First Steps

This chapter introduces you to interacting with the Unix operating system. It examines the initial Unix boot process, shows you how to log in to the system and to properly shut down the system, and explains what the shell offers you. It also covers the man command, which is Unix's built-in system help facility. This chapter provides the foundation upon which other chapters will build.

System Startup

What occurs from the power-off position until your operating system is fully available is called the boot process. In the simplest terms, the boot process consists of the Read-Only Memory's (ROM, or NVRAM, or firmware) loading of the program for actually booting (starting) the system. This initial step (commonly called bootstrapping) identifies the devices on the system that can be booted or started from. You can boot or start from only one device at a time, but, because many different devices can be identified as bootable, one of those other identified devices can be used if one bootable device has a failure. These devices may load automatically, or you may be shown a list of devices from which you can choose. Figure 2-1 shows a list of bootable devices in a Solaris boot system on the Intel platform.

The boot device doesn't have to be a physical hard drive, because the system can boot from the network or from removable storage such as a CD-ROM or floppy diskette. A boot device simply holds the information about where to load the operating system. The bootstrap phase only ...

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