"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more lovable!"

CLUELESS at the Prompt: A New Column for New Users

By Mike List, troll@net-link.net

I'm sure you've heard it before, but Welcome to Linux! You've heard the stories, your friends told you "Don't do it" but the allure of an operating system with at least the power of NT that can run on 4 MB of RAM on the same disk, even on the same partition with your DOS/Windows installation, was too big to be ignored. So you went on a FTP spree or bought a Red Hat or Slackware CD, installed it and you are confused, things don't work the way you expected, the man pages seem to be written in another language, and the people on the USENET keep telling you to RTFM and belittling you.

That's why I decided to ask if I could write this column, it happened to me. Actually, when I got into computers (less than a year ago,) my friend Trippy told me to learn DOS before trying Windows. Thanks Trippy, you saved me a lot of trouble. So when I read about Linux, I thought -WHOA COOL!!, and downloaded the mini-linux distribution from Sunsite."HEY!Wait a minute, how come the keyboard doesn't work right?" Turns out the key table is Portuguese and requires file editing to be usable by us Yanks. Thanks to SGK from the Debian group, I got that squared away, so I decided to go with Debian, but with my small disk and no CD-ROM, Debian's Compatibility/Conflict Resolution was too much for me. So I got a second disk, 100 MB but it was still too small. So I decided to give Slackware a try. That's what I'm running now.

The point is, I'm not a college educated computer expert but I still ended up(for now) with a running linux box. You can too, if you are willing to tinker (hack later, tinker now).I made every possible mistake, I thought until I saw some of the questions in the news groups.

But enough about me, what do you think about me?;-)

The first things you need to know after you install Linux are the most common commands. Here I'm going to assume that you have at least some DOS background. The following list will attempt to correlate Linux commands:

ls /directory/namecd\directory\name -- dir
ls /directory | more
ls " " | less
dir | more
cat /filetype \file
cat " " | more
less /file
" " | more
cp /file /file /tocopy \file \to
cd /directorycd\directory
mkdir /directorymkdir \directory
rm /filedel \file

This list is not nearly complete, there are many more commands in both OS but these are very likely the most commonly used ones. For command help in DOS type: help :in linux type: man (command, substitute the command name): Both of these help utilities give options or switches that change the nature of the command. You can see that there are similarities in the command line operation of both OS, historically they share a common ancestry. In fact, to use a oversimplified view, at the command line linux could be thought of as SUPERDOS. In fact this SUPERDOS can actually be used to run MS Windows - check into WINE and WABI home pages on the Internet.(More on those later, maybe.)

One of the next things you will need to do is find out how to write or change file contents with an editor.I used to think elvis was the easiest editor, until Konrad Rokicki told me about pico, which comes with the pine mail server. If you used MS Write or Notepad, you'll find it very easy to use. Save Emacs for another day unless you are a good typist, I found the keyboard commands to be confusing for my two-fingered style. If you don't have pico installed, try elvis in the input mode, by typing: input filename, it's pretty easy too, except watch out for command mode and input mode (type: man elvis :and read the page.If you have a CD version of Linux, you either have pico installed or can have it if you choose.

If you're like me one of your priority projects will be to to do is use an Internet protocol to connect to your Internet Service Provider. My ISP uses PPP so that's what I used, and the following descriptions are for PPP.

The first thing you will need to confirm is that your kernel supports PPP, either in the kernel or by loadable modules. Type: pppd :and hit enter. If your kernel doesn't support PPP, you'll get a negative message, if you get a prompt you can assume for now that it's supported.

Next you will need to type: ls /usr/sbin | more :and hit enter. Look for files called ppp-on and ppp-off. Next, type: ls /etc | more : and hit enter. Here you will be looking for a file called resolv.conf. Then type: ls /etc/ppp : you can skip the: | more :this time, since it's a small directory,and hit enter. You'll be looking for files called options and ppp-on-dialer.

Edit your /etc/resolv.conf to look something like:

domain net-link.net
Naturally you will have to change the name and numeric to match that of your ISP


Next, edit your /etc/ppp/options file to look something like this:

38400       # at this line you could substitute 19200, 57600, 115200

These two files are necessary to either of the methods I am going to describe.

Now you can use minicom to dial up your ISP. Type: minicom :, and when it loads, type: ATDTYOURISPNUMBER :hit enter. When the remote modem answers you will be prompted for your username and password. When you have responded with this information, a string of garbage characters will run across the screen. Type: ctrl(key)a :then: Q :which will let you out of minicom without hanging up the modem. Then immediately type: pppd :then hit enter. Type: ping YOURISP'SNUMERIC :you will get a message that will inform you if you are connected. If you get a message that says in part "network not reached" try again. If no luck after a couple more tries, check to see that the files you edited have the correct information. Try changing your connection speed in /etc/ppp/options to 19200 and try again. If you connect this time, then one at a time try the faster speeds until you can't connect, then drop back to the fastest speed that worked.

There is an easier method using the script /usr/sbin/ppp-on, that involves editing that file to give your ISPdialup number, username, and password and optionally your connection speed. It is commented to help you figure out how to change those lines that you need to change. When that is done correctly, you can dial up by typing: ppp-on : Pretty cool, huh? If these methods don't work for you, start by reading the PPP_HOWTO in your /usr/doc/faq/howto directory, then respond by e-mail to troll@net-link.net, telling me any error messages, and I'll try to square you away.

There is another method using the chat program, but I haven't had much luck there, yet. Future installments, if any will fill you in on that if it seems that it's wanted. Personally, ppp-on is just fine for me so far.

you will want to get an e-mail program and a browser, if you don't already. I recommend lynx. It's fast and you don't need X installed to use it. There probably is a lynx binary in your distribution, but if not you can get one from sunsite or other ftp.Pine is a good mail program, and it includes the pico editor, as noted above.

NOTE TO LINUX EXPERTS- I would be glad to accept reasonable criticism of this article and the information therein. I don't really want to put up with heavy fire, if you can help the new user better than me, write an article yourself, there are plenty of avenues where such information would be of great service.

Next Time- e-mailtroll@net-link.net me and ask, otherwise I'll just write about what gave me trouble and how I got past it.

TTYL, Mike List

Copyright © 1997, Mike List
Published in Issue 14 of the Linux Gazette