt,
Konsole and others exist, but they all generally do the same thing.
So, why should I use a CLI?
Commands used to be the way that all computers were operated. Since the
beginning of keyboards and monitors, computers required users to provide text
based instructions to do things like work on files or use applications. A command
interface is often abbreviated to CLI (Command Line Interface or Interpreter). The
commands you give are usually entered using a piece of software called a
Terminal or Console. This software is usually a small tool such as the Gnome
Terminal, xterm, rxvt or the Linux Console which traditionally runs the Bash
(Bourne Again Shell) in Linux. The commands you give to the bash shell are
interpreted to provide outcomes, for example the command 'chmod u=rwx file.txt'
without the parenthesis would change the ownership permissions of the file called
file.txt to be readable, writable and executable by the owner of the file (user).
Today of course, most computers use a Graphical User Interface or GUI, which
uses Windows, Icons, Menus and Mouse pointers (WIMP) to operate the
computer rather than commands, however many systems administrators and
power users in both Windows and Linux worlds still prefer to use a command line
interface to quickly perform actions. It's a great timesaver once mastered!
If you want to know about some of the commands which you can type in at the
Terminal, check out the commands tutorial.
I don't know any commands
The Whole Linux Command Thing: Why Have Commands?
Just as cavemen learned to develop their skills from grunting and groaning to
writing meaningful representations on the walls of caves, The computer world
started off with the keyboard and the CLI (Command Line Interface). All action that
happened on any system would be inherently text. Xerox's PARC research center
managed to invent the very first graphical user interface. When Linux first came to
be in 1991, most things were still text. True, Windows 3.0 was out, and MacOS
had been with us since 1984 but the PC world was still dominated with text. MSDOS still ran the PC show. Anyone who wanted to use their PC efficiently back in
1991 with a Microsoft machine, would use Windows to run their graphical
programs like Aldus PageMaker and Lotus 1-2-3, but they would open an MSDOS prompt box, or close Windows and drop to DOS, so that they could quickly
rename a file or move it from one place to another. Sure, users could even then,
click into the File Manager, select the file(s) they wanted to rename or move and
drag them to the relevant location, but a lot of people were finding that DOS was
still quicker to use if you knew the commands. If you spent a few days learning the
basic commands of DOS, you could really use your PC efficiently, coupled with
the graphical usefulness of Windows (ahem), you could cut workload down by a
good deal. Even today, when using modern GUI O/S's like Windows XP and Mac
OS, I still finding myself going to Stargoing to Start>Run and typing incommand to
access the DOS prompt to do something quickly. To the people who used the PC
before the GUI ruled (circa 1995), typing a command even now is sometimes
more efficient than using a drag and drop idea.
Imagine the following scenario:
You have 300 files in a folder (call the folder 'work'), and within that f older you
have 2 other folders, one called 'old' and one called 'new'. Your task is to separate
the files in work to the new and old folder. You must put the files that are older
than 1 month into old, and the files less than 1 month into new. In a graphical file
manager, you would need to right click each of the 300 files separately to find out
their creation date, and then move each of the files one by one into their relevant
folder. This operation is seriously time-consuming.
How's about the command-line option: type in one line at the shell, and the files
are automatically sorted into each folder, determined by todays date. Sure, you
would know that you would have to type
'find /usr -ctime +30 -exec ls -ld \;' to get it to happen, but hey, it's still faster than
going through 300 files.
There are yet many other reasons that you may want to have a CLI, for example,
a User Administrator has 3 dead (crashed) programs on 3 different workstations
across a building. He has two choices: Go run around the building like a headless
chicken and kill the programs manually at each workstation, or sit at his desk and
telnet into each machine, using the CLI, killing each of the programs, finishing the
job 20 times faster.
What about a remote GUI though? - Nowadays with faster networks it is possible to run
X or even an MS Windows Desktop over a network. Remember however, all that
graphics has a large bandwidth requirement, and means performance is often pretty
poor (especially from afar). At the CLI, most of the time you will barely notice whether
you are local or remote.
If you start to use Linux a lot, you'll start to find it's a lot easier just to issue a direct
command instead of clicking on a hundred different icons to do something you
could do in one command at the CLI.
A common misconception (I don't know why this is) about Linux is that it is
completely text based, and the story could not be further from the truth, but I
expect Linux to always hold onto it's console, as it's a highly useful tool, and whilst
I probably use it more than your average user will, it's still handy at some points for
most, given a few hours to learn it's power.
Some simple commands, you may recognize
GNU/Linux has a lot of commands, luckily though, you'll probably only ever want
to know around 10-15 of them for anything at the CLI.
You can find the files for these commands in folders like /bin and /usr/bin on your
Linux box.
If you have used computers since at least the late 90s, then you will probably
remember DOS, you'll find that the syntax of DOS commands compared to UNIX
commands are often similar, and even some of the commands themselves are the
same. Have a look at this comparison table if you can remember any DOS
dir or
What it does
Shows the files in the current folder
Clears the screen
Shows the contents of a file, eg cat foo.txt
Move a file from one place to another, eg: mv foo
Copies a file, eg: cp /home/foo /users/foo
ren / rename
The mv (move) command also doubles up for
output (or echo) something to the screen
Some more commands, plus how to get help on almost any command
Here are a few more advanced commands, along with their explanations and one
example for each:
Changes permissions for files
chmod u=rwx myfile.txt
change the owner for a file or folder
chown myuser
change the group owner for a file or folder
chgrp mygroup
Moves or renames a file
mv /home/me/myfile.txt
searches text for results
cat myfile.txt | grep
list the files in a folder
ls -l
finds files or file designators
find /home -name
mounts a drive/block device for use
mount /dev/cdrom
Show the list of live processes
ps ax | more
kill a process (running software) by process ID
kill -9 12345
de facto Unix archiver
tar zxvf myarchive.tar.gz
The Red Hat Package manager, used to install,
rpm -Uvh
remove, upgrade and query RPM packages.
Tux Tip
Important tip:
If you ever need to know how to use a command, or just find out what a command
does man (short for manual) is your friend. For example, by typing man ls, a
comprehensive guide is given on using the ls command, what it's purpose is and
what it's syntax is. For more information on using man, type man man.
There is not a better source for quick, easy to find information on almost every
Linux command. The only times when man lets you down, is when you don't know
that a command that does a specific purpose exists, thus, you don't know the
name of the command, so you don't know what manual page you want to ask man
for. For this reason, I have started the lengthy process of creating a commands
guide, that is easy to understand, although somewhat less verbose than manual
pages themselves.
Partitioning A Disk
If you want to install Linux on a hard drive that is occupied by another operating
system such as Windows, or perhaps you prefer to set up your hard
drive manually then you should follow this rough guide.
The procedure is a little different for most people, because no two hard drives are
set up the same.
If you are using this guide to set up Linux and Windows on the same drive, then it
is assumed that you have already resized Windows on the drive to allow space for
Linux by the use of QTParted or similar tools. See Chapter 4 for more information.
All of the images here can be clicked to see further detail. The partitioning here
was done with the Ubuntu 5.10 text mode installer so may look a little different to
your software, however the principals are the same. Please leave a comment
below if you wish to see some changes to the page, or have it updated to reflect a
specific installer.
Select free space
This particular drive does not have any other partitions on it, however if you had
Windows on your drive, it would show it here. If you are installing Linux alongside
Windows, make sure you select the partition on the hard drive that you have cleared
out as 'Free space', rather than your Windows partition.
Create a new partition for Linux
Linux needs to allocate the 'Free space' you selected in the previous screen so select
the default option here, Create a new partition.
Setting up the first partition (/boot)
In this example, we are going to create four harddisk partitions to put Linux into. You
can do it with less, but the way we will set up the partitions allow you to have one
partition for booting, documents and settings, system programs and swap space, as
follows:/boot (booting the system)
/home (for your own documents and settings)
/ (all the system data and programs)
swap (which helps out your memory).
This partition we are setting up is for booting Linux, and it contains very little data, so
type 250 M in the text box, to allocate 250 Mega bytes to /boot.
Primary, or Logical?
If you are completely new to setting up disks, then you will need to know that for
mainly historic reasons, hard drives can be split into Primary and Logical Partitions.
Two things to note about Primary partitions:
Primary partitions should be used to boot your O/S.
There is a limit of four primary partitions to any drive
Due to these restrictions, we will use Logical partitioning for our last partition, and
Primary for our first three, if you have another O/S such as Windows installed, you
should take this into account also. The only partition that must be Primary is the one
that contains /boot.
If you have a windows partition as the first partition on your drive, perhaps this is the
ideal setup for a first time Linux user, who still wants Windows to fall back to:
Logical or
% Taken up of Disk
Use (name)
1% (or approximately 200MB)
4% (or, typically double the
size of your RAM)
Beginning or End?All of the partitions we are setting up in this exercise will be
contiguous. Each partition will come one after another, from the beginning of the drive,
to the end of it. As this is the case, all of our partitions will start from the Beginning of
the freespace.
Summarising so far...So far, we have created a new 250MB partition on our free
space. This screen summarises just this, however it shows a few things that are not to
our liking - the mount point is set for '/', and we want to use '/boot', therefore, use
the cursor keys to select 'Mount point' and hit return to change it.
