Learning Linux is fun! Beginning Linux is hard.
There’s a lot of free courses and content to help you. But what about a quick start guide to Linux? Getting started with Linux made easy?
No fluff, just a quick and dirty setup to get you started with Linux basics! Well, here it is, the Linux Quick Start Guide. To follow along, install Ubuntu Linux and let’s learn how to get started with Linux.
Disclaimer, this is an ongoing piece of content and is not finished.
Linux is an open-source operating system with an interesting history and important philosophy.
Linux is built from UNIX by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie from AT&T in 1970. This led to the GNU project (free Unix-like OS) by Richard Stallman in 1983 under the GPL, and then the first open-source Linux kernel by Linus Torvalds in 1991.
The Linux Philosophy is simple, 1) everything is a file, 2) small, single-purpose programs, 3) chain programs together for complex tasks, 4) avoid captive user interfaces and 5) configuration data stored in a text file.
Given its open-source nature, there are countless operating systems built on Linux known as Linux Distributions. Ubuntu is generally considered the most beginner-friendly distro, see this guide for help setting up Linux virtually. This quick start guide refers to Debian-based commands, the UNIX ancestor of Ubuntu.
Linux embraces the Command Line Interface (CLI), so should you! Linux’s CLI or shell is called Bourne Again Shell (BASH), we’ll use a terminal emulator on Ubunutu (or your Linux Debian Distro) to interact with our computer.
The prompt, typically shown like
user@device:directory$ is indicating your input from the keyboard. Unlike a Graphical User Interface (GUI), there are no visual elements to interact with.
Instead, commands are used to execute programs that are defined by
command [options] [arguments]. Their default behaviour displays a result but depending on what options and arguments are paired with it. Options (or Switches) alter the behaviour of output, while arguments specify command output.
An example of this is ls -la ~/Documents, ls lists files and directories (folders), with the -l option, it displays them as a tabled list and -a displays hidden files or directories. The
~ represents the user home directory and the
/Docuemnts is the folder path to the
hostname to display the device name and
whoami to output your username. At anytime you can use the
man to show a manual for a command, if there is no manual try the command followed by
man ls or
echo is used to print or write something to the terminal, try
echo 'enter a sentence'. It’s very useful to chain together with other commands later. Use the
down arrows to cycle through previsouly used commands,
!! to run last command or run
history to see all used commands. Try
TAB to auto-complete commands or arguments.
Let’s navigate the Linux filesystem, first use
pwd to print working or current directory.
cd to change directories and
ls to list files in a directory. To specify what directory to navigate to, either use an absolute or relative path. An absolute path starts from the root directory, represented by
/ but a relative path starts from the current directory, represented by
You can use other short hand path navigaters like
.. for the parent directory or
~ for the user home directory. If lost,
cd ~ to go home and start again.
To copy a file or directory use
cp but to move a file or directory, use
mv. To make a new directory use the
rm -r will remove them. To display files content, use
cat which is short for concatenate. If it’s a larger file, use
head to display the first part or
tail to display the last.
touch will simply create a new file, then
file will display the file type. To edit a file’s content, use a text editor like vi, vim or nano. Nano is the most beginner-friendly of the three.
find to find files in directories and
grep to search through the content of a single file. You can also use
unique to filter through the content of files.
Now you’re moving around, let’s find out some information about your system.
Linux programs rely on other programs which are called dependencies. So programs and their dependencies are called packages. To manage Linux packages we need a package manager, we’ll use
apt. It’s good practice to run
apt update and
apt upgrade with new systems to ensure it has the latest packages.
To install programs, use
apt install <program> to remove, use
apt remove <program>. Remember, commands execute programs and they often have the same/similar name.
The Linux filesystem is the folder structure, starting at root
/bin for system commands,
/boot with system boot information,
/dev for device files to access hardware,
/etc for system and application configuration files. Then
/home for user sub-directories,
/lib for shared library files,
/media mounted devices,
/mnt for temporary filesystems,
/root the user root’s home folder. Then
/sbin which includes executables for sys admin (binary system files),
/tmp operating system and program temporary file directories can be cleared upon boot or without warning. Lastly,
/usr contains executable library and manual files,
/var Variable data e.g. log files, email, web apps, crons & more.
A program running or being executed is known as a process. To see processes on your Linux system, use one of the following command combinations:
ps au or
PID is the process identifier,
TTY is the name of the terminal,
TIME total time of process and
CMD command started process.
To turn off your system, use
shutdown now or to restart,
reboot now. You can also use these commands to shutdown/reboot at certain times, read the man pages.
If you have any feedback, please send me a message @mrashleyball.