General Background InformationAn "Operating System" (or "OS" for short) is the main piece of software on a computer. It gets all of the other software to work with the hardware of the computer. The core part of the Operating System is the "Kernel". The Kernel always stays in memory. Two popular Operating Systems are Microsoft Windows and macOS.
Easy InstallationHere, we will give a simple step-by-step procedure for running LinuxMint (a very easy to use Distro derived from Ubuntu). This will let you try it out, and if you want, permanently install it over Microsoft Windows or some other OS. If you are worried about accidentally deleting all of your files, then do all of this on a computer that you are NOT worried about wiping out. [Eli shows how to run a copy of Ubuntu inside of macOS using VirtualBox. This is another option for testing it out if you are hesitant to go through the process described below.]
Using Basic Commands...Because LinuxMint has a GUI, we can get by without ever really using the Shell. However, knowing how to use it can be very useful. Sometimes people copy-and-paste commands from various websites into the Shell without understanding what those commands actually do. This is not always a good idea. Instead, let's try to learn why we might use a particular command before we type it in. Please keep in mind that all commands are case-sensitive (i.e.: there is a difference between typing something in upper-case or lower-case, and we must use spaces properly). Some commands are also Distro specific. Here, we are focused on commands appropriate to LinuxMint. [If you are interested, there is also a little interactive course at LinuxCommand.org for learning more.]
exitand press ENTER.
whatisfollowed by a space, then a command, and press ENTER. This will tell you very briefly what that command does.
manfollowed by a space, then a command, and press ENTER. This will bring up a page within the manual that covers that command. Yes, the manual for the Operating System is built into the Operating System! ☺
lessintegrated into the Shell. The page that pops up whenever we use the
mancommand is actually a text file. Use the ↑ UP ARROW and ↓ DOWN ARROW to navigate through this text file, or press ENTER to advance through it line-by-line. Press H for a descrption of how to navigate through text files in general with
less. Press Q to quit using
--help, and press ENTER. The information that comes up is very similar to the page in the manual, but it is not a separate text file. It appears inside the Shell itself.
--helpcommand brings up impossible to scroll through. In order to open up this information in
less, type a vertical bar | immediately after
--help, followed by the word
less, and then press ENTER. This will open up the same information in a text file that you can scroll through with the arrow keys. Again, press Q to quit using
--help|less, but try both and see what works best for you.
clearand press ENTER. This will remove all of the previously entered commands and extra text.
pwdand press ENTER. This will give you the "address" of your location, a list of folders separated by forward slashes /. The letters
pwdmean "print working directory", and the "working directory" is your current location.
lsand press ENTER. The letters
lsmean "list", and a list of folders and/or files should pop up. Any text in blue is the name of another directory.
cdfollowed by space, then the name of that directory, and press ENTER. You will see the text in front of the cash sign $ change to show that you are now within a different directory. The letters
cdmean "change directory".
cdfollowed by a space, then a hyphen -, and press ENTER. To go up a folder (i.e.: along our absolute path), type in
cdfollowed by a space, then two periods, and press ENTER. To reiterate:
cd -takes us to the directory that we were in previously
cd ..takes us up a folder within the same address
cdfollowed by a space, then a tilde ~, and press ENTER.
cdfollowed by a space, then a forward slash /, and pressing ENTER.
|binaries||A "binary" is essentially a program. This is how the system keeps track of applications.|
|system binaries||This contains programs related to the system itself.|
|bootloaders||This contains everything needed for the OS to boot up.|
|devices||This contains "pseudofiles" related to the hardware of the computer. For example, "sda" is a disk, and a number after it is a partition on that disk.|
|et cetera||This contains system-wide applications and settings.|
|libraries||This contains files that are used by the programs within /bin and /sbin.|
|mount||This contains all external drives (USB, SD, etc.).|
|optional||This usually contains software that is manually installed, or applications that are self-created.|
|processes||This contains "pseudofiles" that are generated to describe system processes and the use of system resources. This information is handy for developing programs.|
|This is the root user's home folder.|
|This is a "temporary filesystem" (or "tempfs") that runs inside of RAM. It shows the runtime information for boot processes. Everything within this folder disappears with a shutdown or reboot.|
|This contains "snap packages", self-contained applications that run differently from normal.|
|service||This contains service data (such as information related to a webserver or FTP).|
|system||This is similar to /run. It shows what is going on within the Kernel.|
|temporary||This holds file data that is in use. For example, it can contain information for a text document that hasn't been saved yet. If a program crashes, check here before you reboot to try to recover the files.|
|user||This contains applications installed by specific users. It is different from /bin.|
|variable||This contains files that are expected to change dynamically in size. For example, it can include "log files" (which keep track of what is going on inside of a program) or the "spool" (which shows what is in the printer queue).|
|This contains all of the user's personal files. It is similar to "My Documents" in Microsoft Windows.|