Mount Point NameAs we wish to delegate this 250MB partition to /boot, select /boot
from the menu with the cursor keys and hit return.
A last check...If everything looks good now, then select 'Done setting up the partition'
and hit return. Note that the size of our 250MB partition is slightly smaller than 250MB
(246.7MB to be precise), this is due to drive information occupying the remaining
3.3MB space.
Back at the main partition menu...Once the partition is set up, we are returned to the
main partition menu, where we can see that our newly made partition has been added
to the list. If you are happy with this arrangement, proceed on to allocate the remaining
free space by selecting 'FREE SPACE' with the cursor keys and pressing return.
Choose the sizeThe partition that we will be setting up now is called the / (or, root)
partition. This is the main partition of any Linux system, as all system data will be held
under here, such as your program files and system settings. If you have a large hard
drive and lots of space to spare, give this a good amount of space, but be sure to
leave space for your home and swap partitions.
Just like before, the partition is at the beginning of the free space...Select
'Beginning', and hit return.
Summary of the root partitionIf you are happy with your size allocation for /, then
Select 'Done'.
Selecting Free Space for /homeIn our example, we have a seperate partition for
home, this is where we will define how much space to provide your own files
(documents, music etc), and your preference files.Select 'FREE SPACE' and press
Select the size for /homeOnce again, give your own data area as much space as you
can, whilst leaving space for the smaller swap partition.
Primary or Logical?In our example, this will be our third partition, so we will make it a
logical partition.
Just like before, the partition is at the beginning of the free space...Select
'Beginning', and hit return.
Happy at home?If you are ok with the settings for /home, then confirm by selecting
'Done setting up this partition'.
Time to swap..Before we go on to set up swap, you can see that the numbering of the
partitions on this drive are as follows:
1 - Primary (/boot)
2 - Primary (/)
5 - Logical (/home)
Why does it go from 2 to 5? Has Linux lost the ability to count? The answer is no! As
the Primary partitions can occupy up to four partitions, the PC reserves these first four
for the Primary allocation.Ok, Where were we?...
If you are happy with your /home partition, select the remaining free space and hit
Create another new partitionIf you don't intend on using the drive for anything else,
you can use up the rest of the drive for the swap, but a good guideline for the size of
your swap partition should be around twice the size of your system RAM (memory), so
if you have 512MB RAM, then your swap space would be 1024MB (1GB).
Logical, again..How did you guess?! Another logical partition.
/usr - but I want swap!The Ubuntu installer tries to be clever again, allocating /usr to
this partition type, however, /usr will actually appear under /, so we don't want a
seperate partition for it.The steps for changing /usr into swap are different from the
time before, so watch closely as we change the partition type from ext3 to swap.
Select the 'Use as' line and press return.
What type?As it's a swap partition we want, change the partition type to 'swap area'
and hit return.
Anything else?Next you will be asked if there are any amendments for this partition,
and as the swap partition type is pretty simple, there is nothing to do. Select 'Done
setting up the partition' and press return.
A good job done well!We've filled this hard drive up with Linux partitions and it's now
time to commit these changes to the disk.If you are happy with all of your changes,
select 'Finish' and press return.
Warning!Anything you have done before this point is fully reversable, but once you
Finish the partitioning here, there is no going back!Select Yes, and your partitions will
be formatted and readied for Linux.
Note: only new partitions you have set up will be formatted, partitions which you
have left will not be touched.
Adding users to groups
If you have a look at the /etc/groups file, you'll see a list of all the user groups on
your Linux server (or desktop).
But first off..
What are groups?
Let's imagine that you are the user 'testuser'. By default, when you add a user on
a Linux system, unless you choose otherwise when you create it, the user will be
created in a group of his/her own. This group would also be called 'testuser'. This
group contains exactly one user: testuser. Great.
However, groups allow you and other users of the same system to share
permissions: access to documents, programs and more. For example, if you
testuser was suddenly added to a group called 'admins', and that admins group
had access to many files in otherwise confidential areas of the Linux system (for
example, configuration files in the /etc folder), then 'testuser' would now also be
able to access these files also.
Here's an excerpt from a typical directory layout (using the command ls -l):
-rw-r----- 1 syslog adm 5740 Jul 4 23:06 auth.log
The above file belongs to the user 'syslog', and also the group called 'adm'. The
permissions of the file allow the user 'syslog' to read and write to the file (rw-), the
group 'adm' can read the file only (r--), and everyone else, can't do anything to the
file (---). If we added our fictitious users 'testuser' to the group 'adm', then they
would be able to read this file.
How do I create a New Group?
To add a new group, all you need to do is use the groupadd command like so:
groupadd <groupname>
Add an Existing User to a Group
Next we’ll add the user 'testuser' to the group 'adm':
usermod -a -G adm testuser
Change a User’s Primary Group
If you want to switch the primary group that a user is assigned to, use the usermod
command with the lower case g switch:
usermod -g <groupname> username
View the Group Assignments of a User
If you want to view which groups a user is a member of, you can use the id
command. It shows you the uid (user ID number), the username, the gid (the
group ID number), the group name, and the gid and group names of any additional
groups the user may be part of. You may also specify someone elses username to
view their details.
$ id
uid=1000(testuser) gid=1000(testuser)
groups=1000(testuser), 4(adm)
How to look at all the groups on a system and edit specific
details (advanced).
If you are willing to get your hands dirty (and yes, this means you could severely
break things), then you can run the vigr command, which allows you to edit the
groups file (you need to be root).
$ vigr
you can manually change the group names, gids and user memberships of any
groups within the text editor.
Add a New User and Assign a Group in One Command
Sometimes you might need to add a new user that has access to a particular
resource or directory, like adding a new FTP user. You can do so with the useradd
command, using the -G flag:
For example, to create a brand new user named 'testuser2' to the postfix group,
you'd issue the following command:
useradd -G postfix testuser2
Don't forget to assign a password for that user:
passwd testuser2
Add a User to Multiple Groups
You can add a user to more than one group by specifying them in a commadelimited list:
usermod -a -G postfix,adm,othergroup testuser2
Finally, Have a look at the adduser and addgroup commands also. Adduser
makes it easy to interactively make new users without worrying about
remembering the flags.
80 Linux Monitoring Tools for
Have a look at this excellent list of tools for monitoring your Linux servers! We
could add the same list, but it would just be downright thievery, it's the most
comprehensive list of its kind we've seen before:
Analysing system
performance with 'Top'
There are literally hundreds of guides on the Internet detailling how to use the 'top'
command. A very handy command-line tool that has come with UNIX since back
in the dark ages, however not all of these guides are directed flatly at
the new Linux user. This one won't go into loads of detail but will give you the
The top command in action
Why would I want to run 'top' ?
Top is a great utility to find out if your Linux machine is running slowly, or perhaps
you want to see what a server is doing most of the time, top tells you loads of
things about how well your box is performing and can be compared to tools like
the Windows Task Manager.
How do I run 'top'?
Top is a command-line tool. That is, you need to run the Terminal or Konsole
program in order to run it. For example, in Ubuntu, click on Applications, then click
Accessories, then click 'Terminal'. You will be presented with a command prompt.
Type the word top (in lower case) and press return. You will then see the 'top'
program running.
What am I seeing here?
With any luck, your terminal window should look a bit like this:
top - 16:17:41 up 100 days, 18:01, 4 users, load average: 0.20, 1.13, 1.77
Tasks: 126 total, 1 running, 125 sleeping, 0 stopped, 0 zombie
Cpu(s): 0.0%us, 0.1%sy, 0.0%ni, 99.8%id, 0.2%wa, 0.0%hi, 0.0%si, 0.0%st
Mem: 16383952k total, 15630644k used, 753308k free, 4180008k buffers
Swap: 7815580k total,
64k used, 7815516k free, 10127600k cached
1 root
20 0 1948 600 508 S 0 0.0 0:21.74 init
Whoa! What is all that nonsense?! Have no fear, it will all make sense in a second
and you'll be able to impress all your friends with your new found knowledge!
The first line shows all of the stats that the command 'uptime' shows. For example,
you can see the time of the system, how many days the system has been running
(the 'uptime') - in this case my system has been running for 100 days, 18 hours, 1
minute. There are four active users on the system and finally you see the 'load
average' figures.
The load average shows how many processes (program tasks) are ready to run
over three time averages: 1 minute, 5 minutes and 15 minutes. You can tell that
the 'load' on this box has come down from 1.77 to 0.20 in the last 15 minutes.
Typically, you will find that a load average of over 10 is fairly high and you will
definitely start to notice the computer being slower.
The next line is useful, but not as useful as the last one. The amount of tasks
currently waiting and running is listed, note that 125 out of the 126 tasks at this
time were 'sleeping'. The only running process was in fact 'top', everything else
was doing nothing - just waiting around for something to happen, thus they are
sleeping. You'll also notice that there are 0 zombie processes - these are when a
process spawns (starts) another process (eg a child process) and the parent
process fails and leaves a child process behind. The processes are still running
but have nothing to do and nothing to speak to, so essentially they are 'Zombified
processes!'. They are often difficult to get rid of, but I rarely see them these days
unless you aren't looking after your system.
