# Ten steps to Linux survival

Learn Linux diagnostic and recovery tasks so you can jump in and fix a system problem when your site goes down.

July 6, 2016
Fording stream

## Introduction

And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

## Learn faster. Dig deeper. See farther.

Join the O'Reilly online learning platform. Get a free trial today and find answers on the fly, or master something new and useful.

## Why Are We Here?

This report grew out of a series of “lunch-and-learns” on Linux that I
compiled for work. During that process, I ended up
writing
an ebook
, and then condensing it into a one-hour presentation that
focuses on the essentials needed for quick problem-solving on a Linux
system. I turned that presentation into
an
O’Reilly webcast
, and
this report provides more details on those original 10 essentials.

Even in formerly “pure Windows” shops, Linux use is growing. Linux
systems are everywhere! They may appear as appliances (machines)
or, more likely, virtual machine (VM) images dropped in by a vendor.

Common examples of Linux systems that may appear in your shop as VMs or
in the cloud include the following:

Web servers

Apache, Nginx, Node.js

Database servers

MongoDB, PostgreSQL

Mobile device management

Various MDM solutions, such as MobileIron

Security and monitoring systems

Security information and event management (SIEM) systems, network sniffers

Source-code control systems

Git or Mercurial

As Linux use continues to grow, you need to know the basics. One
day you might be the only one in the office when things go south, and you’ll have to fix them—fast. This guide will help.

In this report, I focus on diagnosing problems and getting a system
back up. I don’t cover these topics:

• Modifying the system, other than restarting

• Forensics, other than looking at logs

• Shell scripting

• Distro differences—for example, Ubuntu versus CentOS

• Anything in depth, as this is just to get your feet wet

## Who Is This For?

The intended audience of this book is not seasoned Linux
administrators, or anyone with a passing knowledge of the Bash
shell. Instead, it is for people who are working in small Windows shops,
where everyone has to wear various hats. It is for Windows
knowledge of Linux but may still have to jump in during a problem.

The main www site is down, and all the people who know about it are
out. It’s running on some sort of Linux, I think, and the credentials
and IP address are scrawled on this sticky note. Can you get in, poke
around, and see if you can figure it out?

In this report, you’ll learn the basic steps to finding vital
this guide before disaster strikes, you will be better able to
survive the preceding scenario.

## How to Prepare

In small shops, sometimes things just fall on you because no
one else is available. There is often no room for “It’s not my job” when
production is down and the one person who knows about it is backpacking
in Colorado. So you need to be prepared as the use of Linux becomes more
prevalent, turning “pure Microsoft” shops more and more into hybrids.
Linux is coming, whether you like it or not. Be prepared.

First, pay close attention whenever you hear the word appliance used
in terms of a system. Perhaps it will be mentioned in passing in a
vendor presentation. Dig in and find out what the appliance image is
running.

Second, note that even Microsoft is supporting Linux, and increasing
that support daily. First, it started with making Linux systems first-class citizens on Azure. Now Microsoft is partnering with Docker and Ubuntu
and others, and that coordination looks like it is only going to grow.

So now is the time to start studying. This report is a
quick-help guide to prepare you for limited diagnostic and recovery
tasks, and to get you used to how Linux commands work. But you should
dig further.

One place to turn next is
my
ebook
. It helps you take the next steps of understanding how to
change Linux systems in basic ways. I’ve also included some
useful references at the end of this report. Past that, obviously,
O’Reilly
has many good resources for learning Linux
. And the Internet is just
sitting there, waiting for you.

## Play with It!

The best way to learn Linux is to stand up an environment where you can
explore without fear of the consequences if you mess something up. One
way is to create a Linux VM; even a moderately provisioned modern
laptop will comfortably run a Linux VM. You can also create one in the
cloud, and many vendors make that easy, including
DigitalOcean, Linode, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Microsoft
Azure, and Google Compute Engine. Many of these even offer a free level,
perfect for playing!

## Documentation and Instrumentation

To protect yourself in case you are thrown into the scenario outlined at
the beginning of this report, you should make sure the following are

The Linux systems are documented.

This should include their
purpose, as-built documentation outlining the distro, virtual or
physical hardware specs, packages installed, and so on.

These systems are being actively monitored.

Are they tied in to Paessler Router Traffic Grapher (PRTG),
SIEM, and other monitoring and alerting systems? Make sure you have
source of troubleshooting information.

uses secure vault software to store and share system
needed? You should make sure before the need arises.

