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IBM developerWorks: Understanding Linux configuration files

Jan 09, 2002, 14:08 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Subodh Soni)

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"This article explains configuration files on a Linux system that control user permissions, system applications, daemons, services, and other administrative tasks in a multi-user, multi-tasking environment. These tasks include managing user accounts, allocating disk quotas, managing e-mails and newsgroups, and configuring kernel parameters. This article also classifies the config files present on a Red Hat Linux system based on their usage and the services they affect.

Every Linux program is an executable file holding the list of opcodes the CPU executes to accomplish specific operations. For instance, the ls command is provided by the file /bin/ls, which holds the list of machine instructions needed to display the list of files in the current directory onto the screen. The behaviour of almost every program can be customized to your preferences or needs by modifying its configuration files.

Is there a standard configuration file format in Linux?

In a word, no. Users who are new to Linux (rightly) feel frustrated that each configuration file looks like a new challenge to figure out. In Linux each programmer is free to choose the configuration file format he or she prefers. Format options range from the /etc/shells file, which contains a list of possible shells separated by a newline, to Apache's complex /etc/httpd.conf file."

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