This guide is intended to give you some basic information that you need to start using the Linux operating system. Please see Appendix (section 1) for a description of the departmental computing facilities. All the machines in the Computer Science labs run Linux. Most of the Linux commands that we discuss are common to other UNIX and MacOS X systems.
When you login to any of the machines, you will have a graphical desktop known as the K Desktop. To access the full power of Linux, you need to start up a Terminal (also known as a console). To access a terminal window, go to the K menu, then select System, and then Terminal. The termnial lets you enter commands that are run by a special program called a shell. The shell acts as an intermediate between the user and the operating system. Although there are many shells to choose from, in the departmental labs your default shell will be the Bourne Again shell (or bash). You can change your login shell as indicated later in this document.
Notation: All input that a user types and the output produced on the terminal is shown in the teletype font. The shell prompt is shown as [amit@onyx]:. The following shows what output is produced by typing in the command whoami to the shell.
[amit@xyz]: whoami amit [amit@onyx]:
The actual prompt that you may see on a particular system might be different. You can also choose your own prompt (See Section 4.1). Another notation used is to specify a syntactical category. For example, if the user is supposed to provide a filename as an argument to a command, it would be shown as <filename>, where the < and > symbols imply that any valid filename can be specified.