464
votes
2answers
115k views

Why was '~' chosen to represent the home directory?

I have often wondered why the ~ represents the home directory of a user. Is there a reason behind this, or is it just some infrequently used character?
346
votes
3answers
55k views

What is the exact difference between a 'terminal', a 'shell', a 'tty' and a 'console'?

I think these terms almost refer to the same thing, when used loosely: terminal shell tty console What exactly does each of these terms refer to?
266
votes
7answers
23k views

Understanding the Linux kernel source

I am trying to understand how a function, say mkdir, works by looking at the kernel source. This is an attempt to understand the kernel internals and navigate between various functions. I know mkdir ...
205
votes
3answers
51k views

What is the purpose of the lost+found folder in Linux and Unix?

There is a folder at the root of Linux and Unix operating systems called /lost+found/ What is it for? Under what circumstances would I interact with it? How would I interact with it?
167
votes
7answers
72k views

When should I not kill -9 a process?

I am always very hesitant to run kill -9, but I see other admins do it almost routinely. I figure there is probably a sensible middle ground, so: When and why should kill -9 be used? When and why ...
141
votes
14answers
38k views

What are the pros and cons of Vim and Emacs?

How would you compare these editors? What are the pros and cons of each? [note] This is not meant to be answered by those who "hate one and love another" or those who haven't used both.
139
votes
22answers
66k views

Repeat a Unix command every x seconds forever

There's a builtin Unix command repeat whose first argument is the number of times to repeat a command, where the command (with any arguments) is specified by the remaining arguments to repeat. For ...
139
votes
5answers
7k views

What's the difference between $(stuff) and `stuff`?

There are two syntaxes for command substitution: with dollar-parentheses and with backticks. Running top -p $(pidof init) and top -p `pidof init` gives the same output. Are these two ways of doing the ...
137
votes
10answers
12k views

In Bash, when to alias, when to script, and when to write a function?

It's taken me almost 10 years of Linux usage to ask this question. It was all trial and error and random late-night internet surfing. But people shouldn't need 10 years for this. If I were just ...
124
votes
12answers
74k views

What if 'kill -9' does not work?

I have a process I can't kill with kill -9 <pid>. What's the problem in such a case, especially since I am the owner of that process. I thought nothing could evade that kill option.
123
votes
4answers
45k views

Why is FreeBSD deprecating GCC in favor of Clang/LLVM?

So I was surfing the net and stumbled upon this article. It basically states that FreeBSD, starting from Version 10 and above will deprecate GCC in favor of Clang/LLVM. From what I have seen around ...
115
votes
16answers
26k views

Any reason NOT to run Linux in a VM all the time?

I've switched to using Arch Linux for most of my day to day work and don't need Windows for anything but gaming and the couple of apps that aren't ported to Linux like OneNote. My Linux distro is ...
115
votes
9answers
33k views

What is the real difference between “apt-get” and “aptitude”? (How about “wajig”?)

I know that both apt-get and aptitude are command line package management interfaces on Debian derived Linux, with different options, but I'm still somewhat confused. Under the hood, aren't they ...
113
votes
10answers
22k views

tmux vs. GNU Screen

Browsing through questions I found about tmux (I normally used GNU Screen). My question is what are pros and cons of each of them. Especially I couldn't find much about tmux.
110
votes
5answers
20k views

I deleted /bin/rm. How do I recover it?

Just for fun, I thought I would use this command on my Raspberry PI running Raspbian: sudo rm -f /bin/rm I thought I could just reinstall coreutils: I was wrong! apt-get install --reinstall ...
106
votes
1answer
19k views

Difference between nohup, disown and &

What is the difference between $ nohup foo and $ foo & and $ foo & $ disown
104
votes
5answers
32k views

Why is printf better than echo?

I have heard that printf is better than echo and I can recall only one instance from my experience where I had to use printf because echo didn't work for feeding some text into some program on RHEL ...
101
votes
3answers
7k views

What does the Windows flag in the Linux logo of kernel 3.11 mean?

I've just installed kernel-3.11.0-1.fc20 for my Fedora 19 installation. During the rebooting progress, I saw the Linux logo with a Windows flag in it, what does it mean? The Fedora 19 is installed ...
96
votes
4answers
13k views

/usr/bin vs /usr/local/bin on Linux

Why are there so many places to put a binary in Linux? There are atleast these five: /bin/ /sbin/ /usr/bin/ /usr/local/bin/ /usr/local/sbin/ And on my office box, I do not have write permissions ...
95
votes
5answers
8k views

What's the story behind Super Cow Powers?

As we know, apt-get has Super Cow Powers and aptitude does not: $ apt-get --help | grep -i cow This APT has Super Cow Powers. $ aptitude --help | grep -i cow ...
93
votes
14answers
29k views

How to do integer & float calculations, in bash or other languages/frameworks?

Using echo "20+5" literally produces the text "20+5" What command can I use to get the numeric sum, e.g. 25 in this case. Also, what's the easiest way to do it just using bash for floating point, ...
93
votes
12answers
31k views

What are the pros/cons of deb vs. rpm?

For whatever reasons, I've always used RPM based distros (Fedora, Centos and currently openSUSE). I have often heard it stated that deb is better than rpm, but when asked why, have never been able to ...
92
votes
6answers
5k views

How to chmod without /usr/bin/chmod?

Today I was told a tale by a Unix trainer, a tale where the root password got leaked to the students, and one of the fellas removed the execute permission from /usr/bin/chmod itself. How do you ...
90
votes
8answers
7k views

The myths about malware in unix/linux

Is it possible for my Linux box to become infected with a malware? I haven't heard of it happening to anyone I know, and I've heard quite a few times that it isn't possible. Is that true? If so, ...
90
votes
1answer
4k views

Bash: What does “>|” do?

