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starting stuff

Posted on 1998-06-15
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Last Modified: 2010-04-20
i am VERY new to the RedHat Linux os. i've installed everything ok, can even boot to one of 3 os's (win95, dos, linux), BUT, i don't know how do anything! how do i run a program? how do i start xwindows? what is $ mean (i see it in documentation, but not on my screen)? how do i play all the nifty games, such as atc?

please help.
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Question by:trying
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by:richrussell
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A good starting point is to go to your local bookshop and buy a book such as 'Linux Unleashed' or even borrow it from a library. Once you get the hang of unix, you'll love it.

Reading a few books on getting started with Linux will save you making lots of mistakes and screwing the system up - it's better to know something rather than trying to muddle through.

You'll find loads of books on Linux, have a read through and get one that you find easy to understand - avoid anything too technical if you don't already know unix admin.
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periclis earned 20 total points
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Let's look at your questions one at a time:

1. What is $ and why can't you see it on the screen?

$ is the prompt for commands under the bash shell in UNIX, a lot
like the C:> prompt in MS-DOS. It should appear after you successfully log in. If you log in as the superuser "root", the prompt may be # instead of $. Have you logged in? Do you get prompted to log in?

2. How do you run programs?

Just like you run them under MS-DOS: by calling them from the command line. If you have a prompt, you can enter commands and run programs. Programs in UNIX are stored as binary files (just like .EXE files under DOS). They are kept in special directories such as /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, /usr/sbin, /usr/local/bin, /usr/local/sbin and others, depending on which distribution of linux you've installed. Again just like DOS, if these directories are on your path, you can call programs with just the name of the binary. If a program is installed in a directory which isn't on your path, you'll need to give the full path. For example if you install Netscape Navigator for Linux, it installs in a directory /usr/netscape with the name netscape, which isn't on your path. You will need to issue /usr/local/netscape/netscape from the command line to run it, or, of course, you can add the directory /usr/local/netscapee to your path. When you installed your Linux distribution, all the directories with programs in them should have automatically been put on your path. To see which directories are on your path, at the $ or # prompt issue the command: echo $PATH.

3. How do you start the X Window System?

The X Window System (X for short, calling it X-Windows is wrong) is different from Windows 95 as it really consists of many different bits of software that work together to provide the Graphical User Interface. X provides the window system, an X server appropriate to your graphics card lets X draw pictures on your screen, and an X Window Manager of your choice gives you frames and  buttons on windows and lets you resize, raise, move about etc. The current version is version 11 release 6, or X11R6.      
X for PC machines (Intel 86 series processors) is known as XFree86.

To start X you need to configure it first. You used to have to write a big configuration file called XF86Config, kept in /etc or /usr/X11R6/lib or wherever your version of Linux keeps it. Now there's an easier way, use the program xf86config (note lower case letters). This will ask you a lot of questions about your mouse, keyboard, graphics card, and monitor, and then automatically generate the XF86Config file. You will need to have a lot of info about this hardware. WARNING: This may not apply to modern multiscan monitors, but if you give X the wrong information about your monitor, you MAY damage it. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

- What kind of mouse do you use, a serial one (connected to a COM port) or a bus mouse (connected to a special port)? Does it have two or three buttons? (Three buttons are useful for X, but you can tell X to let you use left and right buttons together as the middle button by enabling Emulate3Buttons if you have a two-button mouse). Where is it connected? What protocol will X need to use to communicate with the mouse?

- What kind of graphics card do you have, so you can install the appropriate server? How much on-board memory does it have? Does it have a programmable clock chip?

- What are the horizontal and vertical scan rates for your monitor? What's the maximum resolution it can support? What's the maximum refresh rate it can support for each given resolution?

It may sound a bit complicated, but stick with it and the rewards are there!
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by:trying
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periclis, you have provided more information than the manual or the "HOWTO's" that i have encountered on the internet!
logging in at # makes sense now!

if i understanding this correctly, (from online help and such), files that have an * after it are executables? i've listed information in directories with ls -l or -F etc., and have seen files (programs?) with the *, such as in the games directory, but i am unable to execute them. why? i'm in the correct path (usr/games). i used games because they are usually the easiest programs to run without doing any harm.

as for X11R6, i have all the information to properly config it. i just didn't know how to begin X11R6 to begin with. what is the command to start it? i heard it's startx. which i've tried and received the message, "can't open display". i probably should start xf86confg* to do this. ?

any additional info would be greatly appreciated.
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by:periclis
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Hi, thanks for the appreciation. Cruising the directories in a UNIX system looking for executables is not the way to go about it:

1. In UNIX there are some executables that are simply files with  commands in them that call other programs, a bit like .BAT files in MS-DOS. These are called shell scripts. Some programs don't work properly if they're started directly from the command line, an associated shell script must be called instead. For example, many UNIX programs are set up as a collection of separate programs that do different bits of the job. When you call the shell script they're started in the proper order, pass info to each other etc. and the application works If you find the executables themselves and try to call each from the command line, it probably won't work.

2. You seem to be confusing the path with the working directory. What you see before the # or $ or whatever your shell is is your working directory. You seem to know how to use ls to look at files in your working directory. You can also start executables in your working directory. The path, however, is a presettable list of directories, set up so you can call executables in them no matter which directory you're in. For example, if the directory /usr/local is on your path, then you can call any executables in /usr/local no matter where your working directory is. To see which directories are on your path, issue the command
# echo $PATH
To show the working directory, issue the command
# pwd
When you're using some command shells such as bash, which I suspect you are, the working directory also appears to the left of the prompt.

3. Your games don't work because they need X.

4. You don't need to start X to configure it, in fact starting X without properly configuring it first could damage your monitor. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. To configure X, just start the configuration program xf86config form your prompt. This will generate the configuration file XF86Config. Once this is properly done you should be able to start X by isuing the command startx. See part 3. of my previous answer.

If you don't succeed in configuring X using xf86config, post a new question about configuring X with all the information I mentioned was going to be needed (about the monitor, the graphics card, the mouse etc.) in part 3. of my previous answer and we'll take it from there.

Good luck!
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