The next line will show you how much % of the CPU is being used, and in what
states. If the CPU is 100% used for a blink and then back to around 5% use, this is
quite normal and you will note that it happens quite a lot. The %us means this is
how much percent of the system CPU usage is being occupied by user tasks (eg a
task that you run as user 'bob'. The opposite of root or system processes). The
%sy is the amount of system processes are using the CPU. Next, %ni means the
amount of processes in percent that are 'niced' processes, eg processes that have
had their normal weighting of priority adjusted in some way. Finally the %id is the
percentage of the CPU that is currently idle, waiting for instructions, you can see
that this box is really doing very little here, thus the high idle value.
There is a lot to say about Mem (Memory) and Swap (Virtual Memory) usage,
beyond the scope of this article, but needless to say, you should always expect
the amount of free memory to be low - this is by design, it's not like the old days in
Windows or DOS. Linux automatically allocates most of your available
RAM memory to use in caches.
The rest of the top program shows you the 'top' running processes (thus why the
program is called top!). By default, it shows you the top processes sorted by CPU
The example below shows an idle system, but you might see that a number of
processes are above the process '1' (called init), and these are all chewing up
more CPU usage. Here is what all the fields mean in that bar along the top:
PID - Process ID. The unique number given to each process on the system.
The init process always has PID 1 because it is the first thing that runs, and it
spawns all other proceses. Don't kill this process unless you want to reboot your
USER - Username. This is the user or username that 'owns' the process in
question. This way you can quite quickly see which user or users are chewing up
most of the system's utilisation. Remember that the 'root' user is the system user.
PR - Priority. This is the priority of the process. This is often of little use to you as
the kernel automatically works out the priority of a process depending upon the
load and usage of a process. The higher the number, the lower the priority, +20
being the lowest priority, -20 the highest.
NI - 'Nice' Value. The 'nice' value can be between -19 and +20. This over-rides
the priority of a process a bit, so if you have a big heavy duty process that you
want to run, but don't want it to overpower everything else, you can 'renice' a
priority to +20. If you want it to go above the normal threshold of kernel
prioritisation (0), then you need to be the root user, you can renice a process down
to -19 to beef up the priority of a task over any others.
VIRT - Virtual Memory allocated. This is the amount of virtual memory the
process is using presently.
RES - Resident Memory allocated. This is the amount of 'real' memory allocated.
SHR - Shared Memory allocated. Processes can share memory with other
processes, this is the amount of memory they are using which is considered to be
'shared' memory.
S - Status. This is the status of the process, it will either be R (Running), S
(Sleeping) or Z (Zombie).
%CPU - This is the amount in percent that this process is using of the CPU at that
%MEM - This is the amount of allocated memory that this process is using at that
instance. Often you will find that this is fairly low.
TIME+ - This is the amount of CPU time a process is using in hundredths of a
COMMAND - This is the actual command that is running, or the name of the
Cool, what else can I do with top?
There are a few keys you can press within top, that will help you analyse other
parts of your system's performance.
Kill - If you press k and enter a process ID (PID), you will kill (close down) that
process. Be careful with this though, as if you kill a process that you shouldn't, the
system can become unstable, especially if you are running top as the super-user
(root). If you are asked for a 'signal' to give a process, there are a number of
signals you can give but 15 and 9 are the most common. See 'man kill' for an idea
of what each one does. Essentially 15 will terminate a normal process gracefully, 9
will kill it straight away (not graceful - doesn't have time to save it's state or data).
Quit - to quit out of top, press q (lower case q).
Renice - to renice a process (see above section) use the r key.
Sort by memory usage - press lower case m.
Sort by CPU Usage - Press capital P. This is the default view
Further Usage and Reading
For further information, at the command line, type man top and you will see the
manual page on the top program which gives you detailled information for top.
You'll also find plenty of other guides on the Internet that go into further depth, but
hopefully this helps you to diagnose your system's performance. For example, if
something is running slowly (often a problem with programs like firefox crashing
and chewing up CPU usage). You are likely to see firefox at the top of the top list.
You can kill it by pressing k and entering the PID number of firefox, then pressing
return. Once that's done, unless there are other processes still chewing up the
CPU, you should notice things returning to normal.
Finally, there's also a newer, prettier (arguably nicer) version of top, which
although is not on every linux system, it can be easily installed. It's called htop.
Monitoring network
bandwidth, CPU and memory
Here is a bunch of handy tips for today that will likely remain in your armoury
As a Linux sysadmin it's sometimes difficult to visualise just what is causing a
performance problem. Sure, it's easy enough to see which process is hogging the
CPU with tools like 'top' or its fancier brother, htop. When it comes to figuring out
the long term load on a machine or understanding how much memory and network
bandwidth is being used can be a little more of a challenge if you aren't aware of
the tools out there.
CPU & memory monitoring with (h)top
Use the F6 button in htop to sort by CPU or memory etc.
htop real time cpu analyser
Analysing CPU, Memory and Disk I/O over a measured time
To analyse the average CPU, memory and disk I/O load over a measured amount
of time, use the vmstat tool. It is ugly looking in comparison to htop but once you
understand the display it can be highly effective in understanding what's going on
with the system except network utilisation. Note as well that virtualised guest
servers might not give the true CPU & I/O figures as these can vary dynamically
based on the hypervisor settings.
Like top, vmstat is almost ubiquitous in availability for each Linux version. Vmstat
normally takes two arguments: the sample time and the number of samples to
measure. So for example running
vmstat 1 100
Will make a sample each second and will perform the sample 100 times. By
default vmstat will show you the output of the CPU load, memory/swap and block
I/O, when it runs its 100 samples, it will give you the averages over the time
samples for, in this case 100 seconds. If you wish to run vmstat continuously use
0 as the sample number. More information on the syntax and output of vmstat is
available here (or use man vmstat).
Finally as an text based alternative you can brew this function in your .bashrc or in
a shell script, this will allow you to execute it at intervals using the at command or
schedule with cron or perhaps combine it with another script to make further
analysis over time.
memcpu() echo "--- Top 10 cpu eating process ---"; ps auxf | sort -nr -k
3 | head -10;
echo "--- Top 10 memory eating process ---"; ps auxf | sort -nr -k 4 |
head -10;
Analysing network utilisation quickly
Monitoring network utilisation is arguably as important as your CPU and memory.
The amount of built in tools that do this vary between distributions. There is a
multitude of tools you can install via yum or apt-get in the respective distributions.
You can try ntop or nmon. Today we are going to look at nload. Although ntop
touts itself as the 'top' command of networking, it's a web based tool which whilst
good, isn't as simple to get going as nload. To execute nload simply run it without
any arguments and it will output the load on the current network interface.
nload at work
Nload does just what it says on the tin. The historic analysis makes it easy to see
how busy the network is, unfortunately that won't show you what application is
causing the load but there are apps which can help there too like the excellent
nethogs app. It looks and works just like top- showing processes by name and
sorted by order of which process is chewing the most bandwidth.
nethogs at work
In conclusion and further options
What I've demonstrated here are some great, quick analysis tools to get you out of
a potentially difficult to diagnose issue. If you need longer term analysis of almost
any aspect measurable then you should look to something like nagios and
combine it with rrdtool to graph historical trend analysis. Look at cacti (rrd
graphing) and munin (sort of like nagios + rrdtool + cacti in one easy package).
Quick Tip: convert images at
the command line with
ImageMagick is a very mature tool. It's been around for donkeys years and it even
acts as the silent 'back end' to some of the best GUI-based image manipulation
software. However, the jewel in ImageMagick's crown is the tool called 'convert'.
As you can imagine, this tool converts images at the command line. It can do so in
many ways, for example, it can resize, change image quality, change formats (eg
PNG to JPEG) and much, much more.
This is a great example of the power of convert from Here you
can see how to make thumbnails of images with filesnames in the range
IMG_3000.JPG - IMG_3499.JPG:
for i in IMG_3*.JPG ; do convert -quality 60 -geometry 300 $i thumbs/$i
; done
The example shows that through simple one line command you can batch
process many items with ease. Doing that with even the most substantial of image
editing software is sometimes either impossible or a real challenge.
Here is one last example of its simplicity:
convert -resize 1024x768 original.JPG new.JPG
As you would expect, it simply changes the size of original.jpg down to 1024x768
pixels and outputs the new image in a new file called new.JPG.
How to tar (compress) files
up, excluding certain files or
If you've ever been making a backup of an entire Linux system, or maybe just a
number of folders but there were certain folders or files that you didn't want to
have in the backup or zip file, then Look no further than this Quick Tip!
First, change to the folder you want to zip, or back up and make sure you have
permissions to access all of the files within the folder. For example, if the folder is /
(root) then you will need superuser permissions so don't forget to run tar with the
sudo command!
cd /folder_to_backup<br />
Next, you want to run the tar command to create the archive/zip file. The usual z
(gzip compression), c (create), v (verbose), f (file) flags are used, but note that
they come at the latter part of the command line. This placement seems important
across differing distributions of Linux.
