The Terminal: An Introduction

We’ve already installed Linux and took a nice look around the system. You might be thinking this isn’t so different from your PC or Mac at home/work, right? I mean, it does all the same things out of the box. Office tasks, E-mail, internet browsing, a couple games…. “What else would I use a computer for?” Well, if we’re going to be a SysAdmin, then the answer is “A whole helluva lot more!” See, as an admin, we’ll have to get down and dirty with the systems that control certain network services, or even the network itself! It’s pretty complicated, but don’t worry; we’re gonna go slow. The tool most often used has several names. Some call it the Terminal, others the Shell, and others still the Command-Line. Names like Command-Prompt, and Console are also used frequently. I usually unknowingly flip-flop between Terminal and Shell, so please bear with me. What is it you ask? The terminal, (console, command-line, shell…..) is an actual interface between the OS and the user. See. we usually use our mouse for nearly everything with a computer. We click icons, highlight text, left-clicking this, right-clicking that, you get the point. Well, with a terminal. we input text commands at a prompt to tell the OS what to do.

There are actually many different types of these programs too. Most any Linux distribution will come pre-configured with BASH, Bourne Again SHell. It’s an updated to the original Bourne Shell, and far & away, the most common shell found. Others include Tsh, Csh, Ksh, Zsh, and many others. I personally have never used anything besides BASH, but I know that Csh uses C/C++ programming command syntax, as opposed to BASH.

After opening up a terminal window, it should contain only text saying something like

user@computer$

Let’s try typing something… for kicks 🙂

user@computer$ asdf;lkj

Now, what we typed could be a command. What I mean is this is exactly how we’d type a command. of course “asdf;lkj” isn’t an actual command. To see for yourself, press enter.

user@computer$asdf;lkj

bash: kdkjflajfks: command not found

see? I told you 😉 OK, back to business. A really cool feature about BASH can be found by now pressing the up arrow. That was our last command. Nifty, huh? BASH remembers your previous commands, so you don’t have to retype a whole long command because of a typo. You can also use your mouse with the terminal, like a web browser or text editor. You can copy/paste text, and scroll through the terminal like any other window.

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