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10 FAQ After one Week on Linux

Posted by Fibonacci on August 14, 2008

There are many cases when after looking at some of the FAQ on the web you ask yourself: “Are they for real? Who asks those questions anyway?” Questions like: “How Does Linux Kernel Versioning Work?” or “How much does Ubuntu cost?” don’t really provide you with the information you need. Mainly because they target a very specific kind of users.

On the other hand there are many really helpful FAQ, some of them were used in preparing this article. I also wondered around many forums collecting questions that real people ask frequently. The target of those questions are mainly Ubuntu users, who came from a Windows world and use it for about a week or two. Here are some of my findings. I hope they will actually help someone.

1. I know that Linux is case sensitive, but WHY???

The truth: Having it as case sensitive always made sense to me.. I always wondered why Windows wasn’t case sensitive..
The reason: case sensitive file names and options give you much more functionality and consistency. For example using ls in a script will always be ls and not LS, lS or Ls. Options like -u and -U will have different functionality, allowing you to do more. Also ls sorting is case sensitive too, that is why file names like Readme will come before readme.

2. Where is the ‘Program Files‘ folder? In which directory can I find my programs now???

You’ve got several… take your pick 🙂
Seriously, the are several places where programs typically reside

/bin – essential system commands
/usr/bin – general commands

Local application installs usually go in /opt or /usr/local (one
location came from BSD, the other from System V)

In addition there is /sbin, /usr/sbin and /usr/local/sbin which appear to
be for Linux/distro specific admin tools

If its a package with its own directory tree I would suggest /opt.

3. OK, I heard about scripts, I added ls /home to script.bat… Why doesn’t it run???

Unlike in windows, in Linux scripts don’t require any particular extension like .bat in order to run, but usually .sh is used. When you want to make it execute you have to make it ‘executable’:

(1)After writing shell script set execute permission for your script as follows
chmod permission your-script-name


$ chmod +x your-script-name
$ chmod 755 your-script-name

Note: This will set read write execute(7) permission for owner, for group and other permission is read and execute only(5).

(2) Execute your script as
bash your-script-name
sh your-script-name


$ bash bar
$ sh bar
$ ./bar

4. I heard something about Windows Emulator – Wine, Vodka or something like that, how do I run windows apps with it???

You are lucky Wine folks didn’t hear you saying that, since Wine stands for Wine Is NOT an Emulator.
About running some windows software with it, it’s as simple as:

$wine sol.exe &

For list of applications supported by wine and much more visit here.

5. Some Linux “Guru” told me to use & (ampersand) at the end of the command when I want to continue using the CLI. I forgot to add it, what do I do???

Relax, buddy! 🙂 Use ctrl+z to suspend the job, this will bring the CLI back and right after that run:
to resume the suspended job, but this time in the background.

6. OK I know about the apt-get remove, but what if I want to uninstall something that was installed with this make thingy???

Go to that particular directory you installed from, the one in which you ran make install, and run:

$make uninstall

in some cases it is:

$make deinstall

if that doesn’t work, there is probably no rule for uninstall in the makefile (check the README and INSTALL files for more info).
Unfortunately not all (very few) packages or packagers, to be more to the point, go to the trouble of giving you a target ‘uninstall’….

So if make uninstall doesn’t work you have to do it by hand. A trick that can be used sometimes is to run make install again and carefully examine the output (if it’s comprehensible) to find all the files to remove or at least get some clue.
Another trick if you think you might want to whack something later is to do -prefix=/opt/someplace/unique
when you configure it so at least you can find some of it (not all of it) in one directory later for whacking.

7. When I boot up Linux, according to System Monitor, Linux almost immediately starts using 100% of my memory. Is this a bug?

Your computer is using all of your memory to optimize the performance of Linux. It caches or stores pieces of applications on your memory so that when you need them, it will not have to hunt around the hard drive to find the application. Now IF you bring up a program, and your memory is “full” Linux automatically kicks some of the cache out to make room. It is a fast-as-lightening operation that does nothing but make Linux optimized and faster. Hey you paid for all this RAM – it better be used!

8. I heard here and there about how great vim is. Decided to give it a try, but now I can’t even quit it!!! What the hell is this thing???

Among many other, vim is two things:
(1) amazingly powerful text editor
(2) difficult to get used to text editor

Now to the point, when there is nothing more to explore in Linux and ‘nano’ becomes too limited for you start watching some vim tutorials on YouTube and later go here, for now all you have to know is: Esc->q!->Enter or Esc->wq->Enter when you actually done with it something.

9. OK, I tried CLI, I know what TAB is for, but I am getting tired of seeing the file name there and not being able to click it!

