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Linux in a Nutshell is a must for any Linux user; it weighs less than a stack of manual pages, but delivers everything needed for common, day-to-day use. It also covers a wide range of GNU tools for Unix users who have GNU versions of standard Unix tools.
This excellent desktop reference reviews the basic commands and features found in popular Linux distributions. It's not a man page download, but a well organized guide and reference with explanations, parameters and options. For best understanding, you should be familiar with the Linux operating system, installation requirements and utilities. A basic understanding of shell scripts will also help. This is not a tutorial, but a guide and reference for intermediate to advanced users and programmers.
This chapter describes the two major Linux packaging systems, the Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) and the Debian GNU/Linux Package Manager.
When you want to install applications on your Linux system, most often you'll find a binary or a source package containing the application you want, instead of (or in addition to) a .tar.gz file. A package is a file containing the files necessary to install an application. But note that while the package contains the files you need for installation, the application might require the presence of other files or packages that are not included, such as particular libraries (and even specific versions of the libraries), in order to be able to run. Such requirements are known as dependencies.
Package management systems offer many benefits. As a user, you may find you want to query the package database to find out what packages are installed on the system and their versions. As a system administrator, you need tools to install and manage the packages on your system. And, if you are also a developer, you need to know how to build a package for distribution.
Among other things, package managers:
Provide tools for installing, updating, removing, and managing the software on your system.
Let you install new or upgraded software directly across a network.
Tell you what software package a particular file belongs to or what files a package contains.
Maintain a database of packages on the system and their state, so you can find out what packages or versions are installed on your system.
Provide dependency checking, so you don't mess up your system with incompatible software.
Provide PGP, MD5, or other signature verification tools.
Provide tools for building packages.
Any user can list or query packages. However, installing, upgrading, or removing packages generally requires superuser privileges. This is because the packages normally are installed in systemwide directories that are writable only by root. Sometimes you can specify an alternate directory, to install, for example, a package into your home directory or into a project directory where you have write permission.
Both RPM and the Debian Package Manager back up old files before installing an updated package. Not only does this let you go back if there is a problem, but also if you've made changes (to configuration files, for example), they aren't completely lost.
The Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) is a freely available packaging system for software distribution and installation. In addition to Red Hat and Red Hat-based distributions, both SuSE and Caldera are among the Linux distributions that use RPM.
Using RPM is straightforward. A single command, rpm, has options to perform all the package functions. For example, to find out if the Emacs editor is installed on your system, you could say:
rpm -q emacs
In addition, the GNOME-RPM program provides an X-based graphical frontend to RPM (that can be run even if you are not running GNOME). This section describes the rpm command and then the gnorpm command that runs GNOME-RPM.
RPM packages are built, installed, and queried with the rpm command. RPM package names usually end with a .rpm extension. rpm has a set of modes, each with its own options. The format of the rpm command is:
With a few exceptions, as noted in the lists of options that follow, the first option specifies the rpm mode (e.g., install, query, update, build, etc.), and any remaining options affect that mode.
rpm[ options] [ packages]
In the option descriptions that refer to packages, you'll sometimes see them specified as package-name and sometimes as package-file. The package name is the name of the program or application, such as gif2png. The package file is the name of the RPM file: gif2png-2.2.5-1.i386.rpm.
RPM provides a configuration file for specifying frequently used options. The system configuration file is usually /etc/rpmrc, and users can set up their own $HOME/.rpmrc file. You can use the --showrc option to show the values RPM will use for all the options that may be set in an rpmrc file:
The rpm command includes FTP and HTTP clients, so you can specify an ftp:// or http:// URL to install or query a package across the Internet. You can use an FTP or HTTP URL wherever package-file is specified in the commands presented here.
Any user can query the RPM database. Most of the other functions require superuser privileges.
The following options can be used with all modes:
Use path as the path to the RPM database.
Use port as the FTP port.
Use host as a proxy server for all transfers. Specified if you are FTPing through a firewall system that uses a proxy.
Print a long usage message (running rpm with no options gives a shorter usage message).
Update only the database; don't change any files.
Pipe the rpm output to command.
Display only error messages.
Use filename as the configuration file instead of the system configuration file /etc/rpmrc or $HOME/.rpmrc.
Perform all operations within directory dir.
Print the version number of rpm.
Print debugging information.
Install or upgrade an RPM package. The syntax of the install command is...
Ellen Siever is a writer and editor specializing in Linux and other open source topics. In addition to Linux in a Nutshell, she coauthored Perl in a Nutshell. She is a long-time Linux and Unix user, and was a programmer for many years until she decided that writing about computers was more fun.
Stephen Figgins honed many of his computer skills while working as O'Reilly's book answer guy. A life long learner with many interests, Stephen draws on many resources to make difficult topics understandable and accessible.
Now living in Lawrence, Kansas, he administrates Linux servers for Sunflower Broadband, a cable company. When not found working with computers, writing, or spending time with his family, you will likely find him outdoors. Stephen teaches wilderness awareness and living skills.
Robert Love has been a Linux user and hacker since the early days. He is active in—and passionate about—the Linux kernel and GNOME desktop communities. His recent contributions to the Linux kernel include work on the kernel event layer and inotify. GNOME-related contributions include Beagle, GNOME Volume Manager, NetworkManager, and Project Utopia. Currently, Robert works in the Open Source Program Office at Google.
Robert is the author of Linux Kernel Development (SAMS 2005) and the co-author of Linux in a Nutshell (2006 O'Reilly). He is also a Contributing Editor at Linux Journal. He is currently working on a new work for O'Reilly that will be the greatest book ever written, give or take. Robert holds a B.A. in Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Florida. A proud Gator, Robert was born in South Florida but currently calls home Cambridge, MA.
Arnold Robbins, an Atlanta native, is a professional programmer and technical author. He has worked with Unix systems since 1980, when he was introduced to a PDP-11 running a version of Sixth Edition Unix. He has been a heavy AWK user since 1987, when he became involved with gawk, the GNU project's version of AWK. As a member of the POSIX 1003.2 balloting group, he helped shape the POSIX standard for AWK. He is currently the maintainer of gawk and its documentation. He is also coauthor of the sixth edition of O'Reilly's Learning the vi Editor. Since late 1997, he and his family have been living happily in Israel.
Posted February 5, 2000
This book is a reference and not a how to. I feel it is an excellent attempt to form a concise reference for almost all of the commands found in a common linux distribution. I would recommend this book for for everyone running linux (or UNIX), but it is not much help for those in need of answers to setup or configuration information (MHO). Instead, this book is written for those who already have a running system and need a memory jog on a particular command or option.
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Posted December 15, 2011
This book is designed for those with little experience using Linux. About half the book is a command reference guide covering most (if not all) commands you can type via terminal.Also includes chapter for package management, Bash, editors (vim, vi, emacs), subversion and virtualization. However no reference is made to Gnome, KDE or similars.
If you know nothing about Linux, better start with "Running Linux". If you want a more advanced book then "Linux Cookbook", "Linux Networking Cookbook" and "Linux System Administration" are for you.
Posted July 26, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted October 26, 2011
No text was provided for this review.