## Conventions

If a command, filename, or other computer code is shown inline in a
sentence, it appears in a fixed-width font:

ls --recursive *.txt

If a command and its output is shown on a terminal session, it
appears as shown in Figure 1-1.

All such blocks have been normalized to show a maximum of only 80 x 24
characters. This is intentional. Although most modern Linux systems and
terminal windows such as ssh can handle any geometry, some
systems and situations still give you the same terminal size that your
grandfather would’ve used. It is best to learn how to deal with these by
using less, redirection, and the like. In addition, screenshots are shown from a variety of systems, to get you used to the ways that command
output and terminal settings can differ, much more than under the
default Windows Command Prompt.

The examples in this book typically show something like
/etc/init.d
###### Tip

Unlike in Windows, which is case-insensitive (but case-aware),
in Bash and in Linux in general, case matters. By convention, most
Linux commands are lowercase. If you try to type in an uppercase PWD,

## Listing Files

In Bash, the ls (list) command is used to show directories and
files. It is similar to the DIR command in Windows Command Prompt.

Figure 4-1 shows a simple sample of an ls command.

###### Note

Some ssh sessions use color highlighting, as shown in these
screenshots (in this case, green means the file is executable). Some do
not. So don’t be surprised if you see colors!

To see a more detailed listing of the files and directories, you can use
the ls -l command, as shown in Figure 4-2.

From left to right, you see file permissions, owner, group, size, last
modified date, and finally the file or directory name. File permissions
are beyond the scope of this report, but if you continue your Linux

In Windows, a file is hidden by setting a file attribute (metadata) on
the file. In Linux, a file is hidden if its name starts with a period, or
dot. To show these dot files, you use the ls -a command shown in Figure 4-3.

On the left you see . and .., which mean current directory and parent directory, respectively, just as in Windows. You also see
previously hidden files such as .bash_history and the .ssh directory
(in this example, blue denotes a directory).

Finally, you can combine parameters. If you want to see a detailed
listing (-l) of all files (-a), recursively descending into every
child directory (-R), you simply combine them all (ls -alR), as
shown in Figure 4-4.

Note the d in the far left column for ., .., and .ssh. This
tells you they are directories, and in terminal sessions that do not use
color highlighting, this d will be the only way you know which entries
are files and which are directories.

## Changing Directories

To change to a different directory, use the cd (change directory)
command.

###### Note

Linux uses the / character as the path delimiter, unlike
Windows, which uses \. This will trip you up the first few times,
especially because \ has a different meaning in Bash (it is an escape
character).

Linux doesn’t use drive letters. Instead, all devices are mounted in
a single hierarchical namespace starting at the root (/) directory.
You will see examples of this later in this report.

On login, you are usually in the home directory, which is represented
by ~. It is similar to the user directories under C:\Users on
Windows. Hence, you will probably need to go elsewhere. Here’s a list of
common directories on Linux systems that are of interest:

/etc

System configuration files (often pronounced slash-et-see
if someone is instructing you what to do over the phone)

/var

Installed software

/var/log

Log files

/proc

Real-time system information—similar to Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), but easier!

/tmp

Temp files, cleared on reboots

###### Tip

Remember, case matters! And use /, not \!

Changing to another directory with cd is simple, as you can see in Figure 4-5.

## Be Lazy

Most modern interactive shells like Bash and Windows Command Prompt allow for tab
expansion and command history, at least for the current session of the
shell. This is a good thing in a crisis situation, because it saves you
typing, and thus, time.

Tab expansion is like autocomplete for the command prompt. Let’s say you
have some files in a directory, as shown in Figure 4-6.

Without tab expansion, typing out something like this is slow and error-prone:

But with tab expansion, you can simply type cd un[Tab], where [Tab]
represents hitting the Tab key, and because only one directory starts with un, tab expansion will fill in the rest of the
directory name for you.

One way that tab completion in Bash is different than in Windows Command Prompt is that
in Bash, if you hit Tab and there are multiple candidates, Bash will
expand as far as it can and then show you a list of files that match up
to that point. You can then type in more characters and hit Tab
again to complete it.

For example, in the previous example, if you wanted to list the details
of the pm-powersave.log.2.gz file, instead of typing out
ls -l pm-powersave.log.2.gz (27 keystrokes to type and possibly get
wrong), you could use tab expansion to get it in two simple steps:

1. Type ls -l pm-p[Tab]. This would expand to
ls -l pm-powersave.log., because only the files named
pm-powersave.log. begin with pm-p. In this case, I specified just
enough characters to distinguish between pm-powersave.log files and
those beginning with pm-suspend.log.

