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Command Line Tuesdays – The Introductory

May 27th, 2014 by

Hi Geekos!

Today we’re introducing a new series, called ‘Command Line Tuesdays‘. Why command line Tuesdays? Because in this series, everyday computer enthusiasts like yours truly, will try to step a little out of bounds of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) Culture, which is today synonymous to ‘making stuff easier for the masses‘.

Of course, if you visited any of the GNU/Linux related community forums, you’ve probably read, and this is an assumption, a very fiery debate over which is actually easier. Using GUI for everything, or simply learning and enjoying the Command-line Interface (CLI).
TerminalThere are many arguments for or against the use of GUI tools. One of the most commonly referred pros is that we’ve been brought up in the point-and-click computing paradigm, so it’s basically a form of a language, or culture if you may, in which we interact with our machine. The patterns are mostly recurring, with big button clicking doing everything we need it to do.

On the other side, one of the most interesting comments I’ve read about the pros of command-line was: you can simply do more via the command-line much quicker, easier and faster than when using GUI tools. But there’s a catch: you have to learn the commands. Yes, learn them, as if learning a poem.
Now, since to us, the semi-indoctrinated clueless users, it all sounds like some useless geek overreaching and overdoing, let me humanize it with a fable:

The Fable

I’ve been using Linux for more then 3 years now. I’m a 27 year old literature major, who never held much of an interest in technology of any sort. I didn’t even own a computer until I was in high-school, so let’s say somewhere around 17. That’s barely ten years of computer usage. The only three programs I ever ran were BS Player, Winamp and Football Manager, with occasional usage of MS Word. Three and bit years ago, a colleague at a precarious job I was performing at the time was talking to another coworker, saying there’s a new edition of something which immediately occupied my attention, as it looked different. It was Ubuntu’s Natty Narwhal, I think. After discussing it with him, he pointed out the usual pros we gospel to the newcomers, no antivirus necessary, faster boot, better security, software center blah blah blah, and the peak of it: Free and Open Source (FOSS) philosophy behind it. And he did it in a very non-invasive, non fanboyish manner.

I decided to give it a go, and I never turned back since then. How I got into openSUSE around the 11.4 release, shortly after trying out Ubuntu for the first time is going to have to fit in another time, and how I find it to be the perfect sweet spot is a whole different story. The point is, I finally entered the Linux realm. It was fun, it was different, it made my computer run better, it was more stable. I barely had issues with it (seems I not-knowingly purchased fairly orthodox hardware). It seems that Linux came really far regarding the desktop, so I barely had to use the terminal. But let’s just say it was one of the most dreadful, terrifying and horrific tools to use in Linux. If there wasn’t a GUI for a specific operation, I immediately became nervous as I didn’t know what I was getting into when copy/pasting commands from the forums.
After time, things changed. As opposed to other consumer-oriented systems, what happened to me was maybe somewhat of a human reverse-engineering. Instead of me consuming the system, I feel that in three years, the system consumed me. I learned how to search for basic issues, file bug reports, properly ask questions on forums. With every issue I had, I learned how to be better at providing the information needed for someone more competent to help me with my problem.

A short while ago, my girlfriend commented how she can’t believe I’m using my computer mostly for the sake of using the computer, rather than doing anything else. ‘You use it only for your music collection and Linux thingies, Nenad. Gaawd.’ It made me think, and think hard. Linux, specifically the openSUSE distro has become a hobby of mine. Not at an expert level, by any means, which is reasonable since it isn’t my area of expertise. But I know enough to get around, fix minor issues, play around with some configuration files etc. But what I came to know, is that with my increasing playing and tinkering around the system, I really need to get familiar with CLI. I learned that I’m playing around without knowing of the basics under the hood. What for crying out loud is ETC?!?!? What’s BIN? Why is there .sh at the end? Why is this file here, and this file there? Why do I have to click through gazillion of folders to find the right file to modify? Then I read you can easily list all the files somewhere with a single command. It became interesting. I suddenly felt an urge to try it out.

So Let’s Do It!

…and here we are. As a new openSUSE news contributor, I’ll try to contribute in a way I see productive for what I suppose is a large portion of the community. It’s time to plant the banner and start learning the command-line together. If philosophy is what attracted you to Linux and openSUSE, like me, it got you this far. Now it’s time to take a step further. Pinky And The BrainLook, I know there’s a bunch of you like me out there. I know you maybe don’t see the point in all that 90’s geeky black-screen-green-letters-quick-typing-make-everything-go-boom thing. But it’s useful in many aspects. We’ll learn in a fun and communal way which directories are for what, what files are located where, most commonly used terminal commands. It will make our lives easier when we learn to perform tasks through the console, make it even more rewarding when we run into issues. It will also make the lives of bug-squashers easier when they receive proper information from our end, and it will make our hobby infinitely more fun.
I mean, for crying out loud, you’ve already made a transition to a phase where Dilbert and xkcd are actually funny. It’s time for the terminal!


