unixsurvivalguide - Methods

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Type the missing letters from: He's no ded, he's jus resing hs eys

location: unixsurvivalguide

Your Survival Guide to Unix at the CBSU

What you see below probably seems like a list of arbitrary incantations and may put you off ever going near a unix command line. However, you'll soon find that simple combinations of unix commands (possibly written as a shell script) can do things instantly that would take hours of pointing and clicking on a Mac or PC.

Commands for Navigation, File Manipulation etc.




Show contents of current directory


* details: ls –l
* hidden files: ls –a
* output to file: ls > file.txt
wild cards: ls *.txt

Change directory

cd <newdir>

* cd /home/myname/mydatadir
* one up: cd .. (e.g. cd ../batchfiles)
* to home directory: cd ~

Make directory

mkdir <newdir>

* mkdir ./tmp creates directory 'tmp' in current directory
* mkdir ../tmp creates directory 'tmp' one level above current directory
* mkdir /home/yourname/subdir/tmp creates 'tmp' in /home/yourname/subdir/
* mkdir ~/tmp creates 'tmp' in your home directory (same as mkdir /home/yourname/tmp)

Copy file/directory

cp <old> <new>

Copy directories: cp -r <old> <new>

Move file/directory

mv <old> <new>

Delete file/directory

rm <filename>

delete directory: rm –r <dirname>, suppress warning prompt: rm -f <filename>

Create link between a new filename and an existing file

ln <filename> <linkname>

symbolic link: ln -s <filename> <linkname>, to see whether a file is "real" or a symbolic link, use ls -l

Find a file in directory structure


* find myfile.txt in current directory and below: find . -name myfile.txt
* wildcards: find . -name \*results\*.txt

Find letter string within text


grep error logfile.txt, ps -ef | grep <yourname>

See list of previous commands


Execute command from history list

!<x>, where x is number in history list

e.g. !112 to get command 112 from history list

Send output of a command to text file


e.g. ls -l > listoffiles.txt, >> appends instead of overwriting

Send output of a command directly to another command ("pipes")


e.g. ls -l | grep myfile.txt

Send output of a command to text file AND standard output (screen)


e.g. ls -l | tee listoffiles.txt, tee -a appends instead of overwriting

Run progress in background (keep command prompt)


e.g. matlab &, runmybatch.sh &

Changing access permissions


e.g. chmod 755 <myfile> or chmod go-w <myfile>

Changing group of a file


e.g. chgrp imaging <myfile>

Create shortcut for command


e.g. alias cd_batch "cd <mybatchdir>", alias h history

Convert text files from DOS to Unix

dos2unix <filename>

Edit files

nedit, emacs, vi

e.g. type nedit & to keep command prompt

Help on linux commands

man <yourcommand>

turn page using space bar, quit typing q

Short description of commands

whatis <yourcommand>

System-Related Commands

CBU Cluster Utility Functions

e.g. login_load, freenodes, showallmatlab

see CBU intranet

Disk usage information


estimate space usage of directories and files, e.g. du –sh /imaging/xy01/experiment1

Change linux box

ssh <machine>

e.g. ssh l42

Show your jobs/processes in current session


Show current processes


more details: ps -ef

Kill a process


kill <processID>, where <processID> is from ps output

Show most CPU-intensive tasks on current processor


Checking where an executable file is located

which <filename>

Show name of current linux box


ip address: hostname -i

Show features of current linux box


more details: uname -a

Check your user name


Get time or date

time, date

Useful Tricks

Use cursor keys up/down to get previous commands

Copy/paste: mark text with left mouse button, click to destination, click middle mouse button

Auto-complete commands: start typing, then “Tab” to complete to next unique possibility

Type the beginning of a previously used command, then simultaneously press Esc p to autocomplete to last used command with same beginning

Move cursor to beginning Ctrl+a or end Ctrl+e of command line

Run linux commands from within matlab using ! <command> (e.g. ! hostname) or [s,r] = unix(<command>) (e.g., [s,r] = unix('hostname')), where s returns the status (0=pass, nonzero=fail) and r is the result (e.g., 'l41').


Intro to Unix: http://www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Teaching/Unix/

More computing-related intros

Primer on shell scripting

VNC (UsingVNC): start Putty, vncserver –geometry 1280x1024 –name <somename>, for OpenGL graphics: vncserver.glx -geometry 1280x1024 -name <somename>

Access home space: Windows \\home\username; Linux /home/username