2. Type 2[Tab]. This would complete the rest, .gz, because
only one pm-powersave.log. file has a 2 in the next character
location.

Thus, a total of 13 keystrokes, with two tab characters, saved
typing 14 more!

Tab expansion is your friend, and you should use it as often as possible.
It gives at least three benefits:

• Saves you typing.

• Helps eliminate misspellings in long file and directory names.

• Acts as an error checker—if the tab doesn’t expand, chances are
you are specifying the beginning part of the name wrong.

Another thing to remember about the interactive shell is command
history. Both Windows Command Prompt and Bash give you command history, but Bash
supports a rich interactive environment for searching for, editing, and
saving command history. However, the biggest thing you need to remember
in an emergency is simply that the up and down arrows work in the
command prompt and bring back your recent commands so you can update
them and re-execute them. This saves typing and reduces errors—use it!

## Step 3: Peeking at Files

Now that you know how to move around in the filesystem, it is time to
learn about how to inspect the content of files. In this
chapter, I show a few commands that allow you to look inside files
safely, without changing them.

## Cool cat

The cat (concatenate) command dumps a file to the console, as shown in Figure 5-1.

We will be using cat a lot in the rest of this report. Because most
Linux configuration and log files are text, this command is handy for
examining files, knowing that we can’t change them by accident. The
CMD.EXE equivalent is the TYPE command.

## less Is More

The less command paginates files or output, with each “page” based on
the size of the console window.

In Bash, as in Windows Command Prompt, the output from one command can be
redirected, or piped, to another command by using the | character. In
Linux, where each command “does one thing, well,” it is common practice
to combine multiple commands, piping the output from one command to the
next to accomplish a series of tasks in sequence. For example, later in
this report you will see how to use the ps command to produce a list
of running processes and then pipe that output to the grep command
to search for a specific process by name. To demonstrate, although less
can be passed a filename directly, here’s how to pipe command output
from cat to less:

~ $cat /etc/passwd | less The output from less clears the screen, and then shows the first page, as you can see in Figure 5-2. The colon at the bottom of the screen indicates that less is waiting for a command. After less displays its output, you have various navigation options: • Space, Page Down, or the down arrow scrolls down. • Page Up or the up arrow scrolls up. • / finds text searching forward (down) from the current cursor position, until the end of the file is reached; for example, /error. • ? finds text searching backward (up) from the current cursor position, until the beginning of the file is reached; for example, ?error. • n finds next instance of the text you’re searching for (note that the meaning of this is reversed when using ?). • p finds previous instance of the text you’re searching for (note that the meaning of this is reversed when using ?). • q quits the less command and returns you to the prior view of the console. ## tail Wind The tail command shows the last lines in a file. It is useful when you’re looking at large log files and want to see just the last lines—for example, right after an error has occurred. By default, tail will show the last 10 lines, but you can adjust the number of lines displayed with the -n parameter. For example, Figure 5-3 shows how to display just the last five lines. The tail command can also “follow” a file, remaining running and showing new lines on the console as they are written to the file. This is useful when you’re watching a log file for a new instance of an error message, perhaps as you are testing to see if you can trigger the condition by visiting a web page on the site that is throwing an error. Figure 5-4 shows an example using the -f parameter to follow a log file. ## Step 4: Finding Files In the preceding chapter, you learned how to look inside files without changing them. But how do you know which files to look at? In this chapter, I cover searching for files, which can help narrow the scope for your troubleshooting. ## find Files Fast The find command is one of the most useful commands in Linux. The command works like this: • Starting at location x • Recursively find entries that match condition(s) • Do something to each match As a simple example, let’s say you’re in the /var/log directory, and you want to find all files that end in .log. Because there may be a lot of them, you will pipe the output to less so you can page through it. Here is the command: /var/log# find . -name \*.log -print | less ###### Note Remember that I said the \ has a different meaning in Bash, that it is an escape character? Notice its use in this example, where it is preventing the Bash shell from expanding the wildcard character (*) into all matching files in the current directory. Instead, by escaping it, the \ character is telling find to expand that wildcard in the current directory and all of its children. Figure 6-1 shows the first page of the output I got from that command, awaiting our navigation via less. The find command has a lot more power than this simple example! You can find files and directories based on creation and modification dates, file sizes, types, and much more. You can execute any variety of actions on each one as you find them, including Bash commands and shell scripts. Figure 6-2 shows another example, where I am looking for all log files in /var/log and its child directories that were modified in the last hour, using the -mmin (modified minutes) parameter set to -60 minutes. In this example no action parameter is given, so -print is implied. You can also combine multiple search conditions and multiple actions. For example, if you want to find all log files in /var/log that were modified in the last minute (-mmin -1), and then print its path (-print) and display the last two lines of each log file found (using tail -n 2), you use the following: sudo find . -mmin -1 -print -exec tail -n 2 \{\} \; I will pick that apart for you. From left to right: sudo Because some of the log files are protected unless you are root. find Search for some files. . Starting in the current directory (in this example, that’s /var/log). -mmin -1 Find files that were modified in the last minute (-1). -print Print its full path. -exec For each file found, execute a command. -tail -n 2 As you learned in the preceding chapter, tail shows you the final lines of a file; by default, it shows the last 10 lines, but here I have specified that it should show only the last 2 lines. \{\} \; Passing in the full path of the filename found to the tail command. That last little bit of magic is important, and you will do well to memorize it for using -exec with the find command. The \{\} is the syntax for “pass in the path of the file that was found” (it is actually {}, but the \ characters are escaping the brackets because they have special meaning to the Bash shell). The ; is terminating the -exec parameter, so that other action parameters could follow on the find command. It is similarly escaped by \ because the semicolon also has special meaning to Bash. The intervening space between \{\} and \; is required! Figure 6-3 shows it in action. ###### Tip Because of the usefulness of the find command, I recommend you study it and play with it if you get a chance. ## Location, Location, Location The locate command searches a list of all the filenames on the system. The filenames are gathered periodically by a service, so it does not update in real time, but usually close enough. If you know the name of a file you are looking for, perhaps the Apache access.log file (which can change location depending on the Linux distro), you can use the locate command to quickly find it. Because locate searches a pre-built list, it is much quicker for finding files by name than using find -name. The locate command isn’t “smart.” It is simply looking for any file or directory with the string you pass it somewhere in the path. For example, if you execute locate log | less in the root (/) directory, you’ll see something like Figure 6-4. Note that log appears somewhere in each path, but doesn’t necessarily lead to log files. ## Step 5: Search Me In the preceding chapter, you learned to search for files by their attributes, such as name, last modified time, and the like. In this chapter, I show how to search inside a file, perhaps to find a specific error message. ## Getting a grep The grep command (whose name comes from globally search a regular expression and print) searches within files. It uses regular expressions (regex) to match patterns inside the files. It can be used to search within binary files, but is most useful for finding things inside text files. There are lots of uses for this command in our crisis scenario, such as searching for certain error messages within log files, or finding every mention of a certain resource inside the source files for an entire website. There is an old joke by Jamie Zawinski: Some people, when confronted with a problem, think, “I know, I’ll use regular expressions.” Now they have two problems. Some regular expressions are simple—for example, *, which you should recognize as a valid wildcard in Windows Command Prompt. Others can be mind-blowingly complex. For example: ^$$*\d{3}$$*( |-)*\d{3}( |-)*\d{4}$

This regular expression is an (incomplete) approach to matching US phone numbers.

Because regexes are so inscrutable, sometimes I write a regex in a
program or a script, come back to it six months later, and have no idea
what it is doing. (Now I have two problems.) In this chapter, you’re just
going to look at a few simple examples.

Here are some samples of using regular expressions with grep. You will
look at the output of some of them in the following screenshots.

grep 500 access.log

Find any occurrence of 500 in access.log

grep '\s500\s' access.log

Find 500 surrounded by whitespace
(space, tab)

grep '^159.203' access.log

Find 159.203 at beginning of
lines (^)

grep 'bash$' /etc/password Find bash at end of lines ($)

grep -i -r error /var/log

Find all case-insensitive (-i)
instances of error in the /var/log directory and its children (-r)

For that first example, you know that if a web program throws a
server-side error, by convention it will send an HTTP status code of 500
to the client (browser). Most web servers also write that to their logs.
So let’s look for 500 in Apache’s web log, as shown in Figure 7-1.

I use the '\s500\s' regular expression in this command
to make sure that only instances of 500 surrounded by spaces (or tabs)
are found. Web logs tend to put the HTTP status code in its own
column, and I don’t want to see extraneous 500s that are part of
response sizes, time-zone offsets, or whatnot.