You can see that using the --exclude option we can specify the folders and/or files
to exclude, you can have as many --exclude options as you need. Note how the
path is prefixed with a period (denoting the current directory). This is important
because the exclude flag matches text patterns, not actual filenames, and the
pattern starts with ./ - You can also use other regular expressions. For example
you can use a wildcard such as file* to match any file or folder name beginning
with the word file.
tar --exclude='./folder_to_exclude' --
exclude='./myfolder/file.txt' -zcvf /backup/filename.tgz .
How to read and write to
Windows NTFS drives as any
So you have a Windows hard drive using the NTFS partition type. The good news
is that most Linux distributions these days can read and write to it automatically
without as much as a config change. It automatically sees the partition and mounts
That's great, but what if you have a one-user Linux box and you want every app
on your Linux box to be able to use the files on that partition, not just your user
account? I recently ran into this problem when I wanted to share an external NTFS
formatted USB drive with my Plex Media Server. The Plex media server runs as
the pseudo user 'plex'. My own user account obviously is not named 'plex' and
therefore it refused to see any of my music and movies on the USB hard drive, as
the files on the hard drive were 'owned' by my user account, not 'plex'.
How to get around this problem? Well, provided you are not worried about sharing
everything on that drive with all (or some) of the other real or pseudo users on the
machine, then you can create a user group, say called 'ntfs', and have all the
users you want to read and write to the drive in that group. Here's how you do it
from the command line:
sudo groupadd ntfs
sudo usermod -a -G ntfs YOUR_USER_NAME
sudo usermod -a -G ntfs
So the above has created the group 'ntfs' and added your own username as well
as any others you want to that group. The output of the first command should look
like this:
The output should look something like this:
Adding group `ntfs' (1004)...
Take note of that number in brackets. That's your GID (group ID number).
Next, let's make the location to mount the partition on your drive. Assuming you
are running Ubuntu, this will be in /media, but it can be anywhere you like, for
example /mnt, or even under / - just as long as all the users you added to the
group can already access that folder.
sudo mkdir /media/windows
sudo chgrp ntfs /media/windows
Now it's time to edit the file system table (fstab). Don't worry - that's not as scary
as it sounds, it's just a text file which contains a list of the partitions the Linux
system should mount on startup.
sudo nano -w /etc/fstab
Assuming that Windows is installed on the first drive, and first partition we use
/dev/sda1. If your windows drive is on another drive in your PC, say the second
drive, and it's the third partition, it would be /dev/sdb3 and so on. You can check to
see if you got the right drive and partition number with the fdisk tool.
add the following to the bottom of the /etc/fstab file:
0 0
Remember to keep the spaces after each item as they instruct the system to read
each option. Don't forget those two zeroes at the end of the line either!
Explanation: /media/windows is the new location where the partition is mounted,
so when you visit it in your file browser (or with ls at the command line), you'll see
the files in /media/windows. The option ntfs-3g is telling the mount program that
this is a ntfs partition and we will use the 3g driver to write to it. The next option
tells the system to mount the partition automatically at startup and finally the
gid/umask information allows all users in the ntfs group to read and write to it.
Note we specified the gid of 1004 which is the gid we were given by the groupadd
command. If you don't match this number, you and any other user in the newly
created ntfs group won't be able to read and write to the /media/windows folder.
Make sure that the gid= value is the same as whatever you saw when you used
the groupadd command earlier.
Save the fstab file and exit the editor. To test it works properly, simply type:
sudo mount -a
This command reads the contents of the newly updated fstab and as long as it is
correct, it will mount the windows partition in /media/windows (or wherever you
specified to mount it). When you reboot your machine the partition should
automatically be mounted so you shouldn't need to do anything!
How to automatically make
your Windows drives become
available to Linux on startup.
Here's a handy utility that will save you any technical nastiness. It'll make your
Windows drives (partitions) show up in the Ubuntu file manager so you don't have
to mount them by hand each time you want to access them.
How to use the ntfsmount tool to automatically connect your Windows partition on
1. Launch the Synaptic Package Manager or the Ubuntu Software Centre.
2. Search for 'NTFS Configuration Tool'
3. Install it.
4. Once installed make sure any drive you wish to Auto-mount is unmounted. Do
this either my restarting Ubuntu and not mounting the drives, or by ejecting them
via nautilus’ side-pane or the terminal.
5. Launch the 'NTFS Configuration Tool' from System > Administration > NTFS
Configuration Tool.
6. In the NTFS Config. window, check the box next to the drive(s) you wish to
7. Click Apply.
A new window will appear, however only check 'Enable Support For Internal
Device.' . Your windows NTFS partition should now automatically mount on reboot
each time.
How to Mount Windows or
Samba Shares Permanently
This howto describes how to mount Windows CIFS (SMB) shares permanently.
The shares might be hosted on a Windows computer/server, or on a Linux/UNIX
server running Samba. This document also applies to SMBFS shares, which are
similar to CIFS but are deprecated and should be avoided if possible (link).
This attribution is based on the original Ubuntu document (link), written by
Contributors to the Ubuntu documentation wiki.
(This document does not describe how to host the shares yourself, only how to
access shares that are hosted somewhere else. For hosting shares, use Samba.)
We're assuming that:
Network connections have been configured properly.
Your local username is ubuntuusername.
Share username on Windows computer is msusername.
Share password on Windows computer is mspassword.
The Windows computer's name is servername (this can be either an IP
address or an assigned name).
The name of the share is sharename.
You want to mount the share in /media/windowsshare.
CIFS installation
sudo apt-get install cifs-utils
On older systems:
sudo apt-get install smbfs
Mounting unprotected (guest)
network folders
First, let's create the mount directory. You will need a separate directory for each
sudo mkdir /media/windowsshare
Then edit your /etc/fstab file (with root privileges) to add this line:
guest indicates you don't need a password to access the share,
uid=1000 makes the Linux user specified by the id the owner of the mounted
share, allowing them to rename files,
iocharset=utf8 allows access to files with names in non-English languages.
This doesn't work with shares of devices like the Buffalo Tera Station, or
Windows machines that export their shares using ISO8895-15.
If there is any space in the server path, you need to replace it by \040, for
example //servername/My\040Documents
After you add the entry to /etc/fstab type:
sudo mount -a
This will (re)mount all entries listed in /etc/fstab.
Mount password protected
network folders
The quickest way to auto-mounting a password-protected share is to edit /etc/fstab
(with root privileges), to add this line:
//servername/sharename /media/windowsshare cifs
This is not a good idea however: /etc/fstab is readable by everyone and so is your
Windows password in it. The way around this is to use a credentials file. This is a
file that contains just the username and password.
Using a text editor, create a file for your remote servers logon credential:
gedit ~/.smbcredentials
Enter your Windows username and password in the file:
Save the file, exit the editor.
Change the permissions of the file to prevent unwanted access to your
chmod 600 ~/.smbcredentials
Then edit your /etc/fstab file (with root privileges) to add this line (replacing the
insecure line in the example above, if you added it):
//servername/sharename /media/windowsshare cifs
utf8,sec=ntlm 0 0
Save the file, exit the editor.
Finally, test the fstab entry by issuing:
sudo mount -a
If there are no errors, you should test how it works after a reboot. Your remote
share should mount automatically.
Special permissions
If you need special permission (like chmod etc.), you'll need to add a uid (short for
'user id') or gid (for 'group id') parameter to the share's mount options.
Login errors
If you get the error "mount error(13) permission denied", then the server denied
your access. Here are the first things to check:
Are you using a valid username and password? Does that account really have
access to this folder?
Do you have whitespace in your credentials file? It should be
password=mspassword, not password = mspassword.
Do you need a domain? For example, if you are told that your username is
SALES\sally, then actually your username is sally and your domain is SALES.
The fstab entry should read:
...username=sally,password=pass,domain=SALES,... Or:
Is the security setting correct? The most common is sec=ntlm, but you can also
try the other options listed at the mount.cifs man page. The man page list
leaves out the option sec=lanman for some reason, but you should try that one
as well (see discussion).
Unprotected network folder won't automount
I've had a situation where an unprotected network folder wouldn't automount
during bootup, but after manually entering "sudo mount -a" was mounted correctly.
I solved this by replacing the "guest" option by "username=guest,password=". If
anyone has an explanation for this, please leave a comment.
//servername/sharename /media/windowsshare smbfs
nicode,unicode 0 0
Mount during login instead of boot
If for some reason/etc/rc0.d/ (networking problems for example)
the automatic mounting during boot doesn't work, you can add the "noauto"
parameter to your smbfs fstab entry and then have the share mounted at login.
In /etc/fstab:
//servername/sharename /media/windowsshare cifs
In /etc/rc.local:
mount /media/windowsshare
exit 0
Slow shutdown due to a CIFS/Network Manager bug
If you use Network Manager, and are getting really slow shutdowns, it's probably
because NM shuts down before unmounting the network shares. That will cause
CIFS to hang and wait for 60 seconds or so. Here's how to fix
sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/
sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/
Ubuntu 12.04 already runs at reboot and shutdown by default
(/etc/rc0.d/ and /etc/rc6.d/ so this is no longer
CIFS Options Deprecated
20 Feb 2008 TW
Using dmask or fmask in the fstab file produces the following warnings:
WARNING: CIFS mount option 'dmask' is deprecated. Use 'dir_mode' instead.