Reference material that will be used: William Shotts – The Linux Command Line and a short tutorial on most commonly used commands by a Croatian hacker Velimir Baksa aka Lutherus. Requirements on your part:
An hour or two of spare time weekly
A pint of cold beer or any other beverage
Someone already pointed out that using Gedit, or a manual notepad (you know, pen and paper hehe) would be good for easier learning.

The book by Mr Shotts is exquisite. But there’s probably an issue of time/will-power etc. This way, I’ll try to humanize the lessons a bit more, take some time off your hands, and what’s most important – I count on us learning together, helping each other together (Comments and Forums, people!!) and tying a close-knit openSUSE community! This time next week (it will be June already!), we’ll learn our first commands. And remember…

…have a lot of fun!

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23 Responses to “Command Line Tuesdays – The Introductory”

  1. jdd

    well.. go for it, where are the first examples?

    • jdd

      sorry looks like I can’t edit my comment. I didn’t want to be rude, but enthousiastic :-), I’m eager waiting for the beginning :-)

  2. Nenad Latinović

    Hey jdd!

    It’s right there:

    This time next week (it will be June already!), we’ll learn our first commands. :D

    I thought there should be an introductory to set the ground, and maybe get people engaged and going so we have some people waiting for it come next tuesday!

  3. Soja

    Sounds nice. I have been at this point as well a few years back and just went through this tutorial: http://linuxcommand.org/learning_the_shell.php . Later I read through the shell scripting tutorial, because I needed it for my studies. From there it is all about learning by doing….

    Looking forward to see your next blogpost. It still happens regularly that there are even basic helpers I don’t know about, e.g. when I learned about “!” and “history” life became much easier suddenly.

  4. nkhuong

    More tutorials for beginners is always great. Looking forward to this series!

  5. Mayagrafix

    Great! Practice makes perfect, let’s go!

  6. Thanks for the kind words about my book. It can be downloaded from http://linuxcommand.org/tlcl.php (the free, CC-licensed PDF version) or purchased in printed form wherever fine books are sold ;-)

    • bob

      Two years ago, I bought the book and downloaded the PDF.
      Used pencil in book, and Xournal for the PDF.
      Well done. Thank you.

  7. Kavalor

    Great Idea, Looking forward to it.

  8. wakou

    Excellent plan, I have been using openSuse for six or more years, but always enjoy brushing up on CLI skills.

  9. Richard Bash

    I do not use the CLI but want to learn about it. I recently installed SUSE 13.1 and am generally pleased, by far more that Windows 7. My break with Windows is not complete yet but will be in a few months. I am saddened by Open Office Writer. Maybe that will pass.

    Regarding CLI, I think you need to demonstrate a NEED for it. At this juncture I fail to see said need.


  10. Bellsie

    Oh yes ! Some simple excercises where you can see practical results. The manuals are all too stodgy even with a pint of real-ale ! A brilliantly conceived project .

  11. Reginald Winthorp

    A GUI, is simply a multiplexor of shells.

  12. j.s

    well done I ll translate it all to czech language and post it on Opensuse.cz looking forward to next Tue.

  13. Knurpht

    Have a look at the dutch subforums, look for “Korte uitleg”. Henk van Velden already did a lot of explaining on CLI.

  14. Sounds great!

  15. Andri Surjandono

    cukup Bagus!

  16. What would you say if someone (e.g. me) translate your Command Line Tuesdays to polish and publish it on official polish opensuse forums? Or maybe in the future on my own website?

  17. j.s

    what is the hold up ?

  18. MOHAMED Younus

    well, buddy

  19. MOHAMED Younus

    Well, Buddy

    if you thimk you can teach me CLI, think i can shar you with some of my philosophies, which you might be really interested, i can start with…

    Cause is not a cause until…………………………………..is the real cause because cause is cause. (loop)///

  20. Nikos

    Hello Nenad,

    was looking forward to this. Hope there is no serious reason for the delay, or I just missed the right place.

  21. In Linux, the command line is part of the desktop. In other words, the gui doesn’t recede when you open the terminal. It’s not about one tool being more valuble than another tool, it’s about two tools being more valuble than one tool.

    The GUI means that you don’t have to use the CLI for everything, and you don’t have to study it like the multiplication tables. Just know where to find stuff, take notes, and here’s the beauty of it: The stuff you use a lot, you’ll learn. The stuff you don’t use, you don’t have to worry about,

    I put off learning to use the CLI for almost three years, and when I finally got to it, it was so easy to get started. The jobs that the cli saves you time with are invariably the most boring, odious, drudge tasks of computer maintainance.