Perhaps you’re being attacked by a block of IP addresses, maybe a bunch
of botnets running on some cable modems. The IP block attacking you is
159.203, so let’s find all log lines that start with that client
address, as shown in Figure 7-2.

In this case, note that the regular expression starts with ^, which
means to look for the following pattern only at the beginning of each
line in the log file.

Similarly, you can look for patterns at the end of each line as well.
The /etc/passwd file holds every user ID on a Linux system. (Don’t
worry, it no longer holds the password, but once upon a time, it
did!) Each user is defined by a line in the file, and the last entry on
each line indicates the “shell” in which they run. Some user IDs are defined to not be
allowed to have interactive logins, and so they might have something
like /bin/false or /usr/sbin/nologin as their shell.

But user IDs that can log in will have bash or csh or similar. So if
you want to find all user IDs that can log in interactively, you could
use the command in Figure 7-3, which looks for bash at the end of the line by
specifying the $in the regular expression. You then see that root and myuser are the only IDs allowed an interactive login on this system. Finally, because you’re trying to find out what is wrong with the Linux system you’ve been thrown into, perhaps you want to see each instance of the word exception in the log files. You could do that with something like this: grep -i -r 'exception' /var/log | less Here’s what each part of that command does: grep Searches through files -i Ignores case (makes the search string case-insensitive) -r Recursively searches through all directories 'exception' Looks for the string exception /var/log Starts in the /var/log directory | less Pipes the output through less so you can look at it one “page” at a time Figure 7-4 shows the first page of the output. In this case, you see a bunch of authorization failures in the first page of output from the /var/auth log. If the problem you are chasing includes an authentication error, perhaps on your website, this would show a good path to keep continuing down. Many times you have to change your search phrases multiple times and use your “tech intuition” to decide which errors are worth following further. Troubleshooting is often more of an art than a science, so “Use the Force, Luke.” ## Step 6: What’s Going On? You have now learned how to navigate around, look inside files, and find files and search their contents. In this chapter and the next, I show you how to determine real-time system state, with an eye toward clues that may point to underlying problems. ## It’s All Part of the Process The ps (process) command shows running processes, akin to the Windows Task Manager, as you can see in Figure 8-1. By default, ps shows only the processes for the current user. In the preceding example, the active processes are the Bash shell and the ps command itself. If you want to see all running processes, you add the -A parameter. To make it pretty and show the hierarchical relationship between parent and child processes, you add -H: ps -AH | less Figure 8-2 shows the output. Here you see many child processes running under init, which is typically the first process that runs (note that the left column shows init has a process ID of 1). Also notice that under a series of sshd (SSH daemon, or service, processes) is our bash session running ps, which is piping output to less. ## Who’s on top? The top command (Figure 8-3) shows processes sorted by resource consumption. It updates every few seconds, similar to Windows Task Manager. Notice that the top output is divided into two sections. The, well, top section shows system-level statistics: up time, number of logged-in users, number of processes, CPU and memory utilization, and so on. The bottom section shows the various processes running, sorted by CPU utilization. Some of the more important columns are PID (process ID), USER, VIRT (virtual memory), %CPU, %MEM, and COMMAND. Similar to less, you can quit top by typing q or hitting Ctrl-C. If you want to have top sort its output by something other than CPU usage, you pass it the -o (order) parameter followed by the column name. In Figure 8-4, the output from top -o '%MEM' is sorted by memory utilization. If your symptoms seem performance-related, you can use top to see whether a process or processes are eating up all the CPU cycles or hogging memory and thus causing excessive paging. If a certain process keeps showing at or near the top of the list with every refresh, it may well be your culprit. ## The /proc Directory Linux doesn’t mount devices under drive letters as in Windows, but instead uses a single hierarchical filesystem, with different resources mounted under the root (/) directory. In fact, because Linux uses an “everything is a file” paradigm, virtual filesystems that aren’t backed by an actual device can be mounted in the hierarchy as well. One of the best examples of this is the /proc directory, a virtual filesystem that presents real-time system statistics as files and directories. This makes the information way easier to access than the rather opaque Windows WMI APIs. For example, you can see information on the CPUs being used on the system, as shown in Figure 8-5. This image shows just the beginning of the “file” containing information about the CPU(s) in the system. For example, with multicore processors, there are repeating sections for each core. Similarly, memory info can be displayed as shown in Figure 8-6. Let’s look at a listing of the /proc directory contents in Figure 8-7. This gives an idea of all the various types of information available. The blue entries are directories containing even more data. Note the numbered directories on the left. Each of these directories contains real-time statistics for each running process, listed by process ID. If you change into one of those directories and list it, you see an incredible amount of information about that specific process, all of which will be updated in real time every time you display it, as shown in Figure 8-8. That is just a taste of the types of useful information you can gather by looking in /proc. ## Networking The ifconfig command shows information on the system’s network interfaces (similar to the IPCONFIG command in Windows), as you can see in Figure 8-9. Here you see that