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Unix - Frequently Asked Questions (2/7) [Frequent posting]

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6 - Part7 - Single Page )
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
These seven articles contain the answers to some Frequently Asked
Questions often seen in comp.unix.questions and
Please don't ask these questions again, they've been answered plenty
of times already - and please don't flame someone just because they may
not have read this particular posting.  Thank you.

This collection of documents is Copyright (c) 1994, Ted Timar, except
Part 6, which is Copyright (c) 1994, Pierre Lewis and Ted Timar.
All rights reserved.  Permission to distribute the collection is
hereby granted providing that distribution is electronic, no money
is involved, reasonable attempts are made to use the latest version
and all credits and this copyright notice are maintained.
Other requests for distribution will be considered.  All reasonable
requests will be granted.

All information here has been contributed with good intentions, but
none of it is guaranteed either by the contributors or myself to be
accurate.  The users of this information take all responsibility for
any damage that may occur.

Many FAQs, including this one, are available on the archive site in the directory pub/usenet/news.answers.
The name under which a FAQ is archived appears in the "Archive-Name:"
line at the top of the article.  This FAQ is archived as

These articles are divided approximately as follows:

      1.*) General questions.
      2.*) Relatively basic questions, likely to be asked by beginners.
      3.*) Intermediate questions.
      4.*) Advanced questions, likely to be asked by people who thought
             they already knew all of the answers.
      5.*) Questions pertaining to the various shells, and the differences.
      6.*) An overview of Unix variants.
      7.*) An comparison of configuration management systems (RCS, SCCS).

This article includes answers to:

      2.1)  How do I remove a file whose name begins with a "-" ?
      2.2)  How do I remove a file with funny characters in the filename ?
      2.3)  How do I get a recursive directory listing?
      2.4)  How do I get the current directory into my prompt?
      2.5)  How do I read characters from the terminal in a shell script?
      2.6)  How do I rename "*.foo" to "*.bar", or change file names
              to lowercase?
      2.7)  Why do I get [some strange error message] when I
              "rsh host command" ?
      2.8)  How do I {set an environment variable, change directory} inside a
              program or shell script and have that change affect my
              current shell?
      2.9)  How do I redirect stdout and stderr separately in csh?
      2.10) How do I tell inside .cshrc if I'm a login shell?
      2.11) How do I construct a shell glob-pattern that matches all files
            except "." and ".." ?
      2.12) How do I find the last argument in a Bourne shell script?
      2.13) What's wrong with having '.' in your $PATH ?
      2.14) How do I ring the terminal bell during a shell script?
      2.15) Why can't I use "talk" to talk with my friend on machine X?
      2.16) Why does calendar produce the wrong output?

If you're looking for the answer to, say, question 2.5, and want to skip
everything else, you can search ahead for the regular expression "^2.5)".

While these are all legitimate questions, they seem to crop up in
comp.unix.questions or on an annual basis, usually
followed by plenty of replies (only some of which are correct) and then
a period of griping about how the same questions keep coming up.  You
may also like to read the monthly article "Answers to Frequently Asked
Questions" in the newsgroup "news.announce.newusers", which will tell
you what "UNIX" stands for.

With the variety of Unix systems in the world, it's hard to guarantee
that these answers will work everywhere.  Read your local manual pages
before trying anything suggested here.  If you have suggestions or
corrections for any of these answers, please send them to to

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Section Contents

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM