Part 2. Linux Resources, Help and Some Links

ver. 0.194 2003-06-04 by Stan, Peter and Marie Klimas
The latest version of this guide is available at
Copyright (c) <1999-2003> by Peter and Stan Klimas. Your feedback, comments, corrections, and improvements are appreciated. Send them to This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, v1.0, 8 or later with the modification noted in lnag_licence.html.

Contents of this section (Linux Resources, Help and Some Links):
2.1 Any Linux reading materials?
2.2 Is there a help command?
2.3 Any dictionary of terms?
2.4 Web search
2.5 Newsgroups
2.6 Linux Internet links
2.7 Source code--the ultimate resource

2.1 Any Linux reading materials?

This guide is not sufficient?

The RedHat Linux distribution CDs contain lots of documentation. Part of it is in html format and part in plain text format. You can read it all from under DOS or MS Windows before you install Linux. For example, a soft-copy of the RedHat manual can be viewed with any MS Windows-based html browser, e.g. Netscape for Windows or MS Internet Explorer. Just access the file D:\doc\rhmanual\manual\index.html. (assuming your CDROM is drive D under MS Windows).

Also, check the directory \doc\LDP for the excellent Linux Documentation Project manuals. For example, you can browse the Linux System Administrators' Guide by accessing the file \doc\LDP\sag\sag.html with your favorite html browser.

Also, check the directory \doc\HOWTO for the HOWTO documents, the directory \doc\HOWTO\mini for the MINIHOWTOs and the directory \doc\FAQ for a set of FAQs on different topics (FAQ="frequently asked questions"). For example, these commands will let you read the Linux-FAQ document (plain-text format) from under DOS:

cd \doc\FAQ\txt
edit Linux-FAQ

Under Linux, you can read the same documentation from the CD using, for example, this command:

lynx /mnt/cdrom/doc/rhmanual/manual/index.html

This will start lynx, a simple text-mode html browser, to view the RedHat manual. Please note that under Linux, the CD must be mounted first, and the example above assumes that the mountpoint is the directory /mnt/cdrom/. You can also use Netscape for Linux, StarOffice or any other html browser to view the RedHat manual and other documentation in the html format. You can read plain-text documents from the CD under Linux using, for example, these commands:

cd /mnt/cdrom/doc/FAQ/txt/
less Linux-FAQ

(The less command lets you scroll through the contents of a text file.)

After installing linux, the documentation, whatever part of it you installed,  is in the directory /usr/doc/ or /usr/share/doc. If you didn't install the documentation, consider installing everything now, it may be worth it. For example, the directory /usr/doc/LDP contains the Linux Documentation Project manuals. These commands will let you browse the Linux System Administrators' Guide:

cd /usr/share/doc/LDP/sag
lynx sag.html

Also, check /usr/share/doc/HOWTO for the HOWTO documents, and /usr/share/doc/HOWTO/mini for the MINIHOWTOs.

The location of the documentation is sometimes /usr/doc.

For more or updated documentation, see

2.2 Is there a help command?

Most Linux commands can be run with the "--help" option. For example, this command will give you concise help on the Linux cp (copy) command:

cp --help | less

More extensive info is accessed from the command line using the so-called manual pages man topic. For example:

man cp

will display the manual page for the "cp" (copy) command. The manual pages are the standard "help" system under Linux, and contain a wealth of detailed, very technical information, but typically require some effort to be understood by a newbie.

The man command uses a simple utility called less that lets you scroll through a text. Use arrow keys to scroll, press "q" to quit. Actually, less can do more than this. Press "h" for help when running less, or learn more about less using the command

man less

There is also the info command info topic. For example:

info cp

will give you the help for the "cp" (copy) command. Often info contains information similar to man, but more up-to-date. Unfortunately, the info navigating utility is not very intuitive, so I use man pages more often. There is also pinfo (a substitute for the info interface, perhaps easier to use than info).
If you don't remember exactly the name of the command that you need to use, try apropos. For example, to obtain a list of commands which have something to do with "copy", I execute this from the command line:

apropos copy

The command whatis is similar to apropos, but matches only keywords, whereas apropos searches the complete database (keywords and their description). As a result, whatis tends to produce a shorter (perhaps more relevant) output.

In some menu driven programs, for example when configuring your system services using ntsysv (or setup, or linuxconf), you may press F1 for info about what the particular service does.
The list of bash built-in commands can be obtained by typing help on the command line. Then help on any specific bash built-in command can be obtained by issuing, for example:

help cd

Bash is the standard command line "shell", i.e., the Linux equivalent of the DOS command-line processor "COMMAND.COM".

The  KDE environment includes a GUI-based "help browser", which can be started by clicking the appropriate icon on the "Kpanel" (the system bar, normally at the bottom of the screen). This browser can be used to access the KDE-specific help as well as the system manual pages. The Gnome desktop contains a similar help system.

If you want to learn about the many packages that come on your CDs in rpm format, you may want to use the GUI-based kpackage (type kpackage in an X-terminal) to browse through the packages, display the info that they contain, and install them if you wish (the installation has to be done as root). In place of kpackage, older distributions use glint (RH5.2) or gnorpm (RH6.0), which are slower and less convenient.

2.3 Any dictionary of terms?

This one is a rather maximalist one : "The New Hackers Dictionary" aka "Jargon file": It is not only an excellent resource, but also highly entertaining reading. Recommended.

