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Linux Command Line Terror! But....Why?

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One of the strangest mind-benders these days is hearing Linux users going all Barbie and vowing "I will never touch the command line! You'll pry my GUI from my cold dead hands!" Where are these strange people coming from? Why are they using Linux if they don't want to learn anything new?

It makes me wonder what these refugees from Proprietary-Land are hearing about Linux. Is it being promoted as just like Windows, only free of cost and a lot cooler? Is it being promoted as just like Mac OS X, only a little less cool and free of cost? I'm thinking they're not very schooled on their Mac or Windows boxes either, because both of them have command-line interfaces. In fact, as we geekerati (and anyone who can read) know, OS X is a type of Unix all prettied up, and the Windows CLI, while scrawny and underpowered, is essential for any kind of serious troubleshooting. OK, I am going to speak a heresy now, so brace yourself: sometimes you can even repair Windows without reformatting and reinstalling. Yes, you can, and I confess I have done this. More than once. And I'm not sorry.

What is so terrifying about the command line? Is it leftover brainwashing residue that makes Linux users say things like "How do I do this task, and don't tell me to use the command line"? Are there mean Linux geeks giving bad advice and scaring the noobs away on purpose? Anyone who can type can use the command line, like this:

$ whoami

carla

Far out, I know who I am. Now I want to be oriented in time:

$ date

Wed Mar 18 21:47:02 PDT 2009

Excellent, now I know when I am. Will Linux tell me where I am?

$ where

bash: where: command not found

Hmm, OK, but at least it didn't wig out and bluescreen like some fragile, trembling operating systems we know and snicker at. I relate to dates better in a calendar:

$ cal

    March 2009

Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8 9 10 11 12 13 14

15 16 17 18 19 20 21

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

29 30 31

Want to know your computer's name?

$ hostname

xena

Is your terminal window getting cluttered? You can clean it up:

$ clear

Are you curious about these commands? whereis shows you the full path, the man page, and the source files if they are installed:

$ whereis clear

clear: /usr/bin/clear /usr/share/man/man1/clear.1.gz

"Man" pages are manual pages, so you could type "man clear" to learn more about it. See how simple and friendly the command line is? It's so friendly that the Windows command line is a (poor) imitation of it. Sure, you can string together commands and scripts that are just as complex and impenetrable as you want. But you don't have to; there are plenty of simple commands that are useful for everyday. Perhaps the pestilential purveyors of proprietary-ware want their users to remain ignorant and helpless; Linux wants you to be knowledgeable and not mystified. It is safe to experiment and try things out, and in fact that's the best way to learn. It's your computer after all. The worst thing that can happen is you hork your system so badly you have to reinstall Linux, and what's the big deal with that? It won't explode or catch fire, and you don't have to answer to the license police, you just do what you want. "You just do what you want" is really OK with Linux, you won't be punished.

Where do you learn more cool Linux commands? Grasshoppers, you must stand on your own two feet at least a little-- there are literally hundreds of books and thousands upon thousands of helpful Web sites. Go forth, and be not afraid to learn.

References

The Linux CLI for Beginners, or, Fear Not the Linux Command Line!

The Linux Command Shell For Beginners: What is the Shell?

Linux Shell Editing Shortcuts

Navigating the Linux Filesystem


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