If you absolutely can’t live without a mouse here is a little trick for you: double click (or select) the file (or any other string) and then click the middle button. Now you are probably asking yourself why no one thought of this before… But wait, there is more – it works everywhere, not only CLI. Try not to forget ctrl+c, ctrl+v now! 🙂

10. There are those words Foo and Bar that Linux geeks use everywhere. Where do they come from?

Foo and bar paired together are apparently derived from FUBAR. FUBAR is an acronym that commonly means “Fucked Up Beyond All Repair” (used to describe the state of some equipment) or “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition” (used to describe a situation or scenario), which now exists in many variations. Although it originated in the US Armed Forces, its usage has spread to civilian environments.

Source: Foo

Of course there is much more than can be asked and lots of things that can be said. In this article I tried to sum the most frequent questions I hear around me and the ones I see people asking on the web. I would like to hear from you about all those questions you are being asked again and again, but actually have a very simple answer.

If you liked this article, please share it on, StumbleUpon or Digg. I’d appreciate it. )


39 Responses to “10 FAQ After one Week on Linux”

  1. Sathya said

    Some nice info for newbies.

  2. alan said

    Nice FAQ, but I disagree with a few points:

    1. I can’t objectively get behind the idea that case-sensitivity is a “feature”; to me it seems like a bad idea that we would ever have two commands or files that differ only by case. Having to remember the case of switches is bad enough, I would hate to think that we’d have “grep” and “GreP” and “gREp” all doing different things.

    Rather, Linux is case sensitive because Unix was case sensitive and Linux intends to be a Unix. Both of them are probably case sensitive because of the basic “simplicity-in-design” philosophy behind them. That is to say, all OS’s are case-sensitive internally (because to a machine, “A” and “a” are just ASCII or unicode codes that have no more to do with each other than “A” and “Q”), you have to add on case-insensitivity as an extra layer. Consider the ramifications of that — the cost of an extra conversion routine for every file access, path reference, command, etc. Also consider the ramifications for internationalization to non-western alphabets, and having to figure out when to be case-sensitive and when not to be. It’s just simpler to leave it case-sensitive.

    2. I don’t think there’s really an analog to “Program Files” in Linux, because the file organization strategy is fundamentally different. “Program Files” holds folders which (in theory) contain everything associated with an application — executables, libraries, configuration files, logs, etc. The Linux/Unix filesystem is broken up by the types of files and their functions — binaries in the /bin and /sbin directories, configs in /etc, libraries in /lib, logs and cached data in /var — and the whole heirarchy repeated again under /usr and again under /usr/local. I mean, if you want to know where firefox is installed, it’s scattered across at least half a dozen directories, so there’s no point looking for a folder called “firefox”.

    10. Check the jargon file about foo bar. While wikipedia quotes from the jargon file, there is a great deal more there and evidence that “FUBAR” is a backronym for the more antiquated “foobar”.

    Otherwise, great FAQ. Except you forgot “Where’s my C:\ Drive??”

    Vim roolz, emacs droolz

  3. Jaap said

    2. The FHS (Filesystem Hierarchy Standard) sez:

    /bin contains the ‘essential’ executable system commands, make it part of the same partition as / in case of big system problems
    /sbin contains the system administration utilities, not for regular users
    /opt is for installation of packages not belonging to original installation (third-party stuff)
    /usr/[s]bin contains non-essential programs, and, importantly, can be mounted via NFS

  4. fstephens said

    Good info for the new user, but I think #9 & #10 need clarification.

    #9 does not make it clear that the trick you are describing is to allow you to easily paste a string someplace else via the middle mouse button.

    #10 talks about the origin of foo bar, but says nothing about it’s use in Linux – usually as fake files, directories or commands in an example, howto or tutorial.

  5. devent said


    $ whereis firefox
    $ locate firefox
    $ find / -name firefox

  6. ed said

    Lack of case sensitivity reminds of the mainframe, which didn’t have the ability to display lower case on some devices (partially because lower case characters like “p” and “y” have descenders). MS-DOS and Windows always felt “legacy” because they don’t recognize case differences.

  7. You could also make explicit the distinction between (whatever)/bin and (whatever)/sbin : sbin is for apps that are intended to be run only by root. The /sbin directories are usually on the path for the root user but not for a regular user.

    It’s also worth noting that in modern distros the main point of /usr/local is that distribution packages will never touch it, so you can install stuff to /usr/local to keep it easily distinguished from system packages.

  8. Spanky said

    I hate it if I sound all negative. These are some good newbie points. Yet, Kubuntu isn’t even that hard! I get the feeling that we still don’t fully get the fact, some people have trouble even using a mouse. Conversely a good bundle of open software allows better personal adjustment for power users. Then, perhaps most importantly, the new, easy “Linux”(Bundles) in NO way hinder the super guru, roll your own tech heads (like me.)

