Beneath the sleek, elegant, Technicolor — and, yes, at times whimsical — candy coating of Mac OS X’s graphical user interface beats the heart of an honest-to-goodness Unix operating system. It’s a world of high-contrast plain text, at first blush not entirely unlike the much-maligned DOS shell of the Windows world.
While much of a Mac user’s life is lived above the desktop abstraction, an occasional dip beneath the surface brings powers unimaginable and simply not possible with a point-and-click interface. There are servers to run, remote machines to manipulate, settings to tweak, events to schedule, and more. Many of the hacks in this book are best dealt with on the command line.
This chapter provides a gentle introduction to the command-line environment: how to move around and manipulate files and folders (they’re called directories down here). With that under your belt, we’ll show you how to thread some of the built-in Unix applications and functions together to create new functionality and construct command-line applications to meet your needs. You’ll edit special Unix files, transfer files to and from other computers on the Internet, schedule events for regular invocation, and even become the all-powerful administrative, or root, user for a moment or two.