Monday, 14 January 2008

Don't fear the command line!

If you've come to Linux from Windows (and probably if you've come to it from a Mac as well), you may not be used to the command line. You may indeed have never used it, and the thought of doing so might well scare you rigid.
Well, don't be scared. The command line is there to help you, and it really doesn't take that much effort to get used to it. When I was eight, I had an Amstrad CPC which had a command-line interface only, and I managed to use it fine, so I'm sure you will too.
Also, you might worry that by using the command line, you'll completely screw up your system. Believe me, it's just as possible to do that from a graphic user interface as it is from the command line.
There is a learning curve, no doubt about it, but it's not that steep. A handful of commands will see you in good stead. I wouldn't call myself a whizz with the command line by anybody's standards and only know a handful of commands, but with those I'm fully able to install any software I wish, add new software repositories, edit configuration files and manipulate files and folders.
It's possible to use Linux without ever using the command line if someone else is administering it for you, but if it's your own computer and you will be doing the administration, you'll probably soon need to use the command line. But DON'T PANIC! There's plenty of resources available to help you learn the basics -  try this link for basic commands in the command line. That should be enough to get you started.
Honestly, the command line is not that hard. And you may not believe me when I say this, but very often it is the quickest and easiest way to get things done. To install a new application (say, Pingus) using Synaptic Package Manager (or any other package manager, for that matter), you have to open the menu, go to the right submenu, click on the application, enter your password, sort through a long list of applications for the one you want, select it, then click a button to install it. Whereas with the command line, you just open a session and type:
sudo apt-get install pingus

Press enter, put in your password, and it does it all for you! It's quicker because the computer doesn't have to spend so much time making it look pretty for you - it can get on with the job at hand!
So dont' worry about it. It will take you no time at all to get used to it, I promise!

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