    Let me explain. You don’t HAVE to compile anything. Just use the “Add/remove Programs” button. Your don’t have to use “Windows” programs. The pre-done, pre-compiled, play nice with all the rest of the bundled program choices, are M A S S I V E! Yes, you are generally better off using native programs in their native OS BUT not only can you run your old copy of Windows and Kubuntu (and not choose but do the best of both on the same hardware set) but if (and only if) it is YOU who feel you still have to run Office 2003 then you may do so, easily with WINE. WINE is cool because it does this without Windows and make the program work AS IF it is native. Yes also, WINE does NOT run everything BUT WINE is just one way to get the Windows program(the one you don’t really need) running. If you don’t want to just boot back into “your” MS Windows(read the EULA because it is NOT really yours) the you may run Virtual box and a whole managed copy of Windows and thus run just about ANY Windows program, at the same time, with Kubuntu. Yet really folks, I don’t even bother. I haven’t found a Windows program I couldn’t replace. See what I mean.

    Then there the CLI. The dreaded Command Line Interface. I hope you understand that with Kubuntu (for example) now-a-days you never really have to touch it. Not that it’s all that scary. It’s actually very powerful, fast and really needed on slow (old) boxes. Don’t think I’m promoting it to newbies though and that’s what gets me about the article. You can do all those tips in your friendly neighborhood file manager (GUI) program. They all work very similar to the Windows file Explorer. So with point-and-click file manipulation and point-and-click program package installation and removal. What’s all the fuss? Sure there’s a lot off powerful, quick and cryptic CLI commands but what did you expect. This UNIX like history pre-dates windows and is FAR better suited for networking and the Internet. You could just a well say Windows is only for geeks because it has underlying DOS commands (and UNIX like ones recently added!) and the same text box you may type them in. In fact, if you’re ever maintained a well used Windows (like XP) or in the case of a forced repair Upgrade, you would be familiar with HAVING to go to the DOS CLI in order to fix your system (and with even more cryptic commands) before you may continue “Windows Updating”.

    Like is like a box with Windows. You never know what you’re going to get. Virus, Worm, Trojan horse, Key logger, Root-kit etc….

  9. Spanky said

    Oh yes. The question about where’s the Program Files folder is just silly. Window does NOT keep all the programs nor all the files in there respective “correct” places. Windows has system binaries (/bin) in the C:Windows folder and that’s not in the “C:\Program Folder”. There are about the same amount of places/folders to look in as there are with Kubuntu. So really, the answer is that and C:\Program Files is just a folder. So is /opt. Which looks easier?

  10. Mark said

    A comment about “bar” and “foo” from a programming perspective. These two are commonly used in programming examples because it’s assumed no software programmer in their right mind would use ridiculous variable names like those in real software. This way you can show some code and any developer looking at it immediately knows “hey, this is an example”. It also flags something as being completely generic since in actual well-written code variable names should convey some meaning but foo/bar are meaningless.

  11. JJMacey said

    Hi All,

    Rather than make this soooo… complex grab a Linux Distro from Distrowatch, burn all that free goodness. Then just stare @ what you have there. BTW, I’d recommend downloading Ubuntu, openSuse11.0, and Linux Mint. You have a lot to stare @ there with those 3 simple CDs.

    Take a computer – and boot those live CDs. Scared – check out the Forums.

    When was this article written 1999? C’mon I smell something here. Terminal? Really. YaST or Synaptic the ideal solutions to adding about 35,000 applications.

    Run Linux, Run Free!

    Phoenix, Arizona

  12. In #8, you forgot the “:” before “q!”, and “wq”.

  13. […] Read more at Lists […]

  14. alucinor said

    Program Files in Windows isn’t even where all your “programs” are located anyways. There’s programs in the c:\Windows and c:\Windows\System32 folders, there’s program data in the registry, in c:\Program Data, in c:\Users\username\AppData\Local and c:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming, so Windows is pretty spread out too.

  15. machinist said

    WRT uninstalling something compiled locally, standard practice (at least for me) is to pipe make install through tee and to a file (I do this for configure and make too). You then have a record of what went where, and can remove all traces if necessary.

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  17. […] 10 FAQ After one Week on Linux « Lists There are many cases when after looking at some of the FAQ on the web you ask yourself: “Are they for real? Who asks those questions anyway?” Questions like: “How Does Linux Kernel Versioning Work?” or “How much does Ubuntu cost?” don’t really provide you with the information you need. Mainly because they target a very specific kind of users. (tags: ubuntu linux faq) […]

  18. Davide Bolcioni said

    Clarification about #3 … the .sh suffix (not extension, you can have multiple suffixes as in .tar.gz) is traditionally for shell fragments that are meant to be sourced, not executed. The .sh suffix tells “source me in sh(1)” while a .csh suffix would mean “source me in csh(1)” because the syntax of the respective shell is different so you would have to know ahead which is which.

    As a command is just executed according to the #! line at the top, no suffix is necessary for commands. Note that there is very little difference between a script and a binary, both are simply commands and most of the system treats them the same.

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