WARNING: CIFS mount option 'fmask' is deprecated. Use 'file_mode' instead.
Instead use this format: file_mode=0777,dir_mode=0777 . Or in some cases you
might need to use file_mode=0777,dir_mode=0777,nounix (see discussion)
Use of tilde in pathnames such as
20 Feb 2008 TW
Curiously, using credentials=~/.smbcredentials in fstab didn't work. I had to use
the full path, i.e. /home/username/.smbcredentials
(This is likely because the tilde "~" is only a shell short-hand alias for "$HOME"; it
isn't something recognized system-wide by all programs, especially not in a
system file table where the concept of "HOME" doesn't really exist. -Ian!)
Historic Items (older versions of Ubuntu)
Mount password protected shares using libpam_mount
(Ubuntu 9.04)
In addition to the initial assumptions, we're assuming that
Your username and password are the same on the Ubuntu machine and
on the network drive.
Install libpam-mount:
sudo apt-get install libpam-mount
Edit /etc/security/pam_mount.conf.xml using your preferred text editor.
gksudo gedit /etc/security/pam_mount.conf.xml
First, we're moving the user specific config bits to a file which users can actually
edit themselves: remove the commenting tags (<!-- and -->) surrounding the
section called <luserconf name=".pam_mount.conf.xml" />. Save the file when
done. With this in place, users can create their own ~/.pam_mount.conf.xml.
gedit ~/.pam_mount.conf.xml
Add the following:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<volume options="uid=%(USER),gid=100,dmask=0700" user="*"
mountpoint="/media/windowsshare" path="sharename"
server="servername" fstype="cifs" />
The material on this post is available under a free license, see Copyright / License
for details.
How to mount a USB stick as
a non-root user with write
So you want to use a USB stick or a USB hard drive, and you don't want to mount
it as root every time?
Why would you want to do this?
It's a hassle to mount the USB stick using sudo every time - you have to type
the root password, and you have to specify all the mount options each time you
mount it.
The permissions on a FAT32 USB stick or drive don't allow write permissions
as you, only root, so you have to sudo any write based file operation on the
USB device. This is because the commonly found format of most USB disks is
FAT32, as it has the best compatibility with Windows machines and
is supported on Mac OS and Linux too, unfortunately FAT32 has no notion of
file permissions, unlike EXT4).
Another point worthy of note, if you are someone who uses a shiny, full fat desktop
like GNOME or KDE, then you'll likely find that things like USB removable media
are automatically mounted for you, so it is often fine to use it in that capacity.
However, for Linux luddites and server admins like me, that just won't cut it, I want
an easy user-level mount at the command line, or bust!
Ok, you've made up your mind that you want to be able to mount the disk as a real
user, not root. The good thing is, is that this is really quick to do.
Firstly, we need to create a directory where the drive is going to be mounted to. So
if you haven't done so already, create this directory:
$sudo mkdir -p /media/<username>/usb
$sudo chown <username> /media/<username>/usb
$sudo chmod 0777 /media/<username>/usb
Obviously, you can call the mount point whatever you want, I've just called it usb
and stuck it in the /media/<username>/usb directory (note <username> is your
own username). The last two commands change the ownership to be 'you', and
sets the permissions to read and write for all users (change this if you want it to be
less open).
Next up, we need to ascertain which drive you want to mount. You may already
know this, but if you don't know what the /dev/ entry for the USB stick is, then you
can find this out by sticking it in the usb port on your machine and running dmesg:
usb-storage 1-2.2:1.0: USB Mass Storage device detected
scsi host5: usb-storage 1-2.2:1.0
scsi 5:0:0:0: Direct-Access USB DISK 2.0 PMAP PQ: 0 ANSI:
sd 5:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg2 type 0
sd 5:0:0:0:
GB/7.21 GiB)
15133248 512-byte logical blocks: (7.74
sd 5:0:0:0:
sd 5:0:0:0:
Write Protect is off
Mode Sense: 23 00 00 00
sd 5:0:0:0:
sd 5:0:0:0:
No Caching mode page found
Assuming drive cache: write through
sdc: sdc1
sd 5:0:0:0:
Attached SCSI removable disk
You can see that it's detected that a USB storage device on sdc, and that the
partition it can see is called sdc1 (highlighted above in bold).
Now all you need to do is edit the /etc/fstab file and add this line at the bottom:
$sudo vim /etc/fstab
/dev/sdc1 /home/storage auto user,umask=000,utf8,noauto 0 0
Remove the 'noauto' bit if you want it to be mounted automatically on boot,
however that's probably a bad idea if its a removable device!
That's all the hard work done, and you shouldn't have to do that ever again, now
all you need to do to mount it, whenever you like, is to issue a simple mount
$mount /dev/sdc1
or, alternatively you can mount it by its mount point. Either way, it doesn't matter :)
$mount /media/<username>/usb
Hope this saves you some aggravation!
View your log files in colour
and in an easy to read format
This is a wonderful tutorial from the guys over at to show how to
navigate your way through log files easily.
Log files are notoriously difficult to read because it's difficult in the sea of
information to know what you are looking for.
The features of lnav are impressive:
Single log view: all log file contents are merged into a single view based on
message timestamps. No need to manually correlate timestamps across
multiple windows or figure out the order in which to view rotated log files.
Automatic format detection for several common log files. It also detects
gzip/bzi2 files and decompress them automatically on the fly.
Filters: display only lines that match or do not match a set of regular
expressions. Filter by error level.
Timeline view: shows a histogram of messages over time. The number of
warnings and errors are highlighted in the display so that you can easily see
where problems have occurred.
Query logs using SQL: log files are directly used as the backing for SQLite
virtual tables.
Automatic data extraction: built-in log message parser can automatically
discover and extract interesting data from plainly formatted log messages.
Live operation: Search as you type. New log lines are automatically loaded and
searched as they are added; filters apply to lines as they are loaded; and, SQL
queries are checked for correctness as you type.
Syntax highlighting with configurable colourizing
Tab completion
Supports Linux and Mac
View the link over at lintut for the whole article:
Multi-Tasking at the
command line with screenie
The use of the tool screen is well documented throughout the Internet, however it's
third-party accomplice is not. Screenie is a front-end to screen.
Why Do I want to know about this?
Using the command line can be done in a few ways - for one, you can work at the
Linux console (i.e., not within the X Window Environment, so you are forced to use
the virtual consoles - tty/vty 0-9, which can ordinarily be accessed via Ctrl+Alt+Fx
where x is the tty number.). You can of course also use your favourite xterm, like
the gnome or KDE terminal, and many of these now support tabbed windows
(liked tabbed web browsing). However, if like many, you ssh into a server remotely
and would rather still have all your session data still available if the connection is
suddenly dropped, then screen is your tool. It's also great because you can have
multiple screens running at one time. You simply detach from the current terminal
(screen) and reattach another active screen. In practice this sounds simple
enough but it's a pain when you have several screens running.
What does screenie do?
Screenie puts a user friendly interface on top of screen. If you install screenie via
apt-get (sudo apt-get install screenie if you are using Debian/Ubuntu), you'll be
prompted with a simple menu driven interface, asking you to create a new session
or use an existing screen session. This is ideal for multi-tasking at the command
line. For example, you can have one terminal running top, another one running
alpine for email, another one running ttytter (the terminal based twitter client), and
perhaps another one running less on a log in /var/log. Whatever you want each
terminal or shell to do, you can run up as many as you like and switch between
them with ease. The best part is that if your ssh connection suddenly drops
because your laptop goes to sleep or your Internet connection bums out, simply
reconnect with ssh and run screenie again. All of your previous sessions are still
Using Screnie
To use screenie at launch simply type screenie from the command line. On it's first
launch you'll see a fairly empty screen, simply offering the option to launch a new
session by pressing the a key.
Hit a and you'll be asked for a session name, just give any old name, but
something that defines the purpose of this shell session, for example, I write
"Apache Logs" on the one for viewing my apache logs. Next, it'll ask you for a job.
This is where you tell screenie which program to launch. I usually just launch the
job 'bash', which is the bash shell, and issue commands from there, however, you
can execute any command from there, so for example, if you were viewing a tail
session of Apache logs, you could enter that as tail -f /var/log/apache/error.log whatever you want!
The program will launch and you'll be returned to the screenie menu, to view the
session you just launched press 1 - it should be showing in the list of sessions. At
any time, if you want to get back to that menu of sessions and perhaps launch a
new session, simply press Ctrl-A-d (that is, press and hold Ctrl-a and then hit the d
key). You'll be returned to the screenie menu and you can launch another session,
or jump between existing sessions you have open, allowing you quickly to check
on a log in the middle of writing an email or any other task you may conceive of.
This will save you loads of time on the command line and will also save frustration
against lost connections. Hope you find this hint helpful!
How to setup a KVM server
the fast way
This is a very short quick setup on how to get KVM (The Linux Kernel Virtual
Machine hypervisor) server up and running.
Why KVM?