the system, my handy Raspberry Pi, has two network interfaces. The first is eth0, an Ethernet interface. The MAC address, IPv4 and IPv6 configuration, and various network statistics are shown. The second interface, lo, is the local loopback, 127.0.0.1. Most networking commands that you may be used to in Windows are also available in Linux, such as ping, shown in Figure 8-10. One difference between ping on Linux versus Windows is that on Linux the output does not stop until you hit Ctrl-C. This is similar to PING -T on Windows. The traceroute command, shown in Figure 8-11, is also available (note the spelling difference from TRACERT on Windows). Two other network commands you may find useful during troubleshooting are dig and whois, both of which return DNS information for domain names or IP addresses. ## Step 7: Filesystems You have just seen how to look at real-time system state in terms of processes, memory, and networking. Now I show how to check out the filesystems, with an eye toward disk utilization. ## Displaying Filesystems On any computer system, running out of disk space can cause many problems. On Linux, two commands are helpful in determining disk utilization. The df (display filesystems) command shows the mounted files systems along with statistics on space usage, as you can see in Figure 9-1. The main device you’re interested in is the first one, which shows /dev/vda1 mounted on /. Note the columns showing disk size, Used, Available, and Use%. Figure 9-2 shows an example where disk utilization may be causing trouble. The /dev/vda1 device is 100% full! ## Where Did All the Disk Space Go? Once you’ve seen that there may be a problem with disk space, how do you find out where it is being used? You can use the du (disk utilization) command for that. By default, it descends through every directory and shows you disk usage for every subdirectory under which it is invoked (think DIR /S on CMD.EXE). That can generate a lot of output and can take a long time to run. What we really want to do is start at the top and narrow our search to a specific problem directory. Let’s just look at the top-level directories under /. For that, I pass in the -d 1 (depth of 1) parameter. To make the output easier to read, I also pass -BM to show blocks in megabytes. Finally, as you can see in Figure 9-3, I’m using sudo, because otherwise I wouldn’t have permission to descend into some system directories to calculate their disk space. You can see that /usr is using 778 MB of space, followed by some fairly inconsequential directories, but /tmp is using over 16 GB of space. It must be the culprit! From there, you can go look in /tmp (which, remember, is cleared on reboots) to see what is taking up all the space. ###### Note You can continue to use du to successively refine your search. If, instead of /tmp in this simple example, the /var directory was the one showing high disk utilization, you could cd into it and then run this du command again, and continue to traverse down the directories until you find what is using up all the space. You could remove the -d parameter and pipe the output to less, but you probably don’t want to do that because on a large system with thousands of directories, you could be paging through the output for a long time! ## Step 8: Transferring Files Perhaps you think you’ve found evidence of a system compromise, or you fear log files will be altered if you end up restarting services or the system itself. If you want to preserve files on another system so that someone more knowledgeable can look at them later, the commands in this chapter will come in handy. ###### Caution Most commands in this report will not alter system state. However, the commands in this chapter and the next have the potential to do so. In this chapter, the commands to transfer files from the Linux system to another system for later analysis can also work in reverse—that is, transfer files to the Linux box. So be careful! ## Secure Copying The scp (secure copy) command can be used to copy files over the SSH protocol (the same protocol that you’re running your ssh terminal session over). This command allows us to copy files using an encrypted, compressed mechanism. If you are going to copy files from Linux “down” to your Windows system, you need a program that will run on Windows. The creator of PuTTY made PSCP.EXE for precisely that purpose: to implement scp for Windows. You can download it from the same place as PuTTY. The PSCP.EXE program, shown in Figure 10-1, is meant to run under Windows Command Prompt (CMD.EXE). It takes the same parameters as scp. In this example, the -r means to copy recursively. The myuser@demo1 is the user ID and machine address, exactly the same as what you specify when connecting with PuTTY. Note that immediately following that connection info (with no space) is a colon and then a path. This path is where you will be copying from—in this example, it’s /var/log/syslog. The final parameter is the to location—for example, F:\Temp\. When you invoke PSCP.EXE, it will prompt you for the user’s password, and then transfer the file(s) specified. In our example, only one file, syslog, is transferred. ###### Tip Like the Windows COPY and MOVE commands, most copy and move commands on Linux specify from as the first path and to as the second. Make sure you specify these paths in the correct order! ## Copying to a Windows Share The PSCP.EXE command can be used to pull information from Linux to your local Windows machine. If the Linux system is on the same network as a Windows file share, you can use smbclient to push files to a CIFS/SMB file share. Both machines must be on the same network for this to work; it will not work across the Internet. The smbclient command uses similar subcommands as ftp, so if you have ever done FTP transfers from the Windows command line, it should be familiar. One difference is that, instead of specifying the subcommands one at a time after connecting, you can pass a string of commands to execute to smbclient as a parameter on the command line, as in Figure 10-2. What’s going on here? The first parameter, //mtlindsey/docs$, is the
Windows share name. The only difference from how this is specified on
Windows is the direction of the slashes. The -U parameter is the
Windows user ID to use. The -c parameter then gives a list of
semicolon-delimited subcommands to execute:

