What is UNIX?
UNIX is an operating system which was first developed in the 1960s, and has been under constant development ever since. By operating system, we mean the suite of programs which make the computer work. It is a stable, multi-user, multi-tasking system for servers, desktops and laptops.
UNIX systems also have a graphical user interface (GUI) similar to Microsoft Windows which provides an easy to use environment. However, knowledge of UNIX is required for operations which aren't covered by a graphical program, or for when there is no windows interface available, for example, in a telnet session.
Types of UNIX
There are many different versions of UNIX, although they share common similarities. The most popular varieties of UNIX are Sun Solaris, GNU/Linux, and MacOS X.
Here in the School, we use Solaris on our servers and workstations, and Fedora Linux on the servers and desktop PCs.
The UNIX operating system
The UNIX operating system is made up of three parts; the kernel, the shell and the programs.
The kernel of UNIX is the hub of the operating system: it allocates time and memory to programs and handles the filestore and communications in response to system calls.
As an illustration of the way that the shell and the kernel work together, suppose a user types rm myfile (which has the effect of removing the file myfile). The shell searches the filestore for the file containing the program rm, and then requests the kernel, through system calls, to execute the program rm on myfile. When the process rm myfile has finished running, the shell then returns the UNIX prompt % to the user, indicating that it is waiting for further commands.
The shell acts as an interface between the user and the kernel. When a user logs in, the login program checks the username and password, and then starts another program called the shell. The shell is a command line interpreter (CLI). It interprets the commands the user types in and arranges for them to be carried out. The commands are themselves programs: when they terminate, the shell gives the user another prompt (% on our systems).
The adept user can customise his/her own shell, and users can use different shells on the same machine. Staff and students in the school have the tcsh shell by default.
The tcsh shell has certain features to help the user inputting commands.
Filename Completion - By typing part of the name of a command, filename or directory and pressing the [Tab] key, the tcsh shell will complete the rest of the name automatically. If the shell finds more than one name beginning with those letters you have typed, it will beep, prompting you to type a few more letters before pressing the tab key again.
History - The shell keeps a list of the commands you have typed in. If you need to repeat a command, use the cursor keys to scroll up and down the list or type history for a list of previous commands.
Files and processes
Everything in UNIX is either a file or a process.
A process is an executing program identified by a unique PID (process identifier).
A file is a collection of data. They are created by users using text editors, running compilers etc.
Examples of files:
a document (report, essay etc.)
the text of a program written in some high-level programming language
instructions comprehensible directly to the machine and incomprehensible to a casual user, for example, a collection of binary digits (an executable or binary file);
a directory, containing information about its contents, which may be a mixture of other directories (subdirectories) and ordinary files.
The Directory Structure
All the files are grouped together in the directory structure. The file-system is arranged in a hierarchical structure, like an inverted tree. The top of the hierarchy is traditionally called root (written as a slash / )
In the diagram above, we see that the home directory of the undergraduate student "ee51vn" contains two sub-directories (docs and pics) and a file called report.doc.
Listing files and directories
When you first login, your current working directory is your home directory. Your home directory has the same name as your user-name, for example, ee91ab, and it is where your personal files and subdirectories are saved.
To find out what is in your home directory, type
The ls command ( lowercase L and lowercase S ) lists the contents of your current working directory.
There may be no files visible in your home directory, in which case, the UNIX prompt will be returned. Alternatively, there may already be some files inserted by the System Administrator when your account was created.
ls does not, in fact, cause all the files in your home directory to be listed, but only those ones whose name does not begin with a dot (.) Files beginning with a dot (.) are known as hidden files and usually contain important program configuration information. They are hidden because you should not change them unless you are very familiar with UNIX!!!
To list all files in your home directory including those whose names begin with a dot, type
% ls -a
As you can see, ls -a lists files that are normally hidden.
ls is an example of a command which can take options: -a is an example of an option. The options change the behaviour of the command. There are online manual pages that tell you which options a particular command can take, and how each option modifies the behaviour of the command. (See later in this tutorial)
1.2 Making Directories
mkdir (make directory)
We will now make a subdirectory in your home directory to hold the files you will be creating and using in the course of this tutorial. To make a subdirectory called unixstuff in your current working directory type
% mkdir unixstuff
To see the directory you have just created, type
1.3 Changing to a different directory
cd (change directory)
The command cd directory means change the current working directory to 'directory'. The current working directory may be thought of as the directory you are in, i.e. your current position in the file-system tree.
To change to the directory you have just made, type
% cd unixstuff
Type ls to see the contents (which should be empty)
Make another directory inside the unixstuff directory called backups
1.4 The directories . and ..
Still in the unixstuff directory, type
% ls -a
As you can see, in the unixstuff directory (and in all other directories), there are two special directories called (.) and (..)
The current directory (.)
In UNIX, (.) means the current directory, so typing
% cd .
NOTE: there is a space between cd and the dot
means stay where you are (the unixstuff directory).
This may not seem very useful at first, but using (.) as the name of the current directory will save a lot of typing, as we shall see later in the tutorial.
The parent directory (..)
(..) means the parent of the current directory, so typing
% cd ..
will take you one directory up the hierarchy (back to your home directory). Try it now.
Note: typing cd with no argument always returns you to your home directory. This is very useful if you are lost in the file system.
pwd (print working directory)
Pathnames enable you to work out where you are in relation to the whole file-system. For example, to find out the absolute pathname of your home-directory, type cd to get back to your home-directory and then type
The full pathname will look something like this -
which means that ee51vn (your home directory) is in the sub-directory ug1 (the group directory),which in turn is located in the its sub-directory, which is in the home sub-directory, which is in the top-level root directory called " / " .