KVM is a hypervisor, just like VmWare ESX, Microsoft's Hyper-V and XEN. The
great thing (as usual) about KVM, is that it's part of Linux, meaning its free, and it's
performance is excellent. Using it in a production environment as a standalone
hypervisor is an excellent choice, has a low host server footprint (in terms of
performance needs and disk), and can be administered easily with other tools like
This quick tutorial assumes that:
You want to run a KVM server with at least one virtual machine guest,
Your KVM server gets an ip address in your network,
Your virtual machine(s) get an ip address from your network – so you can use
bridging instead of natting (using NATting instead of bridging is an easy task
but not part of this howto),
You can use lvm for disk space allocation on your KVM master (using other
disk space allocations methods like image files is easy, too, but not part of this
howto) - note you will have to install this prior to going through the below, if it is
not already installed on your server.
You are using Ubuntu 10.04 or newer. It should be up-to-date Ubuntu server
with network connectivity and access via ssh.
This is a short guide which needs to be revamped and will do soon, however in its
current state, it was taken mainly wholesale from, so big props
to the orginal author, ccm. Minor amendments have been made for readability.
Get the network up and running
For the bridged network you need to install the bridge utilities and change your
network configuration. First install the package:
$ sudo apt-get install bridge-utils
Now add a bridge named „br0“ (this has only be done once):
$ sudo brctl addbr br0
Now change your /etc/network/interfaces so it uses the bridge br0. This step
actually sets up br0 instead of eth0. Think of eth0 as being just a physical
transport added to the virtual bridge interface.
# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet manual
auto br0
iface br0 inet static
bridge_ports eth0
bridge_fd 9
bridge_hello 2
bridge_maxage 12
bridge_stp off
Please make sure you don’t forget setting your „eth0“ to „iface eth0 inet manual“
as shown above. This is needed as you want to prevent eth0 to fetch an address
via dhcp but still want it to be there for your bridge as it is the physical layer. After
you setup the bridge either restart your network (sudo /etc/init.d/networking
restart) or reboot your server. If you are accessing your server already by ssh be
warned that a misconfiguration might lock you out.
Install KVM
Now it’s time to install kvm and some usefull helper applications:
$ sudo apt-get install qemu-kvm ubuntu-vm-builder uml-utilities
That’s all: You already have a kvm server now. Time to…
Install your first virtual machine
We are going to setup a 100Gb logical volume for the guest, download Ubuntu
and create a machine with 2Gb of Ram and 4 cores:
# create an empty 100Gb logical volume
sudo lvcreate --size 100G vg0 --name guest1
# download Ubuntu iso (or use one you already have)
$ wget http://..../
# create machine
$ sudo virt-install --connect qemu:///system -n guest1 -r 2048 \
--vcpus=4 -f /dev/mapper/guest1 --network=bridge:br0 \
--vnc --accelerate -v -c ./SOMEUBUNTUISO.iso \
--os-type=linux --os-variant=ubuntuKarmic --noautoconsole
# please note: "ubuntuKarmic" is currently the most recent
# virt-install defaults scheme - just use this if in doubt.
Get a VNC connection
KVM uses VNC to give you ca graphical interface to your machine. The good thing
about this is, that it enables you to use graphical installers (and yes, even
Windows) without problems. As even Ubuntu server boots into a graphical mode
in the beginning – it’s great to use VNC here.
I assume you are working on a remote server. KVM gives every guest it launches
a new vnc instance with a new, incremented port. It starts with 5900. So let’s
tunnel via ssh:
ssh [email protected] -L 5900:localhost:5900
You connect to your remote kvm host via ssh and open a ssh tunnel fort port
5900. Now start your prefered VNC client locally and let it connect to either display
„0“ or port 5900 which means the same in VNC (duh…).
From now on you should see your server on a VNC display. Install it like you’d
install every other server. The networking is bridged, so you could even use dhcp
if that is offered in your network.
Please make sure, you install the package „acpi“ inside your kvm guest, otherwise
you won’t be able to stop the guest from the master (as it is done via acpi):
# make sure, "acpi" is installed in the *guest* machine
sudo apt-get install acpi
After installation you can manage your kvm gues by using the following
# list running instances
$ virsh list
# start an instance
$ virsh start INSTANCENAME
# stop an instance politely
$ virsh stop INSTANCE
# immediatly destroy a running instance
$ virsh destroy INSTANCE
# edit the config file for an instance
$ virsh edit INSTANCE
Mounting the LVM volumes
As you might have noticed, your virtual guest’s lvm volumes cannot be mounted
directly in the master as they contain their own partition table. If you need access
to the guest’s filesystem from the master, though, you have to create some device
nodes. There is a great tool called „kpartx“ than can create and delete device
nodes for you. It’s as easy as this:
# install kpartx
$ sudo install kpartx
# make sure, virtual gues is switched off!
# create device nodes
$ sudo kpartx -a /dev/mapper/guest1
# check /dev/mapper for new device nodes and mount/unmount them
# after you are done, delete the nodes
$ sudo kpartx -d /dev/mapper/guest1
Please note, this methods also works with other block devices like image files
containing partition tables. You only might run into trouble, when your lvm volume
contains it’s own lvm. If that is the case, play around with pvscan, vgscan and
lvscan after using kpartx. Be brave but be warned that backing up data is always a
great idea.
Alternative Management Interfaces
In case you really need a gui for your management needs, check „virt-manager“.
You can install this on your desktop and remotely manage running instances:
$ sudo install virt-manager
You should check RedHat’s „Virtual Machine Manager“ page, though. It might be a
good idea to manually compile and install a more recent version and rely on the
setup howtos. Personally I prefer using plain text console here, as it helps being
able to act quite fast and from everywhere when problems occur and of course,
you don't have the overhead of running X11 on the server.
Nowadays it’s fairly easy setting up a KVM server. As KVM/libvirt enabled guests
are quite fast, it’s a nice and easy way for even hosting virtual machines. I run
about a dozen virtual machines and three hardware servers for two years now
without any serious problems.
How to install Linux on a
Macintosh computer
So, you've got one of those shiny Macbook Pro retinas?
..But you are a Linux fiend, and now you want to rid yourself of the poor mans'
Unix that Apple call Mac OS X? This tutorial is for you!
This is an advanced tutorial which works at the command line and can
cause irreparable damage to your data. If you are a novice, it is not
recommended that you undertake this tutorial. If you do proceed, make
sure you have backed everything up with TimeMachine or such like
tools. I must also acknowledge the awesome work of Jessie Frazelle,
her blog entitled 'Linux or Death' was the inspiration for this article, and
much of it is shamelessly cribbed from there, simply because it
worked, unlike any other blog on the subject we found on the
This tutorial has been tested on a late 2013 Macbook Pro 15", however it should
work with any EFI based Mac (more on that in a bit). EFI based Mac's started
around 2008 (you can check the list of the Apple EFI systems here). This should
include Macbook Pros, Macbook Air, iMac etc...
I am also working on the basis that you want to keep Mac OS X on your hard drive
and that you wish to dual-boot it at any time. You should have plenty of free space
on your disk drive (the more the better), so either delete some cruft or move some
of your old data onto a separate external archive hard drive (because I know you
got one or ten of them lying around!).
Finally, we used Mac OS X 10.11.1, 'El Capitan', which is the latest OS X at the
time of the release. El Capitan introduced a 'security feature' called 'SIP' (System
Integrity Protection) which you will additionally have to overcome if you are using
El Capitan or newer. More on that in a bit. We will be installing Ubuntu, specifically
Ubuntu GNOME 15.10, but this should apply to any Linux distro more or less,
although your mileage may vary with Video stuff particularly.
The tutorial you are about to read has six main sections. These are:
Installing the EFI boot manager
Downloading and converting your Linux distro of choice
Partitioning your hard drive
Installing Linux
Finishing up and nice to have items.
Installing the EFI boot manager
EFI stands for Extensible Firmware Interface and is now pretty much
commonplace in Macs and PCs across the industry. It replaced the trusty old
BIOS system that PCs had used since the 1980s. Installing Linux on a BIOS
based machine was trivial, but now with Apple's take on EFI on their customised
hardware, it can be a little challenging. No worries, this is the Ultimate Linux
Newbie Guide. We got this!
Disabling SIP
Before we go ahead and install rEFInd, we will need to take care of that pesky SIP
(System Integrity Protection) rubbish. There are a couple of ways to do this, but
we found the easiest way to do so, is pop your system into recovery mode and
issue a command from the terminal there. There is a bit more information on this
process over here.
To enter recovery mode on your Mac, shut your machine down completely. Give
the machine around 30 seconds and then switch back on. Now quickly hold down
the Command and R key at the same time until at least you hear the Apple 'chime'
sound. Shortly you will enter recovery mode. I recommend plugging in an Ethernet
cable to do this, however it is possible to do with WiFi.
Once you are in the Recovery tool, enter the Utilities menu up on the top bar, and
click on Terminal.
Issue the following command:
csrutil disable
That's it! Restart your computer and you are done. If you ever want to re-enable
the SIP functionality (why?), then you can transpose disable with enable using the
same steps.
Now you should head back to the terminal. We are ready to install refind!
Download rEFInd
The red circle indicates where to download rEFInd
rEFInd is a boot-loader for EFI based machines. Think of it like bootcamp, or
GRUB for GRUB :) You'll want to download rEFInd from the rEFInd website:
rEFInd Website
Now, if you take a look around the rEFInd website, you'll see it looks like the guy
that wrote it believes in punishing everyone that wants to use it. It took us about 20
minutes just to find the frigging download link! So the ULNG has taken the time to
go through all the pertinent steps to make it shit tons easier for you!