To add entertainment to entertainment, here is another link I like: "A Girl's Guide to Geek Guys": If you are of the other sex, you might prefer: "A Guy's Guide to Geek Girls":

A rather complete list of computer-related abbreviations and acronyms is found at

2.4 Web Search

Currently, the best websearch engine is Google, amazing what you can find with it. Google is wow fast, because it runs on Linux, no kidding. Try:  For a test, do an egosurf (type in the search box: your last name and a word of your choice). Google can be used to find almost anything relevant to Linux (or anything else) on the net. Just type-in a few keywords to find the Linux documentation you need.

2.5 Newsgroups

This can be an intimidating place to be--the world's strangest wackos seem to be all represented in the newsgroups. I just choose to ignore the stupid or offensive postings or e-mails. For the malicious ones, I make an exception and inform the system administrator at their originating e-mail provider. Advertisements which I receive after posting to a newsgroup get deleted before reading--I know I am not the only one doing this, so please mark your subject line clearly if you want your e-mail to be read, particularly if your e-mail address contains the string "aol".

Despite their drawbacks, newsgroups can be a very efficient way of finding the information you need.

Before going to the newsgroups, I would highly recommend the Google news archives ( , once known as DejaNews). This is a huge archive of newsgroup postings and you can search it using nice search tools. This way, you can often find an answer to your question without going through tons of trash, and without exposing yourself to anger after posting a question which "was already asked ten times this week". You may be surprised by the amount of information available through the google archive.

There are several newsgroups devoted to Linux and they seem much better than other newsgroups (maybe they are better policed by the Linux experts?). Here is a short list:
news:comp.os.linux.announce  (moderated--the postings are done by a moderator, who reviews them prior to the posting. Inspect the footer of any message for info on how to post.)
news:comp.os.linux.misc  (miscellaneous)
news:comp.os.linux.advocacy  (Use this one for discussion of pros and cons of Linux and perhaps a comparison of Linux with other operating systems. This is an excellent newsgroup if you like getting into endless arguments).
news:alt.linux.sux  (Here you can read/write really all opinions on Linux.)
news:comp.os.linux.x (X-windows)
news:comp.os.unix  (general UNIX newsgroup)

Please note that there is a newsgroup etiquette ("netiquette"), and you risk rejection and perhaps expose yourself to flames if you choose to break it. The major points:
To read newsgroups (also called usenet), you have to configure your access to a newsserver. The simplest may be to use mozilla ("edit"-"preferences"-"mail and newsgroups") and specifying the news server (your Internet Service Provider, ISP, should have given the name of the server) and then add the appropriate newsgroup to your list of local "mailboxes".  If you don't know the name of the news server, try: "news.my_isp_provider_name.and_domain", or perhaps just "my_isp_provider_name.and_domain".

For news reading, I prefer knode& (type in the X terminal).  Installation and learning newsgroups was certainly worth my effort.

2.6 Any Linux Internet links?

There are surely thousands of Internet sites devoted to Linux. Here are some Linux links which I like, in no particular order. If you need something else, you should find a useful pointer on one of these pages.  Master site for this document (LNAG). Bookmark it. Linux Documentation Project--Home for the many FAQs, Howtos, Minihowtos and Guides. Always up-to-date. Linux Admin FAQ (the non-Newbie). Gary's Encyclopedia--Learning Linux. Bookmark it. Josh homepage. Good resource for learning Linux. This site seems good for newbies! Linux administration made easy (LAME). Recommended. Lots of Linux documentation. Bookmark it. Another help site for newbies Yet another newbie guide Discussions for nerds, hackers, gurus, etc. (= /.) Update on today's releases of Linux software Linux news--excellent daily reading. Bookmark it. "The Linux Lab Project." Data acquisition and other interesting material for those in science. Linuxberg. Big portal. They have everything there. I like their rating of Linux software and am installing only packages that received 5 penguins ;-) .  Bookmark it. The Linux counter. Register yourself as a linuxer! See Dennis Havlik's impressive maps on Linux growth and geographical distribution. Linux FAQ. Tons of Linux software at the Sunsite archive. Bookmark it. Linux applications. Linux applications. Linux applications. Great new portal (better than yahoo) with excellent links for Linux newbies. Yahoo's entries for Linux. Looks very corporate-they refuse to add this guide! Debian Linux site. Linux hardware compatibility list. Lots of useful Linux links Scores of excellent links. More links to Linux documentation. Even more Linux links. Master GNU site (GNU's-Not-Unix. This is a recursive definition). The Red Hat site. It is typically too busy to bother.
http://www.cs.Helsinki.FI/u/torvalds/ Linus Torvalds home page.

2.7 Source code--the ultimate resource

The ultimate reference under Linux is the source code. If you installed it (comes with standard distributions; we really recommend its installation if you have enough hard drive space), it is in /usr/src/linux(the kernel source) and /usr/src/RPM/sources(the source code for the balance of the rpm packages). How can the source code be of use to a newbie? Well, it contains all the comments and documentation down to the smallest detail. For example, later in this guide, we show how to read/set up some of the kernel runtime parameters via the /proc filesystem. You can read the complete documentation for all the available parameters using:

less /usr/src/linux/Documentation/proc.txt

To install kernel sources, I would select the appropriate rpm package during my main installation. To install sources for other packages that came with my distribution, I would put the "Source CD" into the cd drive and do something like (as root, with RedHat CD):

[install the source code for the gnumeric spreadsheet from the cd to the harddrive]
cd /mnt/cdrom/SRPMS/
rpm -ivh gnume<Tab>
[unzip the sourcecode which I just installed]
cd /usr/src/RPM/SOUR<Tab>
tar -xvzf gnumer<Tab>
[read the code for statistical functions in gnumeric]
cd gnumeric/src/functions
less fn-stat.c

This is truly the ultimate reference on how a particular spreadsheet function works, no kidding.

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