I have just seen this written down; $ some-command >| /tmp/output.txt Vertical pipes are used in standard redirects "piping" the output of one command to another, is >| in fact completely ...
89
votes
9answers
23k views

Preserve bash history in multiple terminal windows

I consistently have more than one terminal open. Anywhere from two to ten, doing various bits and bobs. Now let's say I restart and open up another set of terminals. Some remember certain things, some ...
85
votes
5answers
8k views

What do the numbers in a man page mean?

So, for example, when I type man ls I see LS(1). But if I type man apachectl I see APACHECTL(8) and if I type man cd I end up with cd(n). I'm wondering what the significance of the numbers in the ...
84
votes
6answers
4k views

How to run a command without hitting Enter Key?

Accidently I mapped Enter key via xkbset to Pointer_button2. Now every time I hit Enter some gibberish text appears. I thought of a workaround involving remapping it back but that means I will have to ...
83
votes
9answers
25k views

Turn off buffering in pipe

I have a script which calls two commands: long_running_command | print_progress The long_running_command prints a progress but I'm unhappy with it. I'm using print_progress to make it more nice ...
82
votes
26answers
61 views

Tracking down where disk space has gone on Linux?

When administering Linux systems I often find myself struggling to track down the culprit after a partition goes full. I normally use du / | sort -nr but on a large filesystem this takes a long time ...
80
votes
7answers
10k views

Which is the safest way to get root privileges: sudo, su or login?

I would like to have the root account in safety even if my unprivileged user is compromised. On Ubuntu you can only use sudo for "security reasons" by default. However I am not sure it is any safer ...
79
votes
3answers
10k views

What does “rc” in .bashrc stand for?

Is it "resource configuration", by any chance?
78
votes
2answers
32k views

How to unfreeze after accidentally pressing Ctrl-S in a terminal?

It's a situation that has happened quite often to me: after I press (with a different intention) Ctrl-S in a terminal, the interaction (input or output) with it is frozen. It's probably a kind of ...
78
votes
6answers
13k views

Is Linux a Unix?

So, there are lots of different versions of Unix out there: HP-UX, AIX, BSD, etc. Linux is considered a Unix clone rather than an implementation of Unix. Are all the "real" Unices actual descendants ...
76
votes
12answers
23k views

How to have tail -f show colored output

I'd like to be able to tail the output of a server log file that has messages like: INFO SEVERE etc, and if it's SEVERE, show the line in red; if it's INFO, in green. What kind of alias can I ...
74
votes
3answers
7k views

Why is “echo” so much faster than “touch”?

I'm trying to update the timestamp to the current time on all of the xml files in my directory (recursively). I'm using Mac OSX 10.8.5. On about 300,000 files, the following echo command takes 10 ...
74
votes
3answers
92k views

Check package version using apt-get/aptitude?

Before I install a package I'd like to know what version i would get. How do I check the version before installing using apt-get or aptitude on debian or ubuntu?
72
votes
7answers
16k views

Why use swap when there is more than enough RAM

Using swap space instead of RAM can drastically slow down a pc. So why, when I have more than enough RAM available, does my Linux system (Arch) use the swap? Checkout my conky output below: ...
72
votes
3answers
22k views

Why do directories need the executable (X) permission to be opened?

In my CMS, I noticed that directories need the executable bit (+x) set for the user to open them. Why is the execute permission required to read a directory?
71
votes
5answers
14k views

Why isn't Linux embraced as the official GNU kernel?

While I knew for quite some time the existence of Hurd, and its mission as the official GNU Operating System kernel, I was wondering how come Linux is not embraced as the official GNU kernel over the ...
70
votes
6answers
5k views

Why is cd not a program?

I've always wondered why cd isn't a program, but never managed to find the answer. Anyone know why this is the case?
70
votes
12answers
25k views

How to fill 90% of the free memory?

I want to do some low-resources testing and for that I need to have 90% of the free memory full. How can I do this on a *nix system?
70
votes
3answers
14k views

How do I recover from the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL?

CVE-2014-0160 a.k.a. Heartbleed is a vulnerability in OpenSSL. It looks scary. How do I determine whether I am affected? If I'm affected, what do I need to do? Apparently upgrading isn't enough.
69
votes
3answers
10k views

Why is the root directory denoted by a / sign?

I have done some research about this on Google, but the results were cloudy. Why is the / sign used to denote the root directory. Are there any solid reasons behind it?
69
votes
4answers
110k views

How to correctly add a path to PATH?

I'm wondering where a new path has to be added to PATH environment variable. I know this is accomplished editing .bash_rc (for example), but it's not clear how to do this. This way: export ...
68
votes
3answers
2k views

Does tail read the whole file?

If I want to tail a 25 GB textfile, does the tail command read the whole file? Since a file might be scattered on a disk I imagine it has to, but I do not understand such internals well.
67
votes
6answers
2k views

Run a command that is shadowed by an alias

Let's say i have the following alias in bash - alias ls='ls --color=auto' - and i want to call ordinary ls without options. Is the only way to do that is to unalias, do the command and then alias ...
67
votes
2answers
7k views

Why do we use su - and not just su?

I don't understand why su - is preferred over su to login as root.
67
votes
19answers
9k views

Which GNU/Linux distribution for a 12-year old system?

I have a 12-year old Toshiba Libretto laptop with a Transmeta Crusoe Processor TM 5600 running at about 600 MHz, 128 MB RAM and S3 Savage graphics. Which Ubuntu (or any other GNU/Linux based ...
67
votes
2answers
5k views

How does Linux “kill” a process?

It often baffles me that although I have been working professionally with computers for several decades, and Linux for a decade, I actually treat most of the OS' functionality as a black box, not ...

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