The version of rEFInd that we used is 0.10.0, and we used the zip archive version.
Once you download the binary, you are going to need to start the rest of your work
from the Terminal, so open up the Terminal from the Utilities folder on your mac
and head over to your Downloads folder where you saved rEFInd to.
If the zip archive is not already unzipped, unzip it using the unzip command and
head into the newly created refind-bin-0.10.0 folder:
$cd refind-bin-0.10.0
We now want to install rEFInd, and we should install all the EFI drivers just in
case we need them at any time. rEFInd 0.10.0 offers a substantially more
improved installer than previous versions. Which is nice :)
$sudo ./refind-install --alldrivers
Now it's time to edit the EFI config file, but you will need to mount that hidden EFI
partition first. Thankfully, rEFInd has a little tool you can use to mount the partition:
$sudo mountesp
Edit /Volumes/ESP/EFI/refind/refind.conf. Like us, you may find the refind.conf
file is in /Volumes/ESP/EFI/BOOT, instead of a folder called refind. This is
probably because we fiddled around with rEFInd and it's predecessor, rEFIt
before. Just because.
$vi refind.conf (or nano, if you are that way inclined. Just
not emacs!).
locate the line that says scanfor and edit it to say:
scanfor internal
If no such line exists, add it into the file near the top.
Load the linux file system driver. Check for a line that starts fs0. If no such line
exists, add it as below, otherwise edit it:
fs0: load ext4_x64.efi
fs0: map -r
Save the file and quit your editor. That's pretty much it for the rEFInd bit. That is
the hardest part over and done with. If you want to be sure it worked, you should
power off your machine and power on again. If you see a grey screen with the
rEFInd logo, then it has worked. You should be able to chose the Mac OS X logo
and hit return to start up OS X again.
Downloading and converting your Linux distro image of choice
Next, unless you haven't already downloaded the iso image of your choice, it's
time to go grab it. For this particular demonstration, we are using Ubuntu 15.10,
however most other distros should work. Using more hard-ass systems like Arch
or Slackware, or even Debian, will be more challenging. This is challenging
enough, so do what you will, but we will stick to the easier distros for now!
Make sure you download the x64 version of the distribution you choose, if there is
an EFI boot version, choose that also.
Next, you need to convert the iso file into an image file that Mac OS X recognizes
so that you can stick it on a USB stick to boot from. Although you are back at the
terminal for this, thankfully it's not that onerous a task.
cd (directory where you downloaded the distro to)
hdiutil convert -format UDRW -o <<filename you
want.iso.img>> <<filename of the download.iso>>
(so, in other words, hdiutil convert -format UDRW -o ubuntu1510.iso.img ubuntugnome-15.10-desktop-amd64.iso would convert the latter file into
ubuntu1510.iso.img, which would be in the RAW, or more specifically UDRW
Mac OS likes to rename the file with a .dmg extension, to avoid confusion over
that, it's probably best that you rename it. A simple mv command will sort that one:
mv ubuntu1510.iso.img.dmg ubuntu1510.iso.img
(renames the file ubuntu1510.iso.img.dmg to ubuntu1510.iso.img).
Next, quickly type in diskutil list in the terminal. It should list one disk drive (if you
have any external drives connected, disconnect them for now). Take a note of
your Mac OS disk. It should be called /dev/disk0. Look for tell tale signs in there
like 'Macintosh HD'
Next, locate that USB stick of yours and whap it into the usb port. Please note that
you want to have an empty USB stick, because this process will destroy any
existing data on it.
Once you have the USB stick plugged in and all settled down, issue the following
diskutil list
You should see a list of disks like the one in the screenshot to the above. Note the
red box around /dev/disk2. You can see that it has a Windows FAT32 partition, our
usb stick is 8 GB big, you can see the size there is 8.1GB, which is clearly much
smaller than the main hard drive, which is 500GB in size. Just make sure you
identify which disk your usb stick is and take a note of that. The one we are using
is /dev/disk2.
Now you need to unmount the usb disk, to do that issue the following command
diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2
Obviously if your USB stick is not disk2 then change it to suit. It should tell you that
the unmount of all volumes on the disk were successful. Now all we have to do is
copy the UDRW version of the iso image to your USB stick. For that, we will use
trusty old dd :)
sudo dd if=ubuntu1510.iso.img of=/dev/rdisk2 bs=1m
The things you have to be aware of here:
1. This is a fully destructive command. It will blow up any disk you point it to, that's
why we made sure you got the note of that USB stick in diskutil list, above.
2. if= is short for input file, meaning the input file is the name of the iso file you
converted into the iso.img file. We are using the shortened filename here just
for an example filename.
3. of= is short for output file. The output file, is in fact a device. In this case, we
are using (r)disk2; disk2 obviously is the drive we noted earlier, we use the r in
front of it because that allows raw device access, so its marginally quicker.
4. bs=1m means block size, 1 megabyte. You don't have to use this option,
however it will significantly increase the speed of the transfer to your USB stick.
Mac OS is going to bitch and moan that you have a volume it can't read inserted. If
it says Eject, click that, otherwise type diskutil eject /dev/disk2.
Partitioning your hard drive
This part chops your disk up in the way you want it. Back in the bad old days of
Linux, you used to have to download a partition manager and use that to resize
your disk. These days, that's mainly gone, but because of Journaled, Encrypted
HFS+ partitions, that's not a good idea to let a Linux based partition manager
loose with, unless you want to toast your Mac OS data.
Using Disk Utility to resize your Mac OS X hard drive partition for Linux
Thankfully, this can easily be solved. In your Utilities apps folder, you'll find Disk
Utility. If you like, quickly scan your hard drive for errors, just to make sure it's all
toot sweet before we get down to business. Repair any errors you may have.
Once you are ready, you will see a list of internal drives on the left hand side. Your
Disk Utility may look different if you are using an older version of OS X, but it still
offers the ability to resize a volume.
On the hard drive that your Mac OS X partition exists on, click on the top drive, not
any subsequent partitions listed below it. Click on the 'partition' button, and you'll
see a pie chart like the one above (don't worry if it's not quite like that). You will
see you can move the slider around the pie to resize your partition(s). Pull the size
slider back for the Mac OS partition to release the free space on the disk. Make a
blank partition until you have enough space for your new Linux system. As much
space as you are willing to.
Apply the changes and let the resize operation complete. If you have an SSD, this
should be relatively quick (a few minutes).
Installing Linux
Woo-hoo! This is the fun part! Now we get to install the operating system that your
mac has been longing for!
Switch your mac off completely. Connect your Ethernet to Thunderbolt adapter
and your USB drive we made earlier. If you don't have one of those thunderbolt
adapters, life is going to be tricky for you, you are going to have to download the
wireless drivers and install them manually to get things working. If you don't have
one of the adapters, ask a friend for one, or buy one cheap from Ebay or such like.
It will save your sanity.
Turn on your computer and hold down the option/alt key. You'll see a menu pop up
which you can see your Macintosh HD as well as the USB stick (it's a yellow
looking drive thing). It will be named EFI or something similar. Use the cursor keys
to select that and hit return. PS: if you are having issues with your bluetooth
keyboard at this point, make sure you revert to using your laptop's keyboard and
mouse for the time being.
At the step where you have to choose the partition and you are using the Ubuntu
style installer, select 'Something else' from the options around partitioning. Locate
the empty partition you made and create 2 partitions out of it. Make a big partition
and a small partition (roughly 8-16 GB in size). The big partition should be the
remainder of the free space. The big partition should be ext4 in type, and should
be formatted with the mount point of "/". The small partition should be formatted as
Press next and let the good times roll. Everything else should be pretty normal.
Once the install has finished, restart the computer, no need to hold down alt/option
this time. All going well, you should be seeing the rEFInd menu. Use the cursor
key to select your Linux installation and hit that return key. Fingers crossed, your
system will start up without much of a hitch!
Notably though, you probably won't have a few things that work out of the box.
Most of these can be covered off on the next section.
Finishing up and nice to have items.
Some lucky people will experience that their WiFi works straight out of the box.
For most of us, we are going to need to install it. You can do this with:
sudo apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree broadcom-stadkms
The broadcom wl, bcwl43 and fwcutter software should all be installed. Reboot to
enable the puppy and all should be good when you select your wifi from your
system's networking setup menu.
The graphics display should generally work out of the box, however there may be
'interesting' graphical issues. Not all of these might be fixable, but give the NVidia
drivers a try, and if you still don't have any luck, read the many forums until you
get a solution that works for you.
sudo apt-get install nvidia-driver xserver-xorg-video-intel
Note if you are not using xorg, you'll need to make the appropriate changes here.
Maybe best to stick with xorg for now!
Screen backlight.
This is a /bit/ of a hack, but it works!
Check out Jessie's blog for the screen-backlight script. The screen backlight
section is near the bottom of the blog article.
Keyboard backlight.
Again, Jessie Frazelle to the rescue here. The section below the screen-backlight
section has a keyboard backlight bit too!