prompt

Turn off prompting for each file

lcd /var/log

Change the local (Linux) directory to /var/log

mput auth.log*

Send (put) multiple files with a name pattern of
auth.log* to the Windows share

quit

Exit the command

After being prompted for a password, you then see the results. The files
ending in .gz have been compressed using the GNU zip algorithm.

## Step 9: Starting and Stopping

If you are investigating a system that seems hung (perhaps the public
website isn’t responding and your management wants you to “do
something”), the old tried-and-true method of restarting services or the
entire system itself is often your last resort. Rebooting Windows always
fixes problems, so you already know one method for approaching Linux
issues too! In this chapter, I show you how to restart services and
reboot the system.

###### Caution

Most commands in this report will not alter system state.
However, this chapter covers commands that start, stop, and restart Linux
services and the entire system. Therefore, you could possibly stop
something, and because of the situation you are investigating, not be able
to restart it. So be careful!

## Managing Services

Linux services (a.k.a. daemons, which is why so many Linux services
end in d, such as sshd and httpd) are similar to Windows
services. They are processes that run in the background, typically
initiated at system startup. Examples of services include web services
(Apache), database services (MySQL), and so on.

Typically, you use the service command to start, stop, and restart
services. It requires sudo. Figure 11-1 shows how to start the mysql service.

You can see that the process ID (PID) of the service is returned by the
command. You stop a service the same way, as shown in Figure 11-2.

As you can likely guess, restarting a service, just as on Windows, is
simply a combination of stopping and then starting it; see Figure 11-3.

You can check the status of a service with…wait for it…the status
command (Figure 11-4).

Another way to tell whether a service is running is to use our old friends
ps and grep (Figure 11-5).

Note how I start and stop the mysql service, but under the covers it
is the mysqld command (or daemon) that is running. That
information can be useful when searching through log files.

When starting a service, you may get an error. Often, the output from
the service command isn’t helpful. On most systems, service is
just a thin wrapper around a series of scripts in /etc/init.d. You can
often run one of the scripts directly from /etc/init.d and get better
error information (Figure 11-6).

Hmmm…disk full. Does that remind you of anything? See Figure 11-7.

Let’s go to /tmp, as shown in Figure 11-8, and see if you notice anything wrong.

Sure enough! That’s one big file! Obviously, in real life it wouldn’t be
this easy. But you now should be seeing how the tools in the previous
chapters are adding up to help determine what may be going wrong.

## Killing a Process

The kill command sends signals to processes. The default behavior
for a process is to stop when it receives a signal, although signals can
also be used to tell a service to reload its configuration file, and so forth.

Sometimes a service may hang to the point where it won’t respond to
the service command. The next step is to try to kill it. First, you
need to find its process ID. In Figure 11-9, we’re finding the process
ID for the mysvc process.

After you have the process ID (20330 in this case), you can try to kill
it, as shown in Figure 11-10.

Let’s look at Figure 11-11 to see if that worked.

Yup—ps piped through grep shows no active processes named mysvc
running.

