Chapter 2. Basic System Administration

Once upon a time, Unix (the forerunner of Linux) had no graphical desktop at all. A command prompt was the only user interface. Of course, Linux now has a high-quality, modern, graphical desktop (indeed, it has more than one). Nowadays there are tools that let you perform most system administration through a graphical interface (in particular YaST, in SUSE Linux). Nonetheless, Linux retains its command-line interface (you’ll also hear this referred to as a shell prompt, “shell” being the Linux name for a command interpreter), and you’ll find plenty of Linux users (especially the hardcore geeks) who prefer this interface to the graphical tools. Throughout this book, I’ll often discuss how to perform a particular task using graphical tools and how to do the same thing from the command line. It is not my intention to embark on a religious crusade in favor of either the graphical desktop or the command line. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Which you prefer depends largely on your background and expectations.

It is easy to access a command prompt from a Linux desktop. In KDE, for example, select System → Terminal → Konsole from the main menu. There is also an icon on Kicker (the KDE main panel). Either method will bring up a terminal window and start a shell. For a really old-fashioned, authentic view of the command line, you can use the shortcut keys Ctrl-Alt-F1 through Ctrl-Alt-F6 to view up to six virtual terminals on which you can ...

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