Mounting your MacOS X partition.
Okay cokey. Now here's the thing. Apple can be real pains in the asses some
times. It is quite likely that you have what's called CoreStorage, if you have
anything OS X 10.10 or newer. This provides an encrypted, journaled file system;
even if you haven't installed FileVault2 (if you have, turn that off!).
To give full read/write access to your Mac OS X partition from Linux, you will need
to revert it back to standard HFS+. To do this, you can pretty much enter one
simple non-destructive command.
First up, at the terminal, issue the command diskutil cs list. You will see
something like the below. If you know LVM in Linux, this is pretty much the same
thing. Your main Mac OS X partition (Logical Volume) should be in Apple_HFS
As long as the 'Revertible' flag is set to Yes, you are good to go. Simply enter the
following command:
diskutil coreStorage revert
The long string of stuff is that big long alphanumeric string of text highlighted in the
red box, you want to use copy and paste it to make sure you don't make a
The conversion took ages for us, however your mileage may vary, depending
upon how much data is on your drive, and how fast your drive is. If you type
diskutil cs list again, you'll see how much % of the conversion has been
accomplished. Don't reboot your machine until that's over and done with, but after
then, you can safely mount your OS X partition with full read/write access.
First, make sure that you have hfsprogs installed. Example installation
sudo apt-get install hfsprogs
Next, mount or remount the HFS+ drive; commands need to be as
sudo mount -t hfsplus -o force,rw /dev/sdXY
sudo mount -t hfsplus -o remount,force,rw
Okay, that about wraps it up for this ditty, I hope it has worked for you. If it hasn't,
or you have some feedback to offer, we would love to hear it! Drop it in the
comments, y'all :)
How to use a Mac to create a
Linux Live USB Stick and
Boot it
Ok, let's say you are just about to take the plunge and install Linux on your nice
shiny Mac but before then you want to test drive how it really works, using a Live
distro. There's a few ways to boot a mac up, firstly there's the good old CD ROM
drive (SuperDrive as you mac fans know it), but guess what? Most of the new
MacBook Pro's etc don't even have a DVD/CD ROM drive! So scratch that... Next
there is network boot and finally there's boot from USB. Network boot is a whole
other ball game that we will cover separately for good reason so let's concentrate
on how to create a USB stick which is bootable and contains a Linux Operating
system of your choice on it. The good thing about this tip is that it's quick and
easy. The other, official ways of booting an Apple/EFI system can be quite
complex, including Ubuntu's own solution.
I tested this on a Macbook Pro Retina (Late 2013 model), however this should
work on any modern Mac with EFI booting. Note that the tool seems to have been
tested with Ubuntu and it's derivatives, if you are trying another distribution like
RedHat/CentOS, this may not work for you.
What you'll need
1) A Mac with EFI ROM running Snow Leopard or Later (How do I tell I am running
an EFI mac?).
2) You'll need the easy to use Mac - Linux USB Loader tool from this web
site (SevenBits).
3) An ISO download of your Linux distribution of choice. Be sure to chose a
normal 64-bit version made for PCs, don't download an Apple specific version as
we require the distribution to support EFI booting. EFI has replaced the good old
BIOS in the new macs as well as many newer PCs.
Step 1 - Format your USB stick
Pop your USB stick in and fire up Disk Utility (a built-in App on your Mac). You will
need to format the USB stick as FAT32 (MS-DOS FAT) format, and it must have
an MBR (Master Boot Record). Make sure that there is one partition on the USB
stick and format it (this will destroy any data on it).
Step 2 - Copy the ISO image to your USB stick
To do this, simply fire up the Mac-Linux USB Loader tool as listed in the 'What
you'll need' section of this article.
Click on 'Create Live USB'. Select the appropriate ISO image from your Finder and
sit back for a while.
Step 3 - Boot Linux
All that's left to do is restart your Mac and boot Linux from the USB stick.
To do this, shut down your mac, turn it back on. When you hear the usual Apple
'Chime', press and hold the Option key. You will see all your drives including the
inserted USB stick which will be yellow in colour and will probably be entitled 'EFI
Click on the yellow icon and you will see a text screen loading the Linux kernel if
all went well.
Using Google Drive from the
Linux Command Line
Gdrive is a command line tool which manages, uploads, downloads, deletes and
shares files on Google Drive. You can download the tool from Github at
Unfortunately it does not support file synchronisation.
Download the binary package from the github website and install
sudo mv drive /usr/local/bin<br />
Alternatively you can install from source code. Next, simply run drive and it will
provide you a URL which authenticates you using OAuth.
<code>Global options:
-a, --advanced Advanced Mode -- lets you specify
your own oauth client id and secret on setup
-c, --config
Set application path where config
and token is stored. Defaults to ~/.gdrive
-v, --version Print version
-h, --help
Show this help
-i, --id
File Id (*)
-i, --id
File Id (*)
-s, --stdout
from google drive
-t, --title
-p, --parent
Write file content to stdout
Download latest file, and remove it
Folder to create (*)
Parent Id of the folder
Share created folder
-i, --id
File Id (*)
-m, --max
Max results
-t, --title
Title filter
-q, --query
Query (see
-s, --shared
Show shared status (Note: this will
generate 1 http req per file)
-n, --noheader Do not show the header
-i, --id
-i, --id
File Id (*)
File Id (*)
-f, --file
-s, --stdin
-t, --title
Defaults to filename
-p, --parent
File or directory to upload (*)
Use stdin as file content (*)
Title to give uploaded file.
Parent Id of the file
Share uploaded file
-i, --id
File Id (*)
-p, --preview Generate preview url (default)
-d, --download Generate download url
List files
<code>$ drive list
2013-01-01 21:57:01
2013-01-01 21:55:06
2013-01-01 21:53:34
2013-01-01 21:56:41
2013-01-01 21:57:23
Upload file or directory
<code>$ drive upload --file drive-linux-amd64
Id: 0B3X9GlR6EmbnU0ZnbGV4dlk1T00
Title: drive-linux-amd64
Size: 5 MB
Created: 2013-01-01 21:55:06
Modified: 2013-01-01 21:55:06
Owner: Petter Rasmussen
Md5sum: 334ad48f6e64646071f302275ce19a94
Shared: False
Uploaded 'drive-linux-amd64' at 510 KB/s, total 5 MB
Download file
<code>$ drive download --id 0B3X9GlR6EmbnenBYSFI4MzN0d2M
Downloaded 'drive-freebsd-amd64' at 2 MB/s, total 5 MB
Share a file
<code>$ drive share --id 0B3X9GlR6EmbnOVRQN0t6RkxVQk0
File 'drive-windows-amd64.exe' is now readable by everyone
Pipe content directly to your drive
<code>$ echo "Hello World" | drive upload --stdin --title
Title: hello.txt
Size: 12 B
Created: 2013-01-01 22:05:44
Modified: 2013-01-01 22:05:43
Owner: Petter Rasmussen
Md5sum: e59ff97941044f85df5297e1c302d260
Shared: False
Uploaded 'hello.txt' at 6 B/s, total 12 B
Print file to stdout
<code>$ drive download --stdout --id
Hello World
Get file info
<code>$ drive info --id 0B3X9GlR6EmbnVHlHZWZCZVJ4eGs
Title: hello.txt
Size: 12 B
Created: 2013-01-01 22:05:44
Modified: 2013-01-01 22:05:43
Owner: Petter Rasmussen
Md5sum: e59ff97941044f85df5297e1c302d260
Shared: False
Get a url to the file
<code>$ drive url --id 0B3X9GlR6EmbnVHlHZWZCZVJ4eGs
Commercial Linux Support,
Training and Consulting
Linux Training, Support and Consultancy services from the
author of The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide.
Need Commercial Open Source Tech Support, Training or
Look no further than the Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide's Author!
If you are in need of Open Source based support, training or consulting services,
be it remote assistance, then look no further than the author of this website and
his company, OpenTech ICT Solutions.
With over fifteen years exposure to Linux in both large
corporate environments such as Amazon, GE as well as small
businesses, Alistair has been at the forefront of Linux for most
of his professional life. He loves providing creative solutions
and best of all, it's at a rate suitable to you or your business.
That's why he formed his company, OpenTech (
Results based outcomes with the skills to back it up!
Alistair and his team at OpenTech have expert knowledge with many open source
technologies including LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), so web programming
and databases is also no problem. From CMS customisation including Wordpress,
Drupal and Joomla to Kernel performance tuning, OpenTech can help make your
open source visions a reality. Talk to OpenTech today about your open source
based personal or business needs and see how he can match them to a solution
that fits your needs.
Training without the Techno-babble!
Alistair prides himself in being a people person, not a techno-babble speaking
geek, so if you need one on one training or class based sessions for your
business, why not discuss your training needs to find the perfect programme for
Can you integrate with non-Open Source?
Of course! Computing only exists through the existence of multiple technologies
and technology businesses. Without Microsoft, IBM or Apple - would there even
be Open Source? Who knows! The fact that your business needs to operate in a
world with many different technology sources means that interoperation is the
reality of any outcome based business.
Get in touch!
Vistit our website at to find out more, or to get in touch with
made with
Was this manual useful for you? yes no
Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Download PDF