Use the commands cd, ls and pwd to explore the file system.
(Remember, if you get lost, type cd by itself to return to your home-directory)
1.6 More about home directories and pathnames
First type cd to get back to your home-directory, then type
% ls unixstuff
to list the conents of your unixstuff directory.
% ls backups
You will get a message like this -
backups: No such file or directory
The reason is, backups is not in your current working directory. To use a command on a file (or directory) not in the current working directory (the directory you are currently in), you must either cd to the correct directory, or specify its full pathname. To list the contents of your backups directory, you must type
% ls unixstuff/backups
~ (your home directory)
Home directories can also be referred to by the tilde ~ character. It can be used to specify paths starting at your home directory. So typing
% ls ~/unixstuff
will list the contents of your unixstuff directory, no matter where you currently are in the file system.
What do you think
% ls ~
What do you think
% ls ~/..
Review of Commands
ls list files and directories
ls -a list all files and directories
mkdir make a directory
cd directory change to named directory
cd change to home-directory
cd ~ change to home-directory
cd .. change to parent directory
pwd display the path of the current directory
Try the commands in lab and check outputs
2.1 Copying Files
cp file1 file2 is the command which makes a copy of file1 in the current working directory and calls it file2
What we are going to do now, is to take a file stored in an open access area of the file system, and use the cp command to copy it to your unixstuff directory.
First, cd to your unixstuff directory.
% cd ~/unixstuff
Then at the UNIX prompt, type,
% cp /vol/examples/tutorial/science.txt .
Note: Don't forget the dot . at the end. Remember, in UNIX, the dot means the current directory.
The above command means copy the file science.txt to the current directory, keeping the name the same.
(Note: The directory /vol/examples/tutorial/ is an area to which everyone in the school has read and copy access. If you are from outside the University, you can grab a copy of the file here. Use 'File/Save As..' from the menu bar to save it into your unixstuff directory.)
Create a backup of your science.txt file by copying it to a file called science.bak
2.2 Moving files
mv file1 file2 moves (or renames) file1 to file2
To move a file from one place to another, use the mv command. This has the effect of moving rather than copying the file, so you end up with only one file rather than two.
It can also be used to rename a file, by moving the file to the same directory, but giving it a different name.
We are now going to move the file science.bak to your backup directory.
First, change directories to your unixstuff directory (can you remember how?). Then, inside the unixstuff directory, type
% mv science.bak backups/.
Type ls and ls backups to see if it has worked.
2.3 Removing files and directories
rm (remove), rmdir (remove directory)
To delete (remove) a file, use the rm command. As an example, we are going to create a copy of the science.txt file then delete it.
Inside your unixstuff directory, type
% cp science.txt tempfile.txt
% rm tempfile.txt
You can use the rmdir command to remove a directory (make sure it is empty first). Try to remove the backups directory. You will not be able to since UNIX will not let you remove a non-empty directory.
Create a directory called tempstuff using mkdir , then remove it using the rmdir command.
2.4 Displaying the contents of a file on the screen
clear (clear screen)
Before you start the next section, you may like to clear the terminal window of the previous commands so the output of the following commands can be clearly understood.
At the prompt, type
This will clear all text and leave you with the % prompt at the top of the window.
The command cat can be used to display the contents of a file on the screen. Type:
% cat science.txt
As you can see, the file is longer than than the size of the window, so it scrolls past making it unreadable.
The command less writes the contents of a file onto the screen a page at a time. Type
% less science.txt
Press the [space-bar] if you want to see another page, and type [q] if you want to quit reading. As you can see, less is used in preference to cat for long files.
The head command writes the first ten lines of a file to the screen.
First clear the screen then type
% head science.txt
% head -5 science.txt
What difference did the -5 do to the head command?
The tail command writes the last ten lines of a file to the screen.
Clear the screen and type
% tail science.txt
Q. How can you view the last 15 lines of the file?
2.5 Searching the contents of a file
Simple searching using less
Using less, you can search though a text file for a keyword (pattern). For example, to search through science.txt for the word 'science', type
% less science.txt
then, still in less, type a forward slash [/] followed by the word to search
As you can see, less finds and highlights the keyword. Type [n] to search for the next occurrence of the word.
grep (don't ask why it is called grep)
grep is one of many standard UNIX utilities. It searches files for specified words or patterns. First clear the screen, then type
% grep science science.txt
As you can see, grep has printed out each line containg the word science.
Or has it ????
% grep Science science.txt
The grep command is case sensitive; it distinguishes between Science and science.
To ignore upper/lower case distinctions, use the -i option, i.e. type
% grep -i science science.txt
To search for a phrase or pattern, you must enclose it in single quotes (the apostrophe symbol). For example to search for spinning top, type
% grep -i 'spinning top' science.txt
Some of the other options of grep are:
-v display those lines that do NOT match
-n precede each matching line with the line number
-c print only the total count of matched lines
Try some of them and see the different results. Don't forget, you can use more than one option at a time. For example, the number of lines without the words science or Science is
% grep -ivc science science.txt
wc (word count)
A handy little utility is the wc command, short for word count. To do a word count on science.txt, type
% wc -w science.txt
To find out how many lines the file has, type
% wc -l science.txt