But sometimes even kill doesn’t work. For one, programs can be written
to intercept most signals, enabling communication with the background
process from the command line. Or the process may really be “hung hard.”
In that case, you need to terminate, with prejudice, as shown in Figure 11-12. The -9 (minus
nine) signal is one that processes cannot trap (intercept).

###### Caution

You should use the kill -9 command with extreme caution.
Notice that the first kill example returns Terminated, but in this
case it comes back with Killed. Because the process cannot intercept a
-9 signal, it has no chance of ending cleanly. There may be open
files, unflushed buffers, database transactions that haven’t been
committed, and other in-flight processing that will be lost when you
use the kill -9 command. Invoke it only as a last resort!

## When All Else Fails

Just as on Windows, sometimes a system restart is the ultimate cure.
The reboot command does just what you’d expect. A
shutdown command provides more options, such as waiting for a
number of seconds first, but you probably won’t need it. In any case,
both require sudo to run, and you will lose your ssh connection and
will need to log back in again after the system comes back up to ensure
everything is back in order.

## Step 10: Where to Go for Help

This report is just a quick flyover of Linux commands and
how to use them to do quick troubleshooting. Even with the commands
covered in the report, I excluded many, many options
to keep it simple. But sometimes, even in the heat of troubleshooting a
system problem, you need a bit more help. This chapter covers where you
can go to get it.

## Hey, man

The man (manual page) command provides documentation on commands,
system configuration files, and much more. This command is good for when
you can’t access the Internet, or doing so isn’t convenient because you
are on a machine console or similar setup. Figure 12-1 shows the first page of
output from man reboot.

The output is run through pagination similar to less, so all its
navigation and find commands will work. You can, of course, find out more
about how to use man by running man man.

## Is That apropos?

How do you know what you don’t know? Sometimes you might not know (or
remember) the name of a command. For example, you may recall that this
guide mentioned disk space, but can’t remember the actual commands.
Luckily, you can use the apropos command to jog your memory, as shown in Figure 12-2.

The apropos command is simple. All it does is search through all
the man page titles for the string you pass it. In this case,
apropos space should be enough to help you recognize the df and du
commands again.

There are plenty of places to go for more help with Linux:

Search engines, with
DDG often providing direct help for a command
as the first result

Stack Exchange

A UNIX-specific
Stack Exchange site for questions

Debian docs

Provides good
documentation, much of it applicable across distros

Arch docs

Ditto

die.net

Online man pages

## The End

Now you know what I know. Or at least what I keep loaded in my head
versus what I simply search for when I need to know it, and you know how
to do that searching, too. Hopefully, this report will help you sometime when you
most need it.

Good luck, citizen!

## Cheat Sheet

That rug really tied the room together, did it not?

Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

This chapter lists many of the commands covered in this report. Use
man or other methods outlined in the report to find more information
on them.

### Redirection Command

|

Pipe stdout from one process into stdin in another
process.

### System Directory Commands

/etc

Configuration files location

/home

Home or user profile directories

/proc

System runtime information

/root

Home directory for root user (system admin)

/tmp

Temporary files location

/var/log

Log files location

### Standard User Commands

These are “Section 1” commands,
normal user commands that typically don’t require any special privileges
beyond permissions to access files and the like.

apropos

Search for help on commands by title

bash

The Bourne-again shell

cat

Concatenate the input files to stdout

cd

Change the current directory

cp

Copy files or directories

df

Show space utilization by filesystem

dig

Look up DNS info on an address

du

Estimate disk usage

find

Find files based on various conditions and execute actions
against the results

grep

Search for a pattern (regular expression) in files

less

Display the file one page at a time on stdout

locate

Locate files by name

ls

List directory contents

man

Display manual pages; remember, q quits

ps

List running processes

pwd

Print the current (working) directory name

scp

File copy over Secure Shell protocol

smbclient

Copy files to and from Windows using the SMB/CIFS
(Windows file share) protocol

ssh

Secure Shell terminal program and protocol

tail

Display the last lines of a file

top

List processes by resource utilization (CPU)

whois

Look up DNS ownership info on an address

### System Commands

Most of these are “Section 8” commands, and
may require special privileges such as sudo to run, depending on
the system. Yes, some systems restrict the use of ping!

ifconfig

Display network (interface) configuration

kill

Terminate a process

ping

Test for network connectivity to an IP address

reboot

Restart the system

shutdown

Shut down or restart the system

sudo

Execute a command with elevated privileges

traceroute

Trace the route to an IP address

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